Sometimes the obvious bears repeating. Now is such a moment. The Second Amendment, allowing every American “to keep and bear arms,” was key to passing the US Constitution. If the Biden Campaign prevails in lawsuits and Electoral College, leading appointees will take aim at the Amendment.
While current social unrest has triggered record firearm sales, and one recent poll shows support for gun control at its lowest point in four years, Biden partisans have made clear their interest in curtailing the Second Amendment. See, e.g., https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-guns-insight-idUSKBN2701HP; and https://www.guns.com/news/2020/11/19/poll-support-for-more-gun-control-at-4-yr-low.
At the outset, the political figure Joe Biden indicated will be lead on gun control, former Congressman and failed presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, has made clear his disaffection for firearms, and intent to limit ownership, not just with legislation limiting sales, but with mandatory buy-backs. He famously said in September 2019, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” when quizzed.
Echoing confiscation sentiment, former O’Rourke staffer and now aspiring Biden Deputy Chief of Staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon, has made clear her views. One is pushing “mandatory buybacks” of firearms, including so-called assault weapons – semi-automatic rifles distinguished by their military appearance.
Moreover, discussion this past weekend has highlighted possible Biden appointments, if he becomes President. One is Federal Judge Merrick Garland, who may be nominated for US Attorney General. Garland has made clear his hostility to gun rights and could act swiftly to push that view.
Garland knows well the ways of the Justice Department and could push limitations on gun rights with method and high impact, even before legislation was pushed in the House and Senate. When Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court, a vote that was never taken, his views were scrutinized.
Specifically, the DC Circuit Court judge upheld federal storage of gun buyer’s records during the Clinton Administration, and later joined efforts to reconsider a landmark Second Amendment case, for purpose of narrowing those rights.
As one report assessed, “This is probably the most anti-gun Supreme Court nomination in decades.” See, e.g., https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/16/merrick-garland-has-very-liberal-view-gun-rights/. In time on the bench, Garland has made this a hallmark of his worldview, including an attempt to strike down the famous D.C. v. Heller case, authored by the late Justice Scalia. That case affirmed the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.
As reported, “back in 2007, Judge Garland voted to undo” that case, aiming to revisit the right of DC to restrict individual gun ownership. Public reaction to that DC Circuit Court effort to reconsider, which was defeated, led observers to describe Garland as having “strong hostility to gun owner right.” See, https://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/moderates-are-not-so-moderate-merrick-garland/.
What does all this mean? Several things. First, if Biden-Harris prevail – and Harris’ views on gun rights limitation, suing gun manufacturers, and curtailing ownership are more radical – limitations on the Second Amendment will be a top priority for the administration.
Second, if Biden-Harris prevail, social unrest, record gun buying – including in minority communities – and polls showing gun control unpopular, will hardly matter. Most of America does not agree with socialism, defunding police, or the New Green Deal, but Democrats pushed all three without hesitation.
Expect legislation, originating in the House and pushed hard in a close Senate, aimed at limiting gun sales and ownership, mandatory buybacks to elevated liability for gun manufacturers. Whether these would pass remains unclear, but with Garland as AG – and maybe later nominated again to the Supreme Court, plus O’Rourke and team in power, the issue is sure to become hot soon.
Finally, one of the unusual features of this political moment – and the past several years – is that long-honored norms, enshrined American values, and constitutional rights held inviolate and sure to stand the test of time, have been questioned, buffeted, and increasingly eroded by extreme views, centralizing federal power.
Thus, free speech, worship, assembly, travel, and other timeless rights have been called into question, in places put in peril. Seeking to look around the next corner – before something comes flying at us – one should consider what the left things of the Second Amendment itself.
In March 2018, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens openly proposed repealing the Amendment, overturning it in favor of expansive federal power over firearms, at the expense of the citizen rights to protect democracy, their homes, families and the nation. See, e.g., https://www.foxnews.com/politics/retired-supreme-court-justice-stevens-says-second-amendment-should-be-repealed.
The last line, peek around the corner – based on where potential Biden appointees put their emphasis – is this: Should Americans be thinking long, striving harder to protect the right to “keep and bear arms,” before that right is removed from the Constitution. Until this political era, rise of socialism, and aspiring Biden administration, that was never a question. It is now.