Joe Biden almost finds the right target in gun debate

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

I had a brief moment this week when I almost thought that President Joe Biden was going to impress me on his handling of an important issue. And to his credit, he did actually address a serious concern for the nation yesterday instead of remaining silent. In remarks made on Wednesday, Biden admitted that crime rates are rising in an alarming fashion. He seemed to wander off the path at times, such as when he said that people need to have F-15s and nukes if they want to protect themselves from the government, but at least the crime surge was acknowledged. But one of his targets was definitely on the mark. Biden noted that there are too many illegal guns on the streets in the hands of people who are not supposed to have them. I’ve been crowing about that problem for years here and it was good to hear the president say the words aloud. Sadly, he immediately turned around and demonstrated that he really doesn’t seem to understand how the black market works. (Associated Press, emphasis added)

President Joe Biden announced new efforts Wednesday to stem a rising national tide of violent crime, declaring the federal government is “taking on the bad actors doing bad things to our communities.” But questions persist about how effective the efforts can be in what could be a turbulent summer.

Crime rates have risen after plummeting during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, creating economic hardship and anxiety. Biden’s plan focuses on providing money to cities that need more police, offering community support and most of all cracking down on gun violence and those supplying illegal firearms.

“These merchants of death are breaking the law for profit,” Biden said. “If you willfully sell a gun to someone who’s prohibited, my message to you is this: We’ll find you and we’ll seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets.”

He was doing great right up until he started talking about taking away the licenses of gun dealers. While it’s true that there have been (thankfully rare) instances of authorized gun dealers selling a firearm to someone who was banned from gun ownership, either intentionally or through some unintentional oversight, it doesn’t happen often. Gun shop owners know that they will be out of business and potentially in prison if they don’t follow the rules scrupulously. If you walk into any dealer’s shop and attempt to make a purchase without having all the right paperwork, you will quickly be turned away.

Any urban police chief will tell you that the vast majority of black market gun sales take place on the streets and the sellers don’t have an FFL. The goods in question are almost always stolen guns that are passed around between gang members and other criminals. They frequently have their serial numbers filed off. Those are the weapons we need to be going after and the people selling them need to be put in prison for a lengthy stretch of time.

Sadly, Biden went on to announce a “zero tolerance” policy offering no leeway to gun dealers who fail to comply with federal law. That’s all well and good, since we can’t afford to have FFL holders out there selling handguns to felons. But that’s not going to do much to curb the number of illegal guns on the streets.

Joe Biden is also performing a delicate dance that will undermine his support from his own base. He’s talking about having cities use some of their COVID relief funds to rebuild their police forces and combat crime. That idea is very much not part of the Democrats’ platform these days. If you’re not talking about putting a leash on the cops, you’ll quickly find yourself locked out of the popular kids’ club. But, again, it was good to at least hear the President saying the words. Our cities are falling apart in terms of crime spikes and riots. And residents there who have typically been taken for granted by the Democratic Party are looking for law and order candidates. There may be a change coming, and Biden seems to be aware of this.