We’re still hearing reports that Joe Biden is pondering doing something along the lines of introducing new gun bans and he’s being heavily lobbied by anti-Second Amendment groups to do so quickly. It’s unclear whether he’s talking about supporting legislative action or if he’s actually crazy enough to try to go it alone and do it via executive order. Even more curious is the specific nature of his suggested proposals. He’s on board with the gun-grabbing groups’ call for a ban on scary-looking “assault rifles,” but he’s also talking about banning handguns. Not all handguns, however. Just 9mm handguns with detachable magazines. The NRA-ILA reminds us of when he launched into a diatribe on this subject during a recent CNN Town Hall.
During a July 21 CNN “presidential town hall,” Joe Biden expressed his support for a ban on commonly-owned handguns. Responding to a question about the recent increase in violent crime, the career politician stated,
I’m the only guy that ever got passed legislation, when I was a senator, to make sure we eliminated assault weapons. The idea you need a weapon that can have the ability to fire 20, 30, 40, 50, 120 shots from that weapon, whether — whether it’s a 9-millimeter pistol or whether it’s a rifle, is ridiculous. I’m continuing to push to eliminate the sale of those things.
Of course, any semi-automatic firearm capable of accepting a detachable magazine has the “ability to fire” in the manner Biden deemed objectionable.
The linked report notes that Biden made almost identical remarks during an expensive fundraiser in Seattle back in November of 2019. So this isn’t something that just popped up on his radar this month.
What Biden seems to be forgetting is that any ban on popularly owned semiautomatic firearms that accept detachable magazines has already been found unconstitutional. When the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v Heller, the justices found that people have the right to acquire and possess firearms “in common use at the time” for lawful purposes such as self-defense.
The IRA also points to a dissent issued by Clarence Thomas in the case of Friedman v. Highland Park, where he wrote:
Roughly five million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles. The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting. Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.
What’s even more curious to me is the way that Biden keeps specifically referring to 9mm handguns, as if they are somehow more dangerous or less constitutionally protected than other calibers. How would one justify banning those but still allowing people to carry a .357 or a 38 caliber? You can purchase any of those in models that use a magazine, and they’re all quite dangerous in the wrong hands. (Alternately, they’re all quite effective and useful in the right hands.)
The Supreme Court has only tipped more to the conservative, pro-gun rights side since the rulings mentioned above were issued. It just seems that if Joe Biden tried issuing an executive order along these lines it would be immediately challenged in court, have an injunction slapped on it, and eventually be killed in the Supreme Court. A new piece of legislation attempting to impose such a ban would likely fare no better. But if it generates some positive headlines for the Democrats, I have no doubt they would give it a try anyway.