After a virtual meeting between White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, WH public engagement director Cedric Richmond and gun control groups, there’s not much doubt that the inevitable collision between the Biden administration and the firearms industry will happen sooner rather than later. Despite the long list of other problems, the “gun problem” is one where action was promised during the election.
And whatever his title throughout the years, Senator, Vice-President, and now President, Mr. Biden’s never met a restrictive gun law he didn’t like. Despite his tendency for gaffes about guns, he’s never hesitated to push for more controls. Absent his support, the Clinton assault weapons ban would have effectively been a non-starter. And he’s never missed the chance to remind anyone listening he’s “never hesitated to take on the NRA,” although that’s not quite impressive today.
So what can he do? Depends on which definition of “common sense steps” you subscribe to. If you believe “common sense” means listening to the voters, you would be right in doing very little. According to the latest Gallup polls, support for additional gun laws is lower than it’s been in years. If you’re inclined toward the “more laws are always better” school of thought, you’re pushing for “doing something” - even if it’s largely symbolic.
Legislatively, it would be a tough play to pass anti-gun legislation.
The House of Representatives has already demonstrated its willingness to entertain all forms of gun restricting legislation. Measures already introduced call for bans on 80% parts (“ghost guns”) “high-capacity” magazines, and call for longer waiting periods and more disqualifying conditions for legal purchasers. And don’t forget closing the non-existent “gun show loophole.”
It’s a different story in the Senate. Voting for additional restrictions on gun currently-legal gun owners won’t appeal to most Republicans, or moderate Democrats, making the need for a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority a very tough sell.
That leaves the Executive Order. And like President Obama, President Obama might find many of the ideas he’d support unable to pass judicial scrutiny. Anti-gun groups say Mr. Biden could use executive action to expand the background check system, possibly by trying to redefine who’s in the business of selling guns. With the NICS system already strained under continuing demand, expanding the definition of “dealers” could add more burdens to a system under strain.
Should that happen, it appears pro-gun organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation are ready to move restrictions right into the courts. The Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb told Fox News “President Biden will try to get away with as much as he can with executive orders.” Should that happen, he says his group’s “very prepared to go to court.”
We’ve been assured the same preparations are underway within other industry groups.
In the meantime, or in preparation for that eventuality, as the case may be, consumers continue to snap up guns, ammunition and accessories at a record pace.
As always, we’ll keep you posted.
— Jim Shepherd