News and Commentary

HAMMER: Kamala Harris’ Flirtation With Banning All Semi-Automatic Weapons Is Fully Insane

As every political observer with half a functioning brain cell already knew but is now also officially confirmed, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is running for president in 2020. In a truly insipid and witless overture, Harris announced her campaign launch by appealing to “equal treatment, collective purpose, and freedom for all.”

The most-discussed substantive policy portion of Harris’ campaign launch has indubitably been her statist adoption of — and economic and moral myopia regarding — the far left’s beloved “Medicare-for-All” health care socialism. Specifically, Harris has not only endorsed the crux of the Left’s rapidly ascendant “Medicare-for-All” proposal — single-payer socialized medicine in the United States of America. She has also explicitly called for the elimination of competing private health insurance options. Notwithstanding that there is no conceivable way for even a radically “progressive,” non-originalist understanding of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause power to support the government-forced elimination of private enterprises. Notwithstanding that, even in Britain, the debt-ridden, woefully incompetent socialized health insurance system still allows for some competing private options.

No matter, of course. The Democratic Party ceased a long time ago feigning any purported fidelity to either constitutional governance or individual liberty — at least insofar as that “liberty” is classically defined negative liberty from government infringement, as opposed to the perverse “positve” liberty of affirmative benefits conferral.

Which brings us to perhaps the least-discussed but nonetheless equally radical proposal already associated with Harris’ nascent campaign — a dangerous flirtation with a ban of all semi-automatic firearms.

Yes, seriously.

To be fair to Harris, she does not overtly call for a ban of all semi-automatic firearms. Instead, she overtly calls for a ban on so-called “assault weapons” — a technically undefinable and cosmetically amorphous class of guns that leftists nonetheless deem look scary and therefore ought to be subject to bans and/or outright confiscation.

But the logic here is inescapable. Semi-automatic weapons are defined by their automatically reloading one new round into the firing chamber upon the discharge of a round. There is literally no intellectually defensible and mechanically relevant line to draw between much-maligned “assault weapons” and the run-of-the-mill semi-automatic handguns that tens of millions of Americans (including yours truly) carry daily. None. Zilch. A Sig Sauer or Glock semi-automatic handgun is, mechanically speaking, only distinct from an AR-style semi-automatic sporting rifle in terms of such technical specifics as muzzle velocity. But these are mere differences in degree — not categorical differences in kind.

Brandon Morse at RedState opines:

You may point out that she never mentioned semi-automatics specifically. Perhaps she was talking about fully-automatic weapons.

But those are already illegal in the United States. Harris is speaking about semi-automatic weapons, which have been at the center of events such as the Vegas and Parkland shootings.

Even if she was speaking of just the rifles alone, logic would follow that a (God forbid) President Harris would then look at banning semi-automatic handguns, as the vast majority of gun crime is committed with guns in that group.

Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro also concurs, writing this week that “Harris embraced a full-scale ban on semi-automatic weapons.”

Let’s hold aside how flagrantly unconstitutional such a proposal would be, on Second Amendment grounds. The twin landmark Supreme Court decisions of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) secured the Second Amendment as an individual right against which both the federal government (Heller) and state governments (McDonald) cannot infringe.

But as flagrantly unconstitutional as such a full-on semi-automatic gun ban would be, it would be even more egregious as policy. Truly, if pursued to its logical conclusion, it cannot be emphasized enough how radical a full ban on all semi-automatic weapons would be. To do that would be to limit the citizenry to only being able to own guns that do not automatically reload a new round into the firing chamber upon the discharge of a round. In other words, we would pretty much only be able to purchase certain types of revolvers, pump-action or break-action shotguns, and bolt-action rifles.

Will the Left next try to limit us to purchasing Revolutionary War-era single-shot muskets?

A well-reasoned rough estimate of semi-automatic weapons in circulation in America, as a fraction of the total percentage of all weapons in circulation in America, is one-third. In other words, if a hypothetical President Harris were to try to enact not merely a total ban of all semi-automatic weapons, but also full-on gun buyback of all of them (again, hold aside the Takings Clause constitutional roadblock and the sheer cost this would entail), she would have to confiscate well over one hundred million firearms.

This. Is. Crazy. Talk.

The Second Amendment is not merely, post-Heller and McDonald, secured in our body politic and legal system as an individual right. The Second Amendment is also inherently moral — it is a mere extension of the God-given natural right to self-defense. As then-Judge Alex Kozinski (a son of Holocaust survivors) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit noted in a 2003 dissent from a denial to rehear a case en banc, the Second Amendment is a “doomsday provision” protecting against a fatal mistake that “a free people get to make only once”:

The majority falls prey to the delusion — popular in some circles — that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth — born of experience — is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people. Our own sorry history bears this out: Disarmament was the tool of choice for subjugating both slaves and free blacks in the South. In Florida, patrols searched blacks’ homes for weapons, confiscated those found and punished their owners without judicial process. In the North, by contrast, blacks exercised their right to bear arms to defend against racial mob violence. As Chief Justice Taney well appreciated, the institution of slavery required a class of people who lacked the means to resist. See Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 417 (1857) (finding black citizenship unthinkable because it would give blacks the right to “keep and carry arms wherever they went”). A revolt by Nat Turner and a few dozen other armed blacks could be put down without much difficulty; one by four million armed blacks would have meant big trouble.

All too many of the other great tragedies of history — Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few — were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten. Despite the panel’s mighty struggle to erase these words, they remain, and the people themselves can read what they say plainly enough:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.