Against the backdrop of disease, rioting, and civil unrest, 2020 has brought about the largest boom in gun ownership in our nation’s history. With sales up 60% compared to 2019, Americans have exercised their Second Amendment rights like never before. But, with inauguration looming, many gun owners are left wondering what a Biden presidency will mean for them and their constitutional protections.
From Beto O’Rourke’s advocacy of mandatory buybacks to the use of AI to “bring back” Parkland shooting victims, calls for gun control from the left have grown increasingly extreme. Though his campaign has marketed him as a “moderate,” concerns about Biden’s appeasement of his party’s radical fringes and a possible Harris administration continue to loom.
While Biden’s record on major issues from abortion to fracking have been famously fickle throughout his forty plus years in the political arena, make no mistake—his advocacy of gun control has been uncharacteristically steady. In 1993, then-Senator Biden championed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which established background check systems, and the following year he joined forces with Dianne Feinstein to implement a 10 year ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The plans outlined on the Biden campaign website seek to bolster this record. In their own words, the administration’s vision is to enact further restrictions on “the Second Amendment, which is limited.” Biden’s plan would radically alter the process of acquiring firearms by limiting purchases to one weapon per month per individual and eradicating the online sale of firearms and ammunitions entirely.
Beyond just the purchasing process, the administration’s plans will impact current gun owners as well. Despite research from the CDC which deemed buyback policies “ineffective,” Biden has pledged to confiscate legally purchased assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, requiring owners to either sell their weapons or re-register them under the National Firearms Act. In addition, Biden has expressed a desire to ban the future manufacture and sale of ‘assault weapons’ and high capacity magazines, saying “no one needs them.”
The administration’s policies hold the potential not only to change gun ownership in the next four years, but also to radically alter the future of firearm ownership in our nation. A key objective of Biden’s plan is “[putting] America on the path to ensuring that 100% of firearms sold in America are smart guns.” This new generation of firearm, the “smart gun,” can only be discharged by an authorized user. These technological innovations bring up many questions—for example, who has the power to designate an “authorized user?” In the minds of many gun owners, the implications are nothing short of dystopian.
Though these policies are radical, they could be implemented rapidly. While some would require congressional approval, as a campaign aide told CNN, “some of Biden’s proposals could be enacted through executive action.”
As Biden talks openly of restricting gun ownership, more Americans than ever have entered the firearm marketplace. This year, a record breaking 40% of gun sales were to first-time buyers, while purchases for black Americans and women were up 58% and 40% respectively.
In an interview with CNN, firearms instructor Kelly Pidgeon attributed this change to radical policy proposals from the Left, saying, “They have been watching what is going on in terms of rioting, looting, defunding the police, police not being available to them, and they’re afraid. They understand they need to become their own first protector because dialing 911 does not mean anyone shows up at your doorstep.”
The panic and confusion is only furthered by cases like that of Mark and Patricia McCloskey of St. Louis who were charged by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner with a felony weapons count for brandishing their guns at trespassing Black Lives Matter protesters in front of their home this June. Such examples leave gun-owners confused by the ever-evolving contours of their constitutional protections.
In the wake of protests, pandemic, and anarchy, the Second Amendment and the protections it offers are vital. As a Biden administration draws nearer, those protections will be tested like never before.
Rikki Schlott is a writer, activist, and student based in New York City.
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