It’s time to once again play “Fact Check The Fact Checkers,” and today’s contestant is a USA Today fact check on Joe Biden and the right to keep and bear arms. You may have seen a headline on your Facebook feed that claims “Joe Biden Says The Second Amendment Is ‘Obsolete’” and thought to yourself “yeah, that sounds right.” In this case, as USA Today notes, the story is from a satirical website run by self-described liberals called America’s Last Line of Defense, which the founders describe on the website as a “network of parody, satire, and tomfoolery.”
If readers clicked on the headline, the satirical nature of the story should have been evident to most folks. Here’s a sample:
“Just recently, Biden confirmed one of those very fears during a campaign speech at the Joe Barron Jewish community center in Pohtaytoe, Virginia, referring to the sacred and God-blessed Second Amendment right of all Americans to own and use firearms at any time anywhere for any reason whatsoever as ‘obsolete.’”
The giveaway that this is satire doesn’t come from the supposed quote by Joe Biden, which probably rings true for many gun owners. There is no Pohtaytoe, Virginia, however.
I’ve got no issue with USA Today pointing out that this isn’t a genuine news story, but the problem is that the fact-checkers then proceed to try to run cover for Biden’s real views and statements on the Second Amendment.
Biden’s gun control plan includes universal background checks, additional resources to enforce existing gun laws, pushing “smart guns” — firearms that require an electronic ownership confirmation — and banning assault weapons.
The plan also calls for other measures, such as restricting purchases and possession of guns by fugitives and people convicted of hate crime, and banning online sales of weapons and ammunition.
While Biden has advocated for stricter gun laws, he has never pledged to “take away” the Second Amendment.
NBC reported that Biden has said on numerous occasions that he is “not opposed to the Second Amendment.”
Why did the USA Today fact checkers not mention the 2019 town hall in New Hampshire where Joe Biden was asked about the Heller decision; the 2008 case that struck down Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns and established that the right to keep and bear arms was a fundamental right of individual Americans to keep and bear arms for self-defense, as opposed to some collective right to join a militia? Here’s what Biden said just last year in an event with WMUR-TV in New Hampshire when he was asked if he agreed with the SCOTUS decision.
“If I were on the court I wouldn’t have made the same ruling. OK, that’s number one.”
In other words, Biden would not have found that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, because he doesn’t believe that it does. Biden went on to say:
“Let me explain where I am on the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment- for example, the First Amendment, if anyone of you stood up and yelled fire, you could be arrested. You have the freedom of speech to say fire, but not in a crowded forum. Every constitutional amendment has limitations. And I taught for years Constitutional law and separation of powers, I taught the Second Amendment. And the Second Amendment is not absolute. And we can argue, the fundamental argument is well regulated militia and all those things, I won’t get into that. I think that the fundamental argument is the reason that was given as a right because we needed to be able to muster people to deal with an enemy called Great Britain we were fighting in a war.”
Biden made it clear that the Second Amendment, in his view, poses no impediment to virtually any kind of gun control law you can think of. He laid out everything from bans on commonly owned firearms and magazines to requiring “smart guns” for gun owners (without ever mentioning what he thinks should happen to the 400-million or so “dumb guns” currently in existence). Biden never gave an example of a gun control law that, in his opinion, would go too far and violate the Second Amendment, presumably because in his view there are no laws that could cross that line.
It doesn’t matter how many times Joe Biden says that he’s “not opposed” to the Second Amendment, because he doesn’t need to oppose something that he doesn’t view as a real right. On the other hand, Biden has stated that he’s opposed to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heller establishing that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, and he even went so far as to say that the fundamental reason for the Second Amendment was that we needed to muster people into a militia to fight Great Britain.* Doesn’t that suggest that the satirical piece fact-checked by USA Today was closer to the mark than its authors realized? Biden may not have come right out and said that Second Amendment was outdated, but that’s actually the gist of his remarks.
The USA Today fact check is correct in pointing out that the America’s Last Line of Defense story is satire, but it fails to acknowledge that Biden has in fact said that the Heller decision was wrongly decided, and that in his view the right to keep and bear arms was “given” to the American people to ensure that a militia could fight an ongoing war against Great Britain. If you’re going to provide readers with the facts on Joe Biden and the Second Amendment, you should give them all of the facts, no matter how inconvenient those truths may be to Biden supporters and his presidential campaign.
*This is a fundamental misreading of history on Biden’s part. The United States wasn’t at war with Great Britain when the Constitution or the Bill of Rights were ratified, and the Second Amendment wasn’t “given as a right.” It codified the pre-existing right to keep and bear arms. James Madison, writing in Federalist 46 before the Constitution was even ratified, makes it clear that the right to keep and bear arms was already a right of the people:
“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.
Madison’s argument wasn’t that the American people should have the right to bear arms to fight Great Britain. His argument was that the right of Americans to keep and bear arms would serve as a check on the formation of a tyrannical government. I feel bad for anybody who was actually taught about the Second Amendment by Biden, because they likely learned some truly bad takes on our history.