For gun owners and Second Amendment supporters, 2019 will go down in history as the year that gun control advocates let their mask slip. Despite all the efforts at rebranding gun control as “gun safety,” politicians and anti-gun groups made it clear that their end goal is the confiscation of legally owned firearms obliterating the right to keep and bear arms.
California congressman Eric Swalwell was the first to call for a ban and compensated confiscation of millions of semi-automatic rifles, but it was Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s “Hell yes we’re coming for your AR-15” comment that created national headlines, headaches for gun control groups, and a surge in sales of AR-15’s and other semi-automatic long guns.
O’Rourke’s decision to relaunch his presidential campaign with a focus on gun control after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton didn’t propel him to victory or even give him a bounce in the polls, but it did focus gun owners on the threat to the Second Amendment and public safety posed by the most anti-gun crop of presidential candidates this nation has ever seen. It may also have helped 2019 become the busiest year on record for gun-related background checks and a surge in sales.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge to a New York City gun law was another key moment for supporters and opponents of the right to keep and bear arms. Gun control advocates revealed their fear that the Supreme Court could use the case to set a high bar for gun control laws to be upheld, and after they urged the city and state to change the law in an attempt to moot the case, anti-gun politicians complied. There’s still no sign from the Court on how it will rule on the case, but given the number of Second Amendment-related cases that are currently in conference at the Supreme Court, 2020 could be an even bigger year for gun rights at the high court.
The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement actually began in 2018, but it was the explosive growth of the number of Second Amendment Sanctuaries in Virginia that brought the movement national attention. After anti-gun politicians took control of the state legislature in the November elections, more than 100 counties, cities, and towns across the state passed resolutions or ordinances opposing the passage or enforcement of any unconstitutional gun control laws.
Democrats responded by urging Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to use the National Guard to enforce the impending gun control laws, which forced the Virginia National Guard to issue a statement of their own. The state’s attorney general, meanwhile, has argued that the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions have no legal effect, but critics have pointed out that AG Mark Herring has been happy to encourage local prosecutors to ignore state laws regarding cannabis. As Herring wrote back in June:
Individual commonwealth’s attorneys, including some in Hampton Roads, have taken sensible and courageous steps to reduce the number of simple marijuana possession cases moving through the courts, but locality-by-locality action is no substitute for a rational, unified statewide policy.
In Herring’s view, it’s “sensible and courageous” to refuse to enforce some of the drug laws on the books, but it’s an abuse of power for sheriffs and prosecutors to do the same when it comes to unconstitutional gun control laws.
There were plenty of other big stories for gun owners in 2019, including “Freedom Week” in California, when a federal judge temporarily struck down the state’s ban on buying ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten rounds. It’s estimated by some Second Amendment activists that as many as one million new ammunition magazines were purchased by gun owners in the state during the week that they were allowed to do so. Meanwhile, the case challenging California’s ban on possessing these magazines is currently in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
We also saw the passage of two gun control bills in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. HR 8, a so-called “universal background check bill” and a measure to give the FBI ten days to conduct an “instant” background check, were both approved by the House in early March, but Democrats’ plans for more gun control bills after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton were scuttled after Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer decided to move forward with impeachment, ending negotiations with the White House on a background check bill.
Michael Bloomberg’s decision to enter the crowded field of Democrats vying for the presidential nomination hasn’t exactly created a groundswell of support, but he’s currently in 4th place in most polls, and he’ll be spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few months on his own campaign as well as supporting down-ticket candidates who will back his anti-gun agenda.
Many of the biggest issues of 2019 will remain in 2020, and some will loom even larger. With the presidential primaries kicking off in just a few weeks, and gun control advocates looking to build on their success in flipping Virginia’s legislature in 2019, even states traditionally thought of as “safe” are going to need to be defended by Second Amendment supporters using their votes and their voices in the months ahead.