The Left is out in force (well, besides the Bernie Sanders supporters) praising Joe Biden for his profanity-laced and intellectually bankrupt argument with a Michigan union member and Second Amendment supporter in Detroit on Monday. NBC News praised Biden’s “tough talk”, while his supporters are gushing on social media over his willingness to push back when accused of trying to take away the Second Amendment.
The worker had falsely asserted that Biden wants to “end our Second Amendment right” to own guns. Biden, the author of a decade-long 1994 ban on certain semi-automatic weapons, has proposed new gun-control measures but not a repeal of the Second Amendment — which the president would have no formal role in adopting.
But the heated exchange, in which Biden threatened to slap the man and said he was “full of s—,” was just the latest example of a tough-talk tactic the former vice president has deployed repeatedly to push back on critics on the campaign trail. While allies of Trump and Bernie Sanders say the aggressive approach will backfire politically, many Democrats and some anti-Trump Republicans like the unusually muscular response.
It’s NBC News that’s falsely asserting something here. If you listen to the video, it’s clear the man questioning Biden says that he’s trying to “diminish our Second Amendment right,” not end it. And Biden’s plan to ban the manufacture and sale of the most commonly produced rifle in the country would do that, as would his requirement that existing gun owners register their AR-15’s and “high capacity” magazines with the federal government under the National Firearms Act.
I can’t help but notice that all of Biden’s backers are focusing on his emotion and his passion, not necessarily what he actually to the voter in Detroit. That’s because Biden lied to the man’s face when he said he said he’s not “taking your gun away.” Unless that gentleman is prepared to receive a government permission slip (and pay a government tax) to continue to own his rifle, that’s exactly what would happen. He would either have to turn in his gun in exchange for some cash, or risk ten years in prison if he was found with the firearm that he legally purchased.
Reason‘s Jacob Sullum points out that Biden’s muddled arguments simply don’t make for a very good case in favor of his gun ban.
Biden wants us to believe that owning an AR-15 is constitutionally analogous to “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic,” which is “not free speech.” But he cannot explain why. The Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own firearms “in common use” for “lawful purposes,” a standard that so-called assault weapons easily satisfy, since they are among the most popular rifles sold in the United States.
Today Biden repeatedly asked his interlocutor whether anyone really needs a magazine that holds “100 rounds,” which is doubling misleading. First, the issue of ammunition capacity is distinct from the definition of “assault weapon,” since a gun could fall outside Feinstein’s criteria and still accept a 100-round magazine. Second, Biden’s proposal to ban “high-capacity magazines,” assuming it is similar to Feinstein’s, draws the line at 10 rounds, not 100. That rule would ban magazines commonly used for self-defense.
In other words, owning an AR-15 isn’t the Second Amendment analogue to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. It’s more like saying “fire” when you’re at a campfire.
Biden would be better off, honestly, if he just dropped the line about supporting the Second Amendment and was honest about what he wanted. His base may be cheering his fighting spirit, but he ended up on the losing side of that exchange in Michigan on Monday.