For over a month now, I’ve been writing about the conflict between the Left’s support for gun control and its embrace of the Defund Police movement. Gun control laws are meaningless if they’re not enforced, after all, and every new gun control law creates a brand new gun crime that depends on armed police for its enforcement. Of course it’s easy for the Left to ignore conservatives making this argument, but they might have a tougher time avoiding the issue now that Kim Kelly is making some similar points in a new piece at the Washington Post, of all places.
Kelly’s no conservative. She’s a freelance writer who’s appeared in places like Teen Vogue, and she’s a firm supporter the International Workers of the World (better known as the Wobblies) as well as a big fan of “direct action” (versus non-violent confrontation) to further political goals. She’s also no fan of Joe Biden’s gun control plan, which she makes clear would put lower-income Americans at risk “while doing little to curb gun violence.”
Rather than focusing on the disconnect between gun control and defunding police, Kelly issues a class-based critique of Biden’s plan to require Americans to either turn in their existing “assault weapons” or register them under the National Firearms Act. Kelly correctly notes that new law would have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who may not be able to easily come up with the $200 to pay for their NFA tax stamp.
Given how costly some firearms can be, that registration fee may not sound like too much of an added burden, but for a person who has already bought and paid for multiple qualifying firearms and magazines (or inherited them), that amount will add up quickly. Those who violate the NFA will also face up to 10 years in federal prison, and a potential $10,000 fine. Biden also wants to end the online sale of firearms and ammunition, including gun parts and parts kits that some people use to manufacture their own low-cost DIY firearms (known as ghost guns) further limiting accessibility.
Even if you support gun control, argues Kelly, the fact that Biden’s agenda would severely curtail the Second Amendment rights of poor Americans should give people pause. Moreover, claims Kelly, wealthy gun owners like Mark McCloskey would undoubtably find ways to get around Biden’s gun control laws if they’re ever put in place.
On the most generous reading, the goal of Biden’s plan is to ensure that there are fewer guns in the world and in the streets. But even in that spirit, we still have to think about who’s going to end up with the guns that remain in private hands. People like Mark McCloskey, the lawyer made infamous for brandishing his AR-15 at Black Lives Matter protesters as they walked past his sprawling St. Louis mansion, will be able to pay whatever fees Biden throws at them, and will thus be able to hold onto as many weapons as they like. But territorial weekend warriors who feel no accountability to the community, and show little regard for gun safety, are exactly the kind of people who shouldn’t have guns. By contrast, leftist community firearm clubs invest serious time into training and safety education, carefully vet their memberships and work arm-in-arm with the marginalized communities they are invited to protect.
Kelly’s argument about Mark McCloskey suffers from one big flaw: McCloskey had his gun confiscated by police late last week as St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner investigates McCloskey and his wife, though I suppose you could argue that McCloskey could more easily afford to replace his confiscated rifle than most people.
Kelly’s piece suffers from the socialist sin of factionalism. The Second Amendment is a right of The People; not the Left, Right, or muddled Middle, but Kelly seems awfully dismissive of gun owners who don’t share her particular politics. I don’t know if Kelly threw in criticism of conservative gun owners, the NRA, and “right-wing extremists” in order to make her piece more appealing to the WaPo editors, but in my opinion, it makes the column weaker. Then again, I’m not her target audience. Arguing that Biden’s gun control plan would be unconstitutional for all is likely a less compelling argument for Democrats than Kelly’s position that his anti-gun agenda reeks of white privilege and economic inequality.
Still, if we don’t come together on the Second Amendment, we will all suffer the restriction and eventual destruction of that right. Or, to put it in a way that Kelly might appreciate; “Gun owners of the world unite! The only thing you have to lose are your bans.” Kelly may see the world as the proletarians versus the middle class and the 1%, but when it comes to our right to keep and bear arms it’s really about the liberty of the People versus government tyranny.
Kelly’s spot on in pointing out that Americans on the bottom rung of the economic ladder would feel the effects of Biden’s gun control laws more than the middle class, but the biggest issue with Biden’s gun control agenda isn’t that it exacerbates economic inequality, it’s that it turns fundamentally turns the right to keep and bear arms itself into a privilege to be granted by the government. His gun bans, licensing plans, smart gun mandates, and other gun control proposals would still be an affront to our liberty even if they came with no economic cost at all. The fact that the poor Americans will face a bigger burden is one problem with Biden’s agenda, but it’s far from the only one.