At a campaign stop in front of a packed crowd in western Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump warned his supporters and any undecided voters who may have been listening that Joe Biden is against “oil, guns, and God“. It’s a red-meat message for Trump’s base, but it could also be a preview of what to expect when Trump and Biden meet for the first presidential debate next Tuesday.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has already announced the topics for next week’s debate, and while gun control isn’t specifically mentioned, there will be plenty of opportunities for moderator Chris Wallace to introduce the topic in the context of some of the issues that are expected to come up.
Subject to possible changes because of news developments, the topics for the September 29 debate are as follows, not necessarily to be brought up in this order:
The Trump and Biden Records
The Supreme Court
Race and Violence in our Cities
The Integrity of the Election
Trump can use the Supreme Court as well as the violence in our cities to really hammer Biden on his Second Amendment record, starting with the fact that as recently as 2019 Biden said that he believes the Second Amendment doesn’t protect an individual right to keep and bear arms. As NRA-ILA recently pointed out:
During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller was incorrect.
During the event, Biden was asked, “Do you agree with the D.C. v. Heller decision in regards to protecting the individual right to bear arms that are in common use and which are utilized for lawful purposes?”
Biden responded in part, “If I were on the court I wouldn’t have made the same ruling. OK, that’s number one.”
“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 explicitly stated that he thinks the Court came to the wrong conclusion in the Heller case, and he would have upheld Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns because in his view, the Second Amendment is about a right to join a militia. Biden clearly views the Second Amendment as a historical anachronism that has no relevance in 2020, and Trump should rightfully call Biden out for his statement.
Not to get too sidetracked, but Biden’s assertion that the Second Amendment was about mustering a militia to fight Great Britain is entirely off-base. The War of Independence was over by the time the Constitution was ratified in 1787, and when the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 the nation was a decade past the Washington’s victory over Cornwallis at Yorktown. Federalist 46, authored by James Madison, makes it clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms was seen by the Founders as a protection against homegrown tyranny as well as any foreign invaders.
I don’t expect Donald Trump to play historian on the debate stage, but it’s still worth pointing out that Biden is just as wrong on the reason for the Second Amendment as he is its meaning.
When it comes to the topic of violence in our cities, Trump can once again hit Biden on his plans to ban the most commonly-sold rifles and most commonly-owned ammunition magazines in the country. Biden’s buddies are in charge in places like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, and other cities where violence has skyrocketed this year, and millions of Americans have responded to the threat to their personal safety by becoming gun owners for the very first time.
Biden’s strategy to restore peace to the streets is to disarm those Americans who want to protect themselves and their families, while paying lip service to the idea that there should be consequences for the violent actors intent on kicking off a revolution to tear down the country’s institutions in order to build on the ashes. While Trump will undoubtably talk about restoring “law and order” in these increasingly lawless cities, he also needs to make it clear to voters that he wants to target violent criminals, while Biden wants to target legal gun owners.