At the moment, it looks like if Joe Biden is sworn in as president in January, the centerpiece of his anti-gun agenda is going to face impossible odds in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans will control at least 50 seats and have the opportunity for an outright majority if they win at least one of the two Senate seats up for grabs in Georgia’s runoff elections. Now gun control activists, who were anticipating a “blue wave” election fueled by a flood of campaign cash from anti-gun sugar daddy Michael Bloomberg, are starting to push the presumptive president to use the power of the executive branch if he takes office by weaponizing the ATF and other government agencies in order to crack down on legal gun owners.
At Bloomberg’s anti-gun news outlet The Trace, reporter Chip Brownlee lays out seven ways Biden can do an end run around Congress on gun issues, starting with an interagency task force to look for ways to implement anti-gun policies throughout the myriad number of government agencies.
Chelsea Parsons, an anti-gun activist with the far-Left Center for American Progress, says that the ATF also needs to be a top priority for a Biden administration.
“At a minimum, it’s crucial to nominate and confirm an ATF director who will promote gun violence prevention values and will really prioritize the regulatory oversight mission of that agency, which is something the agency really has fallen short on in recent years,” Parsons said.
Biden’s platform does not stop with new, more focused leadership. He has said he will direct his attorney general to deliver within the first 100 days a set of recommendations for restructuring the ATF and related Justice Department agencies to most effectively enforce gun laws, including by increasing the frequency of inspections on ATF-licensed gun dealers.
We’ve already seen reports that the Biden transition team is talking with senior ATF officials about things like pistol braces and unfinished receivers and frames, but the agency could also reclassify millions of currently-owned firearms as items that need to be registered under the National Firearms Act without any legislative mandate to do so. Any broad reclassification would lead to an immediate lawsuit, but if Biden really wants to target legal gun owners this is a likely place for him to start.
Gun control activists haven’t given up entirely on Congress either, though they’re still misreading the election results as some sort of mandate for their unconstitutional agenda.
“With pressure from the House… and with President Biden not only supporting that legislation but taking action in his own right through the executive action process and federal rulemaking, I think it just kind of compounds the message that Senate Republicans can’t get off the hook,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, director of federal affairs for the gun violence prevention group Giffords.
Some of Biden’s other proposals, like $900 million in funding for community gun violence prevention programs and adequate funding for existing background check programs, may also have a decent chance in a Senate with a slim Republican majority.
“The gun lobby and the NRA no longer have a stranglehold on our elected officials,” Vokhiwa said. “Unfortunately, there are a few in the Senate, particularly Senate Republicans, who still seem to think that they need to be beholden to the gun lobby. But I think that’s just evidence that they’re out of step with the American public who, by and large, want a government to take action on gun violence and what elected officials to pass legislation and take executive action to save lives.”
Sorry, Adzi, but that’s not what we saw with this election. Gun control groups were actively downplaying their issue as millions of Americans flocked to gun stores to purchase their very first firearm, concealed carry applications have skyrocketed to record levels, and anti-gun activists failed to make the legislative gains at either the state or federal level that would indicate Americans saw this election as a referendum on the Second Amendment.
Democrats will likely still make gun control a top priority in the coming months, but they do so at their own political peril, especially if their efforts are aimed at legal gun owners instead of the small but growing number of violent criminals in our society.