100 Days In, Biden's Gun Control Agenda Largely Stalled

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Joe Biden loves to compare himself to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but beyond the fact that Roosevelt actually had full control of his mental faculties when he took office in 1933, there’s another big difference between the two men; Roosevelt’s first 100 days were actually filled with legislative achievements. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has seen his legislative agenda stall out in the Senate, including his desire to impose new restrictions on Americans exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Over at the Washington Examiner, politics editor Jim Antle gives Biden low marks for his gun control efforts, though Biden’s failures could also be seen as successes for Second Amendment supporters. Still, as we enter the next 100 days of the Biden presidency, we should expect to see the administration move ahead with executive actions aimed at legal gun owners, even as his legislative agenda remains bottled up in the Senate.

In an April ceremony at the White House with gun control activists present, Biden outlined regulatory steps to curtail homemade firearms lacking serial numbers popularly known as “ghost guns” and banning the type of pistol-stabilizing brace that was used in a Boulder, Colorado, shooting earlier this year. He also instructed the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” legislation for states, allowing family or law enforcement to seek court orders temporarily banning at-risk people from obtaining firearms.

“The President is committed to taking action to reduce all forms of gun violence — community violence, mass shootings, domestic violence, and suicide by firearm,” the White House said in a statement about the event. Biden also called on Congress to pass legislation strengthening background checks and repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.

“The gun issue was not at the top of Biden’s agenda, but circumstances have changed the calculus. His aggressive moves to use unilateral executive actions in several areas are significant changes that have widespread support (regulating ghost guns, stabilizing braces, model red flag law, etc.),” said Robert J. Spitzer, professor at State University of New York and author of The Politics of Gun Control. “Legislatively, he begins with three measures that have already passed the House, and that have overwhelming public support, as well as support from gun owners.”

“If the Senate cannot act on at least some of these, then that will be the end of any gun legislation for this Congress,” Spitzer continued. “These gun measures face the same two obstacles as the rest of Biden’s legislative agenda: the 50-50 party split and the filibuster.”

That’s a lovely bit of spin on the part of Robert Spitzer, but it doesn’t bear much resemblance to reality. Biden’s proposed rule changes are indeed aggressive and sweeping in their scope, but the administration isn’t exactly putting the pedal to metal to put them in place. It’s been almost two weeks since the ATF issued a press release detailing its proposed rule on so-called ghost guns and trying to rewrite portions of the Gun Control Act by regulatory fiat instead of legislation in Congress, but the rule still hasn’t been officially published in the Federal Register, which means that nothing has been proposed officially either. Once the Federal Register does publish the draft proposal, the public will have 90 days to weigh in, but the administration is dragging its feet on the proposal.

We don’t know the reason for the unusual delay, but I’m beginning to think that the Justice Department and the ATF will wait until they release the second rule change proposed by Biden; this one designed to reverse years of precedent and declare that AR-style pistols should now be considered short barreled rifles subject to the National Firearms Act. That proposal is due to come out in about two weeks, and the agencies may decide to wait until they’ve both been released to formally publish them, starting the clock on their possible implementation.

As for the supposedly overwhelming support for Biden’s proposed gun control laws, Spitzer ignores several recent polls showing a decline in support for new gun control measures. While Spitzer might want to see Biden’s anti-gun agenda enacted into law, fewer and fewer Americans share his point of view, and while gun control has stalled in Congress, gun sales are still soaring, with nearly two million guns sold just last month.

Personally, I think Biden does deserve low marks for his gun control agenda. Not for his failure to get his anti-gun legislation through Congress, but for proposing these unconstitutional infringements on our right to keep and bear arms in the first place.