WaPo Gives Biden Four Pinocchios Over Cannon Claim

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

You know a Democratic politician messed up when even the Washington Post fact-checkers can’t cover for them. Such is the case with Joe Biden’s big talk about gun control and violent crime last week, which veered wildly off the rails when Sleepy Joe started mumbling about the early days of the Republic and how the Second Amendment limited those who could exercise their right to keep and bear arms and what type of arms were protected.

“You couldn’t own a cannon,” proclaimed the president, even though Politifact rated that claim as “false” when Biden made similar comments on the campaign trail in 2020. Now the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler is taking a stab at the the claim, and he too says that Biden’s still wrong.

“Everything in that statement is wrong,” said David Kopel, the research director and Second Amendment project director at the Independence Institute. After 1791, “there were no federal laws about the type of gun you could own, and no states limited the kind of gun you could own.” Not until the early 1800s were there any efforts to pass restrictions on carrying concealed weapons, he said.

… Some readers might think this is a relatively inconsequential flub. But we disagree. Every U.S. president has a responsibility to get American history correct, especially when he’s using a supposed history lesson in service of a political objective. The president’s push for more gun restrictions is an important part of his political platform, so he undercuts his cause when he cites faux facts.

Moreover, Biden has already been fact-checked on this claim — and it’s been deemed false. We have no idea where he conjured up this notion about a ban on cannon ownership in the early days of the Republic, but he needs to stop making this claim.

While I’m glad to see the Post correct Biden’s mistake, there were some other falsehoods in Biden’s remarks that I haven’t seen covered by fact-checkers; specifically the president’s remarks that “we know what works” to reduce violent crime. According to Biden, the answer is universal background checks and a ban on so-called assault weapons, even though the banned firearms weren’t used in a lot of crimes before the ban, during the ban, or after the ban expired.

As for universal background checks, just look at what’s happened in Colorado since the state imposed a universal background check requirement in 2013. Violent crime has increased every year since lawmakers approved universal background checks, starting in 2014 and continuing through 2020. If universal background checks were the answer, I’m pretty sure that violent crime in the state would be trending downward, not spiraling upwards.

Or take New Mexico, which imposed universal background checks in 2019. As Albuquerque television station KRQE reported a year after the law took effect:

In the first year since that law went into effect on July 1, 2019, court records show that no one was charged with violating the law. “We spent a lot of time, a lot of resources and a lot of money trying to enact this law that’s done absolutely nothing,” said Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace.

As the president of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, Sheriff Mace has been an outspoken opponent of the legislation since lawmakers proposed it in the Roundhouse. Still, when she signed it into law, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham seemed confident that even sheriffs who opposed it would get on board.

The only law enforcement agency in the state speaking publicly about actively enforcing it is the Albuquerque Police Department. “We want that message to get out to felons that if you try, you could be getting a phone call from detectives,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told KRQE in January.

APD said it has done two sting operations, acting as potential buyers and reaching out to private gun sellers to see if they will require a background check or not. Out of 50 people, they say, they warned roughly ten about the law during the first operation. Then, just two or three during the second operation.

Now, maybe the fact that no one’s been arrested for violating the state’s background check law means virtually every private transfer of a firearm is now going through a background check. If that’s the case, though, then it undercuts Biden’s argument, because homicides are soaring across the state, including in Albuquerque.

New Mexico is no stranger to violent crime, but so far this year’s homicide count is outpacing the average of the last two years by about 75%. As of April 18, 2021, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) recorded 35 homicides across the city. By this time last year, there were only 18. In 2019, there were only 22 homicides by April 18.

“Drug-related homicides are definitely up this year — quite a bit,” says Gilbert Gallegos. And a lot of the homicides have occurred in hotels and motels, he says. Some of those are drug deals gone wrong.

Something tells me that the drug dealers and gangs driving up the homicide rate aren’t paying attention to the state’s background check requirements on firearm transfers, and that a “universal background check” law isn’t the powerful tool to reduce violence that Biden says it is.

By all means, Biden should be called out for his cannon comments, but the fact-checking shouldn’t stop there. The president isn’t just incorrect about the what the Second Amendment meant in 1791. He’s wrong about what infringing on that right would do to the crime rate and Americans’ ability to protect and defend themselves.