While Joe Biden is wistfully recalling that time back in the mid-90s when he was able to weasel a gun ban bill through Congress, gun control activists are more concerned about his inability to guide new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms to his desk for his signature. Igor Volsky, the head of Guns Down America, has been one of the more vocal critics of Biden’s anti-gun efforts to date, and on Thursday, he reiterated his complaint that the president hasn’t done more to put his agenda into action.
“The weapons we have today are just deadlier and more dangerous than what we had 15, 20 years ago, and that I think needs to change. And frankly, the president, to come back to him, needs to lead that charge because that’s what he promised,” Volsky said Thursday during an interview on Hill.TV
What deadlier and more dangerous guns have come onto the market in the past 15 or 20 years? Volsky doesn’t say, but he’s spent the past several years trying to ban a rifle that was developed before Elvis ever swung his hips on the Ed Sullivan show. Volsky’s not trying to ban guns that are new to the firearms market. He’s trying to ban the most commonly-sold rifle in the country today.
As for Biden not delivering on his promise, Volsky’s right to some degree. Biden has repeatedly called for a new ban on so-called assault weapons, for instance, but he’s not twisted any arms to hold a vote on his gun ban plan. Gun control activists have also complained that Sleepy Joe didn’t do enough to get Giffords’ lobbyist David Chipman confirmed as ATF director. In fact, Chipman himself has said the White House hardly lifted a finger during the confirmation process.
David Chipman’s confirmation odyssey began with a short congratulatory buzz from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in April and ended, he said, with a long, rueful call from the presidential adviser Steve Ricchetti admitting the White House had fallen “short.”
Mr. Chipman, a brash gun control activist whose nomination to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives imploded this month, said he had no other contact with the White House, which often left him feeling alone, on “an island,” when pro-gun groups attacked him.
Instead, the West Wing strategy focused on selling Mr. Chipman to Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the centrist Democrat and perpetual kingmaker in an evenly divided Senate, only to lose the support of Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, which left Democrats at least one vote short of the 50 needed for confirmation.
“Either this was impossible to win, or the strategy failed,” Mr. Chipman told The New York Times in his first public comments since President Biden withdrew the nomination, conceding he could not get the votes. “This was a failure.”
How about the strategy failed because it was impossible to win?
Volsky and Chipman both complain that Biden hasn’t put forth enough effort to enact his gun control agenda, but the fact is that Biden has been fairly aggressive when it comes to targeting gun owners with executive actions. There are two pending ATF rules that could criminalize the possession of millions of legally-owned firearms, and Biden chose to “punish” Vladimir Putin by blocking new permits to import Russian ammunition (a move that will hurt legal U.S gun owners far more than the Russian president or his oligarchic buddies). One of Biden’s first moves as president was to rescind a proposed rule from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that would have blocked banks from depriving services to the firearms industry, and I’m certain will see more executive moves to limit the Second Amendment before Election Day next year as Biden struggles to shore up support among his base.
It’s in Congress where Biden’s agenda has stalled, and that’s not just because Biden can’t twist arms like he used to (though I’d argue that is a factor). There weren’t 50 votes to confirm David Chipman, and there aren’t 60 votes to pass universal background checks or any other gun control measure that House Democrats might send over to the Senate. The only way that gun control legislation is getting to Biden’s desk if if the filibuster gets nuked, and while Democrats are increasingly enraged at their colleague Joe Manchin for refusing to push the button, the West Virginian has been pretty clear that he’s not interested in changing the rules, even for issues like raising the debt ceiling.
That’s the real problem for the gun control activists like Volsky. Maybe Biden could expend more of his limited energy pushing his gun control agenda in Congress, but why would he do that when he knows it’s going nowhere? Instead, the administration is going to continue to use the executive branch as a cudgel against gun owners and Second Amendment activists. Volsky may be bitching now, but he knows Biden will give him and other gun control lobbyists plenty to cheer about between now and the midterms, including an announcement about new rules on homebuilt firearms and pistol stabilizing braces getting formal approval by his Justice Department, which we can expect sometime next year.