Both Tom Knighton and myself have gone over the substance (or lack thereof) of Joe Biden’s new executive orders announced on Tuesday, so on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re focusing more on the president’s call for Congress to “do something big” by banning so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines; a demand that is going absolutely nowhere on Capitol Hill.
“Do something. Do something big,” he implored.
“I’m determined to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Biden told the families of some of the victims who were in the audience for his remarks, along with the 26-year-old who wrestled the semiautomatic pistol away from the gunman.
Never mind the fact that California has repeatedly banned “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines for decades, with lawmakers going back and expanding the bans on multiple occasions. As far as Biden’s concerned, when it comes to public safety the only answer is to criminalize the right to armed self-defense.
Biden’s rhetoric has grown ever stronger about guns — he routinely calls for banning assault weapons — in pushing a gun-control platform even tougher than during the Obama administration when he was vice president. He has been emboldened by the midterm elections when his regular talk of gun control didn’t result in massive Democratic losses, and he’s expected to continue to argue for strong changes as he moves toward a 2024 reelection run, his aides say.
He can keep arguing, but he’s not moving the needle. If anything, support for a ban on so-called assault weapons is declining, with a recent Quinnipiac poll showing more voters opposed to a ban than supportive of one. And while it’s too soon to celebrate, even some blue state politicians have run into trouble with their own gun ban proposals. An “assault weapons” ban in Colorado was introduced to little fanfare earlier this month and has yet to receive a committee hearing, while New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is “backing away” from her previous support for a special session on gun control if lawmakers don’t deliver a gun ban to her desk.
Lujan Grisham said during the news conference she expects HB 100 [establishing a 14-day waiting period on all gun purchases] will get heard and said despite having roughly four days left to the session “there’s still time” to enact more public safety laws.
Though the governor previously had hinted she might call a special session to bring lawmakers back to the table on some violence-prevention initiatives, including the ban on assault weapons, she backed away from the notion Tuesday.
“You don’t call a special session as a political point to just belabor a debate that has not been settled,” she said. “Special sessions are for getting things done or because we ran out of time on a specific issue.”
That’s certainly an indication that the proposed “assault weapons” ban in the legislature isn’t moving forward because of concerns from lawmakers, as opposed to legislators not having enough time to get to it.
There’s still an “assault weapons” ban on the table in Washington State and Illinois legislators approved one of their own in January (though the law is on hold thanks to an injunction from a down-state judge), but I think it’s fair to say that the bans have been far more contentious than gun control advocates expected, even in states where Democrats control both the legislative and executive branches. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont had to scale back his demand that residents who purchased modern sporting rifles before the state’s ban went into effect turn them over or destroy them, and thousands of residents have testified in opposition to his revised ban, which now requires those gun owners to register their modern sporting rifles with the state.
Then there are the court challenges to existing bans, including the multiple lawsuits underway in Illinois. It’s also expected that U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez will soon issue his opinion in a number of suits taking on a variety of California gun laws, including its ban on “assault weapons.” Benitez has already declared the law unconstitutional once before, but the Ninth Circuit kicked the case back down to his courtroom after the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is also considering a challenge to Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons,” and a decision could come down at any time. Judges seemed skeptical of the state’s defense of the law during oral arguments back in December, though the panel could choose to send the case back to trial court rather than rule on the constitutionality of the ban itself.
I believe Joe Biden is sincere about wanting to ban “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines. I just don’t think he has much of a chance of doing so, and I suspect that before long the Supreme Court is going to make it clear that any ban on commonly-owned firearms is off the table as long as the Second Amendment is still in place.