Harsanyi: We don't need Biden's permission to own semi-autos

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Joe Biden doesn’t like semi-automatic firearms. He probably doesn’t understand what semi-automatic firearms actually are, mind you, but he doesn’t like them. He’s made that clear enough over the years, but recently, he said we shouldn’t be “allowed” to own them.


Over at The Federalist, David Harsanyi is taking issue with that and other statements made by the president.

“The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick,” Joe Biden argued on Thanksgiving. “It has no socially redeeming value. Zero. None. Not a single solitary rationale for it except profit for the gun manufacturers.”

Need it really be pointed out that it is perfectly within our rights to purchase products devoid of all socially redemptive value? Certainly, it is not the state’s business to determine what we “need.” That said, semi-automatic weapons happen to have an obvious redeeming value and there is a strong rationale for owning them. Semi-auto weapons are easy to use, and their effectiveness and reliability bolster the ability of people to protect themselves, their families, their property, and their community from criminality and, should it descend into tyranny, the government. Gun bans are autocratic and unconstitutional, and, thankfully, also largely unfeasible.

It is difficult to pinpoint what percentage of the 400-plus million firearms in civilian hands today are semi-automatic. These weapons, which fire one cartridge with a single trigger squeeze while preparing the gun for the next shot, constitute a substantial percentage of new gun sales over the past few decades. Banning them would prevent homeowners and those who concealed-carry — not only some of the most law-abiding people in the country, but a growing contingent —without the weapon of choice. The actions of a small number of irrational criminal psychopaths should not corrode the rights of those citizens. Not to mention, corroding our rights would do nothing to stop the irrational criminal psychopaths.

Indeed, semi-autos meet every criterion of legality laid out in D.C. v. Heller, the decision that finally codified the clear historical and legal intention of the Second Amendment. Not only are semi-automatic weapons “in common use” by “law-abiding citizens,” they are not “unusual.” The first semi-automatic pistols hit the civilian marketplace in the 1890s.


Harsanyi is absolutely correct on all of these points, but there are a few I’d like to discuss in greater detail. I recommend you go and read the rest because Harsanyi definitely understands the Second Amendment and its history quite well.

One particular point he makes is when he asks, “Need it really be pointed out that it is perfectly within our rights to purchase products devoid of all socially redemptive value?”

This is absolutely correct. President Biden argues that semi-automatics have no socially redemptive value, which I disagree with, but for the sake of argument, let’s say he’s right.

So what?

Pornography also lacks socially redemptive value, yet we tolerate it because of the First Amendment. Heavily biased and divisive rhetoric masquerading as “news” has no socially redemptive value, yet we also tolerate it for the same reason.

In fact, there are a lot of things that arguably lack socially redemptive value, and we don’t need Biden’s permission for those, so why should we somehow need it for semi-automatic firearms?

As for “allowing” them to be sold, as Harsanyi notes, these guns are in common use, which has been laid out as essentially making a gun immune to a ban under rulings like Heller.


So frankly, it looks like Biden should get used to disappointment. Semi-automatics are here to stay, and that’s as it should be.

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