Joe Biden vs. the 2nd Amendment
President Trump has said numerous times that the Democrats are coming for your guns -- either they will scrap the Second Amendment or gut it of any content. Though some have claimed this is an exaggeration, dismissing it as mere pandering to his electoral base, this election cycle may be different.
One of the most significant signs of this is the Democrat Party platform and Joe Biden admitted in the first debate that he has given his stamp of approval on the 2020 platform.
Democrats and Republicans approach the Second Amendment from very different vantage points in their platforms. Republicans talk about the right to own firearms as a right that stands on its own and the discussion regarding the issue in their party platforms begins from that foundation. For example, in the 1980 Republican platform: “We believe the right of citizens to keep and bear arms must be preserved.” (emphasis added) In the 2000 Republican platform: “We defend the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and we affirm the individual responsibility to safely use and store firearms.” And again in 2012: “We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment. We acknowledge, support, and defend the law-abiding citizen's God-given right of self-defense.”
For the Democrats, the context is different. The discussion usually centers around gun violence and its effect on the American people. Within this discussion and the need to restrict access to guns in general and to ban specific types of guns, the Democrats mention that guns used for hunting or sporting purposes should be exempt from restrictions. For example, in the 1976 Democrat platform: “Handguns simplify and intensify violent crime. Ways must be found to curtail the availability of these weapons… The Democratic Party, however, affirms the right of sportsmen to possess guns for purely hunting and target-shooting purposes.” The 1992 platform: “It is time to shut down the weapons bazaars in our cities… We do not support efforts to restrict weapons used for legitimate hunting and sporting purposes.” And in the 2000 platform: “A shocking level of gun violence on our streets and in our schools has shown America the need to keep guns away from those who shouldn't have them -- in ways that respect the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and legitimate gun owners.”
It was only in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 platforms that the Democrats actually acknowledged a Second Amendment right and mentioned it by name. However, immediately after mentioning the Second Amendment right, they began discussing many ways they would restrict that right.
As shown in my book Broken Values, the reality is that the Democrats have always been looking to ban something. Since guns have become an issue and first appeared in the 1968 platform, the Democratic Party has always had a firearm or accessory on the chopping block. In 1972, 1976, and 1980 it was “Saturday night specials.” In 1984, it was “snub-nosed” handguns. In 1988 and again in 1996, it was a ban on cop-killer bullets “that have no purpose other than the killing and maiming of law enforcement officers.” And in 1992, the idea of banning assault weapons began and continues to be an issue since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. The 2016 Democratic Party platform even wanted to ban certain firearms from law enforcement officers.
The 2020 Democrat platform breaks new ground on gun issues in the following areas, among others. First, there is no reference to gun rights at all. The previous, backhanded reference to protecting gun rights of hunters and sportsmen is completely absent. Even the watered-down version of the 2016 platform “We can respect the rights of responsible gun owners” has been expunged.
Second, gun violence is now called an outright public health crisis and the Democrats pledge to ensure adequate funding to research the topic of guns and their effects on society as a public health issue. This is a very clever way of framing the issue. Undoubtedly, the result of any such research would highlight the risk firearms pose to society, which would provide the Democrats with the ‘scientific’ backing to gut the Second Amendment, based on the ‘proof’ that this is a public health issue.
Third, the public health crisis, claimed by the Democrats in the 2020 platform, will be addressed by “evidence-based programs”, which is another way of obscuring unpopular policy ideas so as not to completely alienate constituencies from the party. Even though the average reader likely sees “evidence-based programs” as a great idea -- who doesn’t want policy to be backed up by evidence -- this is simply a method to choose the ‘evidence’ you wish to base policies on.
In the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Barack Obama didn’t build his electoral strategy on robust gun control policies, as some Democratic candidates did in 2020. Speculation was that he feared he would lose rural states like Ohio, Iowa, and Colorado. Fast forward to 2020 and the Democrats apparently believe that there are enough new voters and people disgusted by guns to take a radical stance on the issue and not alienate voters. Joe Biden may also assume that people who are against his views on guns either wouldn’t vote for him in any event, or even if they disagree about this issue, would still prefer him over Trump in many other areas.
This was clearly evident during a public rally when after receiving a fiery endorsement from Beto O’Rourke, Joe Biden turned to him and said: “You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort. I’m counting on you… the country needs you.” This was the same Beto O’Rourke who famously said “hell, yes, we are coming for your AR-15,” and it confirms that the platform’s new ideas on guns control are indeed part of Joe Biden’s agenda.
Gideon Israel is the author of the new book Broken Values: How The Democratic Party Platform Betrays Its Followers And America