The Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control news site The Trace is out with a look at Joe Biden’s “evolution” on gun control over his 47 years in Washington, D.C., portraying the Democratic presidential candidate as a politician who’s always been in the mainstream when it comes to new gun laws. On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, we take a closer look at Biden’s record as a senator, vice president, and now presidential candidate, and it’s pretty clear that not only has Biden shifted his positions considerably over the decades, he’s been moving in the wrong direction.
As The Trace notes, 1980s Joe Biden wasn’t a big fan of gun control. In the debate over the Firearms Owner Protection Act back in 1986, Biden made it clear that he didn’t believe criminals were going to pay any attention to new gun control measures.
Proponents of FOPA sold it as a rolling back of extreme gun measures, removing restrictions on buying, selling, and transporting guns across state lines and limiting ATF inspections. The NRA later called it “the law that saved gun rights,” even though the group had supported portions of the 1968 Gun Control Act.
Any way you look at it, the passage of FOPA, with Biden’s support, went down as one of the first major gun rights victories for an NRA that was already on the path to becoming more partisan, more politicized, and less willing to compromise on gun legislation as it had in 1968.
“During my twelve-and-half years as a member of this body, I have never believed that additional gun control or federal registration of guns would reduce crime,” Biden said on the floor of the Senate in July 1985. “I am convinced that a criminal who wants a firearm can get one through illegal, untraceable, unregistered sources, with or without gun control.”
Less than a decade later, however, Biden was singing a different tune as he urged passage of his 1994 crime bill, which contained a ban on so-called assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
“I hope that my Republican friends will not spend too much time with what has been the issue on this legislation since the beginning,” Biden said in 1994. “Six years ago, it was guns. Five years ago, it was guns. Four years ago, it was guns. Last night it was guns. This morning it was guns. And right now, it’s guns.
“It’s guns, guns, guns, guns, guns.”
It’s been guns, guns, guns, guns, guns ever since for Biden, despite the fact that violent crime and homicide rates were already declining by the time his crime bill and gun ban became law. Violent crime continued to fall after Biden’s gun ban expired in 2004, and in 2019 the violent crime and homicide rate in the United States were near 50-year lows. Biden believes that the best way to reduce crime is by going after guns, but even as the number of privately-owned firearms surpassed 400-million in the United States, the crime rate continued to fall.
If “more guns equals more crime,” as anti-gun activists claim, then our violent crime rates should have soared over the past decade. Instead, it kept moving in the right direction until this year, when the coronavirus shut down courts caused authorities to empty out jails to avoid a pandemic behind bars. Just a few months after those first shutdown orders took effect, riots erupted over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, and police departments around the country were told to ditch their efforts targeting violent offenders.
The Trace argues that, far from being an anti-gun extremist, Joe Biden is a typical Democrat politician who tries to embrace the positions held by a majority of his party. In the 1980s, that meant rejecting gun control laws, while in 2020 it means embracing the most anti-gun agenda of any presidential candidate in U.S. history; from banning commonly-owned firearms and ammunition magazines to banning the online sale of ammunition and gun parts to trying to bribe states into imposing subjective and restrictive gun licensing laws on existing gun owners.
Joe Biden’s evolved on gun control all right, but he’s moved in the wrong direction. He was right in the 1980s when he said that criminals would find a way to illegally get a gun, but now he seems much more concerned with legal gun owners exercising their Second Amendment rights.