TL;DR (5-minute read)
- President Joe Biden’s plan for gun violence in America proposes gun buybacks, stricter sales and background checks, an elimination of all sales online, production of smart guns that require fingerprints for access and can be remotely disabled, and much more.
- The ATF’s definition for “assault weapons” is too broad to warrant restriction of guns in the United States, and the qualities in the definition do not make a gun any more or less able to harm others.
- Use of government force to restrict gun rights will cause more problems than if the systems we have in place now were to be continued and expanded, and the population of the US who own firearms is likely to be able to defend themselves from our own military.
- Background check expansions are essentially pointless because of an already established system that covers physical and online gun purchases 24/7, and a better solution would be to potentially include mental health screenings.
- Investment into mental healthcare and encouraging Americans to properly and safely arm themselves could prove to be more effective in curbing gun violence
What is the Biden Plan for Gun Safety?
President Biden held a press conference on June 23, and outlined his administration’s plans to further restrict the 2nd amendment rights of Americans. During the conference, Biden proposed larger punishments for gun dealers who violate existing law, as well as encouraged a ban on “assault weapons.” His campaign website, joebiden.com/gunsafety/, also suggests banning online sales of all firearms, ammunition, and accessories. Some notable proposals also included a ban on high capacity magazines, stronger background checks for gun purchasers, gun buyback programs, and promoting sales of “smart guns” that can only be accessed with fingerprint approval and be remotely disabled.
Key Questions to Consider:
- Are Gun Buybacks Viable?
- Can We Use Military Force?
- What About More Background Check Restrictions?
- What are Reasonable Alternatives to the Biden Plan?
1: Are Gun Buybacks Viable?
Gun buyback programs are typically events where the government organizes a time and location for individuals to meet and receive compensation for their firearms in exchange for having no questions asked for complying with the law. They’re a massive talking point among proponents of Biden’s plan, but they are significantly more difficult to achieve than they seem. David Chipman, Biden’s nominee for head of the ATF, defines “assault weapons” as “any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine above the caliber of .22, which would include a .223, which is, you know, largely the AR-15 round.” According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an estimated 19.8 million AR type firearms alone were in circulation in 2020, all of which would fall under Chipman’s definition of an “assault weapon.”
Excluded in this statistic is AK and other type firearms of which also have intermediate cartridges and detachable magazines and possibly have ownership numbers in the millions. Furthermore, firearms companies in the last two years have seen a massive boom in sales, with Smith & Wesson reporting double their quarterly sales this year, meaning more and more Americans are purchasing “assault weapons” for home defense and other reasons. A ban on high-capacity magazines was also proposed, but an estimated 79.2 million rifle magazines capable of holding 30 or more rounds are in circulation according to the NSSF. With such a broad term covering such a massive quantity of guns and magazines, it would be nearly impossible for the government to initiate a program that is effective in disarming the American people.
2: Can We Use Military Force?
A point that many have made in favor of gun control in America is that that nobody needs firearms to defend themselves from the government because our military is too powerful anyway. This opinion was echoed when President Biden said “If you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.” during his press conference. I find this statement particularly ironic considering that we, the country with the largest military budget and most innovative weapons technology in the world, can’t even contain terrorist groups in the middle east that use some of the lowest quality combat equipment against our armed forces.
According to a Gallup poll , nearly 32% of people reported personally owning a firearm, meaning an estimated 106.4 million Americans own guns; in comparison, there are only 1.3 million active duty service members, many of whom are firearm owners and people who would resign at the thought of resorting to violence against their fellow citizens. The FBI reported only 10,258 firearm related homicides in 2019, and only 364 were classified as rifle caused homicides. Use of force against Americans as a means to disarm them would undeniably lead to unnecessary deaths of citizens, federal authorities, and service members. The risk outweighs the reward, and taking firearms could spark homicide that easily overshadows the current rates we have now.
3: What About More Background Check Restrictions?
Background check expansion would be a great idea, if it weren’t already present for every sale for every U.S. state. The National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) System by the FBI is required by all gun dealers in the United States; it’s available 24/7 and verifies that a buyer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm. Currently, ordering a firearm online requires purchase through a Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer who utilizes the NICS for all transactions. The only “common-sense” solution I see to increasing validity of background checks is to include medical screenings alongside criminal record reportings, but it seems that many have instead favored the robust solution of disarming potential dissidents rather than simply requiring a couple of extra steps to prevent them from having the capacity to harm others.
4: What are Reasonable Alternatives to the Biden Plan?
I strongly believe that investment into better mental healthcare in the United States could solve a majority of issues regarding gun violence, considering the individual behind the gun is the one who decides to harm others. I also believe that more responsible, trained Americans arming themselves is a positive solution, as shooters would be discouraged knowing that they may meet an instant response to their unprovoked violence. Restricting the rights of Americans to defend themselves however is not the way to stop gun violence, and only time will tell if what the Biden administration decides to do is the right thing to do.