Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

[Rep. Sheila Jackson] Lee’s bill so far has no cosponsors, and it is unlikely to make much progress. But it reflects a broader mindset in the Democratic Party, which used to at least pay lip service to the Second Amendment but lately talks and acts as if it does not exist. After promising to respect the Second Amendment in 2004, 2008, and 2012, the Democrats erased the constitutional provision from their 2016 platform, although they did mention “the rights of responsible gun owners.” The 2020 platform omitted even that phrase.

President Joe Biden does occasionally mention the Second Amendment, which he says he respects. “It’s within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment, which is limited,” his campaign website said. How limited?

We know that Biden’s Second Amendment does not cover guns he does not like. He concedes that the federal ban on “assault weapons,” which was part of what he has proudly called “the 1994 Biden Crime Bill” but expired in 2004, had no impact on the lethality of legal firearms. Yet he supports a new and supposedly improved version, including a magazine ban similar to Lee’s and a requirement that current owners of the targeted firearms either surrender them to the government or follow the same tax and registration requirements that apply to machine guns.

During an argument with a Detroit autoworker last year, Biden suggested that the Second Amendment no more protects the right to own “assault weapons” than the First Amendment protects the right to falsely cry “Fire!” in a crowded theater. And although the Supreme Court has described handguns as “the quintessential self-defense weapon,” possession of which for home protection is indisputably protected by the Constitution, Biden thinks shotguns are better for that purpose.

While Biden has not said his preference should be enforced by law, his policy prescriptions might be different if the Court had not ruled so clearly on the issue. His explanation of why he is willing to let people own guns, which focuses on hunting rather than self-defense, does not inspire much confidence that his avowed respect for the Second Amendment is based on a clear understanding of its function.

Proposals like Lee’s help make Biden’s gun control agenda look moderate and reasonable by comparison. But his attitude, like hers, shows that Democrats would be perfectly happy to expurgate the Bill of Rights if only the courts would let them.

— Jacon Sullum in This Draconian Bill Would Turn Millions of Peaceful Gun Owners Into Felons

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