By Larry Keane
President Joe Biden ran on being a “listener,” and bringing “unity” and “healing” to America. He’s not listening though. His tone-deaf call for increased gun control – including an “assault weapons” ban — comes in the midst of a record-breaking firearm and ammunition buying surge and record low public appetite for gun control.
Instead of listening to voters, President Biden ignored them and is calling to ban the AR-15, or modern sporting rifle (MSR), and in doing so he’ll infringe the constitutional rights of millions of Americans.
21 Million Background Checks and Counting
Last year was historic for Americans buying firearms. They voted for the Second Amendment with their wallets at the gun retail counter. Of the more than 21 million background checks completed for a firearm sale, retailers estimated over 8.4 million were first-time buyers. That’s not slowing down in 2021. Data shows modern sporting rifles (MSRs) continue to be America’s most popular-selling centerfire rifle.
Even before the buying surge, NSSF reported that over 20 million MSRs are in circulation, being used daily for lawful purposes. These are clearly commonly-owned firearms and their popularity is clearly growing.
Dark Storm Industries produces their own MSR, the DS-15 Typhoon. The New York-based company ramped up production to meet skyrocketing demand. DSI co-owner Ed Newman explained it succinctly.
“People are scared with the coronavirus and then the potential long-term implications of that,” Newman said. “The defund the police movement, as well as the riots that we saw breaking out in certain cities, have caused people, even the most skeptical, to all of a sudden be concerned for the safety of their family.”
DSI is a small manufacturer that put up big numbers in 2020. The company normally produces 2,000-2,500 MSRs annually. In 2020, that number was closer to 10,000. Production and sales figures are similar across MSR manufacturers and correlate to one-out-of-five firearms in America sold being an MSR.
Megan Hill, 26 of Utah, did her research and explained why she pulled the trigger on buying an MSR. “We looked at the AR-15, and it was all in one package. You can target-shoot with it, protect yourself with it, hunt with it. Luckily we haven’t had to use it in self-defense, but it’s a comfort knowing that it’s there to protect my children and my family.”
Those sentiments are common among buyers.
Assault Weapons Ban 2.0
President Biden isn’t a stranger to a so-called “assault weapons” ban. As then-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, President Biden ushered through the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. That ban expired in 2004 and didn’t work. NSSF data shows the ban had no effect on the reduction of crime.
Fast forward 25 years to when he campaigned for his present office, President Biden didn’t let facts get in the way of his bogeyman scare tactics. He campaigned with a gun control plank of banning MSRs and continued to knowingly misidentify them as so-called “assault rifles” and “weapons of war” despite the fact that MSRs operate on the same semiautomatic firing technology as common handguns and some shotguns.
The technology was introduced in the late 1800s and appeared on store shelves starting in 1903. The Colt Sporter, an early version of the AR-15, was sold commercially in the early 1960s.
President Biden would wipe out that history and cancel the culture of responsible firearm ownership if left to his own devices.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper questioned the president on the campaign trail in 2019, asking “To gun owners out there who say a Biden administration means they’re going to come for my guns…” “Bingo!” President Biden interrupted. “You’re right, if you have an assault weapon … The fact of the matter is they should be illegal. Period.”
President Biden even teased of installing former U.S. Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke as his gun-grabbing czar to lead the effort on a national MSR registry and confiscation scheme. That “mandatory buyback” plan would force MSR owners to face “consequences” if they didn’t comply and allow the U.S. government to use several billions of taxpayer dollars to seize lawfully-owned firearms.
With President Biden’s announcement this week of his gun control plan that includes an MSR ban, that would mean nearly 20 million MSR-owning Americans would become criminals. That doesn’t sound like “unifying the country,” especially when millions of those MSR owners are in communities where law enforcement budgets had been cut, leading to spikes in crime.
Even with a threatened MSR ban on the horizon, voters still made their voices heard loud and clear and rejected more state and local-level gun control. Multi-million dollar efforts by gun control groups, led by antigun billionaire Michael Bloomberg, failed in almost every regard. Americans overwhelmingly voted with their wallets to exercise their Second Amendment rights, including purchasing MSRs.
Instead of faulty gun control schemes like banning the MSR, the firearm industry will continue promoting Real Solutions® to reduce unintended and criminal misuse of firearms. President Biden should listen to the American people on this issue too.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.