If you’re a new gun owner, you are not alone.
We at Open Source Defense (OSD) have been tracking the incredible, truly unprecedented surge in first time gun buyers in the United States in 2020. The numbers are staggering. NICS background checks are up 40% over last year alone, many of which are new owners. By National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates, the country added as many as five million new owners just through the first half of 2020. If those trends hold, and you were to line up a random sample of ten American gun owners selected at random, one of them would be a 2020 buyer. You are not alone.
But if you’re new to gun ownership, you probably don’t fully understand the different policy objectives of the Republican and Democratic party presidential nominees. We at OSD would like to examine the platforms in an unbiased and detailed manner, so you can understand the implications.
If Donald Trump wins the presidency, expect things to continue about like they are now. We may see some changes in “what counts as a pistol brace” or “what weapons are available through the Civilian Marksmanship Program” or similar, but your relative level of freedom or restriction with your new firearm will continue to be determined more by state law, so it will vary nationwide by where you live. Gun rights organizations want Trump to push for more firearms freedoms, gun control advocates want fewer freedoms, and we expect Trump to generally skate the line and not tip any apple carts over in either direction.
Biden’s gun control agenda can be found here, but you need not click the link, as we’ll be highlighting everything word for word and explaining exactly how it impacts you. It’s long. Here we go, bullet by bullet.
Hold gun manufacturers accountable. In 2005, then-Senator Biden voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but gun manufacturers successfully lobbied Congress to secure its passage. This law protects these manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products – a protection granted to no other industry. Biden will prioritize repealing this protection.
This sounds benign, but isn’t. Gun control organizations have pushed for the right for gun violence victims to sue the manufacturer of a firearm for millions of dollars every time a firearm gets used in a crime. This is basically a way to weaponize tort law to end firearm manufacture and thus ownership in the US, bypassing the Constitution.
Ordinarily a manufacturer of any product can only be sued if someone was injured as a result of a design or manufacturing flaw, indicating that distribution of the product was in some way grossly negligent. Firearms are intended to kill people – it’s what they do. Gun control advocates want to make it easier to sue a firearm manufacturer when the gun works entirely as designed, but is used by a bad person. If this sort of thing were implemented widely, any gun manufacturer whose guns were illegally used in a crime or a suicide would go out of business. You would not have been able to buy the firearm you just bought, and you will not be able to buy any new ones.
This is a provision that sounds benign, but in the context of modern American tort law would be the end of gun ownership as we know it. As a new owner, this should concern you.
Get weapons of war off our streets. The bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that Biden, along with Senator Feinstein, secured in 1994 reduced the lethality of mass shootings. But, in order to secure the passage of the bans, they had to agree to a 10-year sunset provision and when the time came, the Bush Administration failed to extend them.
So much is wrong with this opening line it’s hard to know where to begin.
First off, it’s a lie. Up until Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in US history was at Virginia Tech, where a guy walked around with a pair of pistols and a backpack full of magazines. Every school shooting in recent memory ends not in a gunfight, but when the shooter runs out of ammunition. You can fit more pistol ammunition in a backpack than you can rifle ammunition, and since response times for mass shootings often exceed ten minutes or more, the relative lethality of rifle ammunition versus pistol ammunition doesn’t matter. Funneling unhinged mass shooters into using pistols instead of rifles would make mass shootings more deadly.
Secondly, it doesn’t matter. Mass shootings are so tremendously rare they’re barely a blip in the overall gun death numbers. They’re 17 times less likely than being hit by lightning. We don’t enact wide sweeping legislation because of the threat of being struck by lightning. The reason mass shootings are a fixture in the overall gun dialog is because they give giant media companies the most clicks, because stories about them go viral on Facebook. Further, the media companies literally create more mass shootings by the way they cover them. The most scientifically effective way to reduce mass shootings would be to enact a media blackout of them.
As president, Biden will: Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Federal law prevents hunters from hunting migratory game birds with more than three shells in their shotgun. That means our federal law does more to protect ducks than children. It’s wrong.
Federal law does not permit hunting children, regardless of magazine size.In some ways it’s pretty amazing they even put this line on their website.
Joe Biden will enact legislation to once again ban assault weapons. This time, the bans will be designed based on lessons learned from the 1994 bans. For example, the ban on assault weapons will be designed to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor changes that don’t limit the weapon’s lethality. While working to pass this legislation, Biden will also use his executive authority to ban the importation of assault weapons.
As a new gun owner, you might not realize what this means, and it’s very important for you to understand it. The 1994 ban had a real problem differentiating between an AR-15, which certainly looks scary, and something like a Mini 14 Ranch Rifle, which doesn’t. Let’s look at them.
The AR-15 which was banned and, we can admit, was designed to kill people, looks like this:
The Mini-14 Ranch Rifle which wasn’t banned and, we can admit, is mostly designed to kill coyotes, looks like this:
These two guns shoot the same round, have the same rate of fire, and both have a detachable box magazine for reloading. Functionally speaking, they are the same gun. That’s because something good at killing coyotes is also going to be good at killing people, and vice versa. The prior “Assault Weapons Ban” wanted to ban weapons used to kill people, as if the weapons used to kill coyotes wouldn’t be equally good at killing people, so they banned a bunch of “features” you see on the AR-15 and not the Mini-14. The pistol grip, the flash hider, and things like that.
What the “lessons learned” language in Joe Biden’s policy actually means is that he intends to ban the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle this time around too, as well as any other semi-automatic rifle of any style, form, or function, with an external magazine. As new gun owners, many of you recently purchased something Biden will ban. If the recent policy push in Virginia is any indicator, they will also ban many pistols and other firearms you may have bought. How does he plan to do this?
Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. Currently, the National Firearms Act requires individuals possessing machine-guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles to undergo a background check and register those weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to these requirements, such weapons are rarely used in crimes. As president, Biden will pursue legislation to regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.
This logic of “restricted thing isn’t used often in crime, therefore we should restrict other things in a similar way to reduce their criminal use” seems to make sense at first. However, we already know that the 17.7 million AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles owned by Americans, referred to here as “assault weapons”, are also rarely used in crime, despite not being subject to NFA restrictions.
Across all homicides, only 2% of homicides are committed with rifles of any kind, be that an AR-15 or a Mini-14 or a bolt action deer rifle. Around 90% of firearm homicides are done with handguns, mainly because handguns are easily concealable. Nobody knocks over a liquor store with a rifle. So this gun control measure stands to accomplish very little because it addresses a class of firearms which are almost never used in crime to begin with. And of the few homicides which were committed with rifles, most or all of them could have been committed with a handgun.
As a new gun owner, you should know that the ATF process he’s outlining to curb this tiny fraction of homicides is a huge pain in the ass. It requires paying a $200 fee to the ATF and going through a background check process which typically takes a year, even though it’s rarely more robust than a standard NICS check. Effectively, the firearms and accessories subject to this new rule will cost an extra $200 and have a year long wait period. Further, owning one means the ATF can demand to see your paperwork at any time, even (in principle) at your home. You may not give them to a friend or relative without going through the same procedure, including another $200 transfer fee and another wait up to a year long. You cannot transport them out of state without filing an additional form with the ATF.
If we pay attention to how 10+ capacity magazines are discussed elsewhere in Biden’s plan, it’s not a stretch to presume they will undergo the same restrictions. Magazines in excess of 10 rounds are extremely common, not only in the most popular rifles in the country, but also in almost every commonly purchased semi-automatic self-defense handgun. If you’re a new gun owner, you may very well have just bought some. And almost every gun owner owns two, three, maybe ten magazines for every gun they own. If we take his proposals at face value, he might require a $200 tax on every magazine over ten rounds, amounting to thousands of dollars in fees for the magazines already in your possession, even if they aren’t for use in scary looking rifles.
Welcome to 2021, where only rich people can own guns and their functional accessories.
As a new gun owner, Biden’s policies will prevent you from buying additional guns in the most popular and useful categories, you will owe an extra $200 per gun, and you will have to wait up to a year before you can use it, even though the class of firearm you just bought is almost never used in crime. If it extends to mags, he’s putting you on the hook for thousands more dollars in fees for owning something every police officer in the country carries.
Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities. Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.
These aren’t “weapons of war,” and as a new gun owner you have probably started to realize that, but let’s set that aside. You probably went to great pains to buy your gun in 2020. Lines, wait times, stock issues, lack of ammunition. If you choose not to pay an additional $200 and wait a year to take possession of the thing you just bought, then Biden says he will buy it back from you, but he’s not stating explicitly how much he’ll pay. Assuredly it will be less than you paid for it.
Reduce stockpiling of weapons. In order to reduce the stockpiling of firearms, Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one.
As a new gun owner this probably won’t affect you much. But it may have affected you in 2020, depending on what (and how much) you decided to buy. Think back to your own experiences for a sense of how this might affect you in the future, or might affect others in the future who come to the same conclusions you did.
Keep guns out of dangerous hands. The federal background check system (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is one of the best tools we have to prevent gun violence, but it’s only effective when it’s used. Biden will enact universal background check legislation and close other loopholes that allow people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases.
Keeping guns out of dangerous hands is, statistically speaking, the smartest kind of gun control measure available. It has been repeatedly shown, by some of the most objective and mathematically sound analysis available, that preventing dangerous people from having guns is the most effective way to reduce gun violence. But the devil is in the details, and the efficacy of the policy proposals is not as much as one might think. Let’s look at the details and the efficacy.
Specifically, he will:
Require background checks for all gun sales. Today, an estimated 1 in 5 firearms are sold or transferred without a background check. Biden will enact universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members. This will close the so-called “gun show and online sales loophole” that the Obama-Biden Administration narrowed, but which cannot be fully closed by executive action alone.
If you as a new gun owner in 2020 couldn’t get a gun because the gun stores were sold out, or because the backorder times on out of stock items were too long, and instead you bought one from a friend, you are the very person Biden is targeting with this legislation. If you went to Gunbroker.com and browsed around, you already realize that all online sales must be delivered to a licensed gun dealer to have your background check processed. If you went to a gun show, you already know that gun shows require you to go over to the NICS table and print out your background check to buy a gun there. The actual loophole this intends to close is peer to peer sales out in parking lots, which are far less than the “1 in 5” numbers he quotes. In fact, it’s likely that many of those “1 in 5” transfers outside of the background check system are transfers between family members that he’s exempting in the language. And some of those “1 in 5” are between criminals who won’t follow the law anyway. Further, a detailed analysis by OSD has shown that universal background checks will help reduce gun deaths, but not by the numbers often claimed. This is an idea that will at best ameliorate 1 in 20 gun deaths. Is it worth it? You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Close other loopholes in the federal background check system. In addition to closing the “boyfriend loophole” highlighted below, Biden will:
Reinstate the Obama-Biden policy to keep guns out of the hands of certain people unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons, which President Trump reversed. In 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration finalized a rule to make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends to the background check system records that it holds of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms because they have been adjudicated by the SSA as unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons. But one of the first actions Donald Trump took as president was to reverse this rule. President Biden will enact legislation to codify this policy.
This “sounds” good, but to understand it, you need to understand what Trump actually reversed. The best group to reference on this is the ACLU, an organization generally understood these days to be very left of center and not at all pro-gun. This is the ACLU’s statement about Trump’s reversal of the Obama-era policy. Words from the ACLU:
In this era of “alternative facts,” we must urge politicians to create laws based on reliable evidence and solid data.
The thousands of Americans whose disability benefits are managed by someone else range from young people with depression and financial inexperience to older adults with Down syndrome needing help with a limited budget. But no data — none — show that these individuals have a propensity for violence in general or gun violence in particular.
To the contrary, studies show that people with mental disabilities are less likely to commit firearm crimes than to be the victims of violence by others.
Would this Biden measure affect you as a new gun owner? It depends on whether someone else manages your disability benefits, or whether you know someone in that position. And statistically, it will do nothing to reduce gun homicide.
Close the “hate crime loophole.” Biden will enact legislation prohibiting an individual “who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission” from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
It’s very unclear how many people this would affect, or how many crimes this measure would avert, but this measure isn’t likely to affect you as a new gun owner unless you have one of these things on your record. It might affect you in the future if congress broadens the definition of “hate crime,” which is a possibility.
Close the “Charleston loophole.” The Charleston loophole allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. Biden supports the proposal in the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the timeline from three to 10 business days. Biden will also direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to put on his desk within his first 100 days as president a report detailing the cases in which background checks are not completed within 10 business days and steps the federal government can take to reduce or eliminate this occurrence.
The cap on evaluation time for background checks was originally put into law to prevent the government from enacting gun control through weaponized inefficiency. These things happen all the time at the local and state level. For example, California’s 10-day waiting period, which applies to all purchasers before they take possession of their gun, illegally stretched to over 30 days during COVID-19 lockdowns. In Philadelphia, the police department’s carry permit licensing unit now operates “by appointment only,” leading to wait times of over 18 months just to start the application process. It’s reasonable to project that under a Biden administration the NICS system might be choked down in its processing capability to effectively guarantee a 10 day waiting period for all gun sales at the national level, purely on account of bureaucratic ineptitude.
If you’re a new gun owner and never intend to buy any more guns, you’re probably okay here.
Close the “fugitive from justice” loophole created by the Trump Administration. Because of actions by the Trump Administration, records of almost 500,000 fugitives from justice who are prohibited from purchasing firearms were deleted from the background check system. The Biden Administration will restore these records, and enact legislation to make clear that people facing arrest warrants are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.
This sounds like a really good idea, and maybe it is, but to understand it you need to look into what actually happened. First off, Trump really didn’t do anything here. The ATF and FBI disagreed about the legal definition of “fugitive from justice.” The ATF’s narrow interpretation was “anyone with a warrant who crosses state lines.” The FBI’s broader interpretation was “anyone with a warrant.” But that also included misdemeanors, so states like Massachusetts had to report every outstanding misdemeanor warrant, even ones for too many unpaid parking tickets, to the FBI to be added to the NICS database.
This bullet is about clearing up an administrative SNAFU, and probably won’t impact you unless you have a big pile of unpaid parking tickets.
End the online sale of firearms and ammunitions [sic]. Biden will enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.
If you as a new gun owner bought anything through a website in 2020 you are the target of this proposal. If you’ve bought any gun accessories through a website this targets you as well, and would prevent you from doing so in the future. As we discussed above, and as you probably already discovered, online sales of actual guns are required to be shipped to a gun dealer to run your background check, so they are no different from a safety standpoint than buying from a store, because you still have to go to the store to pick up what you bought. This proposal will dramatically impede your ability to be a gun owner in the future, especially as the sale of basically everything moves completely online. And for no benefit.
Create an effective program to ensure individuals who become prohibited from possessing firearms relinquish their weapons. Federal law defines categories of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and the federal background check system is an effective tool for ensuring prohibited persons cannot purchase firearms. But we lack any serious tool to ensure that when someone becomes newly prohibited – for example, because they commit a violent crime – they relinquish possession of their firearms. There are some promising models for how this could be enforced. For example, California has a mandatory process for ensuring relinquishment by any individual newly subject to a domestic violence restraining order. As president, Biden will direct the FBI and ATF to outline a model relinquishment process, enact any necessary legislation to ensure relinquishment when individuals newly fall under one of the federal prohibitions, and then provide technical and financial assistance to state and local governments to establish effective relinquishment processes on their own.
This is an interesting point, and might not be all that bad, but is mostly handled by the states already, and not just in places like California. In Georgia, for instance, if a woman takes out a Temporary Protective Order (TPO) against a man, the sheriff seizes all the man’s guns immediately when the TPO is served, and the guns are held at the county courthouse until the man sees a judge a few weeks or a month later for a hearing. Rules on this vary by state.
If you’re a new gun owner, this probably wouldn’t affect you much, depending on your state. Also, if you’re new to gun ownership, you should make sure you don’t do anything stupid enough to get a TPO filed against you. Pro tip.
Incentivize state “extreme risk” laws. Extreme risk laws, also called “red flag” laws, enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them. And, he’ll direct the U.S. Department of Justice to issue best practices and offer technical assistance to states interested in enacting an extreme risk law.
Red flag laws are either good or bad — the devil is in the details. They can be used to protect people who are suicidal from injuring themselves. They are also leveraged by police (and in some jurisdictions, almost exclusively by police) calling in the red flags themselves to bypass the need for warrants when they’re going after someone without sufficient evidence for due process. Opinions on these are currently based largely on anecdotes, and there’s not a lot of great data on how well they work, nor on how often they’re abused by law enforcement.
If you’re a new gun owner, you should keep an eye on these, especially if you live in a place like Seattle (see prior link about police use of red flag laws). If you bought your first gun for self-defense, and your motivation was fear of anarchy or defunding the police, and you’re in an area where gun control regulations have not been leveraged by police against the public before, this might not impact you much. If you’re a minority, or you bought your first gun specifically because of the threat of police violence, you should be very alarmed at how red flag laws might be implemented by the police themselves, outside of their original intent.
Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs. Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun.
As a new gun owner who probably struggled to buy a gun in 2020, you need to think very deeply about the general governmental failures of 2020, how screwed up everything was and is related to Coronavirus, police brutality, bureaucracy, and such, and imagine how much more difficult it would have been for you to buy a gun if your state required you to get a license first. The above link about Philadelphia’s seemingly intentional 18 month wait to get a carry permit should be in the front of your mind. This one is very bad for you, and bad for any of your friends who might choose to go the same route you did.
Adequately fund the background check system. President Obama and Vice President Biden expanded incentives for states to submit records of prohibited persons into the background checks system. As president, Biden will continue to prioritize that funding and ensure that the FBI is adequately funded to accurately and efficiently handle the NICS system.
Adequately funding the NICS system, provided that adequate funding is being used to ensure the NICS checks are processed promptly, should not adversely impact you as a gun owner. In fact, it may improve your experience buying your next gun.
ADDRESSING THE DEADLY COMBINATION OF GUNS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The statistics tell a devastating and overwhelming story. The likelihood that a woman in a domestic violence situation will be killed increases by a factor of five if a gun is nearby. Half of mass shootings involve an individual shooting a family member or former intimate partner. This deadly connection tragically impacts children as well: 86% of children killed in shootings with four or more victims were involved in domestic or family violence.
Biden recognizes that the gun violence and domestic violence epidemics are linked and cannot be solved in isolation. Addressing the interconnectedness of these challenges will be a core focus of Biden’s anti-violence work as president.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, which Leader McConnell refuses to bring to the floor for a vote, includes a number of reforms to keep firearms out of the hands of abusers. Senator McConnell should ensure this legislation gets passed long before President Biden would take the oath of office. But if McConnell refuses to act, Biden will enact legislation to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” and “stalking loophole” by prohibiting all individuals convicted of assault, battery, or stalking from purchasing or possessing firearms, regardless of their connection to the victim. This proposal is modeled after existing laws in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania. Biden also supports enacting the proposal to prohibit anyone under a temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm before their hearing.
OSD has evaluated research by Michael Siegel and others regarding the time scale efficacy of preventing violent offenders from passing a NICS check, and although the data on it is limited to a few states, the results seem relatively positive. As mentioned above, many states already have limitations on the purchase of firearms by those with an outstanding TPO. This proposal shouldn’t impact you much if you are a new gun owner, unless you were subject to such an order previously.
In addition, President Biden will: Establish a new Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse to focus on the connection between mass shootings, online harassment, extremism, and violence against women. As President, Joe Biden will convene a national Task Force with federal agencies, state leaders, advocates, law enforcement, and technology experts to study rampant online sexual harassment, stalking, and threats, including revenge porn and deepfakes — and the connection between this harassment, mass shootings, extremism and violence against women. The Task Force will be charged with developing cutting-edge strategies and recommendations for how federal and state governments, social media companies, schools, and other public and private entities can tackle this unique challenge. The Task Force will consider platform accountability, transparent reporting requirements for incidents of harassment and response, and best practices.
At its face, this shouldn’t impact new gun owners at all. “Task forces” usually just suck up federal money and produce vague and unactionable recommendations, regardless of what the “task force” was “tasked” with doing. The question of whether this proposal is good or bad for you really depends on who participates in the task force, and what their results may be. It could end up completely benign, or lead to drastic and wide sweeping recommendations impacting internet privacy, domestic surveillance, and First Amendment infringements. But those are outside the scope of OSD, so we won’t pursue them further.
Expand the use of evidence-based lethality assessments by law enforcement in cases of domestic violence. Lethality assessments, sometimes called “risk” or “danger” assessments, are a proven strategy to help law enforcement officers identify domestic violence survivors who are at high risk of being killed by their abusers. These survivors are then connected with social service programs that can offer services and safety planning. An evaluation of the Lethality Assessment Program (LEP) created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence showed promising results. Increased federal funding will incentivize jurisdictions to take advantage of implementing these programs more widely.
This sounds great to us. Especially if the domestic violence survivors consider arming themselves, and are facilitated in doing so.
Make sure firearm owners take on the responsibility of ensuring their weapons are used safely.
Put America on the path to ensuring that 100% of firearms sold in America are smart guns. Today, we have the technology to allow only authorized users to fire a gun. For example, existing smart gun technology requires a fingerprint match before use. Biden believes we should work to eventually require that 100% of firearms sold in the U.S. are smart guns. But, right now the NRA and gun manufacturers are bullying firearms dealers who try to sell these guns. Biden will stand up against these bullying tactics and issue a call to action for gun manufacturers, dealers, and other public and private entities to take steps to accelerate our transition to smart guns.
If you bought a gun to defend your family, and you anticipate that your spouse or another relative may be forced by circumstance to use the gun one day, or that your hands might be wet when you need to use the gun, then you should be wary of smart gun technology. Smart gun proposals have not been popular with gun owners or police officers, mostly because of concerns around the danger of taking something that is nearly 100% reliable as a lifesaving mechanical device and adding complex, battery powered electronics that will undoubtedly fail, putting the user at great risk.
Hold adults accountable for giving minors access to firearms. Biden supports legislation holding adults criminally and civilly liable for directly or negligently giving a minor access to a firearm, regardless of whether the minor actually gains possession of the firearm.
If you are a new gun owner, you should spend a lot of time and effort ensuring minors don’t have access to your guns. Even if your children can be trusted around them, there’s no guarantee their friends won’t gain access to them when you’re not around to monitor them. Safe gun storage is a very important element of parenting, which OSD discussed here. You have a duty as a parent to keep your guns out of the hands of your kids, as well as your kids’ peer group.
The question with this proposal is whether you want the federal government involved in that duty, and to what level. Now that you’re a gun owner, you should imagine how obtrusive, invasive, complicated and litigious that might end up being for you.
Require gun owners to safely store their weapons. Biden will pass legislation requiring firearm owners to store weapons safely in their homes.
Reread the last two paragraphs and apply them here. Also, as a new gun owner, imagine the scenario for which you bought the gun transpiring, and you having to retrieve your gun from the federally mandated storage option before you can use it. Make your own judgement about this one.
Empower law enforcement to effectively enforce our gun laws.
Prioritize prosecution of straw purchasers. “Straw purchasers” buy a firearm on behalf of an individual who cannot pass a background check. Biden will end those loopholes by enacting a law to make all straw purchases a serious federal crime and ensure the U.S. Justice Department has sufficient resources to prioritize their prosecution.
We at OSD see no problem with the prosecution of straw purchasers, but must point out that this is already a serious federal crime. As a new gun owner, you need to be aware that straw purchases are already illegal, that good gun store owners know to look out for signs of suspicious behaviors indicative of a straw purchase, and that they have no compunction turning you in to the authorities. Don’t even try it.
Notify law enforcement when a potential firearms purchaser fails a background check. Too often, when prohibited persons attempting to buy a firearm fail a background check, state and local law enforcement is never informed of the attempt. As president, Biden will direct the FBI to set up a process to ensure timely notification of denials to state and local law enforcement, and he’ll support legislation to codify this process. This empowers law enforcement to follow up and ensure prohibited persons do not attempt to acquire firearms through other means.
This may be helpful and may not be, it’s hard to say. Criminals who would fail a NICS check generally don’t buy guns at gun stores anyway, they buy them on the black market. Some number of the people who fail a background check do so through ignorance, because they don’t realize they are prohibited, or they fail because of some bureaucratic SNAFU that landed them on a government list by accident. How many of these benign failures make up the total number of failures is unclear.
If you’re a new gun owner, you don’t have to worry about this at all because you have, very likely, already passed a background check so will pass your next one barring an overall change in your circumstances.
Require firearms owners to report if their weapon is lost or stolen. Responsible gun owners have a responsibility to inform law enforcement if their weapon is lost or stolen. Biden will enact legislation to make this the law of the land.
On its face this won’t impact you as a new gun owner very much, unless it is enforced in a draconian manner. The concern with this one is that it is unenforceable without a nationwide gun registry. Gun rights groups fight tooth and nail against gun registries, because they fear political actors will misuse them. Trust in our federal authorities is at an all time low, and regardless which party or political tribe with which you identify, you should think very hard about yielding your name to a registry that can be misused by the opposite party.
Stop “ghost guns.” One way people who cannot legally obtain a gun may gain access to a weapon is by assembling a[sic] one on their own, either by buying a kit of disassembled gun parts or 3D printing a working firearm. Biden will stop the proliferation of these so-called “ghost guns” by passing legislation requiring that purchasers of gun kits or 3D printing code pass a federal background check. Additionally, Biden will ensure that the authority for firearms exports stays with the State Department, and if needed, reverse a proposed rule by President Trump. This will ensure the State Department continues to block the code used to 3D print firearms from being made available on the Internet.
3D printed guns are finicky if printed by someone without sufficient experience, and black market guns are so readily available in the United States that no criminal would dream of using something cobbled together in a garage instead of simply buying a black market gun off the street. Further, the instructions for CNC machines to manufacture firearm parts are literally just data, downloadable by anyone, and usable in any CNC mill. And it is already illegal for anyone who would fail a NICS check to manufacture a gun. This is a proposal that cannot produce any effect beyond existing restrictions, other than to constrain the activities of law-abiding hobbyists.
Good news for you, though. As a new owner this won’t impact you at all, since 3D printed guns make up an amazingly small fraction of the guns in the United States.
Reform, fund, and empower the U.S. Justice Department to enforce our gun laws. Biden will direct his Attorney General to deliver to him within his first 100 days a set of recommendations for restructuring the ATF and related Justice Department agencies to most effectively enforce our gun laws. Biden will then work to secure sufficient funds for the Justice Department to effectively enforce our existing gun laws, increase the frequency of inspections of firearms dealers, and repeal riders that get in the way of that work.
We at OSD are unclear what some of the final comments in this statement mean, but generally have no problem with ensuring the existing agencies are properly equipped to enforce laws in the United States, provided that those laws are constitutional and that agencies aren’t throwing assets at the new proposals outlined here which seem tailor-made to harass gun owners without impacting crime.
Direct the ATF to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. This report will provide officials with critical information to better identify strategies for curbing firearms trafficking.
We love reading annual reports. OSD approves this measure.
TACKLE URBAN GUN VIOLENCE WITH TARGETED, EVIDENCE-BASED COMMUNITY INTERVENTIONS
Daily acts of gun violence in our communities may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to survivors and victims’ families as gun violence that does make the front page. And, these daily acts of gun violence disproportionately impact communities of color. But there is reason to be optimistic. There are proven strategies for reducing gun violence in urban communities without turning to incarceration. For example, Group Violence Intervention organizes community leaders to work with individuals most likely to commit acts of gun violence, express the community’s demand that the gun violence stop, and connect individuals who may be likely perpetrators with social and economic support services that may deter violent behavior. These types of interventions have reduced homicides by as much as 60%. Hospital-Based Violence Intervention engages young people who have been injured by gun violence while they are still in the hospital, connecting them to social and economic services that may decrease the likelihood they engage in or are victims of gun violence in the future. Biden will create a $900 million, eight-year initiative to fund these and other types of evidence-based interventions in 40 cities across the country – the 20 cities with the highest number of homicides, and 20 cities with the highest number of homicides per capita. This proposal is estimated to save more than 12,000 lives over the eight-year program.
THIS IS THE SORT OF THING THAT EVERYONE SHOULD SUPPORT. Read that again. Read it a third time. If Biden loses, Trump should do this. The numbers are staggering on how effective these programs are. They are proven to be more effective than any gun control measure ever enacted by any level of government, and we believe this sort of program should be lauded as an alternative to “gun control.”
Dedicate the brightest scientific minds to solving the gun violence public health epidemic. In 2013, President Obama issued a memorandum clarifying that a longstanding appropriations rider that prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal scientific agencies from using federal dollars to “advocate or promote gun control” does not prohibit those agencies from researching the causes and prevention of gun violence. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) subsequently embarked on funding some of this research, though Republican leadership in Congress refused to appropriate any funds to the CDC for this work. Biden will call for Congress to appropriate $50 million to accelerate this research at the CDC and NIH.
This one is complicated.
First, the brightest scientific minds don’t work at the CDC, they work at universities and companies across the country where they can earn more. Second, the CDC openly views guns themselves as a problem, instead of focusing on reducing gun deaths among those who choose to own them. As a new gun owner, you need to understand that the CDC views you as the problem, and wants to undo the problem by coming up with ways to undo the decision you just made. The policies in the Biden list are evidence of that.
Michael Siegel, a former CDC tobacco researcher who now focuses on gun policy at Boston University, speaks about this divergence in mindset with Open Source Defense on RECOIL TV here. His newest project is actually not focused on gun statistics at all, it’s on reforming the mindset of the gun researchers themselves.
The original legislative prohibitions on CDC gun research weren’t to prevent research, they were to prevent the sorts of political advocacy that were falling out of their “gun owners are the problem” echo chamber. Whether this bullet in the Biden plan is good for you or bad for you will depend on whether those at the CDC doing the research have an overhaul in their entire mindset. OSD is skeptical.
Prohibit the use of federal funds to arm or train educators to discharge firearms. We should be passing rational gun laws, not requiring educators who already have too much on their plates to also protect the safety of their students. Biden supports barring states from using federal dollars to arm or train educators to discharge firearms.
This proposal emerges from the “arm the teachers!” response to school shootings a few years ago. You will have to form your own opinion about that. School shootings, while heavily covered by the media, are exceedingly rare and not on the rise. Having a rifle in a safe in the school, or an armed guard, may make schools a less “soft” target, reducing school shootings further. On the other hand, arming a teacher may bring unintended consequences. This proposal seems relatively limited regardless of your position on the issue. All it does is restrict certain federal funding, leaving local schools to continue to make their own decisions. It shouldn’t impact you as a new gun owner at all.
Address the epidemic of suicides by firearms. Biden believes any plan to address the gun violence epidemic must address suicides by firearms, which account for 6 in 10 gun-related deaths but are often left out of the conversation. Many of the policies noted above – including safe storage requirements and extreme risk protection orders – will have a serious impact on efforts to reduce gun violence. But there’s so much more we need to do to support people experiencing suicidal ideation. In the months ahead, Biden will put forward a comprehensive plan to improve access to mental health services.
The Biden gun plan is three thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight words, and it only devotes one bullet point to gun suicides.
Gun suicides are two thirds of gun deaths.
Seven eighths of gun deaths are men.
The “gun deaths” problem is, mathematically speaking, a men’s health problem.
You as a new gun owner need to understand this. If you bought a gun in 2020, this is the most important thing you must understand, particularly if you are having a rough ride during Covid-19 lockdowns and the resulting economic recession.
Whether red flag laws and gun storage requirements will impact overall suicide rate is entirely unproven and not likely to have a large effect. You as a new gun owner need to understand that mitigation of this problem is in your lap. The government will not be there at 3 a.m. when you’re struggling, but your gun friend might.
Public awareness of this problem has expanded recently, and there are lots of good extra-governmental initiatives that are working towards ameliorating the problem. One is the Overwatch Project, which focuses more on veteran suicide, but its principles can be applied universally. Another is being led by Rob Pincus, a notorious gun advocate, and Dan Gross, the former president of the Brady Campaign. Open Source Defense met them at SHOT in January of 2020. Even the NRA is working in this space. The general framework for all of these efforts is simple: Get A Gun Buddy. A friend who you can talk to when you’re struggling, and who can hold on to your firearms for you while you get through the struggle. This is an important thing that every firearm owner, particularly men, should and must do. It is something that every new buyer in 2020 needs to know. And unfortunately, the combination of transfer prohibitions and background check delays that is implemented in many states makes such an arrangement literally illegal, because handing your gun to your friend while you’re in a rough patch would be an illegal transfer. The unintended consequences may lead to many more deaths.
SUPPORTING SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE AND THEIR COMMUNITIES
Violence causes ripples of trauma throughout our communities, impacting not just the victims of violence but also their communities and first responders. Fear of school shootings is having a noticeable impact on the mental health of Gen Z. Intimate partner violence is linked to depression, post-traumatic stress, and other mental health challenges among survivors. And, this trauma can be intergenerational. Science now shows that young children who witness violence – including in their home – literally alters the parts of their brains that affect “reasoning, planning, and behavioral control.”
We need to reduce violence to prevent trauma from happening in the first place. But we also must treat the resulting trauma as a serious crisis in its own right.
As president, Biden will:
Make federal programs more trauma-informed. During his first 100 days, Biden will direct his Cabinet to conduct a review of all federal programs that directly serve communities likely to experience violence and identify reforms to make sure those programs effectively address resulting trauma. Biden will then invest significant federal funds in expanding and improving the federal government’s support for trauma-informed and culturally responsive care.
Create a network of trauma care centers. Biden will bring together offices within the federal government to establish specialized trauma care centers for survivors of violence, with a special focus on survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Domestic violence services are focused on meeting the emergency needs of survivors, including safety planning and crisis intervention. As a result, frontline providers lack the resources they need to offer therapeutic services to help survivors heal from trauma. These trauma care centers will be flexible in meeting the needs of communities, and could be housed at rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs, universities, and existing mental health centers.
Train health care and other service providers in trauma-centered care. To prevent revictimization and secondary trauma, Biden will align training efforts throughout relevant federal programs to include a focus on understanding the traumatic effects of violence, providing appropriate care to avoid furthering the trauma, linking survivors with evidence-based trauma therapies, and reducing myths about domestic and sexual violence. This will be accomplished through agency directives, policy guidance, and special conditions for grantees and contractors.
This shouldn’t impact you as a new gun owner. Some of this might even work.
Guns aren’t the only reason someone might choose to vote one way or another in the 2020 election. There are obviously a lot of other issues in play, on which OSD takes no stance. Further, many of the proposals in the above list would probably fail constitutional scrutiny given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, and others might not make it out of committee, much less through congress. Presidential policy proposals are but wish lists. As a new gun owner, many of your rights would probably be relatively secure regardless, if discussions of “court packing” were not on the table.
In the event of a Trump win, expect things to stay about the same for you over the next four years as it pertains to your gun purchase. In the event of a Biden win, you will have an obligation to pay much closer attention to the actions of the federal government with regard to gun control, as federal decisions may impact you personally. We hope you will find this article a good reference point.