“Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller,” U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez wrote last year in an early decision for a still-pending challenge to California’s gun restrictions. The final decision will need to reflect this year’s U.S. Supreme Court guidance in Bruen that “when the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct, and to justify a firearm regulation the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
So, President Biden’s bold goal of making “semiautomatic weapons” unavailable is probably well beyond his grasp without serious changes to the Constitution. Even if he achieved those, how would he convince the millions of people who “overwhelmingly choose” the tools he doesn’t like to get on board?
Millions of semiautomatic weapons are already in private hands. Gun owners have demonstrated their willingness to ignore restrictions, as seen in the 5 percent compliance rate for New York’s “assault weapon” registration law and the overwhelming defiance that met California’s and New Jersey’s bans on such guns. “More than a year after New Jersey imposed the toughest assault-weapons law in the country, the law is proving difficult if not impossible to enforce,” The New York Times reported in 1991.
More recently, Americans have taken to making their own firearms to hobble restrictive laws.
Even generously assuming he knows what he’s talking about, the most President Biden can accomplish by pushing for a ban on semiautomatic weapons is to increase confrontations between enforcers and the public. That’s if he isn’t just thwarted in his efforts by constitutional protections for individual rights. The genie isn’t going back into the bottle.
J.D. Tucille in President Biden Wants to Ban ‘Semiautomatic Weapons’? Dream On.