Having finished a tumultuous election, the nation has all but concluded Joe Biden will become the next President of the United States in January. But Coronavirus and civil unrest have sparked a national narrative to overshadow just about every topic that normally comes up in an election cycle. And, with such polarizing candidates at the podiums and violence (like the Kyle Rittenhouse incident) uprooting American cities, it’s notable that gun rights were not pitted against gun control at debate time.
Perhaps part of the reason is simple: So many new Americans have embraced their Second Amendment rights that support for gun control might’ve shifted across historically anti-gun demographics. Mid-year gun transactions ballooned to their highest ever. Background checks were up 79% in July, with 19 million guns sold by Independence Day. Half of all new gun owners in 2020 are first-time buyers and minorities. But for this national embrace of Constitutionalism, the man about to sit in the Oval Office has made it clear he is very anti-gun. His campaign spelled out months ago a laundry list of draconian measures comprising massive federal gun control measures:
- Allow gun makers to be sued for criminal firearm activity
- Ban firearm-making kits, 3D printed guns, and 80% lowers
- End the online sale of firearms and ammunition of all types
- Require that all firearms sold in the United States be “smart guns”
- Reinstate a national assault weapon and high-capacity magazine ban
- Regulate all existing “assault weapons” with the National Firearms Act
- Ban hundreds of makes and models of long guns and handguns
- Implement mandatory banned firearm and magazine buy-backs
- Pass federal “red flag” laws that allow for warrantless confiscation
The list goes on with other gun control proposals. But that last bit – red flag laws that allow for unconstitutional gun seizures – may be concerning for veterans everywhere. Especially considering that now, over half the nation has implemented these laws with varying degrees of success. In Maryland, a man was killed when police attempted to enter his home and seize his firearms under a new red flag law. Gary Willis answered the door for police on November 5th, 2019, wielding a revolver. When told the reason for the officers’ visit was to seize his firearms, an inebriated Willis became agitated.
Officers attempted to retrieve Willis’ handgun, at which point he fired. Officers responded with lethal force and Willis was killed at the scene. Willis was previously issued an Extreme Risk Protection Order, though law enforcement had never visited the property before.
The red flag laws in Maryland spawned 160 gun confiscations in a single county last year. Approximately 890 confiscation requests were issued state-wide and about 50% were granted. These so-called “extreme risk protection orders” red flag laws grant law enforcement incredible and controversial power over Americans’ Constitutional rights. The bigger issue is how they’re granted. Under many states’ red flag laws, any private citizen can target another individual for confiscation by reporting that gun owner to authorities for mental health or general wellness concerns.
In most states, that person can be a colleague or stranger. To satisfy judicial proceedings, only a “basic preponderance of evidence” is required for confiscation to occur. That means a plaintiff or judge must only consider the likelihood that a person will act violently to be 50% or greater, but without hard evidence or actionable intelligence. To retrieve firearms after confiscation, the burden of proof is on the individual. He or she must show they are not a threat only after their rights have already been restricted. This type of warrantless confiscation is a tenet of Biden’s proposed gun control.
Red flag laws are of particular concern to veterans because of rising suicide rates, too: Stripes reported that anti-gun groups are recommending these protection orders be ratified specifically to curb veteran suicide. Some veterans, like retired Army Capt. Chris Marvin and member of the gun control group Everytown For Gun Safety, are on board with implementing these measures. And the Biden administration is assuredly in agreement.
Except many Americans now seem to disagree. Millions of first-time gun owners are expanding the Second Amendment’s demographic to new urban centers and geographies across the country. Background checks for new gun purchases have quadrupled since one year ago in California. But with looming gun control already being considered, Americans aren’t just buying their guns. They’re building them from scratch and the upcoming Biden administration has taken notice. With promises to end the online sale of guns and ammo, the new White House will also seek to eliminate the digital and thriving gun parts market. eCommerce retailers that sell AR-15 upper receivers, parts kits, 80% lower receivers and gunsmithing kits may wind up on Congress’ proverbial chopping block.
With donations pouring into organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, and the National Rifle Association, battle lines are already being drawn. The next question is whether the Biden packs the Supreme Court with liberal Justices, wherein gun rights may finally – after being silenced for more than a decade – receive some deference.