“The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick,” President Biden claimed on Thanksgiving Day. “It has no socially redeeming value. Zero. None. Not a single solitary rationale for it except profit for the gun manufacturers.”
With mass public shootings in just the last week in Colorado and Virginia, people naturally want to do something to stop these attacks.
But semi-automatic guns provide critical self-defense benefits. After each shot, a semi-automatic gun reloads itself. A single-shot gun, by contrast, requires manual reloading. This can prove a liability, especially against multiple attackers.
In places where they were allowed to carry, law-abiding citizens stopped over 50% of shootings. The Virginia attack sadly took place in a gun-free zone (an employees’ only section of the Walmart).
Biden’s statement comes just a day after Justin Trudeau’s government introduced new legislation to ban all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns in Canada.
Neither leader seems to understand that armed, law-abiding citizens make it riskier for criminals to commit crime. But Biden never seemed to grasp the value of deterrence. He hasn’t criticized the progressive prosecutors who refuse to prosecute violent criminals, the judges who have released large numbers of inmates from jails, or the bail reform measures that immediately put violent repeat criminals back on the street.
Biden’s statement on guns is extreme. Over 22 million Americans have concealed handgun permits, and that’s not counting the millions who legally carry without a permit in 24 states.
The vast majority of handguns sold in this country are semi-automatic. In 2018, almost 3.9 million semi-automatic handguns were manufactured in the U.S., compared to fewer than 700,000 revolvers. So, about 85 percent of all handguns made were semi-automatics. A similar percentage holds true for rifles.
Biden’s statement on Thursday implicated a far wider range of guns than the news media lets on. And this was no slip of the tongue from Biden.
Earlier this year in New York, Biden said of Glock handguns, “I don’t see any rationale to why there should be such a weapon able to be purchased.” At a CNN town hall last year, he declared, “Whether it’s a 9-millimeter pistol or whether it’s a rifle—is ridiculous. I’m continuing to push to eliminate the sale of those things.”
Biden held these views long before he became president. At a high-dollar private fundraiser in Seattle in 2019, he asked, “Why should we allow people to have military-style weapons, including pistols with 9-mm bullets that can hold ten or more rounds?”
After the Nov. 20 Colorado nightclub shooting, Biden promised to “get weapons of war off America’s streets.” But in July, the Associated Press’s influential Stylebook finally acknowledged that terms such as “assault weapon” and “weapons of war” convey “little meaning” and are “highly politicized.” The guns that Biden was talking about are “designed for the civilian market” and certainly not used by any militaries.
The much-maligned AR-15 functions exactly the same as any small caliber semi-automatic hunting rifle – firing the same bullets, with the same rapidity, and doing the same damage.
Semi-automatic guns are of course dangerous and make it easier to kill people. But they also enable people to protect themselves and others. When Biden says that he can’t see “a single, solitary rationale,” he shows his ignorance of the importance of self-defense. Unlike Biden, the rest of us aren’t guarded by an army of secret service agents.
Before compromising our rights to self-defense, the burden should be on the government to prove a rationale for its gun control laws. Just last year, when Federal Judge Roger Benitez struck down California’s “assault weapon” ban, he concluded that the state’s experts, who summarized the existing research, could not provide any evidence that the prohibition actually reduced any type of violent crime.
We need to fight back against mass shootings, not disarm ourselves.
John R. Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.