Southern California gun rights advocates say that recent remarks made by President Joe Biden in favor of tougher gun control laws threaten the constitutional right of Americans to keep and bear firearms.
Last month, Biden called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to curb the sale of homemade ghost gun kits, pushed to expand “red flag” laws that restrict firearms purchases, and called for an outright ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Gun rights advocates told The Epoch Times that the proposed bans are government overreach that do “nothing to address the criminal misuse of firearms.”
“All it does is limit the ability of Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Mark Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) told The Epoch Times.
Biden is proposing that any gun sold in a kit must be serialized and sold through a licensed retailer, and that the buyer would have to pass a background check, according to Oliva.
“It has always been legal to build a gun in your home,” he said. “If you are a prohibited individual, and you can’t pass a background check and get a gun at retail, then it’s already illegal for you to build one in your home.”
At his first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, Biden called gun violence “an epidemic in America.” He cited mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado that left 18 dead, adding that in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets.
“I’ll do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence, but it is time for Congress to act as well,” he said.
Supporters applauded the president’s comments, and say the reforms are long overdue.
But Oliva said Biden’s proposals don’t address the threat of criminals.
“They are coming after the law-abiding, and they’re doing nothing to stop crime.”
Biden described ghost guns as homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm.
“The parts have no serial numbers, so they show up at crime scenes and they can’t be traced,” he said. “The buyers of these ghost gun kits aren’t required to pass any background check. Anyone from a criminal or terrorist could buy this kit, and within 30 minutes have a weapon that’s lethal.”
Trent Butler, volunteer executive director of Orange County Gun Owners, told The Epoch Times that making kit guns illegal won’t prevent criminals and terrorists from getting their hands on weapons.
“The law already covers those types of criminal actions,” he said. To ban build-it-yourself kit guns in California—where the gun laws are already the most restrictive in the nation—would be an infringement on the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, Butler said.
Assault Weapons and High Capacity Magazines
In his speech, Biden referred to the 1990s, when Congress passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on “high-capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that can be fired off in seconds.”
He said that “mass shootings and gun violence declined” as a result. But in the early 2000s, the law expired, he said, and there’s been daily bloodshed since.
“We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don’t tell me it can’t be done. We did it before and it worked,” Biden said.
Oliva said there was no correlation between the previous ban on assault weapons, which also restricted magazine capacity, and the reduction of crime. He said that since 1994 when the ban expired, crime has continued to fall—until last year—while the sales of sporting-style rifles, including AR-15s, “rose exponentially.”
“There are now over 20 million of these guns in circulation today, and yet knives, fists, and clubs are still listed as more popular murder tools every year than all rifles combined,” he said.
The 1994 ban included 19 specific models of AR-15-style rifles, Oliva said, compared to more than 200 specific models in the current proposal.
“Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters,” Biden said. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon. What do you think, deer are wearing Kevlar vests?”
But Oliva said Biden is making a faulty assumption that the Second Amendment is all about hunting rights.
“That’s a complete fallacy. The Second Amendment was written for the American public to have a means of defending themselves, especially against a tyrannical government,” Oliva said.
“It’s not a bill of needs, we’re talking about a bill of rights. I don’t have to justify my need for 100 rounds, or 200 rounds, or 1,000 rounds. It is my right … and he does not have the authority to infringe upon that right. That’s what the Second Amendment says.”
Biden said too many people who can buy guns today shouldn’t be able to buy them, adding many gun owners throughout the country agree.
“We’re not changing the Constitution; we’re being reasonable,” he said.
Red Flag Laws and Cancel Culture
Biden also urged Congress to expand red flag laws, making it more difficult for people to purchase firearms if they are deemed to be a threat.
“The industry is not opposed to red flag laws, provided those red flag laws have due process protections built into them,” Oliva said.
That means anyone who has been “red flagged” as a potential danger to themselves or others would have the ability to address the court, see any evidence presented against them, and have an opportunity for rebuttal. But the NSSF doesn’t support ex-parte court orders that could be issued against the gun owner without their knowledge, he said, because citizens could then use the law as a weapon.
Butler said the recent escalation of cancel culture is troubling for gun owners.
“The side that tends to be pretty anti-gun is also the side that is pushing a lot of cancel culture,” he said. “We know that people abuse the law. People use law enforcement as a weapon against each other. We see that with the phenomenon called swatting.”
Swatting is a criminal harassment tactic used to deceive a police dispatcher into sending police officers to someone’s address under false pretenses.
Butler said California laws tend to foreshadow legislation coming soon to other states and often the nation.
“If there’s one thing we can see with these executive orders, it’s that California is serving as a model for this at the federal level, as far as California’s interpretation of red flag laws,” he said.
But Oliva said California should instead serve as an example of how and why restrictive gun control laws don’t work.
“California has all these gun laws [Biden] is asking for for the rest of the nation, and we see it has done nothing to reduce the crime in California,” Oliva said. “The problem with crime is not going to be resolved by limiting people’s rights to access firearms to protect themselves. It has done nothing but make people willing victims in California.”
When red flag laws were first proposed in California, they were limited to law enforcement, spouses, and family members who could ask a court to seize the guns of someone who allegedly posed a danger to themselves or others. But then state lawmakers proposed new legislation that would allow “people from basically any social circle” to file a red flag complaint against someone, Oliva said.
When red flag laws and mandatory waiting periods are used against abused spouses and victims, “that’s something we have a pretty major problem with,” Butler added.
In October 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law 15 gun-related bills expanding California’s red flag laws. Most took effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) told The Epoch Times he applauds Biden’s gun control efforts.
“I commend the President for pushing Congressional lawmakers to confront the issue of gun violence in our country. The scourge of gun-related deaths in the United States is undeniable, and we must do everything we can to pass common-sense reform,” Min said in an April 30 emailed statement.
Min recently proposed a bill, Senate Bill 264 (SB 264), that would have banned gun shows on all state and county lands in California. He has since amended the proposal to apply only to state-owned properties.
“My bill to ban gun shows on state-owned property ensures that taxpayer dollars do not support gun sales in California,” Min said.
Min said in January that his bill is an effort to stop the sale of illegal guns, guns sold to buyers without background checks, and gun thefts from careless vendors. The bill attracted attention locally when a gun show was held at the Orange County Fairgrounds in March.
Butler has been fighting against SB 264 since the bill surfaced. He called statements by Biden asserting a “gun show loophole” that allows people to buy firearms there without background checks “just fear-mongering.”
Oliva said that all gun sales—whether they occur at a gun show, online, or at a retail store—“must be completed with the background check.”
“California has universal background checks. That means if I want to sell you a gun in California, I would still have to do that through an FFL [Federal Firearms License],” he said.
“State lawmakers are repeating the same lie the president said in the White House Rose Garden. It is an absolute fallacy that a gun show is like the Wild, Wild West.”’
California Assembly members Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) have both recently proposed gun control legislation. Neither Gabriel nor Chiu immediately responded to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.