Why do you need a gun when the government can just murder you at will?” is almost a perfect Bidenism. It’s no exaggeration to say this is the argument Joe Biden made at a crime-prevention press conference this week:
From the day [The Second Amendment] passed, it limited the type of people that could own a gun and what type of gun you could own. You couldn’t own a cannon … Those who say the blood of Patriots, you know, and all the stuff about how we’re gonna have to move against the government. . . . If you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.
First, we should acknowledge that it’s bonkers for a president, even as a theoretical, to bring up the idea of scrambling fighter jets and deploying nuclear weapons against other Americans. Yet, only last year, Biden offered a slightly more coherent iteration of the same argument:
Those who say ‘the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of patriots’ — a great line, well, guess what: The fact is, if you’re going to take on the government you need an F-15 with Hellfire Missiles. There is no way an AK-47 is going to take care of you.
The Jacobin-ish quote Biden is looking for comes from a Thomas Jefferson letter to William Stephens Smith, the son-in-law of John Adams, in which he wrote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” (Biden likes to leave out the last two words.) But who says this? I’m pretty involved in this debate, and I’ve never heard any gun proponent rationalize support for the protection of the Second Amendment by offering assurances of sporadic revolutionary bloodletting.
Biden’s ideological argument conflicts with the rationale for all constitutional rights. After all, the president could just as easily have said: “The First Amendment? Let’s see how your television station holds up to a tactical nuclear strike” or “Really, what chance does due process have against a cluster bomb?” The citizenry isn’t conferred rights by the state or by force. When men in Massachusetts grabbed homemade muskets and powder and revolted against what was one of the most powerful military forces in the world, they weren’t ensured a victory. Arms are a bulwark against tyranny, not a guarantee.
In the real world, of course, modern armies often struggle with insurgencies that are equipped with little more than small arms. There have been countless such deadly struggles around the world, including ones against Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s ironic, indeed, that Biden points to the Kalashnikov, which happens to be the favorite weapon of the world’s most successful terrorists, revolutionaries, and guerrilla fighters over the past 70 years. And if the U.S. government wouldn’t drop a nuclear weapon on al-Qaeda, why would it obliterate Kansas or Montana?
Americans, by the way, could absolutely own cannons during the Revolutionary Era — and long after. The very idea of any federal gun policy would have been incomprehensible to Americans at any time before the 1930s. Even then, no specific types of firearms were banned from use. It wasn’t really until 1986 when fully automatic guns were effectively restricted. Then again, Biden — who once asked, “Why should we allow people to have military-style weapons including pistols with 9-mm bullets and can hold 10 or more rounds?” — seems to believe that any firearm outside of a shotgun is a military-grade weapon.
“You give me a 9 millimeter Glock,” Biden once told Charlie Rose, “and you have a thirty-eight revolver, I’ll kill more people quickly in here. You’d shoot as many, but I’ll kill more.” Not long ago, Biden also suggested that cops who are rushed by an “unarmed person” with “a knife or something” should be trained to “shoot them in the leg instead of the heart.” Biden seems to believe everyone has his imaginary Annie Oakley–like abilities.
Anyway, Joe Biden doesn’t trust you with a Glock, but he really wants you to own a shotgun. Here is the then–vice president in 2013:
Well, the way in which we measure it is — I think most scholars would say — is that as long as you have a weapon sufficient to be able to provide your self-defense. I did one of these town-hall meetings on the Internet and one guy said, “Well, what happens when the end days come? What happens when there’s the earthquake? I live in California, and I have to protect myself. Well, you know, my shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15, because you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.”
First, please do not fire your shotgun through the door. It could be a neighbor or a Girl Scout selling Peanut Butter Patties. Life isn’t a movie. Second, any “scholar” who maintains that the Second Amendment only allows for weapons “sufficient” for personal self-defense is making things up. Though it’s somewhat of a mystery why, if shotguns are as deadly and effective as Biden claims, Democrats are intent on banning AR-15s.
In 2013, the vice president also told Parents magazine about the time he advised his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, to engage in a felony — aggravated menacing and reckless endangerment:
“I said, ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.’ . . . You don’t need an AR-15 — it’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use, and in fact you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!”
This, needless to say, is also exceptionally bad advice. Just ask Jeffery Barton, a Vancouver, Wash., man who was charged with aggravated assault after illegally discharging a firearm that same year. “I did what Joe Biden told me to do,” Barton explained, after pleading not guilty. “I went outside and fired my shotgun in the air.”
In both practice and theory, Biden’s gun rhetoric is dangerous nonsense.