Biden's Gun Control Law Will Radically Change U.S. Gun Ownership
President Joe Biden keeps telling Americans that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the gun control bill he signed last year, is the most significant gun control legislative accomplishment in nearly 30 years. He is right, but it will do nothing to improve safety. The innocuous-sounding BSCA will radically change gun ownership.
Americans are only now learning that the act prohibits federal funding for "training in the use of a dangerous weapon." In July, the Biden Department of Education announced it would end funding to schools with riflery or archery teams or hunter safety classes. Federal funding for public schools is substantial and hard to ignore, typically accounting for about eight percent of education spending. This prohibition effectively spells the end of classes or sports pertaining to shooting or archery in public schools. It is an attempt to end the American culture of legal gun ownership.
Federal law explicitly prohibits the creation of a federal firearm registry, but through a proposed 108-page set of regulations published at the end of August by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF), the Biden administration is trying to use the BSCA to implement universal background checks on all gun purchases and to track virtually everyone who obtains a gun.
By the beginning of last year, the BATF had created a digital database containing almost a billion firearm transactions. To fill in the blanks, Biden and others, including Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul, are pressuring credit card companies to track firearm purchases. As U.S. Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and one of us (Congressman Massie) discovered in our Judiciary Committee investigations, Bank of America has already given customers' gun purchase data to the FBI without a warrant or probable cause.
Biden is attempting to implement universal background checks through the BSCA's tiny, seemingly trivial change in the language of existing law. Previously, the federal government classified people as "gun dealers"—requiring them to get a license—if they sold guns "with the principal objective of livelihood and profit." Now the language reads: "predominantly earn a profit."
The Biden administration considers you a gun dealer if you sell a friend a gun once and then discuss the sale of a second gun to them. Or if you sell one gun and keep any record of what you bought and sold it for. Or if you rent a space at a gun show, even if you aren't selling guns (and anyone who has been to a gun show knows most tables at shows don't sell guns). The list goes on, and the new regulations will cover virtually all gun sales and force all purchasers to go through a background check and let the administration complete its national gun registry.
At the same time that Biden is redefining everyone as a firearms dealer, his zero-tolerance policy for paperwork typos is putting thousands of dealers out of business.
For example, Tom Harris of the Sporting Arms Co. in Lewisville, Texas, a disabled father of five, made a couple of small paperwork mistakes 15 and 16 years ago. The BATF under President Barack Obama cleared Harris, who has made no mistakes since then. But now the Biden administration is reopening closed cases like his, and Harris has had to create a crowdfunding page to try to cover his legal costs.
When Biden announced his zero-tolerance policy, he sold it this way: "If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections, my message to you is this: We'll find you, and we will seek your license to sell guns." Harris and others are not making willful errors, but the government is coming for their licenses anyway.
The Biden administration sells the need for universal background checks and a gun registry as crucial to solving crime. The new BATF rules mention tracing guns used in crimes several times. In theory, if a criminal leaves a gun at a crime scene, police would be able to trace the gun back to him. But outside of television crime shows, that isn't how things work.
Registration is useful for one purpose: confiscating guns. Australia, Canada, and the U.K. aren't the only places where registration is used to ban and confiscate guns. California, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. also used registration to know who legally owned certain types of guns before banning them, and Biden continues to call for a ban on all semi-automatic guns.
Gun control advocates erroneously claim that background checks have stopped 4 million dangerous or prohibited people from buying guns. About 99 percent of denials are false positives, and errors overwhelmingly discriminate against law-abiding black and Hispanic men. One of us (Congressman Massie) has twice over the last two years extracted promises from FBI director Christopher Wray to provide detailed breakdowns on the background check system's errors, but Wray never provided the data.
The BATF has been having a rough time recently in the courts with its attempts to redefine terms already well-defined in the law. But the BSCA gets around that obstacle and opens the door to new regulations that will cost lives.
Banning high school shooting teams and creating a comprehensive national gun registry makes the long game for gun control advocates clear—they are working to eliminate legal gun ownership in America.
(John R. Lott is the president of Crime Prevention Research Center. Thomas Massie represents Kentucky's 4th Congressional District and is the co-chair of the Second Amendment Caucus.)