Professional “fact checkers” at the Washington Post and elsewhere aren’t notable for their pro-gun bias. In the past, for example, these propagandists have condemned as incorrect claims that Hillary Clinton doesn’t believe in the right to keep a gun at home for self-defense, and that Joe Biden supports gun confiscation, while using the same framework of politically desirable reality to uphold bogus gun control talking points – for instance, Biden’s statements that no background checks are required for firearm purchases at gun shows, that gun manufacturers are the only entities “exempt from being sued,” and that the Clinton assault weapon ban law was effective.
Occasionally, though, there is a glimmer of veracity among the dross, as happened last week when both the Washington Post and Politifact rated President Biden’s statements of June 23 as unconditionally “false.”
The statements were made during a briefing with Attorney General Merrick Garland on a “Gun Crime Prevention Strategy,” where Biden once again shared his thoughts on gun control and crime with the American people. Besides his now-standard demands for bans on “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” his disjointed remarks (from the official transcript) included the following:
… The Second Amendment, from the day it was passed, limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own. You couldn’t buy a cannon…. Those who say the blood of lib- — “the blood of patriots,” you know, and all the stuff about how we’re going to have to move against the government. Well, the tree of liberty is not watered with the blood of patriots. What’s happened is that there have never been — if you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.
Biden was repeating a variation of a campaign statement he made last year – that private citizens “weren’t allowed to own a cannon during the Revolutionary War” – which had already been debunked as “false.” Questioned more closely about the reference at that time, Biden’s campaign “was unable to come up with an example of a law banning private ownership of cannons, and historians of the period doubt that any existed.” One historian notes that not only could a private citizen buy a cannon during the Revolutionary era, it is still legal to purchase the same type of cannon today.
Glenn Kessler, the Post’s fact checker, reviewed Biden’s latest claim and awarded it a four “Pinocchio” rating, exceeding President Obama’s previous three-Pinocchio record for inaccurate gun claims. Four is the highest possible on the mendacity meter and is reserved for “whoppers,” above and beyond statements with “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions…”
“Now Biden has moved the cannon metaphor to some 20 years after the Revolutionary War — and it’s still wrong,” writes Kessler. Moreover, Biden’s interpretation “especially mischaracterized” the Second Amendment. David Kopel, the research director and Second Amendment project director at the Independence Institute, was equally blunt: “[e]verything in that statement is wrong.”
In the same vein, in an article titled “Joe Biden gets history wrong on the Second Amendment limiting gun ownership,” the checkers at Politifact concluded that Biden’s remarks completely misrepresented the scope and meaning of the Second Amendment. The purpose of the amendment, then as now, is to protect the rights of citizens, not limit them. For instance, under legal tests to determine the validity of government restrictions, the onus is on the government, not the individual, to show that the restriction is constitutional.
Further undermining Biden’s assertion that the “Second Amendment, from the day it was passed” regulated both the arms that could be possessed and who could possess them, Nicholas Johnson, a law professor quoted in the article, observes that the “first federal gun control law does not appear until the 20th century.” Even so, as firearms law expert Stephen Halbrook points out elsewhere, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Heller case ruled that the “test for determining what the Second Amendment protects is what arms are chosen by the populace for self-defense and other lawful purposes, not what arms the government allows its subjects to have.”
There are other “whoppers” made by the president on June 23 that weren’t challenged by the fact-checkers. Also unexamined was a reference that echoed the bombast of a fellow gun-grabber who had invoked the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Americans. Back in 2018, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) warned gun owners that any fight over the Second Amendment and firearms would be “a short one” because the federal government has nuclear weapons. Like Swalwell, Biden has advocated the confiscation of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms; unlike Swalwell, Biden does presumably have access to the launch codes for America’s nuclear weapons.
According to both fact-check sources, the White House was contacted for clarification or an explanation of Biden’s remarks, but to no avail. By now, Biden’s outsized “gift for gaffes” will likely be blamed for his supposedly well meant but fallacious forays way off the script.
However, Joe Biden is no political neophyte and he holds a law degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He isn’t just cherry-picking facts that support his political narrative; he is fabricating his “facts” entirely as he goes along. What’s more, he made his statements accompanied (and uncorrected) by the U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, who served as a circuit judge on a federal appellate court for almost a quarter century.
For the folks inclined to dismiss this as just another one of Biden’s recurrent verbal blunders, Kessler offers this important consideration: “Every U.S. president has a responsibility to get American history correct, especially when he’s using a supposed history lesson in service of a political objective. The president’s push for more gun restrictions is an important part of his political platform, so he undercuts his cause when he cites faux facts.”
The next time the Biden Administration pushes further restrictions on the constitutional rights of Americans, voters are well-advised to do some fact-checking of their own.