I haven’t had a lot of time to write about (or even pay much attention to) politics this week, as I’ve been busy working on some things related to my next book. But one political soundbite that did catch my ear (last Wednesday) came from President Biden as he spoke at a news conference about the increase in violent crime in the U.S. over the past year or so.
Unsurprisingly, Biden blamed a lot of the problem on guns — the standard Democratic trope. After Attorney General Merrick Garland talked about the federal government increasing its scrutiny of gun dealers, improving cooperation between different branches of law enforcement, and taking a harder line against gun traffickers, the president got right to one of his favorite gun topics: the types of firearms that regular Americans simply don’t “need.”
He talked about “assault weapons” (which is a political term, not a technical one) and high-capacity magazines, explaining that neither were necessary for hunting.
Some may remember Mr. Biden’s striking remarks as Vice President back in 2013, during a Facebook town hall event for Parents magazine, where he fielded a gun-related question from a concerned mother. She was worried about the proposed ban of certain types of semi-automatic rifles making it potentially harder for her to defend herself and her family against criminals.
Laughing off her concern, Biden suggested that she buy a double-barreled shotgun instead, and even described how she should use it. “You don’t need an AR-15,” he added. “… You don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself.”
Biden specifically called out the AR-15 model, because it had become the weapon of choice of a number of mass-shooters, and was therefore being targeted by the Obama administration’s proposed gun ban.
Biden’s message seemed clear: AR-15s were bad, but shotguns were good.
Just a few months later, unfortunately, there was a mass-shooting at the Washington D.C. Navy Yard. The perpetrator killed 12 people and injured three others, making it our country’s second deadliest mass-murder on a U.S. military base (after Fort Hood). Contrary to the initial reporting, the weapon the shooter used wasn’t an AR-15, but rather… a shotgun.
You know, it’s almost as if the problem might not be the type of weapon, but rather the type of person firing it.
Anyway, the original intent of the Second Amendment had nothing to do with hunting (or target practice), nor was it limited to home-defense against criminals. It was also recognized as a safeguard of sorts against governmental tyranny.
President Biden addressed that part of it in rather bizarre fashion on Wednesday, saying, “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.”
My reaction upon hearing that was, “Seriously? Again with the nukes?”
And it wasn’t even the last president’s threats against North Korea, nor his alleged (and wacky) proposal to nuke hurricanes, that prompted the thought.
It was U.S. congressman Eric Swalwell who did the trick. He made a remark similar to Biden’s a few years ago when he was preparing to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. At the time, the congressman was advocating for the radical idea of the U.S. government confiscating guns from American gun-owners (a proposed Australia-like solution to school shootings). A number of people responded to the congressman on Twitter, stating that such a move would lead to another civil war.
Swalwell, to the surprise of many, replied to one of those individuals, saying this: “And it would be a short war my friend. The government has nukes. Too many of them. But they’re legit. I’m sure if we talked we could find common ground to protect our families and communities.”
Call me crazy, but it strikes me as highly inappropriate for an elected leader in high-office to suggest that if a gun policy leads to domestic chaos, the U.S. government would potentially nuke its own country and its citizens.
Sure, Biden’s statement was a bit more nuanced, and I get that he was referencing a specific type of radicalized individual, but I’m not sure either of those things matter in the context of what he said. It’s downright ridiculous and obscene for a President of the United States to evoke the power of our country’s nuclear weapons arsenal to intimidate (or at minimum, dress down) his employers, aka American citizens. And if Donald Trump had said it, you can bet the national media wouldn’t have let it slide the way they did with Biden.
As a friend said to me shortly after the news conference, remarks like Biden’s and Swalwell’s would seem to make a more compelling argument for expanding the Second Amendment, rather than narrowing its scope. Fortunately, Biden makes so many empty gaffes on a regular basis that I doubt many will feel triggered by such talk.
Still, that’s no excuse. I’ve argued for years about the importance of elected leaders living up to the dignity of their office, especially when it comes to the presidency. I’ve also complained about the soft (and hard) biases of low expectations.
I get that anyone assuming office immediately after Donald Trump was going to be met (by many) with a very low bar to clear, especially in the rhetoric department. But if we could all just agree that the literal nuclear threat should be reserved for foreign entities, and used discreetly, that would be great.