Gun Control

On Gun Control, Democratic Presidential Candidates Offer Nothing but Empty Promises

None of the participants in last night's debate had a credible answer to the question of what should be done about the hundreds of millions of guns that Americans already own.


At the beginning of last night's presidential debate, moderator Chuck Todd noted that even if Congress enacts a new federal ban on so-called assault weapons, which all of the Democratic presidential contenders seem to favor, "there will still be hundreds of millions of guns in this country." He asked the 10 candidates on the stage what, if anything, the federal government should do about that inconvenient fact. Their responses revealed that none of them has a satisfying, or even superficially plausible, answer to that question.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said more research is needed.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who has proposed the most ambitious gun control program of anyone in the Democratic field, once again eschewed policy substance in favor of an emotional appeal, declaring that the issue is personal for him because "I hear gunshots in my neighborhood." What should be done about that? "It is time that we have bold actions and a bold agenda," he said. "I will get that done as president of the United States because this is not about policy. This is personal."

But this is about policy, and Booker's initial response was notably lacking in any specifics. He did eventually get around to mentioning, after Todd had asked a different question, that he favors federal licensing of gun owners. "If you need a license to drive a car," Booker said, "you should need a license to buy and own a firearm."

That analogy is not the slam dunk Booker seems to think it is, especially since state governments routinely treat driving on public roads as a "privilege," whereas gun ownership is a constitutional right. Nor is it a credible response to the point that Todd raised, since it would apply only to future gun purchases. And as Brian Doherty notes, the evidence that requiring licenses to buy firearms reduces gun violence, to which Booker alluded, is unpersuasive.

Todd noted that Booker has proposed "a federal government buyback program" and wondered, "How is that going to work?" Booker dodged the question completely, which is not surprising, since the track record for voluntary gun buyback programs is unimpressive. Todd later mentioned "gun confiscation," which would be clearly unconstitutional. No one seemed ready to endorse that idea, although Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who will participate in tonight's debate, supports the confiscation of whatever guns Congress decides to call "assault weapons"—15 million of them, by his estimate.

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who recently told The New York Times that if he had his way "people would not own handguns," called for "common-sense gun reform" without indicating what that would mean.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) recommended "trauma-based care in every school."

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke mentioned "universal background checks," "red flag" laws, and an "assault weapon" ban—the very policy that Todd cited as plainly inadequate to address the "hundreds of millions of guns" already in circulation.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also boasted of her support for an "assault weapon" ban, and she repeated her inane line about evaluating gun control proposals based on whether they would "hurt my Uncle Dick in his deer stand," which betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said "we want to get these guns off the street," but he also emphasized the need to improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve. "So we need to have a different conversation in this country about guns," he said, "but also a different conversation about policing that brings police and the community together."

De Blasio did not acknowledge the tension between those two goals. His predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, adamantly defended the NYPD's aggressive "stop and frisk" program as a deterrent to young men who might otherwise carry guns. De Blasio rightly opposed that program, which a federal judge deemed unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. But a commitment to "get[ting] these guns off the street" invites tactics like these, which inevitably sour the relationship between cops and the neighborhoods where they routinely detain and search young black and Latino men, frequently for no credible reason. Bloomberg, who continues to defend suspicionless dragnets as a way to "get these guns off the street," is a leading financial backer of the gun control movement.

Former Maryland congressman John Delaney said he has encountered voters who are frustrated by inaction on gun control. He did not provide even a hint as to what sort of action they want.

To be fair, there is no satisfying answer to Todd's question. As long as Americans own hundreds of millions of firearms, any gun control policy Democrats propose will leave plenty of weapons for mass murderers and ordinary criminals, who will easily avoid background checks and gun licensing requirements, no matter what legislation Congress passes. Anything more ambitious would conflict with the Second Amendment. But Democrats want to pretend they have a solution that will "end this crisis by doing the kind of common-sense things that will make our nation safe," as Booker puts it. Regardless of how you feel about guns or the Second Amendment, these are empty promises.

NEXT: Julian Castro's Bold Plan to Decriminalize Immigration Changed the Terms of the Debate Last Night

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  1. “I hear gunshots in my neighborhood.” What should be done about that? “

    You live in Newark, Cory. FFS, the only solution for that is more soundproof windows.

    1. If he becomes president – STOP LAUGHING – he’ll have men with guns to protect him.

      1. If he has enough of those men with guns around them they may provide soundproofing, so bonus…

    2. Take it easy on Booker; he lost T-Bone; he was an “archetype” you know.

  2. “”But a commitment to “get[ting] these guns off the street” invites tactics like these, which inevitably sour the relationship between cops and the neighborhoods where they routinely detain and search young black and Latino men, frequently for no credible reason””

    It does. The government cracking down on anything results in such. Just ask Eric Garner.

  3. “If you need a license to drive a car,” Booker said, “you should need a license to buy and own a firearm.”

    Maybe we should review the list of things you need a license for:

    “You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.

    Tod (Keanu Reeves) – Parenthood

    1. I see a Tod(d) theme here.

    2. You don’t need a license(or plates, or registration, or insurance) to buy and own a car. You only need a license to drive it on the public highway.

  4. weapons. of. war. bitches. be afraid.

  5. “I hear gunshots in my neighborhood.” What should be done about that? “

    About people who ignore current laws? Well, pass more laws, of course.


  6. Probably because there is no credible answer. Americans aren’t about to give up their guns.

    1. The irony is that they would have no problem using armed men to your gun.

      1. Sorry Zeb, not meant as a reply to you.

        1. Yeah. lol.

    2. Too bad. When Democrats retake the White House, gun fetishists will be forced to surrender their deadly military style weapons of war.


      1. Why don’t you just have yourself a Spartacus moment

      2. preserving our right to bear military style weapons of war was precisely the intent of the second amendment.

      3. So will you be 1st to volunteer going to actually get them in person? You do realize they won’t just turn themselves in because you wanted a law right? The problem with confiscation is the confiscating part. No one is going to take the job and anyone that does will be dead before lunch break. You think there is gun violence now, LOL.

  7. To be fair, there is no satisfying answer to Todd’s question.

    None to Todd, perhaps. I can think of one that will satisfy both me and the United States Constitution.

    1. Yes, but we can’t afford to give a gun to everyone who wants one right now. We need to balance the budget and cut back our debt first!

  8. But Democrats want to pretend they have a solution that will “end this crisis by doing the kind of common-sense things that will make our nation safe,” as Booker puts it. Regardless of how you feel about guns or the Second Amendment, these are empty promises.

    Criminal homicide rates are close to all-time lows, half of what it was in 1993.

    Some “crisis”.

    1. Comparing today’s crisis to historical trends is just so not right. He hears gun shots in his neighborhood, don’t you know. Those 1993 gun shots are long gone now.

  9. So, contrary to the headline, most of them offer clear promises to attack the Second Amendment.

  10. Forget the guns in the United States. For gun control to be effective you would have to get rid of guns in every country. The Democrats want to open the border completely to Mexico, which is one of the most violent societies in the world and awash in guns.

    If you didn’t know better and understand that Democrats really are this stupid, you could almost think that the goal of the Democratic platform is to terrorize Americans. What else would be the result of disarming all of the law abiding citizens and opening the border to the entire world?

    1. LOL, Democrats will be shouting “Build that wall!” once guns start pouring across our borders. And pour they will, if the Democrats get their way on gun control; organized crime would never miss a profit opportunity like that.

      1. Oddly enough many of those guns may very well have originated from OBAMA gun running with Mexico. Karma, it’s a bitch.

    2. Um, John…Everyone knows only toddlers and their desperate grandmothers are trying to cross the border. The only people with guns are racist white males. So there is nothing to fear! Except all the white supremacist right wing terrorists..
      So we just gave to take their guns and problem solved

    3. They scream that roughly 70% of the country is horribly oppressed while also wanting to send men with guns to bash down their doors and take away the oppressed classes’ tools to defend themselves. Dumb or evil? Take your pick.

      1. I guess they see the War on Drugs as a smart model.

      2. Why pick? Can’t it be both?!

    4. The best part is that the Mexican government blames the US’ lax gun laws for all the violence down there.

      1. While never sending the serial numbers of guns used in crimes to US agencies to trace. I think that’s because they already know what most of those traces would reveal – that most of the guns of US origin of US origin in the hands of Mexican criminals were “lost” or stolen from the Mexican police and military.

        If they want to blame the US, blame it for our drug laws, which have given drug gangs more power than third-world governments.

    5. The goal is to terrorize rank and file Americans. Who then will demand additional government powers to handle the threat. And said rank and file Americans will then lack the power to meaningfully resist when those government powers expand and morph into things the majority might find objectionable.

      The goal is to turn America, and the rest of the world, frankly, into Brazil. Both Terry Gilliam’s and the actual country: an authoritarian government with limited to no social mobility; blinding luxury for a few; poverty, desperation, and governmental dependency for most of the rest; and a gigantic bureaucracy to ensure that only the connected get to succeed and keep succeeding.

  11. whatever guns Congress decides to call “assault weapons”—15 million of them, by his estimate.

    I can’t help but wonder if Duke Nukem Swalwell is including “ghost guns” in his estimate. Maybe I’ll find out tonight if it’s posted somewhere tomorrow.

  12. Democrats. Feh.

  13. “According to a 2015 report by the [National Shooting Sports Foundation], roughly one in 10 guns produced each year is a modern sporting rifle. In raw numbers, American gunmakers produced and imported 8.5 million such rifles between 1990 and 2012, and about one and two million annually every year since.
    Do the math and it works out to between 15 and 20 million modern sporting rifles now in circulation. (An important note: The NSSF report includes weapons produced for law enforcement.)” September 2018

    Just focusing on the “modern sporting rifle” [a broad definition that includes the AR platform] means there are as many as 20 [with some estimates as high as 30] million in private ownership. The only feasible way they can be banned is to pass a law making them ex post facto illegal, and then imposing severe criminal penalties on anyone possessing one after a given date. While very few would agree to give them up [as has happened with mandatory registration in CT] we would be forced to keep them under lock and key and living as de facto felons. They really do not have to knock on your door and take them away; you’ll just be forced to keep them hidden and never use them again.

    1. Oh they will want to get them, once they start becoming the target of snipers for even attempting such a thing to begin with.

      1. If there is another ban, especially if it is retroactive, shooting will commence.

        IEDs would be more effective against modern politicians. Those limos are now practically tanks.

        1. Goddamnit we need a edit button!!!!!

        2. Yup. That is one of only a couple things I can think of that would instantly lead to an outright civil war. People MAY put up with a ban going forward if there is no confiscation… But bodies would start dropping if they tried to go round them up.

    2. If there is another ban, especially if it is retroactive, shooting will commence.

    3. The truth is there are a FUCK TON of guns that are comparable to better than a lot of “assault weapons” anyway. 99% of semi auto, decent caliber hunting rifles are going to be 95% as effective in a combat situation. Many will in fact be far more deadly since the AR uses a relatively weak sauce round.

      Just because a gun has a wood stock doesn’t mean it won’t fuck shit up!

      1. Semi auto hunting rifles [Browning .308] and of course bolt guns lack magazine capacity. I’m sure they will count the Ruger Mini 15 and 30 as worthy of being banned, by the way.

        1. In stock form a lot of hunting rifles come with small mags… But for most designs they will take higher capacity mags no problem. Many people have already purchased many higher capacity mags for such weapons too. Also, it’s not like it’s nearly as big a deal to change a mag as the media makes it out to be to scare people over 30 round mags. It’s not a huge deal.

          As for the Mini 14, in some states the tactical versions are already banned! But the wood stocked versions aren’t. Unless they do a caliber ban, you can bet your ass new designs for effective guns will be made around whatever loopholes are left open.

  14. None of these politicians explain why they focus on peaceable, lawful citizens instead of the nuts, felons, terrorists and illegal aliens who commit most of the crimes.

    1. They don’t want their constituency inconvenienced.

      1. That is actually true; when Gary Snyder was the police commissioner for Chicago in 2015 he and Emmanuel tried to get the legislature to pass mandatory sentencing guidelines for repeat offenders who use guns [many of whom are still arrested and back on the street within a day, repeatedly]; The IL legislature would have none of it as “a group of minority legislators opposed the law as a recipe to lock of more blacks and Latinos.” So it was back to the gun as the problem.

  15. hah…last night’s candidates will sound like Charlton Heston after Swalwell speaks tonight

  16. My primary fear is that their promises aren’t really so empty.

  17. […] Reason notes that the Democratic candidates for President have nothing to offer other than voters other than a slew of empty promises.… […]

  18. All gun control is unconstitutional violation of the 2nd Amendment.

  19. Marxists who infect our government plus the media prostitutes who protect them will gleefully lie, falsify, fabricate, slander, libel, deceive, delude, bribe, and treasonably betray the free citizens of the United States into becoming an unarmed population. Unarmed populations have been treated as slaves and chattel since the dawn of history.
    Only dictators, tyrants, despots, totalitarians, and those who want to control and ultimately to enslave you support gun control.
    No matter what any politician or hard-left mainstream media tells you concerning the statist utopian fantasy of safety and security through further gun control: They are lying. If their lips are moving, they are lying about gun control. These despots truly hate America..
    These tyrants hate freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, and private property. But the reality is that our citizens’ ownership of firearms serves as a concrete deterrent against despotism. They are demanding to hold the absolute power of life and death over you and your family.
    Ask the six million J ews, and the other five million murdered martyrs who perished in the N azi death camps, how being disarmed by a powerful tyranny ended any chances of fighting back. Ask the murdered martyrs of the Warsaw Ghetto about gun control.
    Their single agenda is to control you after you are disarmed. When the people who want to control you hold the absolute power of life and death over your family, you have been enslaved.
    American Thinker

  20. Americans will never give up their guns… Not within my lifetime anyway. Too many people would be willing to die opposing the government if it ever came to it. Maybe in another couple generations people will be brainwashed enough, but not in the foreseeable future.

  21. […] Guns are bad Of that I’m the most cognizant I’d get rid of arms so fast You’d think you’re at the Saudi consulate […]

  22. […] Guns are bad Of that I’m the most cognizant I’d get rid of arms so fast You’d think you’re at the Saudi consulate […]

  23. […] Guns are bad Of that I’m the most cognizant I’d get rid of arms so fast You’d think you’re at the Saudi consulate […]

  24. […] Guns are bad Of that I’m the most cognizant I’d get rid of arms so fast You’d think you’re at the Saudi consulate […]

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