Government lies aren't new; political fibs have such deep roots in history that you could open a museum of official mendacity and have enough rotating exhibits to keep things fresh. But now, amidst much hysteria over "misinformation," we see a resident of the White House misrepresent facts in pursuit of restrictions on legal ownership of firearms and ignore corrections. President Biden's claim that bullets fired from AR-15's are impossibly speedy is only the latest example of his continuing lies about guns.
"There's no justification for a weapon of war. None. The speed of that bullet is five times that that comes out of the muzzle of most weapons. It can penetrate your vests," President Biden huffed last week. "What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for?" he added.
This wasn't the first time the president insisted on the supposed superpowers of so-called "assault weapons" and especially of AR-15s, which are popular among gun owners.
"Do you realize the bullet out of an AR-15 travels five times as rapidly as a bullet shot out of any other gun, five times—is lighter—and can pierce Kevlar?" he insisted on August 30 while touting his administration's "Safer America Plan," which includes tighter firearms restrictions.
Really? Well, no.
"President Biden's statement that a bullet shot from an AR-15 travels 5x faster than a bullet shot out of 'any other gun' is false," Greg Wallace, a Campbell University law professor who focuses on Second Amendment issues, told The Washington Post early in September. As for bullets fired from AR-15s piercing Kevlar, "that is true of almost all centerfire rifle bullets. Body armor protection against rifle bullets require steel, ceramic, or composite plates."
"Biden was clearly wrong in his statement this week," the Post's Glenn Kessler concluded.
In fact, the 5.56x45mm round most commonly fired by an AR-15 (which can be chambered in multiple calibers) is faster than many rifle rounds with a muzzle velocity of roughly 3,100 feet per second, but slower than others (a few exceed 4,000 fps). And speed only partially measures the lethality and utility of a cartridge. Military types, hunters, and enthusiasts are forever debating the issue. So is Biden.
"A 9mm bullet blows the lung out of the body," the president improbably claimed in May about the popular handgun cartridge, again while touting gun restrictions. Knowledgeable people had fun pointing out that Biden seemed to have confused the round with a cannon. But Biden lies about cannons, too.
"When the amendment was passed, it didn't say anybody can own a gun and any kind of gun and any kind of weapon," Biden insisted with regard to the Second Amendment in February. "You couldn't buy a cannon in—when the—this—this amendment was passed."
"As other fact-checkers noted when Biden made versions of this claim at least twice before, nothing in the Second Amendment said that citizens could not own cannons, and there is no evidence that any federal or state laws barred possession of the weapons at the time," the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.org pointed out.
Biden had been called out on precisely that point the previous year, by The Washington Post, and in 2020 when PolitiFact rated his claims as "false." So, the fibs appear deliberate, not just slips of the tongue. So are his misstatements about legal protections for the firearms industry.
"Repeal the liability shield for gun manufacturers," Biden demanded in February. "They're the only industry in America that is exempted from being able to be sued by the public. The only one."
But "the 2005 law does not prevent gun makers from being held liable for defects in their design," Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA, told NPR about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act after then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a nearly identical claim in 2015. "Like car makers, gun makers can be sued for selling a defective product. The problem is that gun violence victims often want to hold gun makers liable for the criminal misuse of a properly functioning product."
"Gun manufacturers are not completely shielded from civil lawsuits, as we have written before," FactCheck.org added with specific reference to Biden's claim. "Also, the gun industry is not the only industry that federal law protects from at least some kinds of tort lawsuits, which allow plaintiffs to try to recoup money from defendants for damages."
President Biden repeatedly lies about the capabilities of firearms, the historical treatment of gun ownership, and the legal status of the industry that serves public demand for firearms. He does so while pushing restrictions on guns based on those misstatements. And he's seemingly immune to correction.
"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 Washington Post's Glenn Kessler warned last year. "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."
"Those false statements can be dismissed as just another gaffe or 'Corn Pop' story, but they refer to the factual foundation for gun control under the Second Amendment," added George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley after the most recent fabrications. "Since President Biden is suggesting that such facts are material to a ban, there is a need for accuracy in such details."
At this point, after multiple ignored corrections, it's a stretch to pretend that the president's misstatements are accidental; he obviously doesn't care about their truth. What's important to him and his supporters is achieving their policy goals, even if they have to lie to do so.
Of course, government lies aren't new. The FBI was recently caught lying (again) to steal property from safe deposit boxes. The drug war was largely based on lies, year after decade. So were many wars including those in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Someday we should tally the cost in lives and wealth of officials making things up to get their way.
This is especially maddening as government appoints itself to police "disinformation" and "misinformation" that is often just disagreement with the powers-that-be. The message seems to be that the public better not argue with officialdom, but they can just lie at will to get their way. Inevitably, government is the worst offender when it comes to distinguishing truth from falsehood.
Controversial gun laws already suffer widespread defiance by people with practical, constitutional, and philosophical objections. Winning passage of restrictions through deliberate misrepresentations won't make compliance any more appealing.