Americans' Very Right to Keep and Bear Arms Is on the Ballot This Election | Opinion

Democrats will "confiscate your guns and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment," President Trump warned in his recent acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination.

He's right. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has promised to use executive orders to ban guns, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has promised to make former Congressman Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) his gun czar.

O'Rourke made a name for himself when he yelled, "Hell yeah, we're going to take your AR-15." He called them,"weapons of war, designed to kill people efficiently on a battlefield."

If Democrats win control of both the Senate and the presidency, the legislation they will pass and the judges that they will appoint will eventually lead to guns being banned in the United States.

Newsweek subscription offers >

Gun control advocates will dismiss this as scaremongering, but things are different this time.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Senate Democratic leaders all promise to eliminate the filibuster. That would radically transform the Senate, affect which legislation can be passed and let them pack the courts.

Filibusters allow senators to hold the floor for as long as they want, and thereby can prevent legislation from being passed. A filibuster can only be ended with 60 or more votes. Historically, this has required at least some bipartisan support for legislation to pass. But if the filibuster is ended, simple party-line majorities will be able to pass bills. If Biden wins and Democrats gain control of both the House and Senate, partisan legislation will be able to zip right through Congress.

The Democrats' national platform contains a long list of gun control promises. On the agenda are national gun licensing, lawsuits against firearm manufacturers whenever guns are used improperly, bans on some semiautomatic guns that happen to look militaristic, "red flag" laws that let judges take away people's guns without a hearing, long waiting periods for background checks and mandatory gun storage laws. Even Democratic candidates in gun-friendly states have taken a more radical tack. U.S. Senate challenger Steve Bullock of Montana has publicly supported virtually all of the proposals in the party platform.

Newsweek subscription offers >

Let's be clear: Being able to sue gun stores and manufacturers whenever a crime or accident occurs (even a suicide) would put the firearms industry out of business.

Could you imagine what would happen to the car or computer industries, if similar rules to apply? Four and a half million Americans are injured each year in car accidents, and about 40,000 die. Criminals also frequently use cars when they commit crimes.

Similarly, computers make it easier for criminals to commit all sorts of crimes. How long would these companies remain in business if they faced lawsuits whenever their products are used improperly? Their products would become much more expensive in order to cover the company's new legal fees.

While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris join Beto O'Rourke in calling AR-15s "weapons of war," the semiautomatic AR-15 merely looks like the M16 machine gun of Vietnam War fame. No military in the world uses these AR-15s.

Most guns owned by Americans are semiautomatics. To ban some of them based on their looks makes no sense. The AR-15 uses the same sort of bullet as do small-game hunting rifles, fires with the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger) and inflicts an equivalent amount of damage.

Indeed, the AR-15's .223-inch rounds are banned for deer hunting in most U.S. states. That's because the small bullet is likely to prolong the animal's suffering by wounding, rather than killing it.

Democrat's support of "red flag" laws is also troubling. We all want to keep dangerous mentally ill people away from acquiring guns. But with "red flag" laws, judges make decisions only after seeing a complaint about the mental state of the individual. No mental health experts are consulted, no hearing is held for up to a month after a person's guns are confiscated and no legal counsel is provided to those who can't afford one.

Every state already has involuntary commitment laws, which have all of the protections that "red flag" laws miss. A judge listens to a mental health care expert's evaluation and has many options for treatment or protection.

At the federal level, the greatest threat to Second Amendment rights may come not from elected officials themselves, but from the judges that they pick.

Few issues divide Democrat- and Republican-appointed federal judges more consistently and completely than gun control. President Trump's 200 federal judicial confirmations have only just brought the courts into balance, with Democratic appointees still controlling federal circuit courts for 24 states and the District of Columbia. Many of these circuit courts cover the most restrictive states, and they will approve any regulation that comes before them—no matter how flagrantly the law infringes on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Don't expect the Supreme Court to restrain these lower courts. All four current Democratic justice appointments claim that people don't have a right to self-defense, and would surely vote to overturn the Court's landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller and 2010 McDonald v. Chicago decisions. For a reality check: Those rulings merely ensured that the government could not completely ban guns.

CBP agent fires during training exercise
CBP agent fires during training exercise John Moore/Getty Images

Four current Republican justice appointments clearly care about the right to self-defense. But they are wary of taking up gun control cases for fear that Chief Justice John Roberts would side with the liberal justices. He has already done so when it comes to many high-profile issues, including DACA and, of course, Obamacare.

Democratic senators voted in lockstep to confirm Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer and Ginsburg. They almost unanimously opposed Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who support the right to self-defense.

If Democrats control the Senate, a Joe Biden presidency would mean more anti-gun judges. The Supreme Court is just one vote away from overturning precedent and ruling that both federal and state governments can completely ban guns. But these days, all the relevant decisions are made at the circuit court level, and eliminating the Senate filibuster would mean that Democrats could easily expand the total number of judgeships.

California is giving us a preview what the future of gun ownership might look like. No one has figured out how to meet the state's requirement for micro-stamping—a technology by which firing pins supposedly imprint a unique identifying code on each shell casing. Even if someone implements this technology, a criminal could circumvent it by simply filing down the pin or replacing it outright.

Handguns that don't meet California's impossible regulations will soon be banned.

After California imposed background checks on ammunition purchases in July 2019, 101,047 non-prohibited, law-abiding Californians were prevented from buying bullets because of mistakes in the system. The new law reduced ammunition sales by 92 percent. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit consistently approves California's gun control regulations, no matter how unfair or flawed they may be.

Unless Trump gets to fill another Supreme Court vacancy, restrictions such as those in California will likely be upheld—and that means handguns will eventually be banned.

Gun control activists claim they support "common sense" gun control measures, but they fight against even the most reasonable changes to their proposals. Let's take a concrete example: Ninety-nine percent of the time a background check stops someone from buying a gun, it is done so by mistake. It is one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun, but the system is stopping people simply because they have names similar to felons. This disproportionately stops minorities from buying guns, but this is easy to fix. All the government has to do is follow the same regulations that private companies must meet when they perform background checks on employees. But Democrats strongly oppose the government being held to the same rules.

With police ordered to stand down, police budgets cut and a third to half of inmates released from jails in many major cities across America, it's little wonder that crime has soared nationwide. Police are extremely important in reducing crime, but even in normal times, they virtually always arrive after the crime has occurred.

Having a gun is by far the most effective way for people to protect themselves. That is particularly true for the most vulnerable, people who are relatively weaker physically (women and the elderly) and those who are the most likely victims of violent crime (minorities who live in high-crime urban areas).

Now, as much as ever, it is important for people to fend for themselves. But gun control organizations went to court this year to close down gun stores, claiming that firearm manufacturers "exploited the current crisis to further the interests of gun manufacturers."

Americans' right to defend themselves and their families has never been more at stake than in this election. Democrats have become so much more radically left-wing, and have promised to change our system of government by ending the Senate filibuster. We're told that every election is the most important of our lifetimes, but things really are different this time.

John R. Lott, Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of Gun Control Myths: How politicians, the media, and botched "studies" have twisted the facts on gun control.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Americans' Very Right to Keep and Bear Arms Is on the Ballot This Election | Opinion | Opinion