Editor’s note: With President Donald Trump and many Republican senators losing ground in recent polls, the odds of Democrats controlling all three branches of government are increasing. The series “Here’s What To Expect In 2021” will cover policies that have passed in the Democrat-run U.S. House of Representatives and which poll well among the Democrat base.
The debate over gun control and the Second Amendment has been a highly contentious one, and the results of the 2020 presidential election could prove to be highly consequential for the gun debate.
With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden holding a lead over President Donald Trump, according to RealClearPolitics polling, a look at Democratic voter priorities and legislation passed by House Democrats could provide an indication of what the Second Amendment might look like in 2021 under a President Biden.
Biden’s campaign website details a list of policy goals he would pursue regarding gun rights and the Second Amendment. These include banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, increasing federal regulations on firearms and expanding the background check system, among others.
For Democratic voters, gun policy has emerged as one of the most important issues in the 2020 election. 46% of Democratic voters ranked guns as the most important issue for 2020, second only to healthcare, according to a Gallup poll from January. (RELATED: Twenty-Seven Words Protect Gun Rights, Not Hunting)
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll in August 2019 found that 91% of Democrats supported stricter gun laws in general. More specifically, 86% of Democrats were in favor of banning assault-style weapons, 87% favored background checks on all gun sales, 77% favored banning high-capacity magazines, and 85% favored mental health standards for gun purchases.
A Rasmussen poll from November 2019 also found that 34% of Democrats said they supported repealing the Second Amendment entirely, which is the foundation for gun rights in the United States. With nearly a third of Democrats supporting such a radical move, it’s reasonable to say that the party’s agenda has moved sharply left.
Although Biden isn’t president, Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After sweeping the House in the 2018 midterms, Democrats unveiled their agenda for the 116th Congress, which included several gun control measures.
Immediately after assuming power, House Democrats unveiled H.R. 8, or the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. The bill would enforce stronger background checks and close loopholes for people who purchase firearms from unlicensed sellers, such as vendors at a gun show, The Hill reported.
H.R. 8 was introduced January 8 by Democratic California Rep. Mike Thompson, and passed the House in a 240 – 190 vote February 27. However, the bill was promptly tabled March 4 after introduced in the Senate.
The next major gun control legislation was H.R. 1112, or the Enhanced Background Checks Act. The bill would strengthen background check requirements for firearm transfers by mandating federally licensed gun dealers not to proceed with a sale if the FBI did not respond to a federal background check request.
H.R. 112 was introduced by February 8 by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and passed the House in a 228 – 198 vote February 28. The bill was promptly tabled March 5 after introduced in the Senate.
Several pieces of gun control legislation were introduced and passed in the House Judiciary Committee, although they weren’t taken up for a vote by the full House.
Democrats took up H.R. 1236 in the committee, which would establish a federal grant system to promote “red flag” laws at the state level. The bill was introduced February 14 by Democratic California Rep. Salud Carbajal and cleared the committee in a 22 – 16 vote September 10. (RELATED: WHITON: Republicans Should Oppose ‘Red Flag’ Gun Confiscation)
At the same time, the committee also reviewed H.R. 1186, which would ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The bill was introduced February 13 by Democratic Florida Rep. Theodore Deutch and cleared the committee in a 23 – 16 vote September 10.
Furthermore, the committee took up H.R. 1296, which would ban the sale and ownership of “semiautomatic assault weapons” such as the AR-15. The bill was introduced February 15 by Democratic Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline but was not taken up for a vote in the committee.
The policy goals put forth by the Biden campaign, the legislation introduced by House Democrats, and the preferences of Democratic voters are all an indication of how the party might govern with regards to guns and the Second Amendment. In other words, an America in 2021 could look completely different for gun owners and gun rights supporters.