The Corner

Elections

Biden’s Second Amendment Outburst Was a Warning Sign

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., February 4, 2020. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Joe Biden had a little outburst today, after a construction worker asked him about the Second Amendment:

“You are actively trying to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns,” the man told Biden as the candidate greeted workers building a Fiat-Chrysler assembly plant.

“You’re full of sh**,” Biden responded. A Biden aide tried to end the discussion, but the candidate silenced her in order to continue speaking with the worker. “I support the Second Amendment … from the very beginning. I have a shotgun. I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. My sons hunt,” he said.

The two men then argued about whether Biden had said he would try to take away Americans’ guns.

“This is not okay, alright?” the worker said, to which Biden responded, “Don’t tell me that, pal, or I’m going to go out and slap you in the face.”

“You’re working for me, man!” the worker responded.

“I’m not working for you,” Biden shot back. “Don’t be such a horse’s ass.”

If I were a Democrat, this would alarm me. Biden’s behavior here is extraordinary, especially given that he is currently previewing the “return to normalcy” theme that he intends to run on in November. One might think that telling a voter that he is “full of s***” and that you will “slap them” matters less than it usually would given that Donald Trump is in the White House. But, arguably, the opposite is true. Elections are about contrasts. If he is as belligerent and ill-disciplined as the incumbent, what is Biden’s case for replacing him?

In this instance, the answer seems to be that, unlike Trump, Biden will usher in stricter gun control. But that, too, should alarm Democrats. If Biden now has a reputation as a champion of gun confiscation — and if construction workers in Michigan are asking him about it, it suggests he does — he is going to have a hard time winning back the voters that Trump peeled away from the Obama coalition. Barack Obama didn’t say much about guns at all until his second term had begun, and, once he did, he presided over the loss of the Senate, the loss of the White House, and a record-breaking period of civilian firearms sales. Judging by their rhetoric, Democrats seem to believe that the center of gravity has changed on this question since then. But the evidence for this is scant. The State of Virginia is run solely by Democrats — Democrats who were bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg and who promised to pass restrictive gun control as their first priority. They failed, and sparked a massive backlash in the process. Do we think the playing field looks different in Michigan?

Democrats should also be worried because, whatever the chorus of blue-check journalists who thrilled to the exchange might think, Biden was flatly wrong on the details here. Biden took offense at the idea that he was in favor of confiscation — “Don’t tell me that, pal,” he said. But what other conclusion are voters to draw from Biden’s having said that he would put Beto “hell yes, we’re coming for your AR-15” O’Rourke in charge of his gun policy? O’Rourke is now primarily famous for having taken the most extreme gun position any presidential candidate has taken in three decades, and Biden has willingly tied himself to him. Can he really be surprised that voters have put two and two together?

The rest of his answer was no better. What, I wonder, are Michiganders supposed to make of Biden’s commitment to the Second Amendment when, as decades of his rhetoric suggests, he believes that it protects the private ownership of shotguns for hunting? What are they to make of his seriousness on the issue when he talks about the evils of the “AR-14”; when he does not know which guns are presently banned under federal law and which are not; when he does not know the difference between a “machine gun” and a semi-automatic carbine; when he believes “you don’t need 100 rounds!” means . . . well, anything comprehensible at all; and when he approvingly cites the appalling (and overturned) decision in Schenck v. United States as if it makes the case for banning the most commonly owned rifle in America?

This was a bad exchange — not because it is likely to change much on its own, but because it illustrates some underlying truths about the electorate and about this candidate that do not portend well.

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