HUNT VALLEY, Md. — The Biden administration is calling on Congress to help fulfill his campaign promises on gun restrictions.
The administration says it wants Congress to require background checks on all gun sales, outlaw assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and abolish legal immunity for gun manufacturers. The announcement was sent out on Feb. 14, the anniversary of the 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call,” President Biden said in a statement. “We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer.”
The press release did not specifically mention AR-15s — the firearms used in several recent mass shootings, including Parkland. The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994 included a version of the AR-15 under the “assault weapons” definition. However, the National Shooting Sports Foundation says “AR-15-style rifles are NOT ‘assault weapons’ or ‘assault rifles,'” arguing that the gun would have to be “fully automatic, a machine gun” to qualify as an assault rifle.
According to his campaign platform, Biden would extend National Firearms Act regulations to “assault weapons.” Individuals who already own an assault weapon would have to choose between registering the firearm under the National Firearms Act or selling it to the government.
Larry Hyatt owns Hyatt Guns — “America’s Largest Gun Shop” — located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hyatt says the AR-15 is his most popular product. That’s partly because the ammunition is generally very inexpensive, and the firearm has less recoil than other guns. He said people buy them for safety reasons and also for target shooting.
Americans owned around 16 million AR-15s prior to last year’s buying spree in the wake of the pandemic, social unrest, and election-related concerns.
“If they can take out one type of gun, it won’t be long before they can take out the second,” Hyatt said.
In June of 2019, Biden singled out firearm manufacturers as a target for gun reform.
“The members of the NRA are not our opponents — the vast majority of them support common-sense reforms, including universal background checks. The gun manufacturers who bankroll the NRA are our opponent,” he said in a tweet.
The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed with large bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate to protect gun manufacturers and dealers from legal liability.
Hyatt sees a repeal of that law as a “back-door” way to eliminate the gun industry.
“That is one of the most frightening laws that I can imagine,” he said. “Imagine the car dealer being responsible if they sell a car to someone and that person gets drunk and has a wreck and kills someone, they could sue the car dealer — even though they sold the automobile legally with insurance, with driver’s license, and so forth.”
Hyatt said he’s most concerned about “frivolous” lawsuits from anti-gun groups banding together.
“Even if we were right and won, we would lose so much money trying to defend ourselves that they would effectively wipe us out.”
Meanwhile, gun sales continue to skyrocket. The FBI reported over 39 million background checks in 2020 — the most ever recorded and a 40% increase from the previous year. December 2020 was also a record month, with nearly 4 million background checks recorded.
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