Some Delaware Valley gun owners are looking askance at recent executive orders signed by President Joe Biden to restrict gun rights, and fear that more restrictions are pending in the Democratic-controlled Congress. Others are shrugging off the gun measures as mere politics.
Biden’s actions include asking the Department of Justice to issue a rule to stop “ghost guns,” restricting stabilizing braces, and releasing model “red flag” legislation for states to enact. These laws would make it easier for gun owners to be declared a danger and have their weapons confiscated.
Another Biden move was to propose spending $5 billion on “community violence interventions.”
“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “But no amendment—no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”
Kim Stolfer, president of Pennsylvania-based Firearm Owners Against Crime, says these new measures serve only as a distraction to appease the president’s base. “We know that mandatory sentences work when it targets career violent criminals,” the former marine told DVJournal. “Instead they’re advocating for red flag laws that throw due process out the window. It’s no help to the person in question who might have a mental instability that can be cured.”
Wayne resident Frank Tait, 62, a firearms instructor who enjoys long-range target shooting, tends to agree.
“I believe the president is at best misinformed or delusional, saying that the amendments are not what they say they are,” said Tait, who is running for the board of the National Rifle Association. “What about the 16th Amendment? We don’t have to pay income tax?
“It’s clearly unconstitutional what he’s trying to do,” said Tait. “The question is whether the courts have the fortitude to uphold the plain language of the law.”
The majority of firearm-related deaths are suicides and suicides are down this year. And most firearm homicides relate to “criminal on criminal” violence and criminals do not follow the laws, he said.
“It’s easy to pass laws that focus on the law-abiding, responsible gun owners,” said Tait, who noted politicians in both parties use the issue to raise funds.
Two other local gun owners, who did not want their names to be used, said the problem is enforcing the 20,000 some gun laws already on the books and do not think new ones are needed.
A Radnor resident cited the criticism of former U.S. Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia lodged against District Attorney Larry Krasner, a progressive who has been trying to “reform” the district attorney’s office. After six Philadelphia officers were shot in an August 2019 gun battle, McSwain issued this statement: “We have plenty of criminal laws in this City – but what we don’t have is robust enforcement by the district attorney. Instead, among other things, we have diversionary programs for gun offenses, the routine downgrading of charges for violent crime, and entire sections of the criminal code that are ignored. The criminal laws in this City – and especially the existing gun laws and drug laws – should be aggressively enforced in order to protect the public and the police.”
“People who commit gun crimes should be sentenced to the maximum and guns should be put behind bars,” said the Radnor gun owner, who hunts and also keeps weapons in his home for self-defense. Instead, in Philadelphia at least, he believes criminals get a “slap on the wrist and are right back on the streets and have an opportunity to buy illegal guns and be armed again.”
On the issue of “red flag” laws to allow a person to be alerted to authorities as a danger by family members or others, that resident noted the U.S. Supreme Court is about to weigh in on that issue after hearing arguments in March in the Caniglia v Strom case from Rhode Island. In that case, a wife called the police after her husband talked about killing himself, leading to the confiscation of his guns from their house without a warrant, under a “possible cause” rather than probable cause doctrine.
And, on April 26, the high court agreed to hear what experts are calling a major Second Amendment case, New York Rifle & Pistol Association v Corlett, regarding whether New York’s law to restrict people from carrying a concealed gun outside their house is too strict in its requirements that they prove that they need protection.
Meanwhile, a 62-year-old antique gun collector, who holds a dealer’s license, said it’s unlikely Biden or Congress will be able to ban the ownership of various classes of guns, including those described under the frequently used term “assault weapons.”
Both the collector and Tait say they believe Biden, who often decries a “gun show loophole” is either lying or misinformed.
In Pennsylvania, dealers can lose their licenses if they sell a handgun to a person without running the required background check, the collector said. At one time, unscrupulous people would stand around in the parking lots outside gun shows and try to buy guns from owners bringing their unwanted guns to sell inside. But law enforcement crackdowns have ended that practice.
“There is no such thing as an unlicensed dealer,” he said. “That’s like saying the guy selling crack cocaine on the corner is an unlicensed pharmacist.”
“In my opinion, Democrats are on the wrong side of every issue,” he added. “They really are. They fail to realize that criminals don’t follow any laws so…passing more gun laws is only going to affect people that do follow the law. They use buzzwords to bamboozle the public.”
Guns will not be banned, he said.
“That’s never going happen,” he said. “With all the unrest going on, there are five million new gun owners. Gun sales have been through the roof in the last few months. I went to a gun shop near King of Prussia and it was nearly sold out.”
In the first quarter of 2021, there were 427,450 Pennsylvania Instant Background Checks, up by more than 120,000 from last year, according to the state police. The system is used by firearm dealers, county sheriffs, and police chiefs to determine if a person is eligible to purchase a gun. Nationwide, there were 39.6 million background checks performed in 2020 and 2.4 million in 2021, according to the FBI. However, background checks are not required for private sales of long guns.
And reporting from NPR shows many of these gun buyers are first-time purchasers who may be motivated by the spate of mass shootings that have taken place since Biden was inaugurated.
The gun collector, who specializes in Japanese WWII rifles, agreed guns are lethal, but noted they do not fire without someone pulling the trigger.
“Every gun is lethal…By nature, it’s designed to be a deadly weapon,” he said. “They didn’t send GIs overseas with M1s to shake hands with the Germans. They sent them there to kill them.”
Not every local gun owner is worried about stricter gun laws envisioned by Biden and Congress.
Mario Meli, 67, who enjoys trapshooting, said he’s not concerned that Biden’s executive orders or moves by Congress to ban the AR-15 will affect him. He shoots at moving clay targets, a sport he calls “fun and challenging.”
“I’m a gun owner and I don’t think you need assault rifles,” said Meli, a Jenkintown resident who owns shotguns for his hobby. “The Second Amendment was written when there were muzzle-loaded muskets. I don’t mind filling out background checks. I have no problem.”
While his guns are kept for sport, Meli said he would not hesitate to use one for self-defense. But he noted that he would have more luck if the would-be home invader was a moving target.
“If they stand still, I’ll miss them,” he joked.