the federalist

Did Biden change his stance on prosecuting those who lie on background checks?

Less than a week after the horrifying mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, then-President Barack Obama announced that his vice president Joe Biden would be heading up a task force to develop “a set of concrete proposals [for reducing gun violence,] no later than January.”

“This is not some Washington commission,” the president promised. “This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task: to pull together real reforms right now.” So, serious stuff.

Biden met with victims’ groups and gun control groups at the White House. He conducted conference calls with “governors of both parties, and state and local elected leaders.” He took all their best ideas and wrote up his suggestions.

“Now is the Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence” was a 15-page proposal that features all the well-worn — and often unconstitutional and/or ineffective — proposals we’d been debating for 20 years. The one conspicuous difference was the report’s heavy focus on mental health as a contributing factor to gun violence, something leading gun restrictionist Chris Murphy now calls “bullsh-t.”

In any event, in the second section, the Biden proposal says (emphasis added to the last line):

Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime: The Attorney General will work with all United States Attorneys to continue to ensure that every appropriate resource is focused on preventing gun violence. To this end, the Attorney General will ask all U.S. Attorneys to consider whether supplemental efforts would be appropriate in their districts, in areas such as prosecutions of people who have been convicted of a felony and illegally seek to obtain a firearm, or people who attempt to evade the background check system by providing false information.

In a Google “fireside chat” at the time, Biden noted that it was vital to “enforce the existing laws we have” and repeated numerous times the importance of shoring up background checks. Obama would come back to Biden’s reform suggestions on numerous occasions over the years, promising to look into “what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Considering Biden’s passionate advocacy for prosecuting those who evade existing gun laws, why does he believe there was “justice” in Hunter’s case? An intrepid reporter might want to ask him if he believes someone who brandishes an illegally obtained gun while on crack — and then attempts to dump that weapon in a garbage bin a few feet from a high school — deserves to walk away without any criminal record? Does that comport with his previous recommendations? Or has he changed his mind?

Curious to hear his thoughts.


David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist, a nationally syndicated columnist, a Happy Warrior columnist at National Review, and author of five books—the most recent, Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent. Follow him on Twitter, @davidharsanyi.

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