Curious as to what the 2020 Democratic Party Platform’s stance is on guns? Well, a copy of the document is online. A special section on “Ending the Epidemic of Gun Violence” (Pages 47-48) enables readers to view the party’s viewpoints. Here’s a breakdown of what it says and the validity of each statement.
Epidemic of Gun Violence
The platform claims that “over 100,000 people are shot and nearly 40,000 people die annually from guns — devastating countless families, friends and communities.” The most recent figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tell a different story. There were exactly 39,740 firearms-related deaths in 2018. Six out of every 10 of these deaths were suicides with a firearm — compared to three out of every 10 being firearms homicides. Therefore, 23,844 (60 percent) of these deaths were the result of a suicide compared to 30 percent homicides. And that 30 percent includes a category called “legal intervention” — firearms injuries inflicted by the police or other law enforcement agents acting in the line of duty. Peel back the layers and you’ll discern that the stats used by the Democratic Party are deceiving.
The Democrats also incorrectly state that firearms-related deaths are among the top five causes of death in the U.S. for persons ranging in age from 1 to 64 years old. Firearms deaths doesn’t make the cut for the CDC’s top ten — starting with heart disease at No. 1 (647,457) and ending with suicide (47,173) at No. 10. If the CDC’s statistics are correct, roughly half the suicide deaths are firearms-related. Heart disease kills 41 in the U.S. for every single firearms death not related to suicide. Cancer claims 37 for every firearms-related homicide. With a population of 328 million people, firearms deaths affect 0.012 percent of the U.S. population. And if the suicides are removed, that number drops to 0.004 percent — hardly an epidemic. It’s time to put this myth to rest.
Universal Background Checks
The Democratic Platform pledges to enact universal background checks. However, these would effectively pour gravel into the gears of a background check system that frankly has not stopped or even slowed gun violence in the past 20 years. Notable mentions include the shootings in Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Weatherford, Texas; and Parkland, Florida. If a background check does not prevent mass shootings, then perhaps the voters should question the efficacy of having such a system in the first place. Adding hundreds of thousands of individual background checks through private dealers would effectively tax private transfers and have no discernible benefit in crime prevention.
The ‘Charleston Loophole’
The Democratic Platform promises to close the “Charleston Loophole.” The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) statute includes a three-day “proceed to sale” provision. The provision allows, but does not mandate, the transfer of a firearm if the check cannot be completed in three days. The Charleston, South Carolina, gunman first attempted to buy a firearm on April 11, 2015. He had two prior arrests: one for trespassing and one for drug possession. This caused a delay in his background check. He obtained his gun five days later on June 16. Meanwhile, the FBI continued to investigate the transaction. The federal agency had not reached a conclusion when he launched his attack on June 17. While there were mistakes made, the three-day “proceed to sale” provision wasn’t the cause of the shooting. And understand this: If there were not a three-day provision in the statute, the FBI could convert an “instant” background check into an “eternal” background check with no end in sight.
In addition to imposing these mandatory and intrusive background checks, the Democratic Party Platform’s desire is to “ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” Let’s take a look at the constitutionality of banning large-capacity magazines. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently declared California’s similar ban on large-capacity magazines to be unconstitutional because it burdened a core Second Amendment right (Duncan v. Becerra, No. 19-55376). The Becerra opinion creates a conflict between the Fourth, Second and Sixth Circuits in construing similar bans. Given this conflict, it’s a safe bet that the Supreme Court will be asked to review the case.
Next, consider that when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was enacted in 1994, the all-important Heller case had not yet been decided. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) announced arms in common use for lawful purposes — like modern sporting rifles — are protected by the Second Amendment. The only way to undo Heller is by an amendment to the Constitution. Therefore, Democrats cannot effect their assault weapons ban lawfully without throwing out the current interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Department of Justice concluded that the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (which expired in 2004) had absolutely no effect on crime or murder rates. Yet again, Democrats are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist with a one-size-fits-no-one approach.
Other notable issues mentioned by the Democrats include: incentivizing states to enact licensing requirements for owning firearms and extreme risk protection order law; passing legislation requiring that guns be safely stored in homes; and holding gun companies responsible for their products and repealing the law that shields gun manufacturers from civil liability. Dig a little deeper and you’ll realize that you can poke holes in many of their viewpoints. Facts don’t lie. Gun owners — new and longtime: Your vote matters more to your personal safety than it has ever before. Get out there and vote!
About Anthony L. DeWitt
Anthony “Tony” DeWitt is a Missouri trial attorney who has written legal articles for numerous professional and trade publications. He is a Florida concealed weapons permit holder and frequently teaches the law of self-defense for concealed carriers. Anthony has authored several books, including one on concealed carry, and resides in Miramar Beach, Florida.