If elected on November 3, former Vice President Joe Biden will pursue the most comprehensive gun control scheme in the history of the United States. His plan includes banning “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines, enacting universal background checks, and prohibiting the online sale of ammunition and gun parts.
But there was a time in the not-so-distant past when then-Sen. Biden was singing a different song. In 1986, Congress passed the Firearm Owners Protection Act to roll back the most extreme restrictions imposed by the Gun Control Act of 1968 – and Biden was one of the bill’s supporters.
What’s more, during the debate on the Senate floor, Biden praised the National Rifle Association and expressed doubt in the ability of gun control laws to reduce crime.
“I give credit to Senator Hatch and the National Rifle Association for their willingness to compromise and develop a revised bill that would strike a fair balance between unnecessary restrictions and regulations on lawful ownership of rifles and handguns and the legitimate interests of law enforcement in carrying out their responsibilities,” he said in July of 1986.
“During my twelve-and-half years as a member of this body, I have never believed that additional gun control or federal registration of guns would reduce crime,” he continued. “I am convinced that a criminal who wants a firearm can get one through illegal, untraceable, unregistered sources, with or without gun control. In my opinion a national register or ban of handguns would be impossible to carry out and may not result in reductions in crime.”
Just a few years after making these statements, Biden was pushing the 1994 “assault weapon” ban. The ban prohibited a variety of semi-automatic firearms, but it did not reduce crime and cost the Democrats control of Congress that year.
Today, along with promoting his radical anti-gun platform, Biden brags that he’s “taken on the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the national stage and won – twice.” During a February debate in South Carolina, he took aim at both the NRA and gun manufacturers: “If I’m elected — NRA, I’m coming for you, and gun manufacturers, I’m gonna take you on and I’m gonna beat you,” he said.
Biden’s defenders say his stance on gun control has “evolved.” This article from the Everytown publication The Trace, for example, uses that language, and argues that Biden has just followed the evolving opinions of the American people.
But Biden’s reversal is extreme—even by Washington’s standards. His position moved from blasting gun control as ineffective to pursuing more gun control than any other presidential candidate. Biden was unable to implement his agenda as vice president, but if Democrats take control of the Senate and he wins the White House, he’ll have the chance to make his flip-flop complete.