On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced new executive actions on gun control, trying to limit “ghost guns” and to make it easier for people to flag their own family members who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase firearms. In announcing his gun restrictions, Biden specifically addressed the Second Amendment.
While Biden insisted that none of his gun control measures impinged on the Second Amendment, he also insisted that “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”
“Nothing, nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment. They’re phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights at stake for what we’re talking about,” he argued.
Then came the key statement: “But no amendment, no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”
“You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater. Recall the freedom of speech. From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons,” Biden argued. “So the idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution. Gun violence in this country is an epidemic.”
Biden did not cite any of the Founders to support his idea that gun rights had limits from the very beginning. As Justin Haskins wrote in The Hill, the father of the Constitution, James Madison, assured Americans that the creation of a federal government would not involve the loss of this liberty.
“Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe,” Madison wrote in Federalist 46, “which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.”
“The whole point Madison was making is that armed militias and local governments are a deterrent against an authoritarian national force,” Haskins explained.
Samuel Adams said a Bill of Rights should include a guarantee that the “Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress … to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”
While Americans generally agree that only “peaceable citizens” should bear arms, gun control measures often go further.
The key aspect of Biden’s statement has to deal with constitutional amendments overall.
Biden is laying the groundwork for carving out exceptions to key constitutional rights. It’s not just gun control: Biden supports the Obamacare contraception mandate and would remove religious freedom exemptions for Catholic nuns like the Little Sisters of the Poor. Biden also supports the Equality Act, which explicitly undermines the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Biden supports H.R. 1, the Democrats’ election boondoggle that, among other things, eviscerates free speech in politics by mandating donor disclosure.
When Biden says “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute,” he isn’t just talking about the Second Amendment.