January 06, 2021
When then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) became the 44th president of the United States, Democrats controlled both chambers of the United States Congress. The Democrat trifecta was in effect from 2009 until 2011 when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. During the two years the Democratic party had control, sweeping legislation, including the Affordable Care Act, was passed into law.
From 2021 to 2023, Democrats will enjoy a slim majority (222 Democrat representatives versus 211 Republican representatives) in the House. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was reelected Speaker of the House, and it appears Democrats have reestablished their “trifecta” following the results of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections on January 5, 2021. Gun owners are in for a long, tough ride.
The founders of the United States devised a brilliant system of co-equal branches of government that serve to balance extreme policies. To prevent radical legislation from passing into law is control of the presidency or one house of U.S. Congress. As we have seen since the midway point of President Donald Trump’s term, a divided majority produces gridlock. For those of us who believe that the government that governs less governs is best, this is a good thing. When a single party controls all three, though, the results are different.
With the election of U.S. Senators-elect Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Rafael Warnock (D-GA), the partisan split of that chamber will be 50/50. The tie-breaking vote on legislation will then go to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA). She will cast her lot to elect Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as Senate Majority Leader. Let’s be clear: Sen. Schumer — the most unimpeachably anti-gun member within the Senate — will be in charge.
If we look at states such as California where Democrats have long held all branches of government, we are seeing a rise in the power of the moderates. These members become the swing votes on important issues. In my assessment, there are only two moderate Democrats regarding the issue of gun rights versus gun control: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT). Both are on the record supporting the so-called “Universal Background Checks,” as are some Republicans including Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The passage of such legislation, as well as a “Red Flag” confiscation bill, are among our foregone conclusions at the time of this writing. There were likely enough votes to pass these bills even with a Republican majority, but Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) never allowed them to come to the floor.
The real prize for Sen. Schumer would be to implement President-elect Joe Biden’s well-articulated plan to ban millions of semiautomatic firearms and magazines. As Guns & Ammo has reported, Biden a “mandatory buyback” of so-called “assault weapons” is among his gun-control plan if they are not registered under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Registration would mean a $200-per-gun (and perhaps per-magazine) tax, fingerprinting, plus administrative hoops that are already in-place for machine guns and suppressors.
Senate Democrats will have the votes necessary to bring such a ban to the floor, but will it pass? This is where power shifts to moderates. Montana’s Jon Tester is on the record as opposing proposals such as Biden’s mandatory buyback agenda. As recently as 2019, Sen. Tester said, “I’m not somebody who’s going to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, that’s just not going to happen under my watch. But by the same token I think there are some common-sense things we can do that will ensure our Second Amendments rights are preserved.”
Sen. Machin has made similar, though less-conclusive comments. In the past, he has gone on the record saying, “I don't have any friends that own the [AR-15] right now, I don't know anyone who’s committed a crime with it, so I wouldn't take their gun away.”
It is also possible that Sen. Collins could step across the aisle and join Democrats on a semiauto ban, also. She was the only current Republican senator who voted in-favor of extending the previous Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) in 2004.
If it came down to one vote, I would say that our future is in Sen. Manchin’s hands. Manchin was a pro-gun governor for West Virginia (2005-2010) who received the NRA’s Defender of Freedom Award. Then again, Bill Clinton was NRA-friendly as governor of Arkansas (1979-1981, 1983-1992). Will Manchin vote in a way that represents West Virginians?
As outlined in a recent “what if” article, Senate Rule 22, which has been on the books since 1917, requires a supermajority of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate — 60 votes — to invoke cloture, which ends debate on a bill. Democrats are unlikely to achieve the necessary support for a cloture vote, but there’s an end-around: the so-called “nuclear option.” This twist of the Senate’s rules has only been applied to Executive and Judicial Branch nominees thus far, but there’s nothing other than tradition and decorum to prevent it from being used to pass substantive legislation. Sen. Schumer would not be afraid of using the nuclear option to complete his life’s work of disarming Americans.
There’s one last piece of the puzzle to our future: the concept of “court-packing.” With the 2020 approval of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court has ideologically shifted to the right. This 6-3 majority of Republican-appointed justices could repeal legislation attacking American’s Second Amendment rights, though doing so would likely be a long process.
And there’s another twist: There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prevents the Senate from altering the number of justices who sit on the Supreme Court. By increasing the number of justices, Democrats could alter the ideological majority. This is something that Sen. Schumer appears to support. “Let me be clear,” as Sen. Schumer said on Sept. 19, 2020, “if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with [the Barrett confirmation], then nothing is off the table for next year. Nothing is off the table.”
The Future of Gun Rights
The results of the 2021 Georgia Runoff elections for the U.S. Senate marks a bad day in history for gun owners. January 6, 2021, may be worse than September 13, 1994, when the U.S. Congress voted to ban a swath of semiautomatic firearms and their magazines, which was signed into law by then-President Clinton on the same day. If you think the gun and ammunition shortage was bad before now, it’s only going to get worse. There is nothing to stop Democrats from shredding the Second Amendment except the votes of one or two individuals in the Senate. Let’s hope that Senators Manchin and Tester don’t let America’s gun owners down.
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