One part of the 1994 crime bill that Biden definitely does not regret is the federal ban on semi-automatic guns that Congress described as “assault weapons,” which expired in 2004. Biden favors a new and supposedly improved version of that law, including a requirement that current owners of the targeted firearms either surrender them to the government or follow the same tax and registration requirements that apply to machine guns. During an argument with a Detroit autoworker in March, Biden suggested that the Second Amendment no more protects the right to own guns he does not like than the First Amendment protects the right to falsely cry “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
In a New York Times op-ed piece last year, Biden conceded that the 1994 “assault weapon” ban had no impact on the lethality of legal guns, because manufacturers could comply with the new restrictions “by making minor modifications to their products—modifications that leave them just as deadly.” But that is a problem shared by all such bans, since they draw lines based on features, such as folding stocks, barrel shrouds, and flash suppressors, that make little or no difference in the hands of criminals. The distinction that Biden perceives between guns with those features and functionally identical models without them is just as spurious as the distinction he once perceived between crack and cocaine powder.
As he did when confronting “the drug problem” in the 1980s and ’90s, Biden feels an overpowering urge to do something, whether or not that thing makes any sense. “There’s no excuse for inaction,” he tweeted after the 2017 massacre in Las Vegas. “We must act now,” he insisted after the 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach (which, like most such crimes, was committed with ordinary handguns rather than “assault weapons”). Such comments reflect the same sort of knee-jerk urgency that, by Biden’s account, “trapped an entire generation” because he did not bother to educate himself about matters on which he was legislating.
– Jacob Sullum in The Case Against Biden: Joe Biden’s Politics of Panic