It sure feels like this was the perfect time to launch a firearms publication. Huge stories are dropping every week, and more people than ever are looking for informed reporting and analysis on those stories. The Reload has had an incredibly successful start thanks to you guys, and I don’t think things will slow down anytime soon.
So, let’s get started on the big stories of the week.
Biden’s First Big Gun Move
The Biden admin officially released its proposal to expand the ATF’s authority to decide what is and isn’t a firearm to ban so-called ghost guns. The proposal is nearly identical to the leaked draft we exclusively obtained and published at The Reload nearly three weeks ago.
Given the political reality of a closely divided Congress, Biden’s only opportunity to implement at least some of his far-reaching gun agenda is through executive action. He’s been promising to do so since he started running for president, and now we have the first concrete example of what he’s going to do. And it’s very expansive, if in a specific area.
Selling receivers commercially requires a license, serialization, and background checks. The proposal would change the definition of what constitutes a firearm receiver. Currently, the definition requires several key components to be included in a single part for that part to be considered a receiver. It also requires the part to be finished to the point where it can be assembled into a working firearm without significant modification.
Biden wants to change both of those points. He wants the ATF to be able to classify any part with just one of the key components as a receiver. And he wants them to be able to regulate an unfinished receiver that could be “readily” made into a finished one as though it already was finished.
As is its wont, the ATF hasn’t provided much of any limit to its power to determine what “readily” means. So, Biden’s new proposal massively broadens ATF authority in an attempt to make unfinished, unserialized receivers next to impossible to legally sell. They say they don’t plan to push the limits of that authority, but the move certainly shows Biden is serious about pushing limits.
Yet even the president’s power has its limits. The last time an administration with Biden in it tried to push through a regulation change that broadened the ATF’s authority, it failed because of an overwhelming response during the public comment period. If the public backlash is severe enough over the next 90 days, this one could fail too.
April 2021 saw the most gun sales of any April in history. The first quarter of 2021 saw the most gun sales in history. The pace of gun sales has not slowed down. It’s accelerated.
That’s pretty remarkable considering last year was the best year on record for gun sales. It had all of the motivating factors you could imagine for people to buy guns. The pandemic caused a once-in-a-generation crisis that resulted in food shortages, mass unemployment, prisoner releases, a murder spike, racist violence, and rioting.
Then we had an election where a top candidate promised a myriad of new gun restrictions.
Now that candidate has won, become president, and is implementing his plan, sales are higher than ever. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates 2020 saw 8.4 million new gun owners. How many will 2021 see?
And, more importantly for the future of U.S. politics, how many will become activists? A few weeks ago, I profiled Scott Kane, co-founder of Asian American and Pacific Islander Gun Owners, and discussed how he went from first-time owner in early 2020 to first-time gun activist in 2021. This week, I wrote about John Keys of Guns Out TV (and what’s it’s like to go shooting with him). He experienced the exact same transformation over the past year.
The key question going forward is, how many more like Keys and Kane are out there?
Wrath of Man and Annoying Hollywood Gun Tropes
I started watching HBO’s Mare of Easttown this week because it takes place back home in Delaware County, Pa. I can’t get enough of Kate Winslet doing a Philly accent while sipping on a Wawa cup in ol’ Delco. Those long Os are like music to my ears.
But what really takes me out of a show, and I imagine some of you too, is when they bring up one of the many dumb Hollywood gun tropes. Mare of Easttown is generally pretty great and serious, and this is a small detail, but there’s a scene where they’re discussing a gun and talking about how the suspect is the only one with a registered gun in his house.
Since this takes place in Pennsylvania, he’d be the only one with a registered gun in the entire state. Because, like the vast majority of states, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a gun registry. The federal government doesn’t have one either (outside of the NFA, but that’s a whole other story). In fact, a general gun registry is illegal under federal law.
Wrath of Man, the new Jason Statham movie, had a different kind of gun problem. It was perhaps more weirdly entertaining than obnoxious to see some random 90s guns show up in Guy Ritchie’s new action flick: There was a SPAS-12 straight out of Jurassic Park and a street sweeper with a tacticool rail, for some reason. The movie tried to stay very serious throughout, and the gunplay is fairly grounded… until you get to the big fight at the end. Then the bad guys strap on magic body armor, and they all turn into bullet sponges out of a video game, and that does a number on the immersion.
And, of course, Wrath of Man had an obligatory “silencers literally makes gunshots silent” scene. I swear to God, nobody ever bought into Hiram Percy Maxim’s marketing harder than Hollywood. But, despite what the name implies, I can assure everyone cruising down Sunset Boulevard that guns with noise suppressors are still quite loud when fired–as loud as a jackhammer.
Then again, nobody in Wrath of Man or any other Hollywood production ever wears any hearing protection when they’re shooting. So, perhaps all these characters are already deaf anyway.
So please, Hollywood, tone down the nonsense. It’s very annoying for people who have even a rudimentary understanding of firearms.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Talk to you all again next Sunday!