In a recent interview, Joe Biden gave a bit home defense advise to a Facebook questioner, “Kate, if you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun, have the shells, a 12-gauge shotgun.” He turned to the advise he gave his wife, “I said, ‘Jill if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here. Walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house’ … You don’t need an AR-15—it’s harder to aim … It’s harder to use, and in fact you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!”
The Daily Beast explains why this perceived gaff is in fact a political buffer for President Obama:
But Biden’s detour actually performed an important political service for the Obama administration. It highlighted the fact that the gun reforms put forward don’t fit the “Obama’s coming for your guns!” fearmongering that too often derails our debates.
The formula that’s been used to polarize our politics always seems to involve distorting policies and demonizing the opposition. It’s effective in the short term because it spreads misinformation and plays off emotion. So the issue becomes not mass shootings or assault weapons, but total gun confiscation; not health-care reform, but socialism (or death panels); not raising tax revenue, but class warfare.
But when Joe Biden sings the praises of a double-barrel shotgun for home protection, he’s showing that he is not anti-gun. He’s drawing a useful distinction between the abstractions that are used to defend the supposed sanctity of assault weapons with the way most people use guns—for hunting or self-defense.
In his meandering way, Biden highlighted the idea of reasonable restrictions—something also backed by that notorious liberal Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the Heller decision, which overturned Washington, D.C.’s functional ban on handguns.
First of all, Biden’s shotgun advise is pretty good. They are better for home defense, plain and simple. Unless of course you are preparing for the zombie apocalypse.
Second, his advise does serve to disarm the “Obama wants to take away our guns” crowd. Why would his VP tell people to buy a gun in the first place if the administration was anti-gun? He is separating assault weapons like the AR-15 from other firearms. Justice Scalia is very conservative, but in his opinion, the government can separate out assault weapons because, like all other amendments, the 2nd is not unlimited.
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” Scalia wrote. “For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”