How important is the November 3rd election for the nation’s gun owners? As always, elections matter. It is no different this time around—especially when it comes to self-defense and the right to keep and bear arms. As voters, how do we know what a candidate for the highest office will do to uphold the Constitution and protect the Second Amendment?
To cut through the media hype on both sides, we examined the party platforms to find exactly what has been written, promised, and presented in each party’s official platform document.
A political organization’s platform outlines the policies, legislation, and/or executive orders that the presidential candidate will enact or attempt if elected into office. They are pledges that establish priorities for the candidates, underline the party’s basic values, and help guide voters through key issues.
Let’s begin with the formation of the platforms…
The current platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties were ratified during their party conventions over the summer. Since President Donald J. Trump is running for re-election, the Republicans took their platform from the 2016 election and passed a resolution reaffirming their continued support for the President’s “America-first agenda.”
Democratic party leaders drafted and ultimately approved the 2020 platform at their convention. The Democratic party platform calls on Americans to “restore the soul of our nation” in the preamble section of the Constitution. While these are the general themes of the platforms, let’s examine each party’s specific promises made regarding the Second Amendment.
The Republican Party
Fighting for gun rights is at the foundation of the Republican Party’s 67-page platform. The Republicans state they will defend the original language of the Second Amendment as written in the U.S. Constitution. The opening of the Republican platform lends itself to that promise and reads “In a free society, the primary role of government is to protect the God-given, inalienable rights of its citizens.”
Focus On Upholding The Second Amendment
The platform’s focus on protecting our Second Amendment rights is made clear on page 12, under the straightforward heading, “The Second Amendment: Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms.” Defending gun rights is promoted throughout this chapter in the party’s platform, reinforcing that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Republican party’s Second Amendment agenda is clear in their platform: “We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution and is secured by the Second Amendment.”
Their platform document goes on to say that “Lawful gun ownership enables Americans to exercise their God-given right of self-defense for the safety of their homes, their loved ones, and their communities.”
Expanding the Supreme Court decisions in Heller and McDonald and upholding the freedom to carry firearms in all 50 states is fundamental to the Republicans’ approach. Let’s quickly review the Heller and McDonald decisions.
Decided in 2008 by a 5-4 margin, District of Columbia v. Heller held a D.C. anti-gun regulation unconstitutional. Mr. Heller applied for a handgun ownership permit with the District of Columbia and was denied. Without such a permit, the District required that all firearms be kept unloaded and disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock, even in a person’s own home. The Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms for the specific purpose of self-defense. The Court’s majority decision also debunked the “well-regulated militia” argument against individual ownership of firearms, by clarifying that the right of self-defense has no connection to any militia or military, and this phrase does not reference or limit gun ownership to the state’s military forces.
In the McDonald v. City of Chicago decision in 2010, the Court was presented a nearly identical set of facts as the Heller case. The Court’s decision in Heller solely applied to the District of Columbia and therefore did not impact any state. This is because D.C. is under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress and is not part of any state. Therefore, if the Court wanted its ruling in Heller to reach the states, it needed to decide another case from a different locale. McDonald gave us that necessary expansion, and the Court held that the Second Amendment is fully applicable to the states, and states are prevented from enacting bans on handguns for self-defense in the home.
Supporting Law-Abiding Gun Owners
“We support firearm reciprocity legislation to recognize the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms to protect themselves and their families in all 50 states,” the platform pledges. “We support constitutional carry statutes and salute the states that have passed them.”
President Trump has indicated that he would also consider extending the right to school teachers that are trained to carry. “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” he said at a forum in 2018.
Additionally, the party opposes restrictions on magazine capacity or laws that ban the sale of guns with high-capacity magazines. “We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle. We also oppose any effort to deprive individuals of their right to keep and bear arms without due process of law,” the platform pledges on pages 12-13.
In contrast, legislation restricting high-capacity magazines has become increasingly popular in recent years. Colorado bans (with some exceptions) magazines that can accept more than 15 rounds of ammunition. California and New Jersey have laws restricting magazines that can accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition. This is an interesting area of the law to watch, as we could see a case at the Supreme Court in the coming years regarding California’s magazine restriction. In August of 2020, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down California’s law as an unconstitutional restriction on the Second Amendment. It is an almost certainty that the State of California will appeal this decision to the fullest extent possible, so stay tuned.
Defending the Right of Citizens to Keep and Bear Arms
Protecting due process of law is essential to defending the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. The Republican platform states: “We condemn frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers and the current administration’s [Obama administration] illegal harassment of firearm dealers.”
The platform states: “We oppose federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition, and restoration of the ill-fated Clinton gun ban.” Though federal registration of any kind is not currently allowed by law, many states currently require firearm registration, and many require cumbersome licensing in order to purchase a firearm. The Republican platform opposes any such requirements on a national level.
The Democratic Party
The Democratic Party’s platform presents gun ownership in the U.S. as a “health problem” contrasted with the Republican position, which defines it as a Constitutional guarantee. Their position on firearms begins on page 47 of the 92-page document and is outlined under the heading “Healing the Soul of America.”
Gun Violence is a Public Health Problem
The platform asserts that gun violence is creating a “public health crisis” in America and affirms a commitment to “ending the epidemic of gun violence” in the nation. It advocates for universal background checks, ending online gun and ammunition sales, and limiting gun purchases by certain specific citizens. Furthermore, the Democratic Party platform looks to outright ban the manufacture and sale of “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines.
The Democratic presidential candidate’s website states that, if elected, former Vice President Joe Biden will “begin by again championing legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – bans he authored in 1994.”
“Common Sense” Safety Restrictions
The platform supports “red flag” laws that allow courts to remove guns from those who are declared a “danger” to themselves or others. “We will incentivize states to enact licensing requirements for owning firearms and extreme risk protection order laws that allow courts to remove guns from the possession of those who are a danger to themselves or others,” the platform declares on page 48.
Red flag laws are not currently mandated by the federal government, but many states have put them into place without a federal incentive or directive. These red flag laws have been argued to be unconstitutionally vague and therefore violate “substantive due process” by failing to properly define what it means to be a “danger.” The Democratic platform does not offer any guidance, and it is unlikely that a federal push for nationwide red flag laws would clarify this issue.
Legislating “Safe” Gun Storage in The Home
Under the Democratic party platform, some parameters of gun ownership in the home could be subject to federal laws regarding storage and locking of firearms. “We will pass legislation requiring that guns be safely stored in homes,” the platform pledges. Currently, only Massachusetts requires firearms be locked at all times when not in use. Several other states, such as California, Connecticut, and New York, have laws requiring firearms stay locked under many conditions. A federal mandate on the storage of guns in the home could have implications on how gun owners defend themselves and their families.
Your Vote Really Matters
Voting is a personal decision that must be respected. Everyone should act on their right to vote, which is a privilege as a citizen of this great country. It is clear that the two parties’ platforms differ greatly on the issue of Second Amendment rights and protections.
So, will your Second Amendment rights be infringed? Only time will tell based on who is elected and the actions that they take. We will leave it up to you, and we encourage all to vote on November 3, 2020.
If you have any additional questions about gun ownership and your rights, please contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.
I have never seen a violent tec-9, nor have I ever been mugged by a Desert Eagle .50 that was hanging out with Saturday Night Special Dilettantes in a back alley. Guns are not violent. People with severe mental illness and other extreme impulse control issues ARE the problem. Do you blame a hammer when it hits your thumb when nailing some pieces of wood? Do you call it hammer violence? NO, do you blame the car when a drunk drives it into a crowd of people? No. Do you call it car violence?, No. Then why do you call it gun violence? The gun or rifle is an inanimate tool without a will to do good or bad. It is the FOOL using it, who pulls the trigger, and not the fault of the tool? An old Japanese adage, from the study of the art of Kenjutsu (The use of the sword in combat) states: “The sword that takes a life, is also the sword that SAVES a life”. I am sure sword violence was far greater in the ages from its creation, in pre-Han Dynasty Times up to the end of the 2nd world war, than any so called “gun violence” since the 15th Century. I have skin in this game, as I am survivor of violent crime, having been nearly killed by a criminal in illegal possession of a firearm. I do not blame the weapon. I blame the person pulling the trigger. Fortunately, the one who tried to kill me was himself offed by another criminal less than a year after serving 6 months in county jail for his attack upon me. Karma!
I’m not real smart on presidential laws but couldn’t our present gun laws be made laws of the land not to be struck down or infringed on so that states would be forced to create laws that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals & mentally impaired but not imposed on legal gun owners in all 50 states
Once again it’s R vs D. The Libertarian party is on all ballots for president. How about giving all the options?
You mean like Kayne West?
Assault is the action NOT the gun or rifle, people get assaulted with knifes every day but they are not banning knifes, these are terms used by politician to brainwash the people so they can infringe your second amendment right.
Shall not be infringed! If this is in the Second Amendment then those elected politicians that regulate gun owner ship infringing upon / violating the Constitution and thus make such infringement unlawful?Why hasn’t this been fought in the courts on these grounds by USlawShield and the NRA?
So true, but don’t expect them to fight that one.
I believe that our guns are safe with either party. Scare tactics don’t bother me in the least bit. We have to use common sense. Neither party is going to come knocking on our doors to say, “hand over all your weapons”. Never going to happen. Also, I do not have a problem with stricter and more complete background checks. We have to keep the legal guns out of the hands of those with mental illnesses. Our second amendment rights are safe.
G Hurst, don’t fool yourself…did any of us believe our government would sentence us all to house arrest? Dictate clothing we are required to wear? Mark my words, freedoms of every sort are under attack and those wishing to impose a new world order are seeing hard-sought victories the likes of which we barely imagined. They ARE coming for your guns and yes, they absolutely could go door-to-door. You remind me of many of the optimistic Jewish people who thought it was safe to remain in Nazi Germany…surely Hitler wouldn’t kill professors, musicians, authors, artists?! They innocently believed too long and lived (or died) to regret it.
G Hurst, thank you for your well-balanced comments. Unfortunately, extremists on both sides of gun laws get all the media attention. I am a gun owner. One of my purchases (gun trade) did not require any paperwork and only included a handshake. Scary.
Gun are tools. Tools can be utilized, abused, well-kept, etc. So what’s the difference? Guns are as different as knives and cars. A small example: A 6″ Bowie knife is not like a Swiss pocket knife. A Corvette is not like a Volvo. These are just examples of tools with different levels of risk, utility, investment and entertainment. A gun is unforgiving on spontaneous actions and can be used at varying distances from a target. Once the trigger is pulled you can’t take it back. Just a few thoughts.
How’d that trust work with bumpstocks?
You young people did not learn any history on what happened in Poland. Register your guns so you will be safer. Well, when Hitler took over, they new exactly where the guns were and who owned them. The democrats want our guns, so they can do the very same thing. Wake up America !!
Guns safe with either party? Hard to believe anyone could arrive at that conclusion given the facts. It is also not true and not “scare tactics”. It’s just basic facts about how each party approaches the topic. 2nd amendment rights will not “be safe” under either party! You should keep that in mind when you vote. Don’t listen to those who blindly “dis” the facts! Frankly, there are so many guns in American homes, “gun control” is a farce. Don’t be fooled. The only type of gun control they ultimately want is the total eradication of any gun ownership. You would have to address the millions of Americans who already own millions of guns. These can also be passed on to other generations without any government control or any “vetting” of those inherenting them. Any rational thought leads to only one conclusion. You have to get “all” the guns, or “gun control” is a farce! Are there people in America who currently own, or can legally purchase firearms, who should not? Probably, yes I’ve even seen them. A free society is not easy. A state controlled one even worse. We need real solutions to real problems and I don’t think attacking law abiding citizens or businesses who happen to love, own, collect, manufacture and safely use firearms is the answer. Cuz, the criminal doesn’t care about your laws!
G Hurst, I sure hope you are right, however, I don’t think so. Beto said that he was going to take the so called “assault rifle”. Do you really TRUST him to stop there??!!
obama was in office 8 years and nobody came for my guns ive heard that crap since i was a kid
I have three guns, one is a .22 cal pistol with LR and MAG cylinders, its a old single action pistol, m rifle is a 1943 Mosen Nagant carrying a few NAZI bodies on it ,I’m so good with it if I can see you I can drop you, my last gun is for personal protection, its a S&W M&P 2.0 9mm EZ slide, All three are loaded to the maximum, just as a test I put each one on the bed loaded, got down in front of the barrel and told the guns to shoot me……… none of them did anything……..that’s because guns DO NOT KILL people, PEOPLE kill people with guns, take away guns PEOPLE WILL KILL PEOPLE with knifes, take a away knives they will use baseball bats, take away everything and people will kill people by choking them, do you need a fully/semi automatic rifle? 20 years ago I would have said no, but the condition of the world now, I say yes, simply because “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. ” means that the PEOPLE should be able to defend themselves when the government becomes tyrannous, which come Jan 2021 it will be, the declaration of independence give ” we the people ” the right to abolish or change the government when it becomes tyrannous, and since the government controls the military, “we the people ” need guns to do that when the next civil war started or we are invaded by another country
I have carried a gun with me ever since I got a drivers license November 61. I either have had one under the seat or in the glove box, even got stopped a few times and the cops saw them before the carry law came out, and it was legal if you were traveling between counties. I got a permit in 2003, and have carried a Smith or Ruger 380 usually or a 22 Mag derringer as a pocket gun. I have S&W 9 EZ slide, M&P 40 and a Springfield XDS 45, put find them to awkward to carry unless you are wearing a coat or vest. Norman Bickley had a holster that fits in the front of your pants on the inside he said you cant feel and carries a 13 shot Sig comfortably. I think I will get one and try it.