The Vice President recently held an online town hall organized by Parents Magazine. One participant asked how he can reconcile an assault weapons ban against the guns already in the hands of criminals. The implication here is that gun control laws only inhibit the law-abiding, not the law-evading. The Vice President’s response is right out of the anti-gun playbook:
How can I say this politely? The Constitution does allow the government to conclude that there are certain types of weapons that no one can legally known. Now, if that were not the case, then you should be able to go buy a flame-thrower that the military has. You should be able to go, if you’re a billionaire, buy an F-15 loaded with ordnance. You should be able to buy an M1 tank. You should be able to buy a machine gun. You should be able to buy a grenade launcher. And you can’t do those things.
Let’s look at a few details. First this is the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
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.
"Shall not be infringed" is the key phrase here. The government may not infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Arms means any weapon that can be practically carried and maintained by an individual. Often in discussions like this, someone will jump to the extreme and ask if someone should be allowed to own nuclear weapons. If you take practicality into account, it is not practical for the private individual to own nuclear weapons. Should it be illegal? That’s a discussion for another day.
But getting back to the Vice President, he seems to be presuming that just because the laws are still on the books and being enforced that they are de facto constitutional. This is not the case. But it doesn’t end there. It’s as of the Vice President is completely unaware of what the law actually does and does not do…
Flamethrowers are not restricted by any Federal law or regulation, though they are restricted in some States, such as California. In California, you need a license issued by the State fire marshal. I can hear the question: "Why would anyone need a flame thrower?" Actually here in the Midwest, flamethrowers are one of the instruments used when farmers torch a field to prepare it for tilling and farming. They can also be effective at clearing away snow and ice, though they are certainly more costly to use for that purpose than common salt and sand.
Plus the military hasn’t used flamethrowers since Vietnam and voluntarily removed it from its arsenal in 1978.
As for the F-15, as far as I’m aware there is no law or regulation prohibiting private ownership of that, or of any other fighter jet. What prevents it is a deal the Defense Department has with the manufacturers to only sell those jets to the Federal government. The FAA may or may not have something to say on that, but I’m not well-versed on what regulations are involved with regard to aircraft ownership.
There are also tanks in private ownership. The MythBusters featured one such person with a private collection of tanks when tackling regarding phone books – the episode aired September 10, 2008. Now I’m not sure whether he had the ordnance to go with it and whether the tanks are functional with ordnance. I think the ordnance would be covered under the National Firearms Act.
Speaking of, it is legal to acquire a fully-automatic firearm – i.e. a machine gun. To do so, however, requires a lengthy process under the National Firearms Act and the firearm can only be provided by certain specially-licensed firearms dealers. Same thing with grenade launchers. Both are considered Class III firearms under the National Firearms Act and are legal for private parties to own, assuming all necessary regulations are followed.
So while there is significant impediment to your ability to own the many things that Biden and many others think you cannot own, there is actually now law forbidding ownership of them. There’s just significant overhead to acquiring such things, overhead that does deter most who want to acquire such items. Are these impeding regulations a violation of the Second Amendment? That’s a debate for another day.