A Trump campaign ad uses an out-of-context video clip to claim Joe Biden confirmed he will come for the guns of Americans if he’s elected president. In the unedited video, Biden was talking about his opposition to so-called “assault weapons” — not all firearms.
“Joe Biden openly admitted his plan to violate our Second Amendment rights,” the ad’s narrator says about the Democratic presidential nominee. The ad then shows CNN’s Anderson Cooper saying to Biden: “To gun owners out there who say, well, a Biden administration means they’re going to come for my guns.” After that, Biden is shown saying, “Bingo. You’re right.”
But his full response was: “Bingo. You’re right, if you have an assault weapon. The fact of the matter is they should be illegal, period.”
Biden actually argued that banning Americans from purchasing assault weapons wouldn’t be a violation of their constitutional rights, and he said he wouldn’t confiscate firearms that had already been purchased legally.
The Trump campaign said the anti-Biden commercial is part of an “eight figure ad buy” that “will run on network cable across the country” in “battleground states.”
Cooper and Biden had been discussing mass shootings when the CNN anchor started to list gun restrictions that Biden supports, such as expanding background checks on gun purchases to cover private sales by unlicensed individuals. When he got to banning assault weapons, which generally refers to AR- or AK-style rifles, Cooper told Biden studies show the 1994 assault weapons ban that Biden supported as a senator wasn’t proven to have reduced crime. The ban, which expired in 2004, prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of certain semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition devices, though it included exceptions such as a grandfather clause for weapons already legally owned before the ban took effect.
“There was a reduction of crime, but they can’t point at the assault weapons ban” as the reason, Cooper said. Biden conceded that might be true, but questioned whether assault weapons should continue to be sold anyway.
“Does anybody think it made any sense that someone’s able to walk into a gun store, buy an assault weapon that has multiple rounds or buy an assault weapon that has a hundred rounds?” Biden asked. “Even though it may not — you can’t point to the fact that it, in fact, had stopped it before. Do you want more of them on the street?”
Cooper followed up by asking Biden what he would say to gun owners who believe he would take away their guns, and Biden initially said individuals with certain weapons had reason to worry. Here’s the exchange:
Cooper, Aug. 6, 2019: So, to gun owners out there who say, “Well, a Biden administration means they’re going to come for my guns” —
Biden: Bingo. You’re right, if you have an assault weapon. The fact of the matter is they should be illegal, period.
Look, the Second Amendment doesn’t say you can’t restrict the kinds of weapons people can own. You can’t buy a bazooka. You can’t have a flamethrower.
The shortened clip featured in the Trump campaign ad leaves viewers with the impression Biden was talking about all guns. He wasn’t.
Later in the interview, when Cooper asked if individuals would be allowed to keep the weapons they already own, Biden said they would.
“Right now, there’s no legal way that I’m aware of that you could deny them the right if they’ve … legally purchased them,” Biden said.
He said he would try to institute a voluntary national buy-back program to have gun owners turn their assault weapons in to get them off the streets. “That’s not walking into their homes, knocking on their doors, going through their gun cabinets, et cetera,” he explained.
Biden’s platform on gun control says he would ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for ammunition. It says he would give those currently in possession of either a choice: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.
One last note: When the Trump campaign ad says, “Biden and [Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala] Harris would enact unconstitutional gun control measures, making it harder than ever to defend yourself,” a citation for an Aug. 18 op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times is shown on screen.
To be clear, that commentary piece argued that a ban on large-capacity magazines — not an assault weapons ban — would be unconstitutional.
Editor’s note: Swing State Watch is an occasional series about false and misleading political messages in key states that will help decide the 2020 presidential election.
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