Conventional wisdom holds that Republicans reliably protect the Second Amendment. In fact, one of the reasons conservatives said it was imperative to elect Donald Trump was that he would defend our right to keep and bear arms. A Hillary White House would shred the Second Amendment and aggressively come after our guns — so we were told.
But the reality doesn’t stack up to the rhetoric. In fact, during Trump’s first term, ATF enforcement of federal gun laws increased in every single category compared to the last year Obama was in the White House.
We can start with the number of firearms cases investigated. In 2016, the final year of the Obama administration, the ATF investigated 31,853 firearms cases. During Trump’s first year, the agency investigated 35,302. That’s 3,349 more firearms cases than under Obama, a 10.81% increase. (See Footnote 1)
We see similar increases in other enforcement categories during Trump’s first year. There were 786 more cases recommended for prosecution, 789 more indicted cases, and 630 more defendants convicted. (See Footnote 2)
The ATF also investigates arson, cases involving explosives, and alcohol and tobacco cases, but these make up a small percentage of the total. Under Trump, 92% of the cases investigated by the ATF involved firearms. It was slightly less under Obama – 90%.
ATF enforcement of federal gun laws under Trump increased at roughly the same trajectory as it did during the last three years of Obama’s second term. In other words, the NRA-backed, GOP protector of the Second Amendment was no better than the Democratic Party gun-grabber, and continued to ramp up enforcement of federal gun control.
Some might argue it would have been worse if Hillary Clinton had won. And they might say, “At least Trump hasn’t signed any new gun control into law.” (Not that he didn’t advocate for it i.e. the bump stock ban and “strengthened” background checks.) But if you support the Second Amendment, isn’t it a problem that the president who’s supposed to be the good guy continues to ratchet up enforcement of existing unconstitutional federal laws?
A true supporter of the right to keep and bear arms would do better.
The bottom line is we can’t trust Republicans in Washington D.C. to uphold the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, it appears the same problem appears with Republicans in state legislatures as well.
When Barack Obama was president, Republicans in state legislatures introduced dozens of bills to nullify federal gun control by refusing to help with federal enforcement. After Trump won the White House, those efforts virtually stopped, even though not one single federal gun control law has been repealed.
During the last two years of the Obama administration, there were more than 50 bills directly pushing back against federal gun control introduced in 22 states. During the two state legislative sessions since the Trump administration took over, the number of bills dropped by more than half and the number of states nearly did too.
Not only that, the bills that were filed after Trump took office didn’t go anywhere. Governors signed five bills into law taking on federal gun control during the last two Obama years. Since then — zero. And during the two legislative sessions since the GOP took full control of D.C., only three bills to nullify federal gun control even got a committee hearing.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think there weren’t any more threats the right to keep and bear arms. And yet the federal gun control acts of 1934, 1968 and 1986, along with other various laws violating the Second Amendment, remain on the books. And they’re still being enforced by the feds just as aggressively as they were when Obama was president.
By and large, Republicans use the Second Amendment as a campaign prop, but they do very little to actually stop the federal government from infringing on your right to keep and bear arms. They barely hold the line on new gun control and they don’t do anything to challenge the unconstitutional laws already on the books.
All enforcement statistics were taken from the following ATF Fact Sheets
These numbers include all cases investigated by the ATF, including arson, explosives, and alcohol and tobacco. In 2017, 92% of the ATF cases investigated involved firearms. In 2016, 90% of the cases were firearms related.