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Second Amendment Advocates Sound Alarm Over HHS Pick

Biden aide promises 'bold' executive action on guns

HHS nominee Xavier Becerra / Getty Images
• December 11, 2020 11:00 am

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Second Amendment advocates say Joe Biden's pick to head Health and Human Services could use the position to endanger the rights of American gun owners.

The National Rifle Association and others are raising alarm that California attorney general Xavier Becerra (D.), Biden's HHS pick, could use the massive federal agency to curtail gun rights. Becerra has promoted and defended California's strict gun-control measures—including an AR-15 ban, ammunition magazine confiscation, a restrictive gun-carry permit law, and a one-of-a-kind ammunition background-check law.

"Xavier Becerra has made a career out of curtailing the rights of law-abiding gun owners in California and disregarding their constitutional rights," Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the NRA, told the Washington Free Beacon. "In a cabinet position, he’ll do the same for all of America."

Attorney General Becerra's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Second Amendment advocates' concerns were heightened by comments made by Stef Feldman, national policy director of the Biden campaign, on Tuesday. She said Biden plans to use "existing executive authority" to "make big, bold changes" on a number of issues, including "gun violence." She said "experts" working for the campaign have identified ways Biden can act on gun control and other major issues without action from Congress.

"On a range of issues there's really a lot you can do through guidance and executive action," Feldman said at a Georgetown University event first reported by the Washington Examiner.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation said Becerra is likely to aggressively pursue any gun-control agenda handed down by Biden once he takes office. It expects the Democrats to use executive agencies to push gun restrictions that they are unable to push through Congress.

"We saw in the Obama/Biden administration that they used [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] and HHS to deny people their Second Amendment rights," Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the group, told the Washington Free Beacon. "There's no avenue of government authority that they will not exploit."

The Biden transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

Oliva pointed to President Barack Obama's effort to use Social Security evaluations to prohibit certain seniors from owning guns in 2015, as well as his executive order telling HHS to change the process for adding certain records to the background-check system in 2016. NSSF's legal team expects the Biden administration to take an expansive approach to executive authority. General counsel Larry Keane said in an op-ed that he fears Becerra could use health concerns as a pretext to implement gun regulations instigated by Biden executive orders.

"The problem with Attorney General Becerra leading the nation’s health agency is that any issue he finds politically unfavorable can be labeled a public health crisis and be used to justify unprecedented restrictions on constitutionally protected individual liberties," he said. "That nomination would put a firebrand gun-control collaborator at the helm of the nation’s leading health organization delivering services and support of scientific advances in medicine, public health, and social services. This is a harbinger that the federal office that employs 80,000 and has a $1.3 trillion budget will be used to push an anti-gun ideology over science."