Why is Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, receiving endorsements for that position from groups that want to do away with the Second Amendment?
Because they anticipate that if he’s confirmed, Mr. Becerra will bring to bear the vast bureaucracy of HHS — the largest bureaucracy in the federal government with 80,000 employees and a budget of almost $1.4 trillion — in his efforts to impose massive new restrictions on gun rights. Guns and gun ownership, he will argue, are a “public health risk,” and he will do his best to enact the progressive gun control agenda from his perch at HHS.
“Xavier Becerra is a superb choice to take charge of Health & Human Services … Becerra has … been a partner in the fight against gun violence, never backing down from special interests like the gun lobby in his mission to save lives,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun control group established by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Similar sentiments come from John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group co-founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, and others.
It’s not surprising that Mr. Becerra should be on the receiving end of endorsements from groups that want to restrict constitutionally protected rights. Through the course of his more than three decades in public life — a year as an aide to a state legislator, three years as a deputy attorney general, two years in the state assembly, then 24 years as a congressman, followed by four years as California’s attorney general — he’s behaved exactly as one would think a radical activist lawyer would behave.
And when it comes to the Second Amendment, that means he’s acted as if the Second Amendment were merely a suggestion, not a part of the U.S. Constitution that forms the framework for protecting our rights.
So, as a member of Congress, he voted regularly for stricter gun control measures. That’s to be expected of a radical activist lawyer. What’s perhaps more relevant is what he did as attorney general of the largest state in the union, where his job description includes a responsibility to ensure the protection of those individual rights granted by the U.S. Constitution and California’s state constitution.
In that responsibility, at least when it comes to the protection of an individual’s Second Amendment rights, Mr. Becerra failed miserably. Not only did he fail to act to protect those rights, he actually worked to restrict them.
In Duncan v. Becerra, for instance, he worked to defend a California law that outlawed so-called “Large Capacity Magazines,” that is, ammunition magazines that hold 10 rounds or more. Federal District Judge Robert Benitez wrote that “without a right to keep and bear … the magazines that hold ammunition, the Second Amendment right would be meaningless” as he ruled to overturn the law. Mr. Becerra’s office appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In August of 2020, a three-judge panel agreed with the lower court that the law violated the Second Amendment.
“Even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster … Firearm magazines are ‘arms’ under the Second Amendment,” wrote Judge Kenneth Lee in his ruling. Never one to accept defeat in his zeal to restrict gun rights, Mr. Becerra has appealed again, asking for a hearing before the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
That’s but one of several cases bearing Mr. Becerra’s name, cases in which he has decided to use his office to weigh in on behalf of efforts to restrict Second Amendment rights. His determination to restrict those rights is so well known that even though he’s been nominated to serve as secretary of HHS, and not attorney general of the United States, gun control advocates are nevertheless excited about his potential new perch.
But Mr. Becerra’s nomination is on life support. Last Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee deadlocked 14-14 over advancing his nomination to the floor, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will now have to bring up a motion to discharge his nomination and hold an additional four hours of debate on the Senate floor.
That’s going to put a spotlight on the Becerra nomination. And one of the senators who’s going to be looking at the man in the center of that spotlight most closely, I imagine, will be Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — a state whose residents fiercely defend their Second Amendment rights, and which voted overwhelmingly for the Second-Amendment-defending presidential candidate the last two times around.
With the withdrawal of Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Manchin is already receiving credit for knocking out one of Mr. Biden’s high-profile nominees. Could he choose to side with his constituents and send the gun-grabbing Mr. Becerra back, too, and go two-for-two? I know many of Mr. Manchin’s constituents have been calling his office, urging him to vote down the Becerra nomination — they’ve been letting me know. Stay tuned. Ms. Tanden may soon get some company.
• Jenny Beth Martin is the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.