Former Vice President Joe Biden is pivoting to gun control in the wake of revelations surrounding his youngest son’s business dealings in Ukraine, a move often utilized by liberals for surviving scandal.
Biden, who has been besieged by speculation his son’s business dealings posed a conflict of interest, unveiled a radical gun control proposal centered around “regulating [the] possession” of assault weapons” and making firearm owners liable if there weapons are not “under lock and key.”
“It’s within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment, which is limited,” the plan reads.
Biden’s proposal is not surprising given his work in authoring the initial assault weapons ban in the 1990s, although the same cannot be said of its timing.
Throughout the past few months, the former vice president has refrained from discussing specifics when it came to gun control. He remained relatively tight-lipped even after two highly publicized mass shooting over the summer in Ohio and Texas. In response to those tragedies, Biden made vague calls for stricter gun laws, but generally used the moments to attack President Donald Trump’s fitness for office.
“In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Biden said in August after a deranged gunmen shot and killed 22 individuals in El Paso, Texas.
The former vice president stuck to such rhetoric even as his fellow 2020 competitors, most notably former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), jumped to declare they would confiscate semi-automatic rifles, like the AR-15. Biden’s stance, however, seemed to change in recent days as his youngest son, Hunter’s shadowy ties to Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil and gas giant, spilled out into the open.
The controversy began when Trump suggested the Ukrainian government look into Hunter Biden’s business dealings as there are multiple aberrations that implied a conflict of interest for the former vice president.
The younger Biden joined the Burisma in 2014, purportedly making as much as $83,000 per month, to consult on legal issues. The appointment immediately raised questions from ethics watchdogs in both the U.S. and Europe as Hunter Biden possessed no background in either the energy industry or Ukraine. Even more troubling was the fact that at the same time Hunter Biden joined the company’s board, his father was appointed as the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine.
The optics were further muddied after Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, was accused of money laundering and had his assets seized in Great Britain during the same month that Hunter Biden joined the board of directors. As Peter Schweizer, senior contributor at Breitbart News, detailed in his book — Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends — Zlochevesky was then widely seen as seeking to curry favor with western leaders to prevent further scrutiny of his business dealings.
The Burisma founder is rumored to be one of eastern Europe’s leading oligarchs and has strong political ties to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is also a former Ukrainian minister of natural resources who is widely believed to have used his office to further Burisma’s oil and gas interests.
It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s conflicting interests have drawn the most suspicion. The former vice president has particularly drawn concerns over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016. Biden has officially claimed his demand and the threat to withhold more than one billion in U.S. aid came from then-President Barack Obama, who allegedly had lost faith in Shokin’s ability to root out corruption.
Unofficially, though, it was well known that Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for wrongdoing and public corruption. It is unclear if the probe extended to Hunter Biden, although Shokin has recently admitted that prior to his firing he was told to back off the matter. Regardless of what exactly occurred, Shokin’s successor closed the investigation into Burisma and Zlochevsky, allowing the oligarch to return to the country after having fled it in 2014.
Since Trump’s suggested the matter be looked into by Ukraine’s newly-elected president, an action that launched an impeachment inquiry by the Democrat controlled House of Representatives, Biden has worked to minimize his role in the entire proceeding.
Along those lines, the former vice president has tried pivot attention away from his family’s mounting problems with Ukraine. Initially, Biden sought to dismiss the entire scandal, claiming inaccurately his conduct and that of his son had already been vetted by media outlets and found to be appropriate. When that failed to kill the story, Biden began lashing out at the president, accusing Trump of abusing his power to foment a “smear” campaign. When that strategy also appeared not to work, the former vice president unveiled his new proposal on gun control, a wedge issue among the Democrat electorate he will need to rally if he hopes remain in the 2020 race.
Biden’s pivot to gun control, though, is not all that surprising considering it has long been used by Democrats to survive scandal. During the height of the Monica Lewinsky imbroglio in 1998, former President Bill Clinton issued a series of executive orders on gun control that were boosted his popularity with the Democrat base in preparation for an impeachment fight. One such executive order, which banned the importation of 58 types of varying “military-style” rifles, was widely applauded by liberal groups, many of whom would work to ensure Clinton was acquitted during his trial in the Senate.
A similar situation played out in Virginia earlier this year, when that state’s Democrat governor, Ralph Northam, became embroiled in a blackface scandal. Northam, who still alleges he is innocent after a picture of an individual in black face and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe ended up on his medical school yearbook page, has refused to resign claiming he is in the best position to help Virginia heal, given his “moral compass.”
As part of his reason for not leaving, the governor expressed there was still much work to be done addressing the inequities of his state, specifically on the gun control front. The tactic seemed to have worked in August when Northam united a the state’s Democrat leaders, many of whom had urged his resignation, behind him when calling for a special session of the Virginia legislature to address gun violence.
“It was a little bit wild to see all those Democrats together for the first time since the fallout of the scandal,” Mallory Noe-Payne, a reporter with Virginia’s WFTV radio, noted at the time. “And they did stand alongside him. It was true that there’s really these signs of solidarity that at least extend to this particular issue.”
The success of Democrats like of Clinton and Northam has not only been parroted by Biden, but also leaders across the globe. Last month, Canadiana Prime Minister Justin Treadeau, who is facing his own brownface scandal, has tried to shift the focus away from his mounting troubles by embracing gun control.