Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Happy Birthday: Congratulations for making it to your computer alive today. In case you haven't heard, the assault weapons ban expired at midnight last night, 10 years after it had been created.

I have never seen a more misunderstood piece of legislation than the assault weapons ban. People often assume that "assault weapon" means "assault rifle", which is an "automatic weapon" (identified by the constant "rat-a-tat-tat" of firing when the trigger is pulled back continuously). That's not true. The law banned only certain types of semi-automatic guns (one trigger pull, one bullet shot, "pow pow pow"). Fully automatic weapons have been banned since the 1930s.

The law actually didn't ban anyone from owning an assault weapon. It wasn't even illegal to sell one. It was only illegal for gun manufacturers to produce new ones. For the many assault weapons that were already on the market, it was perfectly legal for private citizens and gun shops to buy and sell the guns.

Also, the definition of an "assault weapon" was truly arbitrary, targeting cosmetic features of the guns that have nothing to do with their operation, firepower, or lethality.

The most often cited example of a banned assault weapon is the AK-47. This is a Russian-made military rifle that is often equipped to fire .308-caliber ammunition. That's compared to a Remington 7400, a hunting rifle that can fire the same type of ammo.

The only difference between the two rifles is their appearance. Both are semiautomatic. Both are deadly. And both should be protected under the Second Amendment.

Besides banning specific guns, the law targeted certain characteristics. Rifles that had at least two of these features were banned: Folding or telescoping stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount, flash suppressor or threads to attach one, and grenade launcher.

This, to me, represents a rather benign set of features, except of course for the grenade launcher -- until you realize that grenades and their respective launchers have already been banned for decades. Gun opponents simply tacked that language in the bill to scare people. Fear of bayonets simply didn't do the trick.

Do you absolutely need these features to hunt or protect yourself? No. But in a free society, the onus is on the government to prove why something should be banned, not on the public to prove why something should be kept available.

The law, however, did have one good purpose. It banned rifle magazines (clips) that held more than 10 rounds of ammunition. That is a sensible restriction, and I wouldn't mind putting that one back on the books.

But the gun industry will oppose that and any other restriction because such bans will most likely lead to others. Gun opponents who had any knowledge about the assault weapons ban knew that it didn't really reduce crime. And their answer was always to ban more guns. Volokh has lots of evidence here. And as long as gun opponents keep pushing for such irrational measures, the gun industry will refuse to compromise on anything.

Update: The folks at MoveOn are apparently spreading the misinformation about assault weapons, releasing a commercial that indicates that Bush is allowing fully automatic weapons to become legal. That would be a blatant lie.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Staunch Moderate
Using Caribou Theme | Bloggerized by Themescook