President, gun control, call for ‘assault weapons’ ban again

Once again, the demands to make classes of firearms illegal are thundering out of the spokespeople for gun control advocacy groups and politicians, a response that has become their frequent cliché.  The specific target also comes as no surprise:  the AR-15.

One example of this is USA Today‘s article from the editorial board, titled, “Ban assault weapons now:  Our view.”  From the title alone, readers of this site would have no trouble writing out the list.  Limit magazine capacity to ten rounds?  It’s there.  Claim that hunters managed to get by during the Assault Weapons Ban of the 90s?  That, too.  Insistence that the AWB worked, but would have been better if only it had been more of a violation?  Yup.

There is one precious gem of absurdity in their litany.  “Such weapons are accurate,” the editors tell us.  I know I’m dealing with people with no clue when I’m told that accuracy is a bad thing, but then, perhaps the authors don’t find rifles interesting—Col. Whelen would wonder what is wrong with these people.

For the sake of review and in case anyone sympathetic with new infringements is reading, let’s go over what’s wrong with their ideas.  The ten-round magazine limit shows us that advocates of control can count that high, presuming they aren’t wearing mittens.  But why ten?  The NY SAFE Act tried to bring that number down to seven, though that was overturned by a court that thought the act was mostly constitutional.  The claim is that in the example of the Tucson shooting, the attacker was stopped after his magazine went dry, but that ignores other shootings in which the murderer planned things out better, using distance and unarmed victims to achieve his goals.  The Texas Clocktower shooting serves as an illustration of this.

The Assault Weapons Ban is brought up routinely in these discussions.  At best, the results were mixedThe banned weapons are used only rarely in crimes, and there were still many grandfathered guns hanging around.

On that latter point, the question has to be how practical even a total ban with no exceptions would be.  In the Paris attacks—both attacks—the guns used were illegal, and that did nothing to stop the terrorists from getting and using those weapons.

And then there’s the fact that the weapons used by mass shooters are all over the map.  Handguns are commonly employed, as are shotguns and rifles that don’t get labeled with the moniker, “assault.”  Most guns were obtained legally, while around a quarter were not.  The conclusion we have to come to is that an attacker will choose whatever is available.

As people in the gun community are aware, bans on “assault weapons” were pushed by the Violence Policy Center in 1988 as an attempt to get the public used to banning something.  Charles Krauthammer echoed this idea in a Washington Post article in 1996:

Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic—purely symbolic—move in that direction [of total civilian disarmament]. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation. Its purpose is to spark debate, highlight the issue, make the case that the arms race between criminals and citizens is as dangerous as it is pointless.

Banning the AR-15 and other similar firearms—however those might be characterized—is a red herring, something that advocates of control figure they can get attention for during times of national anguish.  But in the same way that the USA PATRIOT Act was passed within a month and a half of the 9/11 attack and includes a great deal that those of us who value rights see as violations, rushing to ban something is an ill considered lashing out—and as always, it’s a lashing out against people who didn’t do the outrageous wrong.

There are answers to the problem of mass shootings, but achieving the good that we seek without perpetrating other harms requires a considered approach that goes after the things that make some in our society feel thrown away, offended to the point of rage, or in a desperate need to control the behavior of others.  Those are the causes, and addressing them will be the solution.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of