All of this could mean two things, as both campaigns intensify their appeal to swing voters in the coming months: Kerry, with his orange vest and military credo, might very will sway the minds of some of the 'salt of the earth sportsmen,' as Kristin Goss calls them. And Bush might very well lose support from some of those Second Amendment stalwarts if the ban on automatic weapons becomes a political hot potato.
This is incorrect. The ban at issue is a ban on "assault weapons", a term that (while very loosely defined) does not include automatic weapons. Automatic weapons, while protected under the 2nd Amendment per US v Miller, have been heavily regulated since 1933 and their manufacture for civilian ownership banned since 1986.
The "Assault Weapons Ban" bans 19 specific semi-automatic firearms by name, additional semi-automatic firearms by possession of more than one of several characteristics, and normal-capacity magazines (limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds or less).
The confusion between machine guns and the assault weapons ban is longstanding and the result of a deliberate choice to mislead the electorate by the Violence Policy Center. From their own website:
Assault weapons -- just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms -- are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons -- anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun -- can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.
I will note for the record that "armor piercing bullets" and "plastic firearms" are similar to assault weapons in that they are a phantom menace; scary, while presenting no significant threat.
"Plastic firearms" are allegedly scary because they can pass through metal detectors, but no such firearm actually exists; the Glock brand of handguns that the VPC is so concerned about still contain a large quantity of metal parts, including the barrel, and are readily detectable by metal detectors.
"Armor-piercing bullets" are bullets which can supposedly pierce a bulletproof vest. This is a capability shared by almost every type of ammunition suitable for hunting, and depending on the vest, often entirely normal handgun rounds will suffice. The type of bullet makes very little difference.
Of course, "machine guns" are real. But are they a real threat? They are already banned from manufacture, banned from ownership in some states, and each transfer is registered with the BATF (for a $200 fee), subject to BATF approval, requires a local law enforcement signature, and includes fingerprinting. As you might expect, legally owned machine guns are rarely used in crime. By "rarely", I mean there is one commonly known incident -- and that was a police officer committing a contract killing.
Please do not contribute to further public confusion over this issue. I will look for your published correction.