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If this is how gun control advocates think they will win arguments...


The Assault Weapons Ban is legislation based on public confusion rather than sound fact. The average person unfamiliar with the legislation assumes that the ban covers fully-automatic machine guns; in fact, the ban covers semi-automatic rifles that are functionally identical to popular hunting rifles. Advocates for gun control continually try to emphasize this confusion. Don't be fooled.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support the ban. The 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey revealed that 71% of people in households without guns support the ban, as do 64% of those in households with guns. Even in households with at least one NRA member, 46% of respondents supported the ban.

Such surveys are a very poor instrument for evaluating any factual question. The general public simply doesn't know what the Assault Weapons Ban actually covers, due to deliberate misrepresentation by anti-gun groups.

If you want real information about the ban from people who are in a position to know the facts, consider what police officers think about it. Not what the chiefs think; police chiefs are political animals. Ask the line officers. (Ask them how often they deal with crimes committed with an assault weapon, for example, or whether they feel threatened by civilians with such weapons).

Furthermore, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not subject to a majority vote. Even widespread public support is not sufficient to overcome Constitutional protection. If you want to regulate firearms legitimately, you must first pass an amendment. That our current government has passed and continues to enforce many unConstitutional gun control laws does not change this fact.

The prohibited guns are designed specifically for killing people. The law mentions 19 semiautomatic weapons by name, none of which can be construed to have any sporting purpose. As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has written, ?Assault weapons were designed for rapid fire, close quarter shooting at human beings. That is why they were put together the way they were. You will not find these guns in a duck blind or at the Olympics. They are mass produced mayhem.?

It is certainly true that some firearms are designed for rapid fire at human beings in close quarters. Whether this makes much difference is not very clear. The "assault weapons" covered by the ban are mechanically identical to non-banned firearms; the differences are cosmetic, rather than functional. How useful is a bayonet on your rifle? If you just can't get that folding stock, will you give up on your plans to have a massacre, or will you saw off a normal rifle stock?

The great myth of the assault weapons ban is that it has any effect on crime at all. Criminals don't carry assault weapons, as a general rule. They're too hard to hide. If they did want to carry an assault weapon, they would not choose to buy one legally; they would buy one "on the street". And if they are doing that, they can probably get the real thing: a fully-automatic assault rifle, something that the assault weapons ban does not have any effect on.

Now take a deep breath, because this part's often scary to liberals: sometimes, having a gun that is designed for killing people is a good thing. That's why police carry assault weapons (and are specifically exempted from the ban). Remember the LA riots, when the police took an unscheduled vacation and the news helicopters showed, among other things, live video of Korean shopkeepers on the roof of their shops with AK-47s, protecting their property from the rioters?

Even if we accepted that assault weapons are designed to kill, that is not an acceptable basis for a ban.

The ban has been effective. Since the implementation of the law in 1994, ATF found that the proportion of gun crime traced to the banned weapons has fallen by two-thirds. The Department of Justice study mandated by the law controlled for other variables related to the drop in violent crime and concluded that murder rates dropped nearly 7% below what they were projected to be without the ban.

The proportion of gun crime traced to the banned weapons has indeed fallen by two-thirds, as if that matters: assault weapons are more likely to be traced than other firearms, and the BATFE has long insisted that trace data is not suitable for statistical analysis (since it is not a random sample).

However, if we assume it is suitable for analysis, and we abandon the usual statistical rules for determining whether a correlation is the result of random chance, then we can look at the data reported, and it does indeed show a two-thirds drop. At this point, however, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of statistics should have alarm bells going off in their head. And they would be right.

Why? Well, we should perhaps mention the absolute drop as well as the relative drop. Before the ban, assault weapons made up slightly less than 3% of traced firearms. After the ban, assault weapons made up slightly more than 1% of traced firearms. There is simply not enough data to conclude that the assault weapons ban had any effect at all, even if you assume that the gun trace data is meaningful, which the BATFE insists it is not.

Don't believe me? Read the study. Don't believe them? Even the notoriously anti-gun Center for Disease Control has surveyed the research on gun control and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws, including the assault weapons ban.

In other words, gun control doesn't work.

Assault weapons are lethal tools for crime. They have been used in some of the most horrible crimes in recent history, including the Branch-Davidian standoff at Waco and the Stockton schoolyard massacre. Prohibiting these guns does not infringe on hunting rights or rights to self-defense?it only prevents criminals from accessing the best equipment for committing mass murder. The gun lobby?s refusal to conform to the obvious social consensus that banning tools for slaughter is a good idea shows that it places narrow special interests completely above the safety of the American people.

Actually, the BATFE stormtroopers raiding the Branch Davidian compound in Waco had fully-automatic weapons, some with silencers. These military weapons are not affected by the assault weapons ban. So, the crimes the government committed at Waco, while horrible, cannot be logically attributed to "assault weapons" -- even though the firearms look similar to the uninitiated.

Oh, you mean the Davidians? They didn't commit any crimes, and they weren't even charged with violating the assault weapons ban. Why not? Because it didn't exist. They were massacred in 1992, and the ban was not passed until 1994.

As for the Stockton massacre, it's hardly a poster child for gun control. Had existing laws in been enforced, Stockton would have been denied access to firearms (through legal channels) as a mentally-ill felon.

In any case, argument by anecdote isn't convincing; anecdotes are not evidence., and when considering questions of public policy, evidence is vital. The fact is, mass murders with assault weapons are big news because they are so rare. As previously noted, these "tools for crime" are used in less than 3% of all crimes committed with firearms. Crime with assault weapons simply isn't an issue.

As for the safety of the American people, an armed American is a safe American.

Counterpoints

  1. Even the Violence Policy Center admits that the assault weapons ban has been ineffective.
  2. Multiple government studies performed under the Clinton administration, not exactly a friend of gun rights, failed to show any evidence for a reduction in crime attributable to the ban.
  3. The ban only affects manufacture, not possession; thousands of "assault weapons" are legally available to anyone.
  4. Criminals almost never use "assault weapons" in crime (under 3%).

This entry was published 2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2005-09-24 10:43:35.0. [Tweet]

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