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Will the assault weapons ban rise from the dead?


One month and the AWB will be dead. Will it stay dead, or will it rise from the ashes like TIA and CAPPS II?

No Quarters thinks it will. And while it's possible that Congress will resurrect the law shortly after the elections, I doubt it will happen. I definitely don't think that the TIA/CAPPS-II fiascos will be similar. Why? Executive versus legislative branch.

Both CAPPS-II and TIA are programs run by the executive branch out of their existing budget (the Transportation Security Administration and the Pentagon, respectively) and under the ultimate administrative control of Bush. Bush, and/or his flunkies, wants both programs, and are willing to play shell games with the funding in order to keep them running. That's how they were "killed" and then "resurrected"; no legislative authorization is required to use the existing budgets on those programs. Congress must specifically de-authorize funds and must do so in a manner that is difficult to circumvent (eg, by changing the name of the program). They failed to do so with those two programs, perhaps deliberately.

Neither CAPS-II nor TIA are laws; they are enforcement mechanisms.

But the assault weapons ban is a law, not a program under an existing agency. When you don't have an agency with broad powers to regulate a certain industry, then you need to pass a law in order to mandate behavioral changes by the members of that industry (eg, "Do not manufacture assault weapons").

And that means that any renewal of the ban needs to get through Congress. We've already seen, in the past year or so, that getting a renewal through Congress is not easy. It may be easier after the election, when Congress no longer feels quite so at-risk about their election prospects, but it still won't be easy -- especially as we gun owners have made our presence felt powerfully in the Senate.

The real question is going to be: what happened in the election itself?

If the House successfully manages to avoid a vote on the ban, then the Democrats can't attack specific House members for voting against it. Neither can the Republicans attack the Democrats for voting for it. That favors the status quo for the Republicans in the House, which is not surprising since they have a large majority.

The Senate has already had votes on the ban. The Republicans will be watching to see what happens to Republicans who voted for the ban and will hope that Democrats who voted for it will lose their seats. If the yes-votes get punished appropriately, and especially if some seats change hands as a result, then we are likely safe for the immediate future.

On the other hand, if the election shows that the ban didn't matter to voters, we're likely to see the Democrats in the Senate make continued efforts to pass the ban. They want the law passed whether it wins them votes or not. Republicans aren't going to let it through unless they think it will win them votes, because they know it will hurt them with the gun owners. So in this scenario, look for a compromise bill (possibility the liability protection act again).


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

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