9.13.2004

The "assault weapon" ban

There's been a lot of talk of this lately, including some morons I work with who said they couldn't wait to go out and buy a machine gun now that the sunset date has passed on the assault weapons ban.

Today, Kerry said: "George Bush made a choice today. He chose his powerful friends in the gun lobby over the police officers and the families he promised to protect"

I don't doubt the NRA and gun lobby had a hand in this, but it's clear that there weren't enough Congressional votes to extend the ban anyway.

But let's get a few things straight, the assault weapon ban didn't really do anything to protect anyone. It was like outlawing a certain font on terrorist websites. a) the terrorists would ignore the law and b) the website would function just the same anyway.

First of all, the ban only affected semi-automatics because machine guns have been illegal for over 70 years. It merely made it illegal to buy a semi-auto rifle that had detachable magazines plus any two of the following :

folding or telescoping stock
pistol grip
bayonet mount
flash suppressor, or threads to attach one
grenade launcher (these have long been ilegal anyway, as are grenades. I don't know why they didn't outlaw tanks while they were at it)

Therefore, if you had a semi-auto rifle with a detachable magazine you could still have at least one of those and still be legal (none have any real function, though a pistol grip is a bit more comfortable that a regular grip). But no matter, the guns functioned exactly the same with or without any of these banned features.

What effect did any of this have on crime? I haven't seen any studies but it's hard to believe there was any whatsoever. You rarely see criminals attaching a bayonet before holding up a bank (however, in all fairness it could be said that you never see that because those types of weapons were banned and now that it's been allowed to lapse we may face a dearth of bayonet wielding criminals!) and if they really wanted to, I don't suppose they'd refrain on account of it being against the law, would they?

It was a useless law and I don't see any problem with putting it to rest. Actually, I also didn't see any problem with letting it stay in effect because, just as it wasn't helping anything, it wasn't hurting anything either.



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