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The dishonesty of assault weapon laws

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Last week an op-ed from left wing “investigative jounalism” non-profit, ProPublica appeared in the New York Times. Surprisingly, it laid out the fraudulent nature of the legal attacks on “assault weapons” and showed the actual damage it is doing to the reduction of attacks committed with the use of firearms.

Over the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.

That idea was one of the pillars of the Obama administration’s plan to curb gun violence, and it remains popular with the public. In a poll last December, 59 percent of likely voters said they favor a ban.

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.

FBI crime data shows that of the 12,765 homicides recorded in the United States in 2012, 8,855 were committed with firearms. Of the firearms deaths only 322 involved rifles of any type. In fact, homicides from fists and kicking (678) outnumbered those from rifles and shotguns combined (625). You will note that the FBI does not track the number of homicides attributable to “assault weapons”… one suspects because the number is so small that the gun control fascists would see that number as unhelpful.

The primary weakness of the “assault weapon” ban is that there is really no such class of weapons because “assault weapon” refers to an aesthetic rather than a function (for more discussion read my previous posts here and here). The featured image in this story shows how an M-4 carbine can be converted from an “assault weapon” to a completely legal weapon without changing the functionality. Essentially the assault weapon ban is equal parts placebo and fear-mongering.

“We spent a whole bunch of time and a whole bunch of political capital yelling and screaming about assault weapons,” Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu of New Orleans said. He called it a “zero sum political fight about a symbolic weapon.”

Mr. Landrieu and Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia are founders of Cities United, a network of mayors trying to prevent the deaths of young black men. “This is not just a gun issue, this is an unemployment issue, it’s a poverty issue, it’s a family issue, it’s a culture of violence issue,” Mr. Landrieu said.

Of course, they are right. But for this critique to matter you have to assume that Obama actually cares about the homicide rate more than he cares about firing up his base or restricting the ability of citizens to own firearms. The administration has shown its utter disregard for collateral damage, in the form of the deaths of hundreds of innocents, in pursuit of gun control in Fast and Furious and other gunwalking schemes. This deeply dishonest behavior is not without consequences.

More than 20 years of research funded by the Justice Department has found that programs to target high-risk people or places, rather than targeting certain kinds of guns, can reduce gun violence.

David M. Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, argues that the issue of gun violence can seem enormous and intractable without first addressing poverty or drugs. A closer look at the social networks of neighborhoods most afflicted, he says, often shows that only a small number of men drive most of the violence. Identify them and change their behavior, and it’s possible to have an immediate impact.

By devoting time and resources to curing a completely imaginary problem, the administration is ignoring real strategies that have been proven to work. But to an administration devoted to perpetual political campaigning, demonization of its opponents, and a radically altering the national culture issues are more important than solutions.

 

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