In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut the usual suspects, including our president, have made noises about renewing the ban on assault weapons. This ban was a truly bad idea when it was first imposed under the equally feckless Bill Clinton in 1994 as the Orwellian named Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act.
Why was it a bad idea? Because no one knows what constitutes an assault weapon other than it is scary looking.
Back in 2004, when the first assault weapons ban had lapsed and Senator Dianne Feinstein was trying to generate interest in its extension, I wrote a post on it called Return of the Scary Gun Ban. In it I laid out the reasons why the assault weapons ban was a ban on aesthetics and did nothing to reduce the presence of the weapons it targeted.
The official criteria for an assault weapon is a rifle that has two of the following features:
--Folding or telescopic stock
--Pistol grip protruding conspicuously beneath the stock
--Flash suppressor or threaded barrel
For a pistol to fall under the ban it must have a detachable magazine and two of the following features:
--Magazine that attaches outside of the pistol grip
--Threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer
--Shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned
--Manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded
--Semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm
In execution, the law was not of much use for anything other than amusing a couple of engineers over a weekend. For instance, a semi-automatic version of the AK-47 becomes completely legal if you remove the bayonet stud and flash suppressor. Many scary weapons were made legal by simply replacing the original stock and pistol grip with a solid stock tapped for the thumb like in the below examples:
These photos demonstrate how the M-16 (or it’s certifiably evil cousin the Bushmaster) or that Third World favorite the AK-47 can be changed from illegal
to something you can buy in any gun store
Note the bayonet stud and pistol grip have been removed without affecting the range, accuracy, cyclic rate of fire, or general lethality of the weapon. In the case of the AK-47, it has a 10 round magazine rather than the trademark 30-round banana clip. They may be butt-ugly but they are no longer assault weapons.
Even the Violence Policy Center noted in its statement on the expiration of the assault weapon ban how monumentally ineffective it had been.
Let’s make no mistake about the agenda here. The same evil man who killed 26 people in Newtown was not going to be stopped by a 10 round magazine or the lack of a pistol grip on his rifle. He had two automatic pistols in his possession. If he hadn’t the automatic pistols he would have had revolvers or a shotgun. The net effect on a captive audience would have been indistinguishable. The rampage was not ended with him being overpowered or the victims escaping, but by him deciding to kill himself. The ban on assault weapon simply allows the anti-Second Amendment people to use the next tragedy… and the last body had hardly hit the floor in Connecticut before the politicization of the tragedy was underway… to demand yet more restrictions.
As my friend and colleague Thomas Crown noted yesterday, Connecticut has one of the strictest gun control regimes in the nation yet it failed. It failed because evil people only rarely obey the law. The odds of this man having been deterred by a gun law are exactly the same as the odds of him being deterred by the law against murder.