Politics / Socioculture

In no way do I support a sudden batch of new gun laws in the wake of the Arizona shootings. The one (and perhaps only) belief I share with the NRA is that existing laws are so badly enforced that new ones would be almost pointless. But I am in favor of reinstating one that fell by the wayside; the Assault Weapons Ban.

“The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) (or Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act) was a subtitle of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a federal law in the United States that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, so called “assault weapons.” There was no legal definition of “assault weapons” in the U.S. prior to the law’s enactment. The 10-year ban was passed by Congress on Sept. 13, 1994, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton the same day. The ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban’s enactment.
“The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired Sept. 13, 2004, as part of the law’s sunset provision. There have been multiple attempts to renew the ban with no bill reaching the floor for a vote.”

The main arguments against it are that the Ban had little, if any, effect on gun crime in general, and that gun manufacturers are adept at creating weapons that follow the Ban’s restrictions while still maintaining the capabilities that the Ban seeks to target (essentially saying ‘They’ll Always Get Around It, So Why Spend The Time And Money Bothering?’) .

“Opponents of the ban claimed that its expiration has seen little if any increase in crime, while Senator Feinstein claimed the ban was effective because “It was drying up supply and driving up prices. The number of those guns used in crimes dropped because they were less available.” The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) stated it “can in no way vouch for the validity” of Brady Campaign’s claim that the ban was responsible for violent crime’s decline.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the “assault weapon” ban and other gun control schemes, and found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.”

“Manufacturers complied with the law by removing the banned features while leaving the core functionality of the weapons intact. For this, they were criticized as attempting to circumvent the spirit of the law by many gun control groups and even by then-president Bill Clinton. Pro-gun groups responded by pointing out that the manufacturers made and sold exactly what was permitted, and that they could not be held to any standard higher than the law itself.
“For example, the AB-10 was a legal version of the TEC-9, with barrel threading and barrel shroud removed; the XM-15 was a legal AR-15 without barrel threading or a bayonet mounting lug; post-ban semi-automatic AK-47s were also sold without folding stocks or bayonet lugs, and with standard or “thumbhole” stocks instead of pistol grips. As the production of large-capacity magazines for civilians had also been prohibited, manufacturers sold their post-ban firearms either with newly-manufactured magazines with capacities of ten rounds or less, or with pre-ban manufactured high-capacity magazines, to meet changing legal requirements.
“The law prohibited newly-manufactured detachable magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds manufactured after enactment of the law from sale, transfer, or importation. One effect was the increased importation from other countries of large quantities of magazines manufactured before the ban.
“With the ten-round limit on magazine capacity in effect, and some form of concealed carry of firearms legal in over 38 states, manufacturers had an added incentive to design smaller frames at or below the ten-round capacity, thus replacing the previously popular 9mm and .45 ACP higher capacity pistols…Glock introduced their 10-round capacity 9mm semi-automatic pistol, the Glock 26, in August 1994, in apparent anticipation of the legislation. In 1995, the Kahr Arms company was founded; they debuted their ultra-compact 9mm pistol, the K-9. In the years that followed, all manufacturers of semiautomatic pistols followed suit, developing a large array of concealable ten-round pistols in various calibers, including 9mm, 10mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.”

Subsequent efforts to renew the ban have been futile.

“On March 2, 2004, with the ‘sunset’ of the ban on the horizon, assault weapon ban supporter Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) attached a ten-year extension to the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban to the Senate’s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. With the Feinstein amendment, the bill was voted down 8-90“.

“In February 2007 a bill, H.R. 1022, called the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007 sponsored by Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York (D) was introduced that would reinstitute and expand the ban on assault weapons. It reduces the number of requirements for a firearm to be classified as an assault weapon from two to one.
“The Bill was referred to the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on March 19, 2007. As of December 17, 2007, the bill had 60 cosponsors.
“This bill never became law.”

“H.R. 6257 was introduced by Mark Kirk (R Ill.-10) on 12 June 2008 and sought to re-instate the Assault Weapons Ban for a period of ten years, as well as to expand the list of banned weapons. This bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on July 28, 2008. It had four co-sponsors supporting it: Michael N. Castle (R Del.-1), Mike Ferguson (R N.J.-7), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R Fla.-18) and Christopher Shays (R Conn.-4).
“This bill never became law, as it was still in Subcommittee when Congress ended the 110th Session on January 2009.”

It’ll be interesting to see if Kirk still has the courage of his 2008 convictions.

I’m loath to use Wikipedia as a direct source, but I’ll be doing homework outside of this admittedly handy overview, and, if you’re interested, I would advise you to do the same.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault_Weapons_Ban

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