I paid $4.95 for the transcript of *hawk, spit* NPR’s Morning Edition story about the failure of S. 1805 after the AWB extension and “gun show loophole” amendments were added, after I saw Eugene Volokh’s post quoting Tom Diaz of the
Gun Ban Violence Policy Center. Here’s the complete Diaz quote:
If the existing assault weapons ban expires, I personally do not believe it will make one whit of difference one way or another in terms of our objective, which is reducing death and injury and getting a particularly lethal class of firearms off the streets. So if it doesn’t pass, it doesn’t pass.
Remember, however, what the VPC said so blatantly about an “assault weapon” ban in 1988:
It will be a new topic in what has become to the press and public an “old” debate.
Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary: the power of the gun lobby; the tendency of both sides of the issue to resort to sloganeering and pre-packaged arguments when discussing the issue; the fact that until an individual is affected by handgun violence he or she is unlikely to work for handgun restrictions; the view that handgun violence is an “unsolvable” problem; the inability of the handgun restriction movement to organize itself into an effective electoral threat; and the fact that until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms – are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons – anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun – can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.
Efforts to stop restrictions on assault weapons will only further alienate the police from the gun lobby.
Until recently, police organizations viewed the gun lobby in general, and the NRA in particular, as a reliable friend. This stemmed in part from the role the NRA played in training officers and its reputation regarding gun safety and hunter training. Yet, throughout the 1980s, the NRA has found itself increasingly on the opposite side of police on the gun control issue. Its opposition to legislation banning armor-piercing ammunition, plastic handguns, and machine guns, and its drafting of and support for the McClure/Volkmer handgun decontrol bill, burned many of the bridges the NRA had built throughout the past hundred years. As the result of this, the Law Enforcement Steering Committee was formed. The Committee now favors such restriction measures as waiting periods with background check for handgun purchase and a ban on machine guns and plastic firearms. If police continue to call for assault weapons restrictions, and the NRA continues to fight such measures, the result can only be a further tarnishing of the NRA’s image in the eyes of the public, the police, and NRA members. The organization will no longer be viewed as the defender of the sportsman, but as the defender of the drug dealer.
Efforts to restrict assault weapons are more likely to succeed than those to restrict handguns.
Although the majority of Americans favor stricter handgun controls, and a consistent 40 percent of Americans favor banning the private sale and possession of handguns, many Americans do believe that handguns are effective weapons for home self-defense and the majority of Americans mistakenly believe that the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the individual right to keep and bear arms. Yet, many who support the individual’s right to own a handgun have second thoughts when the issue comes down to assault weapons. Assault weapons are often viewed the same way as machine guns and “plastic” firearms—a weapon that poses such a grave risk that it’s worth compromising a perceived constitutional right.
Although the opportunity to restrict assault weapons exists, a question remains for the handgun restriction movement: How? Defining an assault weapon—in legal terms—is not easy. It’s not merely a matter of going after guns that are “black and wicked looking.”
Charles Krauthammer had one point correct in his editorial “Disarm the Citizenry, But Not Yet”:
Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquility of the kind enjoyed by sister democracies such as Canada and Britain.(See Britain’s current violent crime rate for some idea of its “domestic tranquility.” Hell, now they’re trying to get rid of glass beer bottles because they make such handy weapons.) Given the frontier history and individualist ideology of the United States, however, this will not come easily. It certainly cannot be done radically. It will probably take one, maybe two generations. It might be 50 years before the United States gets to where Britain is today. Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic – purely symbolic – move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.
The VPC is at least honest and upfront about its goal of banning all handguns and its willingness to do anything, anything to reach that goal.