Several people have noted that the New York Times published a piece over the weekend pointing out that the predicted horrific influx of evil black rifles after the Assault Weapons Ban-that-wasn’t expired, didn’t occur. Some excerpts of note:
Despite dire predictions that the streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban last September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons’ sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several metropolitan police departments.
“The whole time that the American public thought there was an assault weapons ban, there never really was one,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control group.
Yet the “ban” was supported by the VPC, in their own words, because:
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. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for 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.
In other words, the VPC supported the “Assault Weapons Ban” that wasn’t a ban because it was: A) perceived as a great way to frighten people into supporting legislation by lying to them about what that legislation actually did; B) It looked like a great “wedge issue” to separate the NRA from the police on the beat who generally support the right to arms even though their politically connected Chiefs don’t; and C) As Charles Krauthammer noted, it was a great symbolic “first step” towards eventual confiscation and widening of gun bans. (Oh, and note the “plastic” firearm bit – be afraid of a gun that doesn’t exist!)
Sorry guys (NOT!). You lost on all counts.
Continuing the NYT piece:
What’s more, law enforcement officials say that military-style weapons, which were never used in many gun crimes but did enjoy some vogue in the years before the ban took effect, seem to have gone out of style in criminal circles.
“Back in the early 90’s, criminals wanted those Rambo-type weapons they could brandish,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Today they are much happier with a 9-millimeter handgun they can stick in their belt.”
Now the thing I find interesting is that the story notes:
When the ban took effect in 1994, it exempted more than 1.5 million assault weapons already in private hands. Over the next 10 years, at least 1.17 million more assault weapons were produced – legitimately – by manufacturers that availed themselves of loopholes in the law, according to an analysis of firearms production data by the Violence Policy Center.
(I own one of those 1.17 million weapons.)
Assault weapons account for a small fraction of gun crimes: about 2 percent, according to most studies, and no more than 8 percent. But they have been used in many high-profile shooting sprees. The snipers in the 2002 Washington-area shootings, for instance, used semiautomatic assault rifles that were copycat versions of banned carbines.
Gun crime has plummeted since the early 1990’s. But a study for the National Institute of Justice said that it could not “clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.”
Research for the study in several cities did show a significant decline in the criminal use of assault weapons during the ban.
I’m not sure what a “significant decline” represents when “assault weapons” represented only 2-8% of the weapons used in gun crimes, but these documented facts make this story an interesting counterpoint:
Expiration Of Ban Pushes Police To Get Assault Rifles
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The expiration of the nation’s ban on the sale of assault rifles and the appearance of more heavily armed criminals have pushed more than 100 St. Petersburg police officers to order assault rifles of their own for official duty.
The first group of officers completed the required 16 hours of instruction for using Colt AR-15s in January. The semiautomatic weapons fire bullets that travel up to 2,700 feet per second and are powerful enough to penetrate body armor.
They must be issuing heavy-weight ammo, because the standard 55 grain load for the .223 hums along at closer to 3,000 fps. And as I’ve noted before, the lowly .30-30 deer rifle is “powerful enough to penetrate body armor.” ANY centerfire rifle round is.
“St. Petersburg — it’s not so sleepy any more,” said Tom Jacwin, a 22-year veteran who is getting used to his new weapon. “The bad guys are smarter and better armed.”
Not according to the New York Times, and they’re the “Paper of Record”!
Police Chief Chuck Harmon approved use of the AR-15s last June with guidelines that took months to develop. Officers who want the weapons must buy them for $1,100.
Those must be some tricked-out AR’s. Like the ones the NYPD has with the Aimpoint red-dot sights – mounted backwards.
The rifles may be used only in “a high-risk situation, such as to overcome suspects with superior firepower, in response to an active shooter situation, when confronted by barricaded subjects, during stakeout and perimeter operations, for felony vehicle stops.”
The weapons must be stored in a hard case in the trunk of a patrol car except when being used. They can’t be modified for automatic fire, and officers must qualify with them in the shooting range each year.
Critics say that the speed and 300-yard range of the bullets pose a threat to bystanders. Advocates say the assault rifles are vastly better than the standard Glock handguns assigned to officers and are more accurate than the pump-action shotguns that the department makes available.
“More heavily armed criminals,” eh? In St. Pete? Are they saying the expiration of the AWB has caused Florida’s criminal culture to up-gun? What makes St. Pete different from the rest of the country?
I’m not buying it.
Given that gun crime has been declining since 1990, and “assault weapon” (mis)useage declined “significantly” during the period of the ban, why would another police force allow its officers to equip with “bullet hoses” that are
designed to provide a specific military combat function. That military function is laying down a high volume of fire over a wide killing zone, also known as “hosing down” an area.
They were designed and developed to meet a specific military goal, which was killing and wounding as many people as possible at relatively short range as quickly as possible, without the need for carefully aimed fire. In short, they are ideal weapons for war, mass killers, drug gangs, and other violent criminals.
Why would a police officer need that kind of firepower?
Unless, of course, the Violence Policy Center was lying to us about what “assault weapons” are really good for?
Nah. Couldn’t be. Lying as a means to achieve an unpopular end? Who’d believe that?