Now that there’s a proposal for a new one on the table, it seems that it’s acceptable to admit in polite company that the previous “assault weapons” ban was a failure. Putting it especially bluntly, the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer argued today that “the last assault-weapons ban didn’t work.” At Mother Jones, Tim Murphy agreed, conceding that:
Although Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) suggested on Thursday that the ban might have saved “hundreds of thousands” of lives had it never gone away, a 2004 University of Pennsylvania study commissioned by Department of Justice was much more reserved: “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”
The unfortunate caveat to this admission is the suggestion that last ban failed because it wasn’t properly written or implemented, and not because gun bans don’t work in countries with widespread private ownership of firearms. As such, Tim Murphy argues that there were two flaws in the ‘94 bill: “that gunmakers could—and did—simply modify their semiautomatic weapons to fit the law by eliminating cosmetic features,” and that the ban “ended, sunsetting in 2004.”
Senator Diane Feinstein, who authored the failed 1994 bill, goes further in her assessment. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban didn’t work, she says, because:
It expired. The Assault Weapons Ban had a ten-year sunset clause, which prevented any serious attempt to “dry up the supply of these weapons over time.” While existing “assault weapons” are not banned in Feinstein’s new bill, the “sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation” of all weapons included is. And because, like fruit, guns are perishable goods, the old ones will disappear in no time.
It was too easy to get around. To be eligible for the 1994 ban, a semi-automatic weapon was required to have two defining “assault” features. In AWB 2.0, this is reduced to just one. An “assault rifle” is thus any weapon that has a “a detachable magazine” and one of the following: “pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel.”
An “assault pistol,” meanwhile, is any weapon that has a “detachable magazine” and one of the following: “threaded barrel; second pistol grip; barrel shroud; capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip; or semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.”
An “assault shotgun” is anything that has a “folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; pistol grip; fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 5 rounds; ability to accept a detachable magazine; forward grip; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; or shotgun with a revolving cylinder.”
Sales of existing weapons didn’t always require background checks. In the new bill, any transfer or sale of an existing assault weapon would require a background check. It would be straight-up illegal to sell or to transfer a “high capacity” magazine.
Not enough guns were banned. The new proposal addresses this by banning more. 157, to be precise. They are:
Rifles: All AK types, including the following: AK, AK47, AK47S, AK-74, AKM, AKS, ARM, MAK90, MISR, NHM90, NHM91, Rock River Arms LAR-47, SA85, SA93, Vector Arms AK- 47, VEPR, WASR-10, and WUM, IZHMASH Saiga AK, MAADI AK47 and ARM, Norinco 56S, 56S2, 84S, and 86S, Poly Technologies AK47 and AKS; All AR types, including the following: AR-10, AR-15, Armalite M15 22LR Carbine, Armalite M15-T, Barrett REC7, Beretta AR-70, Bushmaster ACR, Bushmaster Carbon 15, Bushmaster MOE series, Bushmaster XM15, Colt Match Target Rifles, DoubleStar AR rifles, DPMS Tactical Rifles, Heckler & Koch MR556, Olympic Arms, Remington R-15 rifles, Rock River Arms LAR-15, Sig Sauer SIG516 rifles, Smith & Wesson M&P15 Rifles, Stag Arms AR rifles, Sturm, Ruger & Co. SR556 rifles; Barrett M107A1; Barrett M82A1; Beretta CX4 Storm; Calico Liberty Series; CETME Sporter; Daewoo K-1, K-2, Max 1, Max 2, AR 100, and AR 110C; Fabrique Nationale/FN Herstal FAL, LAR, 22 FNC, 308 Match, L1A1 Sporter, PS90, SCAR, and FS2000; Feather Industries AT-9; Galil Model AR and Model ARM; Hi-Point Carbine; HK-91, HK-93, HK-94, HK-PSG-1 and HK USC; Kel-Tec Sub-2000, SU-16, and RFB; SIG AMT, SIG PE-57, Sig Sauer SG 550, and Sig Sauer SG 551; Springfield Armory SAR-48; Steyr AUG; Sturm, Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rife M-14/20CF; All Thompson rifles, including the following: Thompson M1SB, Thompson T1100D, Thompson T150D, Thompson T1B, Thompson T1B100D, Thompson T1B50D, Thompson T1BSB, Thompson T1-C, Thompson T1D, Thompson T1SB, Thompson T5, Thompson T5100D, Thompson TM1, Thompson TM1C; UMAREX UZI Rifle; UZI Mini Carbine, UZI Model A Carbine, and UZI Model B Carbine; Valmet M62S, M71S, and M78; Vector Arms UZI Type; Weaver Arms Nighthawk; Wilkinson Arms Linda Carbine.
Pistols: All AK-47 types, including the following: Centurion 39 AK pistol, Draco AK-47 pistol, HCR AK-47 pistol, IO Inc. Hellpup AK-47 pistol, Krinkov pistol, Mini Draco AK-47 pistol, Yugo Krebs Krink pistol; All AR-15 types, including the following: American Spirit AR-15 pistol, Bushmaster Carbon 15 pistol, DoubleStar Corporation AR pistol, DPMS AR-15 pistol, Olympic Arms AR-15 pistol, Rock River Arms LAR 15 pistol; Calico Liberty pistols; DSA SA58 PKP FAL pistol; Encom MP-9 and MP-45; Heckler & Koch model SP-89 pistol; Intratec AB-10, TEC-22 Scorpion, TEC-9, and TEC-DC9; Kel-Tec PLR 16 pistol; The following MAC types: MAC-10, MAC-11; Masterpiece Arms MPA A930 Mini Pistol, MPA460 Pistol, MPA Tactical Pistol, and MPA Mini Tactical Pistol; Military Armament Corp. Ingram M-11, Velocity Arms VMAC; Sig Sauer P556 pistol; Sites Spectre; All Thompson types, including the following: Thompson TA510D, Thompson TA5; All UZI types, including: Micro-UZI.
Shotguns: Franchi LAW-12 and SPAS 12; All IZHMASH Saiga 12 types, including the following: IZHMASH Saiga 12, IZHMASH Saiga 12S, IZHMASH Saiga 12S EXP-01, IZHMASH Saiga 12K, IZHMASH Saiga 12K-030, IZHMASH Saiga 12K-040 Taktika; Streetsweeper; Striker 12.
Belt-fed semiautomatic firearms: All belt-fed semiautomatic firearms including TNW M2HB.
Owners were not required to “safely store their firearms.” Feinstein’s second attempt requires this. Quite how it would be enforced without gutting the Fourth Amendment is not specified. Details, details.
Aftermarket modifications and workarounds were not addressed. Feinstein’s new ban would make it illegal to add “bump or slide fire stocks,” “bullet buttons,” and “thumbhole stocks” to an existing, legal weapon.
That’s the plan, at least. Unless I’m way off base, however, this is all rather academic, because a) there is no way that an assault-weapons ban is going to pass the House, and b) there is no way that Feinstein’s bill is going to leave the Senate in that shape. Harry Reid is iffy on the idea to begin with and he has thus suggested both that he will allow an open amendment process and that he would require any bill that made it to a vote to be sufficiently moderate to have a shot at passing the House.
Anybody who thinks that the bill could pass in anything close to this form has been smoking gunpowder. This, as William F. Buckley told an annoyed Ron Paul of his ’88 presidential run, is ultimately a “didactic enterprise.” Question is, will it teach people to stop worrying and love the ban, or to mistrust acquiescent congressional Democrats when the 2014 midterms roll around?