The ban on assault weapons had no effect on crime, and ending the ban will have no effect on crime.
If ever there was a stupid piece of legislation, the so-called assault-weapons ban was it. All it did was ban cosmetic features like flash suppressors, bayonet lugs and high-capacity magazines.
True, assault weapons were already carefully controlled before this dumb legislation was enacted. A semiautomatic rifle, no matter how you gussy it up with cosmetic features, is not an assault weapon. An assault weapon is a submachine gun or a rifle with a selector switch that allows it to fire either semiautomatically or automatically.
Since 1934, any weapon capable of firing automatically could only be purchased from specially licensed dealers and by someone who obtained a special license to buy it from the U.S. Treasury Department. About the only people who bothered were collectors. The cost of ammunition is such that few hobbyists can afford to shoot two bits at the rate of 400 to 600 a minute.
A semiautomatic rifle fires the same way a revolver fires — one shot per one pull of the trigger. Whether it's an AK-47 or an Uzi, as long as it was made to fire semiautomatic only, it has been legal, as it should be. A semiautomatic is a semiautomatic is a semiautomatic. A weapon that can fire automatically keeps firing as long as you hold the trigger down or until your ammo runs out.
By the way, all during this so-called assault-weapons ban, the U.S. government has been selling semiautomatic rifles with bayonet lugs on them to the general public through the Office of Civilian Marksmanship.
All rifles are the same. Whether they are single-shot, bolt-action, lever-action, pump, semiautomatic or fully automatic refers to the mechanics of ejecting the fired case, putting a new cartridge in the chamber and cocking the firing pin. This is done manually in a single shot and mechanically in bolt-actions, lever-actions and pumps. A semiautomatic rifle or pistol diverts some of the hot gases to a mechanism that operates the bolt, ejects the fired case, puts a new cartridge in place and cocks the firing mechanism.
As for the high-capacity magazines, if some guy is shooting at me, it makes no difference whether he has a 15-shot magazine or two 10-shot magazines, which the assault-weapons ban said were legal. You can change magazines in about one second.
I never got excited about the assault-weapons ban because it really didn't ban any weapons. All the manufacturers did was remove the forbidden cosmetic features and continue to sell the exact same rifle. Furthermore, I've never favored semiautos anyway, as they present a temptation to spray and pray. In a gunfight, only the bullets that hit the target count. The one exception to my druthers is the semiauto .45, a fine pistol.
Of course, one should always point out in any discussion of any gun-control measure that, by definition, criminals who don't obey the laws against murder and robbery are not going to obey any gun-control laws. Nor do inanimate objects cause crime. Most criminals use automobiles, but I never heard any politician suggest that cars be banned or limited to 90-horsepower engines.
I noticed that one ignorant person pointed out that the Washington, D.C., snipers used a semiautomatic rifle. Yes, they did, but it could have been a muzzleloader, because they only fired one shot per victim. True sniper rifles, by the way, are usually bolt-action. Still another dumb statement is that the military-style weapons were designed only for killing people. Of course. All firearms are designed for killing people. Do you think you would be any less dead if you were shot with a bullet from a bolt-action rifle?
What you don't want is anybody shooting at you with a shotgun or a rifle, regardless of how it is loaded or what it looks like. If you have got to get shot at, pray to God it's with a cheap .25-caliber pistol wielded by a nearsighted drunk.
Crime is a human behavior problem, not a mechanical problem. Furthermore, if firearms were not very useful for self-defense, then police wouldn't carry them. In a free country, if the government can go armed, so should the citizens, if they so choose.
September 21, 2004
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.