As people mourn, and are buried, from Ohio to Texas, the familiar refrain is "Do Something!" Democratic presidential candidates on the campaign trail are only too happy to play along. They claim they will do something if elected, And they might. They could pass another assault weapons ban.
At a campaign event last week, Joe Biden bragged about how he helped pass such a ban in 1994, back when he was a United States senator. One thing he didn't mention, though:
Mr. Biden, your ban didn't work.
It was so ineffective that Congress allowed the ban to expire after its 10-year run. You could look it up.
The problems were many, and such problems with another ban still exist today:
First, loopholes galore. Even after the 1994 ban, so-called assault weapons were easy to get. Because the ban wasn't a ban at all. It just prevented the production and sale of new such weapons. All the millions of others on the streets (and in closets, and at deer camp, and at shooting clubs) were still around and being used. For the record, there is no serious American candidate for high office talking confiscation even today.
We remember after the Newtown shootings in 2012, Dianne Feinstein came out with a bill to ban certain rifles. It turned out that her bill would have exempted 900 different kinds of weapons. Nine hundred! So instead of buying that weapon, any crazy person intent on a mass killing could simply buy one in the next rack. Some ban.
This week, Cory Booker--a modern-day candidate with the self-confidence, if not self-importance, of King Canute--said this on the stump: "We must act to get weapons of war off our streets, out of our grocery stores, our bars, our temples and our churches by banning assault weapons once and for all."
Once and for all. Get this guy.
How, precisely? Pass a law? How many gun owners would obey it? Half of them? Then how long will it take to get rid of the other hundred million (or more) guns still on the street "once and for all"? Would it take 100 years to draw them out and down?
Joe Biden also called for a buy-back program. But that exists now. Anybody who wants to sell a gun can do so at the nearest pawn shop. But then again, Joe Biden might not be the world's best gun, or gun law, expert. He once said he advised his wife, should she have a problem, to walk outside to their balcony and fire off a couple of 12-gauge shotgun blasts. This while he was vice president. It's an iffy proposition if the police at No. 1 Observatory Circle would've allowed such behavior even by the Second Lady.
It might be impolitic to say, but if every assault rifle in America disappeared tomorrow--by magic--and a ban kept any more from being made or sold, that wizardry wouldn't prevent mass shootings, or the damage done during them. Because assault weapons don't shoot one whit faster than the average hunting rifle.
The main difference--actually the only difference--between your grandpa's pig gun and an "assault rifle" is cosmetic. One looks cool and has a pistol grip. And might be painted black, like in the movies. That's what gets one gun placed on the banned list, and another left off. It has nothing at all to do with capacity or power of the weapon itself.
The vast majority of gun crimes, including murder, are committed with handguns. But when the crowd starts chanting Do Something!, pols seeking high office will lead the mob. As soon as they figure out which way the mob is heading.
So should the United States ban assault weapons anyway? Our considered editorial opinion: Why not.
Once upon a time, there was a saying among the young: If it feels good, do it. It certainly felt good in 1994 to ban certain rifles and exempt most others. In the words of Tom Cotton, who visited with us last week, there are some who'd rather make a point than make a difference. A ban of some guns would help in that regard, certainly.
We suspect that most Arkies don't have a dog in this fight. Most don't make or sell these things. Those who already own them will be able to keep them, according to all reports. And in another 10 years, any ban would expire, because it wouldn't work any better than the last one to prevent any kind of violence.
And when the next massacre happens, We the People shouldn't wonder why an assault weapons ban didn't prevent it.
It was never meant to. It was only meant to make us feel better until the next slaughter.
The question then will be: Do we? Do we feel better?
Or would Americans be better off by doing something that would work, such as implementing background checks without loopholes, passing red-flag laws, and getting the mentally ill the kind of help they need, even if they don't want it?
There are those who would debate those last few questions. And here we thought they were rhetorical.
Editorial on 08/12/2019
Print Headline: Semi-arguments