On September 4, 2012, the Democrats released their official platform on gun control, stating that they fully support reinstating the assault weapons ban. Just a few months prior to this, President Obama, while speaking in New Orleans, said that he believes “AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals—that they belong on the battlefields of war and not on the streets of our cities.” It has been eight years since the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired. If President Obama serves another term, will he stand by his party’s position?
The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (AWB) was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act signed by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. It expired 10 years later due to a sunset clause. There have been numerous, but failed attempts of reinstatement since then.
The term “assault weapon” has been in use by journalists since 1943. In the newspapers, writers would call all kinds of things assault weapons, including major league baseball players’ baseball bats. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the media described military-looking semi-automatic rifles as “assault weapons.” The phrase started to become popular with those pushing for stricter gun control. In 1985, Newsweek ran a story about semi-automatic rifles titled “Machine Gun U.S.A.” In the story, they refer to semi-automatic rifles as “assault weapons” and “military-style weapons.” The Brady Campaign, then called Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), originally focused on getting handguns banned, saying that handguns were “made to kill people.” The HCI said, “Criminals don’t use longer-barreled weapons…” Failing at the attempt to ban handguns, the organization switched their tune to getting semi-automatic rifles banned. Their original chorus proved to be true. In studies done about the effectiveness of the ban, experts agreed that the results of the ban were so insignificant there was nothing to report.
Clearly, the media and gun control advocates were trying to confuse an uninformed public about what exactly a semi automatic and a fully automatic were. Gun control advocates simply assigned the phrase “assault weapon” to guns they felt held certain aesthetic features. It did not matter whether or not the gun was a single-shot, full-auto, or semi-auto. New Jersey State Attorney General made a prime example of this when he called the Marlin 60 a “people killing machine.” A real assault weapon is a gun used in the military that can fire fully automatic. However, Senator Dianne Feinstein, author of the AWB, HCI, and other anti-gun people and organizations used the term to describe anything that even remotely looked like a military-style weapon. Senator Howard Metzenbaum even described them as “ominous.” Therefore, any gun that looked scary they deemed an “assault weapon.” The ban says, “…having features that appear useful in military and criminal applications.” The ban outlawed magazines that held more than 10 rounds, 19 specific guns such as UZI and the Tec-9, accessories and attachments. Guns could only have one accessory or attachment. Rifles could only have one of the following attachments: an adjustable stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount, grenade launcher, or a flash suppressor. Handguns could not have threaded barrels, a barrel shroud that worked as a “hand hold,” and had to weigh at least 50 ounces unloaded. Shotguns could hold no more than five rounds, could not have an adjustable stock, or a pistol grip. Guns manufactured before the ban were grandfathered in. Of course, the assault weapons ban did nothing to change how the guns function or fired. It was purely a symbolic gesture of power.
Essentially the ban raised demand for military-style rifles that were in compliance with the new law and it increased gun prices. What the ban did not do, however, was change crime rates anywhere. Before the assault weapons ban, only two percent of the guns used in crimes were the banned types. In fact, one study found “…working purely at the firing rate and power of the firearms included under the AWB, the 19 banned weapons are less dangerous than many weapons left untouched by the ban.” Even Feinstein admitted that nothing had changed, “Semi-automatic assault weapons are turning American’s streets into war zones. True, they are not responsible for a large number of homicides…” Before, during, and after the assault weapons ban, our streets have never been a war zone.
People are still confused because the media continues to use the term “assault weapon” in reference to any black rifle or AK-47. The guns used in recent crimes are not fully automatic machine guns. In 1995, 240,000 machine guns were registered with the ATF and since 1934, only two legally owned machine guns have been used in a homicide. A police officer, using his issued weapon, committed one of those homicides.
Dianne Feinstein is running for re-election this year and says she will reintroduce the assault weapons ban. Unfortunately, another ban would not be unconstitutional. In the District of Columbia v. Heller, the ruling does not protect all guns under the 2nd Amendment. If President Obama is reelected, an assault weapons ban is highly possible. What do you think? Tell me about it in the comment section.