Mailbag: Automatic Weapons Misconceptions

Thursday, September 16, 2004

NetBabe requests a counterargument:

Hi, I'm a relatively new reader to your site and have been following your new blog religiously (congrats by the way), and I find the gun-control issue fascinating. While you make good points I haven't seen you respond to any editorials that favor gun control. What do you have to say about Bill Berkowitz's Is there an assault weapon in your future?

Thanks for me linking me to the article, NetBabe. Let's break it down:

Despite recent polls showing that most Americans favor it [the assault weapons ban], despite support from a number of major law enforcement agencies, and despite the unqualified support from Senator John Kerry and quasi-support from President Bush -- he claims to favor it but has done nothing to push it -- the 1994 law signed by President Clinton banning the manufacture and importation of 19 types of assault weapons, including semiautomatic versions of the Intratec Tec-9 pistol and Uzi submachine gun, will expire at midnight Monday, September 13.

The majority of Americans do in fact support the assault weapons ban and it's no surprise. The media is heavily biased against the nature of guns and injects fear into their reports. Most people don't know the issues very well and tend to wrongly believe that more restrictions on guns mean either less guns on the streets or more control on gun use. The latter is only true for law-abiding good guys, meaning the proportion of gun ownership skews to the side of the felons whenever restrictions are put in place.

Example: One of the killers used a Tec-9 when he shot up Columbine High School in 1999 even though the weapon was banned. When bans are in effect, law-abiding citizens are at a disadvantage because felons don't follow laws. Anti-gun supporters often use Columbine to state their case, but fail to recognize that bans and restrictions have no effect on the number of weapons available and introduced to society. They are already here, and with two guns available for every American in this country, they're not going anywhere anytime soon.

The 19 types of assault weapons that were banned had been chosen for the blacklist based on no concrete evidence whatsoever. Before the law was signed by President Clinton in 1994, crimes that had been committed with those 19 guns made up a whopping 2% of all reported gun crimes.

The guns to be banned were chosen because of specific modifications that somehow made them more dangerous than their legal counterparts, such devices that allowed for bayonets and grenade launchers. Please e-mail me immediately if you can remember the last time you heard or read about a crime that was committed with a bayonet or grenade launcher.
While some gun manufacturers managed to find ways around the law, and the gun lobby, spearheaded by the National Rifle Association and its congressional allies, repeatedly tried to repeal the law, the ban remained intact and according to a number of studies proved to successfully remove a rash of deadly weapons from the streets. Now, however, unless Congress acts immediately, the ten-year sunset clause written into the law will kick in and the ban on these assault weapons will automatically expire.

What studies? Whatever rash Mr. Berkowitz is talking about never made it to Columbine.
In the 2000 campaign, President Bush indicated he supported the assault weapons ban, but he has done little to press the issue in Congress. A recent USA Today editorial summed up the administration’s position: “In spite of a drop in gun deaths since the ban was enacted and despite new fears of terrorism, Bush and Republican leaders in Congress seem more concerned about courting favor with the powerful gun lobby than allowing weapons of mass mayhem back on the nation's streets.”

Bush never supported the assault weapons ban, he was just trying to go along with popular opinion. Knowing the bill would never pass his desk he was able to say he supported it. Yes, gun deaths have dropped since the ban was enacted but in reality crime is at a 30-year low that started 20 years before the ban started. Unbiased experts in the field of criminology unanimously agree that the decline in gun deaths was not a result of the gun ban.
By Tuesday, September 14, gun manufacturers selling military-style firearms will be marketing them again: “The gun industry is champing at the bit for the ban to expire," Susan Peschin, firearms project director at the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit association of 300 consumer groups, recently told the Associated Press.

Well, it's been some time since this prediction and now that we've lived in a ban-free world for one week -- as I've reported on this blog -- gun store owners are seeing no significant change in gun sales and aren't likely to see one soon.
A study by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Prevention Center found that “military style semi-automatic assault weapons pose a grave risk to law enforcement officers.” According to Officer Down-Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement, “one in every five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty between January 1st, 1998, and December 31st, 2001, were killed with assault weapons.”

Let's put this in perspective. Law enforcement officers deal with the scum of society on a daily basis. As my former Law Enforcement professor once said, cops death with a filtered society. Perpetrators who kill cops are the worst of the worst. To say that one in five deadly incidents involve assault weapons is not alarming nor needs attention. Again, these thugs, like the Columbine killers, will always have access to these weapons.
And according to the Fresno Bee, “Nationwide, a 1999 Justice Department study found, 1.6% of the firearms used in crimes since 1994 were banned assault weapons... [which was a] marked reduction from the five years before the federal ban, when assault weapons accounted for 4.8% of the guns used in crimes.”

While Mr. Berkowitz cites the Fresno Bee, I cite the U.S. Department of Justice", a department with its own statistics bureau which maintains that 2% of gun crimes committed before the ban were with the banned guns. Now we're talking about maybe a 1% difference in the banned weapons use rate as a result of the 10-year ban.

Thanks again for the e-mail, NetBabe. If anybody else knows of a good pro-ban article or commentary please send it my way for debunking.