September 16, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if the ban on assault weapons was renewed? Would it really make a difference? The controversial law, which banned the sale of 19 different military-type semi-automatic weapons, was passed in 1994 under President Bill Clinton’s leadership, expired Monday, September 13. Congress could have re-enacted the law, which required legislative renewal after the initial decade.

But even though most pollsters reported two thirds of Americans wanted the ban to continue, Congress took no action to vote additional time for the prohibition.

Why not? Because level heads prevailed. Maybe lawmakers are finally realizing that gun control is not the way to stop crime. Did making these 19 styles of assault weapons illegal really make a difference? Nope. Sure, it may have prevented a few criminals from getting semi-auto weapons, but as we are slowly learning, criminals aren’t too worried about breaking the law.

According to the United States Justice Department, incidents involving a firearm represented only seven percent of the 4.9 million violent crimes of rape and sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault. According to the 1997 Survey of State Prison Inmates, among those possessing a gun, only 12-percent bought the weapon at a retail store or pawn shop. Eighty percent got them from family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source.

During the offense that brought them to prison only about two percent carried a military-style semiautomatic gun. Only 15 percent carried a firearm at all.

Supporters of the ban will point out that after peaking in the early 1990s at more than 500,000 violent crimes per year featuring firearms, the statistic dropped during the 10-years of the ban to 357,822 in 2002 according to FBI statistics.

What they won’t tell you is that during that same time frame, violent crimes overall were on a similar downward trend. The number of burglaries, murders and aggravated assaults dropped nearly 500,000 from 1993 to 2002. The percentage of those crimes involving firearms did drop from 32 percent in 1993 to 29 percent in 2002. However back in 1973, well before the ban, more than 43 percent of these types of crimes involved firearms.

The way I read the statistics, people are going to commit violent crimes, with or without guns.

Besides, this is America, the land of litigation and good old ingenuity. How long did lawmakers think it would take gun manufacturers to make adjustments to sidestep the rules, build weapons that fit the guidelines and still supplied just as much firepower?

Even if the weapons were illegal, who could believe it would prevent their use? Most narcotics are illegal, but that hasn’t stopped their sale, trafficking and use.

Ultimately the only people hurt by the law, were those gun owners that chose to abide by the rule. Believe it or not, there are good people that simply enjoy taking a firearm out to the range to fire off a few rounds at a target.

Unfortunately, some yahoo with an AR-15 rifle (formerly illegal under the expired ban) will try to rob a bank or some other brilliant scheme and will kill a security guard or a police officer. Then the liberal press will jump all over the story and blame it on gun owners, the NRA, Republicans or President Bush. They’ll ignore the 30 previous murders in that big city that month, which were carried out with a knife, a vehicle or some other weapon and they’ll blame it on the automatic weapon. Silly me, I’ll blame it on the person that pulled the trigger.

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