It happens like clock work: as soon as there’s a mere whisper of a terrorist attack or a mass shooting, the usual suspects kick in to high gear. Their destination is always the same: a faraway land where a so-called assault weapons ban magically eliminates not only guns but also prevents guns from walking of their own volition, without need of human agency, into crowded places and killing people.
The reaction after the terrorist attack in Orlando, in which a radical Islamist who pledged allegiance to ISIS murdered at least 49 people in a packed night club, was as predictable as it was pathetic.
These shootings are a regular occurrence. You don't get to be "shocked" anymore unless you take action to stop them. Ban automatic weapons.
Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) June 12, 2016
Prayers are not enough. Time for a ban on automatic weapons. There is only one reason they exist and that is to kill our fellow man.
Susan Sarandon (@SusanSarandon) June 12, 2016
BBC just said the gun used in the shooting can "fire 700 rounds per minute."
Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) June 12, 2016
Set aside for the moment the fact that no automatic weapons were used in the Orlando terrorist attack (an automatic weapon is one for which a single trigger pull will fire multiple bullets), and that it is literally impossible for a semi-automatic weapon to fire 700 rounds per minute. Nor, to my knowledge, have automatic weapons ever been used in a mass shooting in the modern era.
When silly people like Seth MacFarlane and Susan Sarandon say they want to ban “automatic weapons,” what they mean is that they want to ban guns that look scary. They don’t understand that you can’t walk into a gun store and walk out with a military-style assault weapon (one that can fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull). That’s because 1) most gun dealers don’t carry the military version of the scary looking gun, 2) you have to jump through an obscene number of hoops with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to even obtain a tax stamp that says you may purchase such a weapon (a process that takes months, if not years), and 3) the actual versions of rifles used by the military are really expensive and unaffordable for the vast majority of prospective gun owners.
What you can buy from your local gun dealer, after that licensed gun dealer has confirmed that you passed a federal background check (yep, that’s required by existing law), is a semi-automatic rifle. And now, a bunch of gun controllers who don’t understand the slightest thing about guns have decided that rifle needs to be banned. Not because it’s more deadly than a typical hunting rifle (it’s absolutely not), but because it looks scarier.
Repeat after me: Owning a deadly assault weapon is not a second amendment right.
igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) March 4, 2016
Clinton on CNN: "We did have an assault weapons ban for 10 years, and i think it should be reinstated."
Julian Routh (@julianrouth) June 13, 2016
But before we dive into whether the assault weapons ban was merely dumb, or if it was monumentally stupid and counterproductive, it’s important to define what the previous federal ban covered and how it defined an “assault weapon.” The 1994 assault weapons law banned semi-automatic rifles only if they had any two of the following five features in addition to a detachable magazine: a collapsible stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor, or a grenade launcher.
That’s it. Not one of those cosmetic features has anything whatsoever to do with how or what a gun fires. Note that under the 1994 law, the mere existence of a bayonet lug, not even the bayonet itself, somehow turned a garden-variety rifle into a bloodthirsty killing machine. Guns with fixed stocks? Very safe. But guns where a stock has more than one position? Obviously they’re murder factories. A rifle with both a bayonet lug and a collapsible stock? Perish the thought.
A collapsible stock does not make a rifle more deadly. Nor does a pistol grip. Nor does a bayonet mount. Nor does a flash suppressor. And for heaven’s sake, good luck finding, let alone purchasing, 40mm explosive grenades for your rifle-mounted grenade launcher (and remember: the grenade launcher itself is fine, just as long as you don’t put the ultra-deadly bayonet lug anywhere near it).
The complete unfamiliarity with guns and how they work that led to the inept definitions in the 1994 law was on full display in a now-infamous television interview with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York congresswoman who backed the so-called assault weapons ban. In the interview, Tucker Carlson asked McCarthy to define “barrel shroud,” a firearm feature regulated by the law. Here’s how she answered:
CARLSON: I read the legislation and it said that it would regulate “barrel shrouds.” What’s a barrel shroud and why should we regulate that?
MCCARTHY:The guns that were chosen back in those days were basically the guns that most gangs and criminals were using to kill our police officers. I’m not saying it was the best bill, but that was they could get out at that particular time.
CARLSON: Ok. Do you know what a barrel shroud is?
MCCARTHY: I actually don’t know what a barrel shroud is. I think it’s the shoulder thing that goes up.”
“The shoulder thing that goes up.” It’s not the “shoulder thing that goes up.” There is no “shoulder thing that goes up.” The “barrel shroud” (a term nobody uses) is simply a hand guard that goes around a barrel. That embarrassing spectacle happened over seven years ago, and yet over that period of time, McCarthy’s fellow gun banners still haven’t seen fit to learn the slightest thing about the objects they wish to regulate.
If the cosmetic features used to define an “assault weapon” in the 1994 law strike you as really stupid ways to define an “assault weapon,” it’s because the 1994 law was a stupid law with stupid definitions written by stupid people. And not only was it a stupid law, it was a stupid law that didn’t even accomplish its stated goal. How do we know? Because today, more than a decade after the law’s expiration, the number of people murdered by rifles is 36 percent lower than it was during the last full year the assault weapons ban was in effect.
The law expired in September of 2004, making 2003 the last full calendar year in which the law was in effect. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) crime statistics, 390 people were murdered with rifles in 2003, making rifles the weapon of choice in 2.7 percent of murders that year. But in 2014, more than a decade after these vile weapons of war flooded American streets, the number of rifle murders surely skyrocketed, right?
Not so much. Quite the opposite. In 2014, the most recent year for which detailed FBI data are available, rifles were used in 248 murders. And not only are rifles used in far fewer murders over a decade following the expiration of the 1994 gun ban, they’re also used in a smaller percentage of homicides. In 2003, when the gun ban was in full effect, rifles were used in nearly 3 percent of murders. In 2014, they were used in barely 2 percent.
That’s the exact opposite of what gun banners said should happen. After the assault weapons ban, guns were supposed to flood the streets and just start killing people. Crime was supposed to skyrocket. But that’s not what happened. Yes, Americans bought a ton of rifles after the law expired, but rather than going up, the number of homicides in which rifles were used drastically fell. There were way more guns, but way less crime.
Are you ready for a mind-blowing statistic? In 2014, you were six times more likely to be murdered with a knife than you were with a rifle. Knives were the weapon of choice in 1,567 murders in 2014, according to the FBI. It gets crazier. You were also nearly three times more likely to be killed by someone’s fists or feet than you were to be murdered with a rifle. In 2014, 660 people were murdered with what the FBI calls “personal weapons”–hands, fists, feet–compared to 248 with rifles.
In the United States, knives are more deadly than rifles. So are fists. And feet. This is not my opinion. It is an incontrovertible fact. And it’s a fact that highlights a point that far too many people refuse to acknowledge: the human desire to kill is far more deadly than any weapon. Weapons do not of their own volition and agency decide to kill people. That requires human intervention. Humans hell-bent on death and destruction will get their hands on whatever tools they need to wreak their desired havoc. Restricting the use of those tools by innocent people who only want to protect themselves and their families is delusional madness.
Yet here we are. Rather than blaming individuals and ideologies, the leading lights of American society have decided to demonize inanimate objects. Despite the fact that the terrorist in Orlando was a radical jihadi who pledged allegiance to ISIS, progressives have decided to blame the NRA for what happened. Even though the terrorist was registered to vote as a Democrat, his fellow Democrats have decided that Republicans are the true culprits.
This is apparently how 2016 is going to go. If a boy tells you he’s a girl, then he’s a girl. If an Islamic terrorist who pledges allegiance to ISIS tells you he’s killing for Allah, then he’s probably a Republican with a lifetime NRA membership. After all, Islamic terrorists don’t kill people; peaceful, law-abiding citizens who believe the Second Amendment means what it says kill people.
Collective leftist denial about the existential, radical Islamic threat facing America is not going to prevent Islamic terrorism. Gun bans that ban guns based on nothing more than scary-looking cosmetic features are not going to prevent radical jihadis from murdering innocent people. Pretending that Republicans and the NRA are the real villains is not going to prevent ISIS from killing more Americans. Ignoring the fact that these attacks seem to only happen in gun-free zones won’t prevent violent psychopaths from waltzing into those gun-free zones and gunning down the unarmed civilians who congregate there.
But all those things will make progressives feel better about themselves, and who are you to deny them that right?