Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A Most Beautiful Sunset
from the mind of  Zeke_Wilkins.

I think it is wonderful that the Assault Weapons Ban has sunset.

There have been falsehoods circulated by both the media and law enforcement organizations; so let me set the record straight. The sunset of the AWB will not bring back machineguns (they've been regulated since 1934), and it does not end background checks or waiting periods or anything like that (the AWB is not the Brady Bill, there has been some confusion on that).

What the AWB did do was to outlaw the manufacture, transferral or possession of 19 specific firearms after 1994 (existing weapons were grandfathered in). It also banned high-capacity magazines (defined as more that 10 rounds) for non-law enforcement officers. The bill also put restrictions on the number of fancy gadgets you could have on a weapon: for example, you could not have more than two of the following on the same weapon: flash suppressor, pistol grip, bayonet lug, and telescoping stock. The 19 firearms banned were chosen based on appearance: Diane Feinstein actually combed a catalog of weapons and chose the scariest looking ones.

The problems with the bill were numerous:

1) Although specific models were outlawed, the same rifle was still legally available from another manufacturer. For example the Colt AR-15 and the Bushmaster XM-15 are basically the same rifle, but one was legal and one was not.

2) Otherwise outlawed weapons could easily be modifed to make them legal (like removing bayonet lugs from pre-1986 AK-47s).

3) While the weapons look scary, they are generally in the low to medium power range. The cosmetic appearance of a firearms tells almost nothing about how it operates, and is a laughable criterion for which rifles are dangerous. A rifle meant for hunting large game is far more powerful and deadly (and legal!).

4) The AWB has not reduced gun crime. Even the Center for Disease Control (notoriously anti-gun) had to admit that there was insufficient evidence to show that any combination of gun control laws was effective at reducing gun crime (go here: ).

In the end, this was a horrible piece of legislation: it trampled over the rights of law-abiding citizens, it did not achieve its stated goal, it effectively created a "second-class citizenry" who didn't have the same rights as the police, the law was easy get around by making superficial changes to otherwise banned weapons, and the law was effectively unenforceable. So what happens now? Well, people get to put fun (but mostly cosmetic) gadgets on their guns, have a 20 round magazine instead of two 10 round magazines, and buy brands of rifles that were previously banned. Other than that, not much. Automatic weapons continue to be regulated and the really powerful rifles weren't banned in the first place.

The AWB was a perfect example of how to write bad legislation, let's hope it doesn't happen again.

For more info the BATF has some Q&A docs at:

The actual AWB can be found at:> (sec. v)

And a cool AWB quiz is at: (at the bottom)


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