Monday, September 13, 2004

from the mind of  Evan Kruse.

The Assault Weapons Ban is officially a piece of history rather than part of current law. Unless something serious happens in Congress, we can expect no such legislation to be back in effect any time soon.

On September 9th, the Jim Lehrer News Hour ran a piece on the impending sunset of the AWB. In this piece, they invited Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho on the show to debate the effectiveness of the AWB and the need to extend the AWB.

In a debate, one of the most effective things that a participant can present is a good portfolio of statistics. Sen. Craig showed that the AWB was anything but effective in reducing crime:
Well, you only pass laws or bring existing laws and extend their effectiveness or their legality if they work. Less than 3 percent of crimes in this country where firearms were used involved a semi-auto before the ban went in, in '94; less than 3 percent today. It was a political placebo at the time. It has shown its ineffectiveness. It has a sunset clause. And we're going to allow it to pass away.

This is a fairly bold statement, saying that the ban on Assault Weapons had no effect on the percentage of semi-automatic weapons used in crimes. If you looked at 100 crimes before the AWB, you would expect to find 3 of them using semi-automatic weapons. Note that this does not say that 30 of 1000 would use assault weapons or non-assault style semi-automatic weapons. It merely states that 30 in 1000 would use a weapon that automatically loads the next round in the chamber after it fires the previous round. It is a very simple statistic.

Now, consider the fact that the AWB had no effect on the percentage of these crimes committed. Pre-AWB was 3%, after 10 years of the AWB we are still at 3%. This is a prime example of inneffectiveness.

Sen. Feinstein responded by saying:
Well, Sen. Craig can get me very upset sometimes, and I think his view on this is diametrically opposed to mine. There is no question that the people want this bill extended.

There is no question that gun traces to crimes committed with assault weapons have declined, and there is no question that the number of assault weapons available in gun stores, in gun shows, on street corners, have also declined. Coincidentally, but I'm not saying it's attributable to this, crime has also declined.

Now, her arguement is completely trivial. She makes no case for the assault weapons ban being effective in the reduction of crime, only in the reduction of crimes using assault style weapons. Out of the 30 semi-automatic crimes that I used as an example above, Sen. Feinstein claims that it is progress that more of those 30 crimes are committed with weapons that look more traditional rather with weapons that look more like military weapons. The same amount of crimes are being committed. I wonder if she would also make the difference between crimes committed by people with black trench coats and leather boots compared to those committed by people in everyday clothing. That is basically the difference here.

Sen. Feinstein goes on to say
Now, I just appeal to the common sense of Americans all across this great country. Do military-style assault weapons belong on the streets of our cities? Do they belong in a place where they can be bought by terrorists, by gang-bangers, by grievance killers and by criminals?
Of course these weapons don't belong in the hands of such people. That's why there are lots of protections in place to keep these weapons out of the hands of such people. Gang-bangers and criminals will not be likely to pass the background check that is required to make a purchase. And, I'm not sure how many terrorists want the FBI to have a reason to check into their personal history. That would be a surefire way to get caught, especially with the new powers provided by the patriot act.

Basically, Sen. Feinstein, your appeal to the 'common sense' is not an appeal to common sense at all. What you really appeal to is the emotions of the American People. Using scare tactics saying that the demise of the AWB will put machine guns in the hands of terrorists is a purely baseless claim. You act as though the AWB was the only safeguard between these guns and anyone with bad intentions or a questionable history. That is a very false claim.

What is really needed here, instead of an emotion based plea to the American people, is some sort statistical evidence that states that limiting a certain type of weapon to the entire population has a desired effect on the crime rate dealing with all similar weapons. If such a statistic existed in some form, no doubt that Sen. Feinstein would have used it in this situation. She offered no such statistic.

So, in order to make the emotion based attack on assault weapons even more powerful, she pulls this one out of her bag of tricks:
Now, let me tell you what I think is going to happen: There is a shipment of AK-47s that was picked up in Italy by customs that was on its way from a port in Romania of 8,000 AK-47s due to go into the port of New York into a gun store in Georgia. It was a $7 million shipment. You can multiply that tenfold. And you will see these weapons begin to spring up all over and the big clips which add the firepower and the ability to kill substantial numbers of people before you can get to the gunner to disarm him.
Needless to say, Sen. Craig had a good rebuttal waiting.
Well, she speaks in very dramatic and impassioned language. There are 30 million semiautomatic weapons owned by law-abiding citizens in this country today -- 30 million; not 8,000, not 7,000, 30 million. They are owned and operated lawfully and legally by citizens who owned them prior to the ban. They are not in the traffic of crime today. Less than 3 percent of them ever appear there. Those are the facts.

Well, I think we know who won this debate. When one debator brings wit, and the other debator just brings a deep down hatred for the 2nd ammendment, we can see who will win the battle of wits. A sugguestion for Sen. Feinstein: Let's have legislation that actually works, instead of just placing more restrictions on the Everyday Joe. Everyday Joe is your boss, Sen. Feinstein. Why don't you work for him.

RIP AWB. Now, let's get on with our lives.


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