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ABC: But ‘Assault Weapons’ Bans Just Make Guns Look Different!

Headline of the day from ABC New York: “After NY Gun Control Law, Assault Rifles Only Look Different.” The story:

A month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, New York passed a set of gun control laws that proponents touted as the toughest in the nation.

Now some critics say one part of the law – the assault rifle ban – is not effective because new models being made to comply with the law are almost entirely the same as those that were banned.    

“The guns are exact,” said Long Island gun dealer Martin Tretola. 

Tretola took the I-Team to the gun range to demonstrate what he says are merely cosmetic changes the SAFE Act imposed on one of America’s most popular type of rifle, the AR-15.

Under the law, bayonet mounts, flash suppressors and telescoping stocks are banned, and rifles cannot have a pistol grip.

But the new modified rifle is still semi-automatic. That means each squeeze of the trigger automatically loads the next round into the chamber.

For the last damn time: “Assault weapon” is a purely invented term, designed by politicians to mislead the public into thinking that consumers can buy machine guns in Wal-Mart. They can’t. In the political world at least, “assault weapon” means nothing more or less than ”semi-automatic rifle that has a few cosmetic features that we do not like.” It does not mean “machine gun” — those have been heavily regulated since 1934, their production and importation has been banned since 1986, and one has not been used in a murder in half a century. It does not mean “more powerful rifle” — one can still buy much more powerful semi-automatic weapons that do not have any of the aesthetic features that the gun-control brigade has decided it doesn’t like. It does not mean “weapon that the military uses” or ”especially deadly.” It refers only to cosmetics.

Of course the rifles “only look different” now. When you ban cosmetic features, you’re going to see manufacturers producing guns that look different. What did they expect?

Luckily, ABC had an academic on hand to explain the law to them:

NYU law professor James Jacobs, who has written extensively on gun control issues, praises portions of the SAFE Act, including expanded background checks.

But he says the the assault rifle ban has resulted in a remodeled gun that is no less dangerous – just less scary looking.

“It differs only in how it looks, not in how it functions,” Jacobs said.

The law redefined an assault weapon as a semi-automatic rifle that can accept a detachable magazine and has one military-style feature such as a pistol grip or folding stock.

Note that last line. Note that the law did not change the “semi-automatic rifle” part, but restricted the features that one can add on to it — features, it apparently needs spelling out, that have absolutely nothing to do with the lethality of the weapon.

This, of course, doesn’t prevent gun-control types from pretending that they are doing something useful:

Yet gun control advocates say a less comfortable rifle is also a less deadly weapon.

“The legal gun looks a lot like the illegal gun,” said Leah Gunn Barrett, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “Does that make this law essentially cosmetic? No. These features all have specific functions.”

For example, Gunn Barrett said a forward-leaning pistol grip might give a mass shooter better control over his rifle.

“The gun is still lethal,” Gunn Barrett said. “Yes, it can still kill people. But it is not as easy to manipulate and fire accurately than it would be if you had a forward-leaning pistol grip.”

Actually, making rifles less comfortable primarily makes it more difficult for weaker individuals to use them. This is rarely spelled out, but one of the reasons that the AR-15 is so popular is that women, the disabled, and the young can use it so easily. Far from being the weapon of choice for the American criminal, rifles of all types — not merely those designated as “assault weapons” — are almost never used in crimes, murders, or shooting sprees. As I have noted elsewhere,

If someone is killed with a gun in America, it is almost certain that a handgun was used. Rifles of all types — not just so-called “assault rifles” — are used in around 3 percent of killings, while shotguns are used in around 3.5 percent. So rare are deaths from either rifles or shotguns that the FBI finds hands and fists causing more deaths than both combined. Handguns, on the other hand, account for almost all deaths-by-firearm.

Meanwhile, the use of what the government considers to be “assault” rifles is so rare in the United States that the FBI doesn’t even bother to keep statistics.

Write a stupid law, you’ll get a stupid outcome. Bravo, New York. Bravo.


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