Following every mass shooting, the mainstream media and busybody politicians go into a complete frenzy. If you bought the common narrative, hook, line, and sinker, you would be under the impression that machine-gun-toting madmen are mowing down Americans left and right.
In short order, politicians jump in to save the day and relentlessly push for every piece of gun-control legislation they can conjure up. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, these advocates have rallied around Assault Weapons Bans (AWB) as their go-to legislation. With the 2018 AWB already filed in Congress and numerous iterations popping up nationwide, gun control is set to be a major theme during the 2018 elections.
Many gun-control advocates argue that passing AWBs would reduce gun violence, based on the premise that this category of weapons facilitate mass shootings and other crimes. Although compelling at first glance, AWBs consist of politically charged proposals with a dismal track record of reducing crime.
Looking past the media-driven hysteria, economist John Lott has compellingly shown that “assault weapons” is just a made-up term exploited to advance gun control. Gun controllers got their wish in the 1990s when then President Bill Clinton signed the 1994 AWB.
Little did they know that this ban would have a minimal effect on gun crime. When the AWB expired in 2004, gun-control proponents predicted a surge in crimes and violence against the police. Instead, the exact opposite happened. The FBI reported a 3.6 percent decline in the national murder rate from 2003 to 2004. In addition, a study by Chris Koper for the US Department of Justice revealed that the 1994 AWB “produced a negligible effect in reducing gun violence” and could not “clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence.”
In fact, some on the gun-control side of the aisle remain skeptical about the efficacy of an AWB. Sadly, their alternatives involve more of the same heavy-handed measures that have repeatedly failed in urban centers like Chicago and Washington, DC.
Pushing for assault weapons ban makes for provocative shock politics, but ultimately yields lousy policy results. But the media insists on beating this dead horse. Several firearms like the AR-15 have recently served as the whipping boys for politicians hell-bent on passing gun-control legislation.
To generate fear and confusion, the media stoops to farcical lows such as claiming that the “AR” in AR-15 stands for “assault rifle.” However, a cursory look at the weapon's history reveals that the “AR” actually stands for ArmaLite Rifle, the name of the company that originally manufactured these rifles.
In the same vein, “assault rifle”—a term media talking heads and politicians loosely parrot around—actually refers to a firearm with the ability to switch between semi-automatic and automatic fire. Contrary to popular belief, AR-15s don’t fall into this category, because they only feature a semi-automatic setting.
However, this flies over the heads of pundits and their underlings. In an Orwellian twist, the Merriam-Webster dictionary recently changed the definition of “assault rifle” to fit gun-control narratives by adding the following section:
"…a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire.”
Cosmetics aside, AR-15s function no differently from regular handguns. The claims of military-grade weapons on the street have no basis in reality. Research has shown that fully automatic weapons are rarely used in gun crimes.
But don’t tell that to media talking heads. The same media that does not bother to do basic research also conveniently omits one crucial detail in these discussions: the illegality of fully automatic weapons.
The National Firearms Act of 1934 (taxing the sale of machine guns) and the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (banning the sale of newly manufactured machine guns to civilians) have effectively made private ownership of machine guns in the United States impossible.
At this point, gun controllers are basically chasing phantoms that more gun-control laws cannot solve. The knee-jerk reaction to turn to the state to tackle every problem under the sun is not only myopic, but very dangerous when dealing with sensitive matters that could be the difference between life and death for countless individuals.
Many law-abiding Americans rely on firearms classified as “assault weapons” for self-defense. It’s unacceptable to base policy decisions on raw emotions just because of a firearm’s menacing appearance. Let’s look beyond the yellow press and primitive appeals to emotion, and actually bring some rational thought to this discussion for once.