September 06, 2004

Why The AWB Must Sunset

A brief summation of why we should do everything in our power to make sure the AWB goes away.

The "assault weapons" ban is found at 18 U.S.C. 922 (v) & 18 U.S.C. 922 (w) respectively. There is an appendix at the bottom of the web page for 18 U.S.C. 922 which lists firearms specifically exempted from the "assault weapons" ban. The definition of what constitutes an "assault weapon" can be found at 18 U.S.C. 921 (a) 30 (B).

Please note that it does not concern automatic weapons. The AWB solely deals with semi-automatic weapons. That means it fires one shot each time you pull the trigger. No more & hopefully no less. An automatic fires continually while the trigger is depressed.

A while back I chastised Hugh Hewitt for confusing the two, as well as belittling the importance of the AWB. To support my assertions that the ban, while only moderately affecting gun owners as a whole, was a very important step on the road to a more heinous law, I offered the following quotes form the opposition:

"In fact, the assault weapons ban will have no significant effect either on the crime rate or on personal security. Nonetheless, it is a good idea . . . . Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation." - Charles Krauthammer (columnist), Disarm the Citizenry. But Not Yet, Washington Post, Apr. 5, 1996

"We're going to have to take one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily -- given the political realities -- going to be very modest. . . . [W]e'll have to start working again to strengthen that law, and then again to strengthen the next law, and maybe again and again. Right now, though, we'd be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal -- total control of handguns in the United States -- is going to take time. . . . The first problem is to slow down the number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. The final problem is to make possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition-except for the military, police, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors-totally illegal." - Richard Harris, A Reporter at Large: Handguns, New Yorker, July 26, 1976, at 53, 58 (quoting Pete Shields, founder of Handgun Control, Inc.)

Although the quote above speaks of handguns you should still be able to recognize the over-all strategy & how it pertains to the AWB.

"[Peter] Jennings: And the effect of the assault rifle ban in Stockton? The price went up, gun stores sold out and police say that fewer than 20 were turned in. Still, some people in Stockton argue you cannot measure the effect that way. They believe there's value in making a statement that the implements of violence are unacceptable in our culture.

[Stockton, California] Mayor [Barbara] Fass: I think you have to do it a step at a time and I think that is what the NRA is most concerned about, is that it will happen one very small step at a time, so that by the time people have 'woken up' -- quote -- to what's happened, it's gone farther than what they feel the consensus of American citizens would be. But it does have to go one step at a time and the beginning of the banning of semi-assault military weapons, that are military weapons, not 'household' weapons, is the first step." - ABC News Special, Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns, April 11, 1991, available on LEXIS, NEWS database, SCRIPT file.

So to the anti's this law is an important stepping stone to a stricter ban. To us it is important for the same reasons; it will make a stricter ban easier if it stays in place. So we must do all we can to make sure it sunsets. Then we must make sure it never rears its unconstitutional head again. But first we have to make sure it sunsets. For that all we have to do is take possession of the ball & run down the clock, so to speak.

Now why should you care? Well if you're a gun owner the answer is obvious. But let's assume that you're not a gun owner, or that you don't think the AWB itself is that bad. There's still a reason for you to want to see the thing sunset on schedule:

If the AWB is renewed then Bush's chances of re-election go down dramatically. Say good-bye to the bounce he's enjoying right now. What will happen is gun owners who are politically aware will do one of two things: they will not vote for Bush or they'll begrudgingly vote for him.

To expand on the latter, if Bush is going to win he doesn't just need people that will vote for him, but people that are happy about it; people that will talk about why they're voting for him & attempt to persuade others to do so. Disgruntled gun owners who feel Bush bitchslapped them with the 2nd amendment will not tell their friends that Bush is the man. They won't urge people to vote, let alone urge them to vote for Bush. Bush will lose the word of mouth advertising that no politician can do without. At least from the gun owners who will still vote for him.

A surprisingly large number won't even do that. They'll either vote third party or stay at home. I refer you to the following posts:

Et tu Hugh? (Part Two)

A Meme about Bush & the AWB


The big question is how large a segment of Bush's base do politically aware gun owners make up? To that question I do not know the answer. I do know gun owners are more influential in elections that most politicians would care to admit (or at least act on). I refer you to the following post for a more detailed explanation: Gun Owner Influence In Elections.

So if you want Bush re-elected you should oppose the ban no matter how you feel about firearms. If you care about firearms but think the AWB isn't that bad then allow me to point you to this post about a stricter ban that has been proposed.

In All AWB Refutation - All The Time I counter some of the more popular arguments for renewing the ban. This was directed towards a person generally in favor of gun control but it shouldn't be overlooked by gu owners who don't know why the AWB is bad.

In case you missed them, Matt from Stop The Bleating has a post on a debate concerning the AWB, while I attempted to live blog another AWB debate featuring Eugene Volokh & Bill Scher. A lot of the common arguments for the AWB are refuted quite well in both debates.

Now the press has been running stories claiming there will be blood in the streets on September 14th if the AWB sunsets. Here's a round up of other bloggers who, in large part cover all the arguments that the press will make. Pay attention as the press will be raising all kinds of hell this week & weekend.

There are additional consequences to the AWB & other forms of prior restraint based gun control . I touched on them briefly in a post I did entitled The Nationals and National Defense - Quo Vadis? by Bruce C. Woodford.

& all of the above is in addition to the AWB being an unlawful exercise of power by congress. Now some have argued that the AWB, while being bad policy, is in fact constitutional because it doesn't dramatically affect the public. Needless to say I disagree. It may not touch as many people as would a ban on all semi-automatics, but the chilling effect is the same in principle. It's congress expressing disapproval of a person exercising their Right to Arms, despite a prohibition on them expressing such disapproval.

To sum up you should oppose the ban because:

The AWB has a chilling effect on the people's exercise of the Right to Arms.

The AWB is constitutionally forbidden for the government to enact or enforce it.

The AWB is a bad policy decision as the type of firearms & accoutrements affected by the ban are not typically used in crime, but they do have a militia value to them.

The AWB is a stepping stone for those who would enact stricter bans.

The AWB, if renewed, will cause Bush to lose support at the polls; perhaps enough to cost him the election.

I urge you to visit this post to find out the details of our best hope for blocking any attempts at a renewal of the AWB.

& check back here as I, along with Geek With A .45, Triggerfinger & a few others, will be keeping a close watch on the Senate until the AWB is a bad dream & I have a brand spankin' new 11 round mag in my possession. Look to our sites as well as this one where we're all going to be posting until the AWB is no longer one of many spots on the constitution.

Posted by Publicola at September 6, 2004 11:30 PM
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