Friday, December 28, 2012

Feinstein's New Assault Weapons Ban

Nobody will know what to think of this until it's been subjected to a fair bit of public discussion, of course.

And so I'm not going to say much about it now, just throwing it out there.

But I have an inclination to think that something like this may be on the right track. The old AWB was also, I think, more or less on the right track. It turned out to be damnably easy to get around, though. And it did have the unintended consequence of prompting gun manufacturers to develop a new generation of small, high-capacity semi-auto handguns--handguns that took mags with ten rounds or fewer like the Glock 26.

But no such legislation is going to be perfect.

Any AWB, I'd say, needs to be supplemented with legislation that works to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and people with dangerous mental illness. We also, I'd say, need to close the gun show loophole.

It's important to realize, however, that all we're doing here is putting up some rather easily-circumvented barriers. No guns will be confiscated, of course. Whatever's out there now will have to be grandfathered in. You'll still be able to buy e.g. AR-15s and high-capacity mags--you'll just have to buy them used, it'll be harder and cost more. Barriers are what we want--but such barriers are typically permeable.

And none of this addresses what I'd call our real firearm problem, which is: handguns used by ordinary criminals. There may be a better case to be made for more restrictions on handguns than on military-style assault weapons. About 75% of firearm homicides in the U.S. are committed with handguns. Handguns are also far less important as a check on government power, and less important for home defense. If we were choosing to make policy ex nihilo, we might choose to put some fairly substantial restrictions on them--say, only allowing those who qualify for concealed-carry licenses to purchase them. But given the prevalence of handguns in the U.S. already, that'd basically amount to shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted. Still, some such restrictions might be worth considering.

I'd rather see us put more of our attention on other fixes, but "assault weapons" restrictions do seem to be part of the puzzle. As is well known, there are countries with fairly high levels of firearm ownership that don't have anything like our problems with gun violence. (There are some pretty weak arguments against the Switzerland and Israel examples, but the cases are still less clear than they are often advertised as being.) We've clearly got cultural problems that lead to preposterous levels of violence, and that can't be fixed by restrictions on guns. But that doesn't mean that reasonable restrictions aren't part of the answer.

3 Comments:

Blogger Pete Mack said...

OK, after all the posturing, we agree. I have one more suggestion: take up the NRA (and by inference, the GOP) on their suggestion of better treatment if the dangerously mentally ill.

Opportunities to get the Republicans on board with funding for a critical social service don't come every day.
Mac

7:01 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Were we posturing?

Was posturing happening?

Why am I always the last to know these things?

10:23 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

PM, are you just agreeing with WS regarding his potential support for the gun control ideas listed? 'Cause as far as your previous discussion went, I still read this with you asserting small arms in the hands of citizens are useless against a malevolent government, and WS asserting that they are..

Do you agree with that now or something?

1:35 PM  

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