In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama, responding to clarion calls from the left, has vowed to enact meaningful gun control legislation. For her part, Senator Diane Feinstein "has said she intends to introduce a new ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines on the first day of the next Congress in January."
What is an "assault weapon?" I am sure everyone has some - necessarily vague - idea. The term "assault weapon," as defined by the the law passed in 1994 and which expired in 2004, meant nothing more than a weapon with certain cosmetic characteristics - characteristics that scared progressives whose sole apparent familiarity with them came through watching action movies. PJM has up an excellent post on just how ridiculous the 1994 "assault weapon" ban actually was, and in particular, with a visual that says it all:
This gun, an AR15, was banned as an assault rifle:
This gun, the same in all relevant respects, was not banned.
The difference between the two weapons - the one on the bottom did not have a bayonet mount or a flash suppressor. So what defined an "assault weapon" was not ballistic characteristics, but pure cosmetics. Not surprisingly, the "assault weapons ban" had zero impact on gun crime.
And for the record, note that "a 2001 Justice Department study revealed that fewer than 2% of State and Federal inmates used, carried, or possessed a military-style semi-automatic gun or a fully automatic gun during their current offense." In other words, the push to ban guns that scared progressives was both ineffective and unwarranted.
That said, the fact that an AR15 knock-off was used in the Sandy Hook massacre does not mean, on the facts of that case, that banning the single most popular weapon in the United States for hunting, self defense and target shooting would in any way have prevented the tragedy. The relevant facts are:
1. The shooter was insane, and our mental health laws make the institutionalization and forced treatment of such individuals very difficult, if not impossible. Indeed, perhaps the defining characteristic of most mass murders is that the perpetrator is mentally ill. The starting point for any national action in the wake of Sandy Hook should begin with an examination of our mental health laws.
2. The shooter had 20 minutes of free fire time once he entered the school and until police arrived, whereupon he committed suicide. As former police officer Mike McDaniel points out at PJM, that type of response time is hardly unusual. With 20 minutes, the shooter could have used virtually any type of firearm and have accomplished the same degree of carnage. Indeed, one can imagine that, if the shooter had used, say, a pump action shotgun in the close confines of the school and with massed targets, the carnage may even have been worse.
3. The only thing that could have actually stopped this shooter before he massacred 26 women and children would have been other people with weapons at the point of attack. We are heralding the principal of Sandy Hook and others who lunged towards the shooter in an effort to stop him. They are dead. We are heralding a teacher who hid her students. She was murdered. We as a nation should prefer to be heralding these people as living heroes, one of whom ended the massacre by killing the shooter. The only rational course of action in the wake of Sandy Hook is to end gun free zones and allow schools to arm some of their staff per reasonable requirements. (Update 2: According to the latest Gallup Poll, more Americans support arming school staff than more gun control laws.) It is not to enact a ludicrous ban on weapons that scare progressives.
Update 1: From Instapundit - REMINDER: Sen. Dianne Feinstein Has Concealed Carry Permit. Well, sure, because her life is important. Not like yours.
- When Seconds Counted At Sandy Hook, Police Were Twenty Minutes Away
- St. Louis Police Chief Calls for Arming School Personnel
- John Fund essay on Mass Murders, Gun Control & Our Treatment of Mental Illness
- Luby Cafeteria Massacre, Testimony of Suzanna Hupp, Texas School District Authorizes Concealed Carry For Its Schools
- Reynolds On Gun Free Zones, The Left's Mistrust Of Armed Private Citizens, & Our Problematic Mental Health Laws