The Assault Weapons Ban: How Silly Was It?
Revisiting the comically incompetent law which President Obama wishes to reinstate.
December 19, 2012 - 12:00 am
As it turns out, firearms magazines are both typically very robust and reliable in design, and incredibly easy to mass manufacture. Once made, they last indefinitely.
Between the time Congress started signaling that they would create a magazine capacity restriction and the implementation of the law, factories worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week churning out millions of nothing but high-capacity magazines, which were stockpiled by manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers in massive warehouses.
As a result, “high capacity magazines” for most common firearms were freely available throughout the life of the ban. As e-commerce came into early maturity during this time period, many high-capacity magazines were more available than they had been before the ban was signed into law.
Congress had neglected to make the possession or sale of high-capacity magazines illegal, and only outlawed the manufacture of new magazines.
The law had another unforeseen result. As companies looked to introduce new models of pistols, they determined that if they were going to be forced to make pistols limited to a magazine capacity of just 10 rounds, it would be advantageous for them to make these new pistols as small as possible for the concealed carry market. The Glock 26 and Kahr K9 were introduced the following year, and were among the first of a new breed of powerful, ultra-concealable handguns known as “subcompacts.” Similar designs from other companies quickly followed.
Objectively, based purely on the numbers, the assault weapons ban increased both the number of and public acceptance of semi-automatic, military-style rifles, and created a new class of powerful, concealable handguns.
Put another way, the assault weapons ban not only put more guns into the market, it encouraged the development of smaller, more powerful, semi-automatic firearms.
Why, then, would the Obama administration want to reintroduce the ban?
Rest assured, if the administration could find broad support for a reinstatement of the expired ban, it would do everything in its power to fix the mistakes of the past.
Instead of banning a list of guns by name or arbitrary cosmetic features or banning just the manufacture of magazines, they would attempt to model their ban on some of the more restrictive state bans, such as those in California, Maryland, and New York, which would no doubt result in more unintended (and sometimes unbearably cute) consequences.
Attempting to impose such a restrictive and prohibitionist law is far harder today in a nation where judicial interpretations favoring individual gun rights are ascendant. It would take a dramatic and drastic turn of events to undermine the growing gun rights movement and to generate the sort of popular support for more national gun control laws.
Such firearms would have to be used, repeatedly and with great affect, to generate massive levels of violence and the media furor needed to revive a flagging gun control movement. It would almost take a massive covert operation delivering thousands of weapons to violent felons to make this even potentially viable.
Luckily, we all know that can’t happen here.