Grilled by Tim Russert on Meet the Press this past Sunday over his past support for controversial gun control laws, Mitt Romney reiterated his support for a ban on “assault weapons,” a detail most observers in the media duly forgot.
Romney’s answers to Russert’s questions smacked of either ignorance or pandering (my emphasis below).
… I signed–I would have supported the original assault weapon ban. I signed an assault weapon ban as Massachusetts governor because it provided for a relaxation of licensing requirements for gun owners in Massachusetts, which was a big plus. And so both the pro-gun and the anti-gun lobby came together with a bill, and I signed that. And if there is determined to be, from time to time, a weapon of such lethality that it poses a grave risk to our law enforcement personnel, that’s something I would consider signing. There’s nothing of that nature that’s being proposed today in Washington. But, but I would, I would look at weapons that pose extraordinary lethality…
And moments later:
… We also should keep weapons of unusual lethality from being on the street. And finally, we should go after people who use guns in the commission of crimes or illegally, but we should not interfere with the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns either for their own personal protection or hunting or any other lawful purpose.
In Mitt’s world, what constitutes extraordinary or unusual lethality?
Such terms cannot objectively apply to the ammunition most commonly chambered in the class of firearms he targets, especially when compared to the most common calibers of hunting rifles he says he does support.
Most big-game hunting rifles that Romney intones he supports fire cartridges that are far more lethal in terms of raw kinetic power and effective range than those in the assault rifle class. Many of the most common hunting calibers-for example, the .30/06 and .270 Winchester-have roughly twice the muzzle energy of the intermediate bullets common to assault weapons. If brute killing force is his standard, then the most common hunting rifles are “unusually lethal.” Somehow, I doubt the sportsmen of Iowa would appreciate that message this primary season.
Or is it perhaps the rate of fire that Romney finds so dangerous?
All fully-automatic weapons have been heavily regulated since 1934, and it has been more than 20 years since a new automatic weapon was allowed on the civilian market. Here in the real world, all semi-automatic firearms, from the mundane .22-caliber plinker to the most exotic black rifle, fire at precisely the same rate of fire of one bullet per trigger pull. I doubt that ATF-mandated reality differs even in Massachusetts.
The simple fact is there is no difference in lethality between the firearms banned by the 1994 Crime Bill Romney still supports, the nearly identical firearms manufactured during the course of the entire ten-year ban, and those firearms manufactured since the ban expired in 2004. The truth of the assault weapons ban is that it didn’t ban assault weapons, but instead banned cosmetic features that made the firearms look more intimidating, and cosmetics never killed anyone who wasn’t a lab animal.
Romney’s stance, while wrong on the facts, is self-contradictory, as well.
He states that “We should not interfere with the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns either for their own personal protection or hunting or any other lawful purpose.”
The very AR-15 type rifles he would ban if elected president are the most common center-fire competition rifles in America. Firearms in this class are also among the most useful for personal protection, and are taught as such in top shooting schools. These firearms are also used to hunt a variety of game animals, small and large, across the country. All of these uses clearly fit the common-sense definition of a lawful purpose.
Perhaps it’s time for Mitt Romney to re-recalibrate his stance on banning firearms because of the way they look and their imaginary “unusual lethality.”
Doing otherwise could prove to be extraordinarily lethal to his campaign.
Bob Owens blogs at Confederate Yankee.