Nothing, and Maybe Worse: A President's Nonsensical Gun Proposals

As far as I can tell, here is the totality of what President Obama proposed Wednesday to do about "assault weapons" and high-capacity magazines. (Actually, regarding those guns and magazines, he didn't really propose to do anything; what he proposed for was Congress to do something -- the same thing it did in 1994). In any event, here is the beginning, middle, and end of what he proposed:

Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines. (Applause.) The type of assault rifle used in Aurora, for example, when paired with high-capacity magazines, has one purpose -- to pump out as many bullets as possible, as quickly as possible; to do as much damage, using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.

And that's what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot 70 people -- 70 people -- killing 12 in a matter of minutes. Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater.

Here's my recommendation: Congress should take the president literally, and do exactly what he says: nothing.

"Weapons designed for the theater of war" have the capability of firing automatically. Such weapons have been prohibited (except to collectors, who pay a very high license fee) since 1934. They are not available to the general public.

They have been used in no mass shootings, and no crime at all, for over 60 years.

Banning them again would ban no weapon currently in production or readily available anywhere. What weapons would the president's "proposal" ban? Who knows? He certainly doesn't. The 1994 law dealt with the fact that there really is no such thing as an "assault weapon" by naming a few specific weapons and by listing some required identifying features. For example: a pistol grip or a detachable magazine could qualify a gun as an “assault weapon.” But what would President Obama have Congress do about this rifle?

Note that this Mossberg MVP Varmint Rifle has a very distinctive pistol grip, and it also has a detachable box magazine. Many hunting rifles do, but this one is distinctive: it uses any magazines that will fit AR-15 rifles. It comes with a 10-rounder (of the same caliber, 5.56 NATO/ .223 Remington) that most AR-15s and other scary-looking "military style" weapons fire. Thus, it will accept the 20- and 30-rounders that Obama would like to prohibit.

Yet -- since it is a bolt action and not a semi-automatic, this weapon would not be illegal under the terms of the 1994 law, even though it can be fired rapidly enough (as can pump action shotguns, also not banned in 1994) to do extensive damage quite quickly.

Would Obama have it be outlawed? Certainly, he doesn't know.