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Liberal Think Tank Admits Assault Weapons Bans Won't Work

By Nick Leghorn on September 13, 2014

It has been 20 years since the Clinton administration signed the federal Assault Weapons Ban into law. The legislation outlawed firearms which were considered evil and scary based solely on the way they looked rather than their actual function, lethality or usefulness. It worked much the same logic as Jim Crow laws did in the south which persecuted people based solely on the way they looked. The AWB expired after 10 years, a period in which a Department of Justice analysis concluded that the law had no effect on gun crime. Now, 10 years after the law expired, at least one prominent liberal think tank is throwing in the towel . . .

From the Center for American Progress' report "Assault Weapons Revisited":

While the question of what to do about the proliferation of certain military-style rifles-so-called "assault weapons"-remains open, advocates for stronger gun laws have recently focused on the question of who may possess guns, rather than which type of guns should receive heightened regulation. In the wake of the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama, congressional leaders, and gun-violence prevention advocates alike made deterring dangerous people from accessing guns the top legislative priority with a proposal for comprehensive background checks for all gun sales. In April 2013, while the Senate also considered a new assault weapons ban that only mustered 40 votes, the Manchin-Toomey bill to expand background checks garnered 55 votes.


This report considers how gun laws have evolved to address different classes of firearms and looks more broadly at how federal and state laws treat rifles and shotguns differently than handguns and whether all of those distinctions continue to make sense. It also examines data on the changing nature of gun violence and the increasing use of long guns and assault rifles by criminals, with a focus on Pennsylvania as a case study.

The report stops short of outright declaring a ban on scary looking firearms off the table, but the sentiment is clear: "those who have tried to push an AWB have failed, so we should look elsewhere." One of the authors of the paper had the following to say earlier this week, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

"The answer is not that assault weapons aren't dangerous and people having access to them is a good thing," Mr. Gerney said in an interview this week. "There are other things that we can do to lessen the risks of assault weapons short of banning them.... When you're making policy, it's always a mix of what's going to have a biggest positive impact and what is practical and politically possible."

It would be naive to believe that certain Democrat-affiliated politicians and millionaires will take this as a sign to stop pushing for their pet firearms confiscation schemes, but this is one sign that gun control extremists are switching tactics. Now that the Second Amendment has been clearly defined and strengthened through a couple supreme court cases, the only avenue of attack left to them is to go after the people instead of the guns. Once more, from the CAP report:

This shift in focus to prevent dangerous people from accessing guns is appropriate: A broad set of research suggests that such measures are effective in reducing gun violence. Additionally, there is overwhelming support in opinion polls for expanding background checks and similar measures aimed at restricting dangerous people from accessing guns.

While we might not see any real "progress" on banning and confiscating firearms in the majority of the country, what is a real possibility is a constant effort to deny as many people as possible their Constitutionally protected right to self defense by whatever means they can. Whether that's through mental health screenings or "gun violence restraining orders" that require no actual proof or due process, the next wave of attacks on our rights will be focused on the person behind the gun instead of the firearm itself.