Reinstate assault weapons ban for reform


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

The controversy over how federal and state lawmakers should regulate guns is dividing the country as the Obama administration and Senate Democrats consider how best to move with a plan to enact tighter gun laws.

Stoked by a number of recent mass killings, including the July shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that killed 12 and wounded 58, and the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 children and school employees, President Obama has called on Congress to pass substantial gun-control reform. Among the specific policies proposed by the president are an expansion of background checks on gun sales, renewed investment in mental-health care, and a reinstatement of the assault-weapons ban that lapsed in 2004.

The call for tighter gun laws has been met by considerable vitriol from the National Rifle Association and several pro-gun politicians. Even some members of the president’s party — particularly those from rural states where constituents tend to be especially protective of their gun rights — have expressed doubt about the viability of gun-control legislation in the 113th Congress.  Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., who has an “A” rating from the NRA, for example, is wary of an assault-weapons ban; he supports expanding background checks and little else.

Given the current political climate, it seems that the expansion of mandatory background checks for those who buy guns from private dealers is the lone gun reform that has a chance to become law.
While we believe that expanding background checks is long overdue — currently only federally licensed gun sellers are required to check out their prospective customers; private sellers may do as they please — we believe that such a measure by itself is inadequate.

Any attempt at gun-control reform will be incomplete without a reinstatement of the federal assault-weapons ban with sufficient teeth to keep military-style weapons off the street. The previous iteration of the ban — in place between 1994 and 2004 — dramatically reduced the proportion of gun crime committed with assault weapons from 4.82 percent to 1.61 percent, according to a study conducted by the Brady Center using data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

A 2004 report conducted for the U.S. Justice Department found that the assault-weapons ban had produced modest reductions in criminal use of assault weapons and projected that further reductions in criminal use would lead to fewer gunshot victims. There is no evidence to suggest that banning assault weapons today would lead to any measurable decline in safety, as many gun-advocates argue.

The federal assault-weapons ban has a history of controversy, but the policy consensus at the highest level of the government has been, until today, bipartisan. When the federal assault-weapons ban was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, Ronald Reagan was counted among the bill’s strongest advocates. In the 2000 campaign and into his presidency, George W. Bush drew fire from the NRA for his pledge to renew the ban.

Today, political partisanship in Washington threatens a commonsense piece of legislation. Beyond partisanship, however, lies the most daunting obstacle facing gun-control legislation: the increasingly prevalent culture of gun fetishism at work in America, particularly on the right. Too many equate individual liberty with the inalienable right to carry a weapon — any weapon — at any time.

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.