Ken's Project Blog

July 1, 2011

How to Read a News Story – Assault Weapon Ban

Filed under: Gun Rights,In The News — Ken @ 5:20 pm

[Note: This story was written back in January, but not posted until July 1st, Ken]

Over at Salon, Justin Elliott has an article up that discusses a Clinton-era Assault Weapons ban that could have reduced the carnage at the AZ shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Let’s start with the title – “Weapon in rampage was banned under Clinton-era law.” Got it? The headline leads the reader to believe the gun the shooter used would not have been available were the Clinton-era ban still in effect – that just isn’t true. As the writer admits in the first paragraph of the story:

The high-capacity magazine of the semiautomatic pistol used in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and more than a dozen other people on Saturday would have been illegal to manufacture and difficult to purchase under the Clinton-era assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

Jared Loughner could have bought the same gun with a 10 round clip were the ban in effect, and he likely would have been able to buy the high-capacity magazine either on the used gun market OR off the internet (high-capacity magazines for guns like the Glock 19 sell for under $50). So the weapon wasn’t banned, the magazine was… The article mentions that the ban was in effect from 1994 until 2004, then it mentions that while the Senate passed an extension of the ban, the House never voted on it even though President Bush supported the extension of the ban. (The House at that time was 227 Republicans, 210 Democrats, with 2 vacanies and one Independent.)

President Obama supported the re-instatement of the Clinton-era Assault Weapons ban, but he with his Democratic-controlled House and
Senate never brought the bill up for a vote even though it was referred to in his Democratic Nomination acceptance speech.

While a case can be made that Jared Loughner wouldn’t have been able to puchase the exact weapon he used in the AZ shooting, it is far from certain that his lethality would have been diminished by a legal limit on the size of his pistol’s magazine – he could have just as easily bought two pistols, or carried a bomb to the event, he could have smashed through the window of the grocery store with a car, etc. A spokesman for the Brady Center said:

“Our gun laws are so weak that someone who couldn’t get into the military, who was kicked out of school, and who used drugs walked into a gun store and was able to immediately buy a semiautomatic weapon.”

The above are pure emotional plays with no basis in any current or proposed laws – failure to qualify for the military does not discharge a person’s 2nd Amendment rights, nor does being kicked out of school or even a drug possesion charge. It is interesting to note that it appears that Jared Loughner failed his drug test, but drug use has never been tied to any gun control measure I’m aware of. As a parting thought, I wonder how this tragic event would have played-out had anyone at the event had and used their own weapon.

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