Banning the Reimportation of Obsolete Military Rifles Won’t Curb Gun Violence

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Aug. 30 2013 1:51 PM

Banning the Reimportation of Obsolete Military Rifles Won’t Curb Gun Violence

Children at a public park in Manila look at students from the Philippine Maritime Institute stacking up old Garand rifles following their drills as part of their reserve officers' training.

Photo by Joel Nito/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday the Obama administration announced two gun-related executive actions, one of which would effectively ban the reimportation of military-grade firearms into the United States. "Wait, what?" you might be asking. Here’s the deal. Occasionally, the U.S. will sell or donate weapons to its allies. When those weapons become obsolete, they can be reimported into the U.S., and offered for sale, usually to old men who love military history. But this new executive action says that, from now on, only museums and a few other entities will be allowed to reimport these weapons.

In a press release posted on, the administration claimed that this executive action will “help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.” That’s a stretch. As the Associated Press reported, the ban “will largely affect antiquated, World War II-era weapons that, while still deadly, rarely turn up at crime scenes.” Drug dealers and gang members aren’t rushing to acquire old, heavy semi-automatic rifles like the M1 Garand. The only people buying these sorts of guns are collectors and hobbyists—the sort of people who give the Second Amendment a good name.


In that same press release, the White House cited the reimportation ban as an example of how “the President and Vice President remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence.” But the tools are simple ones. Congress has been unwilling or unable to pass substantive gun control legislation, which is why the Obama administration has had to resort to these sorts of small-stakes executive actions. They’ve got to do something on gun control. I understand that. But it’s ludicrous to claim that this new executive action will have any practical effect on gun violence in America. As gun control measures go, this is an entirely symbolic one—and what it really symbolizes is the Obama administration’s inability to get anything substantive accomplished on the gun issue.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.