The Quiet but Inevitable Death of the Assault Weapons Ban

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 7 2013 12:23 PM

The Quiet but Inevitable Death of the Assault Weapons Ban

110453377
A customer looks at an assault rifle equipped with a high capacity drum magazine and grenade launcher at a gun expo in El Paso, Texas, on March 13, 2011.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

Soon, there will be three concrete Democratic proposals on guns. There'll be the president's, which includes an assault weapons ban. There'll be the Senate's package, everything from Kirsten Gillibrand's trafficking bill to Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban. And there'll be the House bill, which includes mental health reforms, background checks, and "outlawing semi-automatic assault weapons."

And yet nobody in the press thinks the assault weapons ban can pass. The chatty gun control movement is already talking about a future without it. Molly Ball talked to a few veterans of the cause who admit, with admirable self-reflection, that the debate on guns has swung to the right and that they can't possibly challenge the consensus (legally, in public opinion) that people should be able to buy whatever firearms are currently legal.

"The right to own a gun is flat-out stated in the Second Amendment," [Jon] Cowan [of the defunct Americans for Gun Safety] told me. By taking a position -- however legally defensible -- that that right didn't apply to individuals, gun-control advocates were putting up "a stone wall, a barrier to gun owners" that made them "logically presume you want to take their gun away," he added.
Advertisement

This brings us to Alex Seitz-Wald's ahead-of-the-curve warning to liberals that the assault weapons ban should probably be traded away because it's not worth a damn. "Shedding the ban makes it possible to do effective gun control without even touching guns," he writes. One, the bill—largely a change of legal definitions with a long appendix of exemptions—touches guns used in 2 percent of crimes. Two, it wouldn't have prevented the killings in Tucson or Newtown. Extended clips, not scary-looking guns, enabled the longer-lasting slaughters.

Any conservative who Googles around can see this consensus developing, but until the ban is actually traded away, the pundit class and the NRA can still bang on about Dianne Feinstein's gun grab and ignore the likely final bill.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM 3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
  Sports
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.