The Long-Expected Death of the New Assault Weapons Ban

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 19 2013 1:57 PM

The Long-Expected Death of the New Assault Weapons Ban

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A Hi-Point .40 caliber semiautomatic carbine is displayed in Woodbury, Minnesota on May 28, 2011.

Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

An AP alert screams that the Democrats are "DROPPING THE ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN." It's true, and it's unsurprising. It doesn't even say much about the health of a separate gun bill because the gun control movement, such as it is, has been trying to pass more popular measures like magazine limitations and background checks. In a sharp piece published six whole weeks ago, Alex Seitz-Wald explained why the assault weapons portion of the control push could be scrapped.

“The gun ban provision targets a relatively small number of weapons based on outward features or accessories that have little to do with the weapons’ operation,” University of Pennsylvania criminologist Chris Koper and his colleagues wrote in their official review of the 1994 assault weapons ban. “In other respects (e.g., type of firing mechanism, ammunition fired, and the ability to accept a detachable magazine), AWs do not differ from other legal semiautomatic weapons.”
Manufacturers openly made a mockery of the 1994 ban by creating new models that were identical to banned ones, save the removal of a single feature.
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And if the red-and-black design of Salon offends your eyeballs, read Molly Ball at the Atlantic. This was no secret. There had to be some sort of assault weapons ban push for the same reasons the "fiscal cliff" negotiations started with Barack Obama offering Republicans basically nothing. It was a negotiating position. Sen. Dianne Feinstein got to hold hearings and rally the control troops. Sen. Ted Cruz got to fulminate and patronize Feinstein about her knowledge of the Constitution. The black hats and white hats marched in their expected formations. And now that's over, and we can focus on the possibility of a background checks bill.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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