September 26, 2014
Being a Gun Control Advocate Means Never Having to Say You’re Wrong
“The semi-automatic weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons — anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”
-Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director & Founder, Violence Policy Center
Assault Weapons and Accessories in America
In the late 1980s gun control advocates hatched the term “assault weapon” as a scare tactic. The misnomer was based on the gun’s cosmetic features, which allowed any firearm that even slightly resembled a military weapon to be labeled an “assault weapon.”
This scare tactic was effective, helping President Bill Clinton to push the “Assault Weapons Ban” through Congress in 1994. The legislation was based not on facts or crime statistics, but on the idea that the guns were simply the “scariest” ones on the market. The bill was only able to pass because it included a 10-year sunset provision, and the federal ban quietly expired in 2004.
Although the ban is no longer in place, the media, politicians and anti-gun activists continue to promulgate the term “assault weapon” for what the industry calls the “modern sporting rifle” (MSR.) MSRs are one of the most popular firearms in America, with more than 8.5 million now owned by our citizens.
The 10-year ban did nothing to improve public safety. A 2004 Justice Department- funded study found no evidence to support the claim it had actually saved any lives. Additionally, MSRs have rarely been used in crime, which demonstrates how little data supported the original ban.
Since its expiration, gun control groups, President Obama and lawmakers such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have made reinstating and expanding the ban one of the tenets of their agenda. As recently as April 2013, the Congress debated renewing the ban, and legislation outlawing the sale of MSRs has passed in several states. Then bans have not only stripped many law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights, but have also inspired firearm and accessory manufacturers to pack up and take their jobs to states that are more supportive of the Second Amendment.
The drive to ban MSRs appears to have come to an abrupt end. Several gun control groups, such as Mayor Bloomberg’s group Everytown for Gun Safety, have recently stopped demanding a renewal of the ban and shifted toward advocating for other gun control measures. Even the New York Times published a piece recognizing the myth these groups have been promoting.
In reality, these groups simply realize that they were wrong but still will not admit it, instead claiming that they are “refocusing their efforts.” This is of little consolation to the residents of New York, Connecticut and Maryland who had their rights to acquire MSRs taken away under false pretenses or who were to be made criminals for possessing a formerly legal product unless they registered it.
This policy pivot seriously undermines these groups’ credibility. They devoted over a quarter century of time and resources to this “critical issue” and then suddenly changed their minds. That may make supporters think twice about whether these groups really know anything beyond their own emotionally-based advocacy.
This policy redirect is just one example of the many instances in which Mayor Bloomberg and his gun control allies have ignored the facts and misled the public. According to a Pew Research Center report on social trends, the majority of Americans believe that the rate of gun-related crime is much higher than it actually is. This widespread misperception is rooted at least to some degree in gun control groups’ constant, sometimes near hysterical ranting about imagined “loopholes” and perpetual misrepresentation of the facts.
Being a gun control activist means never having to say that you were wrong – only that you believe you have found a more effective way to spread still baseless alarm among the populace and infringe upon a fundamental Constitutional right.