Anti-Gun Groups No Longer Fighting For Assault Weapons Bans

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 14, 2014 8:16 PM
Anti-Gun Groups No Longer Fighting For Assault Weapons Bans

Alas, gun control groups seem to have moved away from so-called assault weapons bans for reasons pro-Second Amendment groups have espoused for months; they’re ineffective and represent a very small fraction of firearm-related homicides. Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America now calls such policy initiatives “nonstarters.” Nonetheless, that does not mean that these people have abandoned their support for such bans on certain types of firearms (via ProPublica):

Nearly two years later, Watts works full-time as the head of the group, now named Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is a significant player in a coalition financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But while polls suggest a majority of Americans still support an assault weapons ban, it is no longer one of Watts' top priorities.

"We've very much changed our strategy to focus on public safety measures that will save the most lives," she told ProPublica.

It's not just that the ban proved to be what Watts calls a "nonstarter" politically, gaining fewer votes in the Senate post-Sandy Hook than background check legislation. It was also that as Watts spoke to experts and learned more about gun violence in the United States, she realized that pushing for a ban isn't the best way to prevent gun deaths.

A 2004 Justice Department-funded evaluation found no clear evidence that the decade-long ban saved any lives. The guns categorized as "assault weapons" had only been used in about 2 percent of gun crimes before the ban. "Should it be renewed," the report concluded, "the ban's effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement."

With more information, Watts decided that focusing on access to guns, not types of guns, was a smarter approach. She came to the same conclusion that other gun control groups had reached even before the Sandy Hook shootings: "Ultimately," she said, "what's going to save the most lives are background checks."

While many gun control groups still officially support the assault weapons ban 2014 "we haven't abandoned the issue," as Watts said 2014 they're no longer actively fighting for it.

Last year, the assault weapons ban amendment to the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill went down in flames in a bipartisan vote. If they’re waiting for public opinion to turn, they should expect to be resting patiently for a long time. The 2013 Colorado recall elections, which booted two anti-gun State Senators was successful thanks to blue-collar workers, Hispanics, and women. As for background checks, they’re already virtually universal. Most gun owners buy from dealers with a federal firearms license who have to by law conduct a background check. Regardless, gun control advocates still perpetuate the myth that 40 percent of gun sales are conducted without a background check. John Lott tore into this narrative in January of 2013 (via NRO) [emphasis mine]:

More important, the number comes from a 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, early in the Clinton administration. More than three-quarters of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks on February 28, 1994. In addition, guns are not sold in the same way today that they were sold two decades ago.

The number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) today is only a fraction of what it was. Today there are only 118,000; while back in 1993 there were over 283,000. Smaller dealers, many operating out of their homes, were forced out by various means, including much higher costs for licenses.

The survey asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all FFLs do background checks, those perceived as being FFLs were the only ones counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the very smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no inkling that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and thus reported not buying from an FFL when in fact they did.

But the high figure comes primarily from including such transactions as inheritances or gifts from family members. Putting aside these various biases, if you look at guns that were bought, traded, borrowed, rented, issued as a requirement of the job, or won through raffles, 85 percent went through FFLs; just 15 percent were transferred without a background check.

If you include these transfers either through FFLs or from family members, the remaining transfers falls to 11.5 percent.

We don’t know the precise number today, but it is hard to believe that it is above single digits.

That hardly warrants federal action, especially since gun-related violence is down 39 percent since 1993. Pew Research has the figure higher, with a 49 percent decrease in firearm-related homicides. Then again, the American public is largely unaware that gun violence is down.

Gun control has become a political graveyard for Democrats. It’s an issue that cost Al Gore West Virginia, Arkansas, and his home state of Tennessee in 2000. If he had won those states, Gore would have become the president-elect, even with Bush winning Florida.

Liberal attempts to eviscerate the Second Amendment aren’t going away, but that doesn’t mean we should not stop defending the right to bear arms. Watching anti-gun liberals fail is spectacularly entertaining, but conservatives should be vigilant in their attempts to curb gun rights.