LJ at Race 4 2008 catches Mitt Romney reversing his position on the federal "assault weapon" ban in the space of less than two months. In a December 16 interview with Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press, Romney said that if elected president he would sign a bill reviving the ban, which expired in 2004. In an interview with Glenn Reynolds and Helen Smith over the weekend, Romney said he saw no need for new gun control legislation and would veto any that crossed his desk.
Romney told Russert that he wanted to "keep weapons of unusual lethality from being on the street" and suggested that the "assault weapon" ban, a version of which he signed as governor of Massachusetts, was part of that effort. Evidently he does not realize that such laws ban firearms based not on their "lethality" but on their scary, militaristic appearance. Functionally identical guns fell on different sides of the line drawn by the federal ban because of irrelevant details such as the composition of the stock or the presence of a bayonet mount. Many firearms not covered by the law (e.g., ordinary shotguns) were more lethal than the intermediate-caliber guns it proscribed. As with the ban on "partial birth" abortions, the ban on "assault weapons" set a potentially powerful precedent precisely because the distinctions it drew were so arbitrary.
Not that Romney has given the issue much, if any, thought. When he wanted to look like a gun control moderate, he supported assault weapon bans. Now that he wants to look like a diehard defender of the right to keep and bear arms, he opposes them. He used to emphasize his differences with the NRA, and now he claims an NRA endorsement he never actually received.