The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
My colleague at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law Adam Winkler—a gun control supporter—writes in the Los Angeles Times:
As a matter of functionality, [rifles that are labeled "assault weapons"] are just like other rifles. They're more powerful than some handguns and rifles, and less powerful than others.
They're "semiautomatic"—a technical term that applies to the way rounds are chambered, not to the way the guns shoot. Many handguns are semiautomatic too. Military-style rifles fire only one round for each pull of the trigger, just like a revolver, a shotgun, a hunting rifle or any other of the 300 million legal guns in America. . . .
[Bans on such weapons] are largely ineffectual. Because these guns are really just ordinary rifles, it is hard for legislators to effectively regulate them without banning half the handguns in the country (those that are semiautomatic and/or have detachable magazines) and many hunting rifles as well. . . .
[Assault weapons] bans don't reduce gun crime, but they do stimulate passionate opposition from law-abiding gun owners: Gun control advocates ridicule the NRA's claim that the government is coming to take away people's guns, then try to outlaw perhaps the most popular rifle in the country.
There are approaches to gun control, such as universal background checks and cracking down on rogue gun dealers, that can reduce the daily death toll from guns. It may seem like a victory for the forces of good to ban assault weapons, but such laws aren't the answer. Assault weapon bans are bad policy and bad politics.
Read the whole thing.