Assault weapons bans won't reduce crime, but will help lead to handgun bans

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From Charles Krauthammer, writing in The Post in 1996:

The claim of the advocates that banning these 19 types of "assault weapons" will reduce the crime rate is laughable…. Dozens of other weapons, the functional equivalent of these "assault weapons," were left off the list and are perfect substitutes for anyone bent on mayhem….

[T]he assault weapons ban will have no significant effect either on the crime rate or on personal security. Nonetheless, it is a good idea ….

Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic—purely symbolic—move in [the direction of disarming the citizenry]. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.

De-escalation begins with a change in mentality. And that change in mentality starts with the symbolic yielding of certain types of weapons. The real steps, like the banning of handguns, will never occur unless this one is taken first, and even then not for decades.

I generally like Krauthammer's work, and though I disagree with him on the merits of trying to "disarm [the] citizenry," I think the mechanisms he describes—relatively narrow bans "chang[ing voters'] mentality" and paving the way for broader bans—are quite plausible. (For more, see this article, and in particular pp. 1077-82.)

But in any event—as I noted yesterday when quoting something similar from the Violence Policy Center—this is just good to keep in mind if you hear people wondering why some allegedly "alarmist," "nutty" or "paranoid" gun rights supporters worry that bans on so-called "assault weapons" are just an attempt to help promote broader bans (such as on handguns). It's hard to view taking one's opponents at their word as "paranoia."