Sen. Feinstein's New Assault Weapons Ban Proposal Is the Perfect, Pointless Response for the 'Do Something' Crowd

We have to do something about mass shootings. This is something. Therefore, we must do this. Or something.


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

After another tragic mass shooting—one that likely could have been prevented if existing laws had been enforced—there has been another round of completely predictable calls to "do something" about America's apparent problem with gun violence.

For those who want to see something done, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) has done something. Along with more than 20 fellow Senate Democrats, Feinstein announced on Wednesday the re-introduction of a bill to ban so-called "assault weapons" and those bump stocks that took so much of the blame for last month's massacre in Las Vegas.

Specifically, Feinstein's legislation would ban the sale and manufacture of 205 different weapons (a full list can be found in the bill). One is the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle used in several mass shootings, including the attack on the Texas church last weekend—and also used by Stephen Willeford, the former NRA instructor who engaged the church shooter and may have prevented further deaths. Feinstein's bill also targets specific gun accessories, including the bump stocks used by the Las Vegas concert shooter. Bump stocks allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at higher rates but with less accuracy.

The bill exempts weapons used for hunting, and it would allow anyone who already owns one of the proscribed guns to keep them. In other words, it would be completely ineffective at removing these weapons from American society. But that's not really the goal at all. The goal is to do something about gun violence, and Feinstein's proposal certainly counts as something. Something ineffective and useless, but still a thing. A thing that could be done.

Feinstein admits as much.

"We're introducing an updated Assault Weapons Ban for one reason," she said in a statement announcing the bill: "so that after every mass shooting with a military-style assault weapon, the American people will know that a tool to reduce these massacres is sitting in the Senate, ready for debate and a vote."

It's interesting that Feinstein sees that as the "one reason" why this bill has been introduced. Not because it will stop mass shootings, or because it will make it harder for bad people to get guns, or even because it's a small step toward a less violent society.

Nope. This bill has been introduced for "one reason": so Democrats can score political points by holding it up and waving it every time there's a high-profile crime with a gun. Look! There's a bill right here, ready for debate and a vote! Will the bill do anything to stop these horrific attacks from happening? Well, no, but that's not the point.

At least she's being honest about it. Feinstein has never been particularly good at masking the fact that her assault ban proposals are based more in emotion than reason; this is another entry in that long ledger.

The simple fact of the matter is that no amount of new laws will stop mass shootings. And when we can't even accurately enforce the gun laws already on the books—the Texas church shooter would not have been able to buy his AR-15 if Air Force bureaucrats had properly reported his domestic abuse problems, as they were supposed to do—it's even harder to see Feinstein's proposal as anything other than what it is: a nakedly political maneuver meant to score points with the vapid "do something" crowd.