Assault Weapon Ban

If Confiscating 'Assault Weapons' Is a Gimmick, So Is Banning Them

Beto O’Rourke’s scheme would be an ineffectual attempt to enforce arbitrary distinctions.


Beto O'Rourke is taking flak from other Democratic presidential contenders for supporting mass confiscation of military-style rifles, a proposal several of them view as an impractical campaign gimmick. Although they are right about that, all the Democratic candidates are guilty of magical thinking on this issue, because they support an "assault weapon" ban that cannot reasonably be expected to have a measurable impact on gun violence.

"Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15," O'Rourke declared during last month's Democratic presidential debate. The former Texas congressman, whose campaign immediately started selling T-shirts emblazoned with that threat, clearly thinks it will appeal to Democratic primary voters.

But O'Rourke has not given much thought to how he would translate his slogan into reality. During last week's Democratic debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked O'Rourke how he would confiscate 16 million or so guns, since "you don't even know who has those weapons."

O'Rourke's response: "I expect my fellow Americans to follow the law." He repeated that line the next day, when CNN's Alisyn Camerota pressed him to explain how he would "get assault weapons away from people who don't want to give them up."

Camerota was incredulous. "You expect mass shooters to follow the law?" she asked. "Our fellow Americans will follow the law," he insisted. "Yes."

The experience of states that have mandated registration of "assault weapons" suggests otherwise. A year after New Jersey banned the possession of unregistered "assault weapons," a grand total of 18 had been surrendered or confiscated, out of an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 guns covered by the law.

California, New York, and Connecticut met with similar success when they required registration of "assault weapons" owned before those states banned them: Only a small minority of the targeted guns, ranging from 2 percent to 15 percent, were actually registered. Since O'Rourke wants to confiscate "assault weapons," and not merely register them, he can expect even wider defiance.

While Camerota was appropriately skeptical of O'Rourke's mandatory buyback plan, she nodded in agreement as he described the guns he wants to seize as "materially different" from handguns and hunting rifles because they fire at "a terrifying rate." O'Rourke also thinks so-called assault weapons are uniquely suitable for mass shootings because they fire "high-impact, high-velocity round[s]."

Neither of those claims is true. The characteristics that distinguish "assault weapons" from other guns—features like pistol grips, threaded barrels, barrel shrouds, and folding or adjustable stocks—have nothing to do with rate of fire, caliber, ammunition capacity, or muzzle velocity.

If you remove those prohibited features, you are left with a gun that is equally capable of quickly killing lots of people. Even former Vice President Joe Biden, who joins the other Democratic candidates in supporting a new federal law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of "assault weapons," concedes that the 1994 ban, which expired in 2004, had no impact on the lethal capacity of legal firearms.

Biden notes that gun manufacturers could comply with that law by "making minor modifications to their products—modifications that leave them just as deadly." That is equally true of the new, supposedly improved "assault weapon" ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.), who also wrote the 1994 law.

Nor do "assault weapons" figure prominently in gun violence. In 2017, according to the FBI, all rifles combined—only a subset of which would qualify as "assault weapons"—accounted for just 5 percent of guns used in homicides where the type of firearm was specified, while handguns accounted for 89 percent. Even mass shooters prefer handguns.

The Democratic presidential candidates, including the ones who criticize O'Rourke's confiscation scheme as impractical, nevertheless insist that banning this arbitrary category of firearms "would be huge," as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg put it last week. That belief is no less a fantasy than O'Rourke's dream that Americans, including would-be mass shooters, will happily turn in the guns he thinks they should not have.

© Copyright 2019 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. I’m not gonna say it would be fun to beat up Beta, cuz that would be wrong.

    1. be fun to watch my 8 year old niece beat him up. anything else would be unfair.

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  2. The interviewer asks stupidly, “You expect mass shooters to follow the law?” which mainly shows that she was in the Seattle math pilot program. A: There are 16M “assault weapons” in civilian hands. B: There aren’t 16M mass shooters. Then he answers stupidly, “Our fellow Americans will follow the law. Yes.” as if mass shooters, willing to break the laws against murder, will gladly follow the confiscation laws.

    Couple of world class intellects there.

    1. O’Rourke’s response: “I expect my fellow Americans to follow the law.”

      One wonders if Mr. O’Rourke followed the law when he drove around drunk and attempted to flee the scene of a wreck he caused.

    2. Yes but the law is intended to prevent mass shootings, whichmenas that of 16m “assault weapon” owners out there, the would-be mass shooters are the ones he should be most interested in getting the guns from, and yet they are the least likely to comply with the law, as the interviewer is implying

  3. Why is this guy still getting press?

    1. He follows the Kennedy formula; he’s a political mediocrity with good teeth and nice hair.

      The Press have been longing for another JFK ever since the St. Kennedy hagiography jelled. Which explains why they panted after Bubba Clinton for so long, and why they did tear Kerry to pieces for being a self-important twit with anger management issues.

      1. It is rather interesting how the assassinations of McKinley and Kennedy managed to set the tone for their parties for the next several generations. The Republicans have tended to lean towards relatively milquetoast businessmen types, while the Democrats have gravitated to youthful personality cults.

        1. McKinley also liked protective tariffs, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

      2. “hagiography ”

        How long have you been waiting to work that word into conversation?

        1. Hey, it’s a perfectly cromulent word.

          1. It embiggens any conversation it’s a part of.

          2. I am whelmed by your vocabulary.

      3. So the press are just a bunch of attention whores, anxious to spread their legs for the right Great Leader?

        1. Technically, left Great Leader. No right Great Leaders wanted.

  4. I think that the argument for banning Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) such as AR-15s rapidly falls apart, when you realize that the important word there is “modern”. Essentially, the complaint is that they are based on designs that are only 60 years old. Those banning these firearms are not (yet) advocating firearms designed before that point in time. They just want to ban designs newer than that, incorporating more modern engineering, ergonomics, materials, and modularity.

    Thus, the reason for some of the banned features:
    – barrel shroud: replacement for wood fore stock to protect shooters’ hands from heat
    – threaded barrel: modularity – allows for different flash suppressors and muzzle brakes. Flash suppressors protect night vision, and muzzle brakes help control recoil.
    – pistol grip: ergonomics – common now on many power tools, etc.
    – adjustable stocks: ergonomics – firearms can be easily tailored to individual shooters, allowing spouses to share guns, and obviating requirement to replace stock when different shooters own the gun.

    Imagine being told that the most modern cars you can own were the heavy steel, big finned, seatbeltless, 1950s models. Or rotary phones. Or tube computers. The difference is that firearm ownership is an enumerated Constitutional right, and these others are not. Yet, that is the one area of technology that they want to freeze at 1959 or so.

    1. To be fair, those “military-style” WW2 and Korean War-era rifles are pretty fucking cool, and if used properly, even more lethal than their modern counterparts.

      1. Even some WWI guns were cool since they were doing a lot of experimenting with different types

      2. Exactly, my SKS doesn’t have any of the features they care about (other than a bayonet) but that didn’t stop any of the commies from killing a shitload of people with them.

      3. The great thing about the M1 Garand and the M14 is that they’ve heavier than their modern counterparts so the typical pussy mass shooter wouldn’t be able to hold them long enough to shoot aim and shoot.

        1. Aww shoot! an extra shoot.

    2. Our overlords also enjoy 1960s technology in aircraft and nuclear reactors, among other things, and yet people clutch their pearls about all this “great again” rhetoric. I don’t know much about these fields, but I’m guessing our highway systems, building codes, and electric transmission and distribution systems are structurally entrenched in 1960s technology because we would hate to make regulators think to hard.

      That these systems are so arcane is common knowledge, and leads to stupid ideas from silly-con valley, most notably Elon Musk who attempts to modernize blatantly archaic systems with bonghit ideas that, while newer, are definitely worse in most cases.

    3. Don’t forget the whining about how the Constitution should only apply to 18th century technology. Thus freedom of the press should be taken literally: only hand-driven printing press material is protected speech.

      1. And just one at that. It says freedom of the press– singular, not freedom of the presses.

    4. If the anti-gun nuttery folks can punish a child for taking a bite out of a pop tart making an “L” shape sorta resembling a gun, what makes us think power tools with pistol grips are going to be left alone?

  5. “If Confiscating ‘Assault Weapons’ Is a Gimmick, So Is Banning Them”

    “all the Democratic candidates are guilty of magical thinking on this issue, because they support an “assault weapon” ban that cannot reasonably be expected to have a measurable impact on gun violence.”

    And that is the comparison between banning and confiscation ?

    What about Reason’s magical thinking in supporting coercive monopolies like the state governments while claiming to support a free market ?

  6. The Democratic presidential candidates, including the ones who criticize O’Rourke’s confiscation scheme as impractical, nevertheless insist that banning this arbitrary category of firearms “would be huge,” as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg put it last week.

    It would be huge. It would establish the principle that the government can ban an arbitrary category of firearms. If they can ban one arbitrary category, they can ban another, they can ban them all. Don’t be disparaging the significance of getting the camel’s nose through the tent flap.

    1. Except y’know they have banned entire categories of weapons.

      1. Every time I see this argument I just have to wonder if these guys have forgotten about the broad classes of weapons you’re already not allowed to own. Good luck trying to purchase a full auto anything, even like a vickers gun from WWI, and god help you if you thought it would be neat to have a (real) flamethrower. Even flashbangs aren’t legal for civilian use in any state that I know of, which is a shame really because they’re nonlethal but a great way to escape a sticky situation. Seems like the sort of solution the government would support, really.

        1. If the conservative judges were honest and consistent in their interpretation of the 2nd amendment we’d get to own any weapon especially weapons of war like explosive devices and fully auto. Of course that would be a disaster and the conservatives would be voted out of power and the 2nd amendment would be repealed and replaced with something more reasonable for our modern society so we get this logical inconsistency and the space for political conflict.

          1. If the conservative judges were honest and consistent in their interpretation of the 2nd amendment we’d get to own any weapon especially weapons of war like explosive devices and fully auto

            Hey dumbshit, you can own those things. You just need to fill out the paperwork for it. Most people don’t want to go through that hassle when you can walk into any gun shop and buy a semi-auto anything after a quick NICS check.

            Hell, you used to be able to buy dynamite in hardware stores as late as the early 1970s. Blame your lefty bomber friends from that era for that not being the case anymore.

            1. I think there’s some significant amount of money involved, too, not just the paperwork. The money is the bigger obstacle.

              And then you’re stuck with just really old machine guns, unless you go the extra mile to become a licensed dealer or manufacturer.

          2. It would be interesting to see what this “something more reasonable” would look like.

            1. Beat me to it.

          3. the 2nd amendment would be repealed and replaced with something more reasonable for our modern society

            And, as reason’s most virulent hoplophobe, do tell us, Tony, what you think is “reasonable”? (Incidentally, you lefties do love you some vacuous adjectives, don’t you?)

            I’m thinking it involves confiscating anything more dangerous than a butter knife, leaving your preciousssss governmentssses free to do whatever the hell it wants without fear of opposition. And you finally get to take those shiny jackboots out of the closet and do some stomping on those bullies who gave you swirlies in high school.

        2. Better check that flamethrower illegality thing. Big assumption.
          “In the United States, private ownership of a flamethrower is not restricted by federal law. Flamethrowers are legal in 48 states and restricted in California and Maryland.” cited to Washington Post, 2017.

          Also at Wikipedia: “Flamethrowers have not been in the U.S. arsenal since 1978, when the Department of Defense unilaterally stopped using them ⁠— ⁠the last American infantry flamethrower was the Vietnam-era M9-7. They have been deemed of questionable effectiveness in modern combat. Despite some assertions, they are not generally banned, but as incendiary weapons they are subject to the usage prohibitions described under Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.”

          “Nonlethal” Flashbangs can kill or mutilate at contact range. Equivalent of the muzzle blast of a full charge 12 gauge shotgun blank. They are supposed to be thrown into an unoccupied corner of a room to distract occupants by blinding light and ear-damaging sound. They have been thrown into an occupied baby crib with horrific injuries to the child. Plus, the flashbang fuse mechanism could be readily adapted to an improvised grenade, bomb, or booby trap.

        3. Oh look, up for sale right now.

          Lots and lots of machine guns, all you need is the $$$$ (and lots of waiting time).

        4. I think the argument about ARs shooting a 5.56 are more lethal than other rifles is hilarious and nothing but more proof most of these idiots have no clue what they talking about. I had a guy insist a 5.56mm was bigger than a 30-06 or .308. He went so far as to say how stupid was I to not grasp 5 is a bigger number than 3. When I tried to explain .308 is a measurement in INCHES and in fact, it is a 7.62 mm bullet he said I was crazy. Like the old saying says, you cant fix stupid.

  7. Still sounds like an infringement.

  8. Beto who?

    1. You know, that nut case who ran for president in 2020.

      /Reason commentariat, ca. 2021

      1. Umm…narrow it down a little please? Cause as you remember, there were 51 of them running before Hillary had them all killed.

        /Other Reason commentariat, ca 2021

        1. Nonsense. Everyone knows the Reason commentariat was purged by Hillary the Red, the day after her inaguration coronation.

          1. Ah. I defer to your superior knowledge of future history.

  9. And you’re still more likely to be murdered with a knife, a blunt object, or hands and feet than with ANY type of rifle. Wonder why no one wants to ban those tools of terror?

    1. They’re working on that in Great Britain.

      1. GB already has knife control laws. Waiting for blunt object/hand control laws to be passed in 3…2…1…

        1. The shame of it is our second amendment comes from the English right to arms, which is now non existent.

  10. “…all the Democratic candidates are guilty of magical thinking on this issue, because they support an “assault weapon” ban that cannot reasonably be expected to have a measurable impact on gun violence.”

    Did you not hear the crowd at the debate cheer in approval? It has nothing to do with accomplishing anything material, it just sounds good [to them] and puts them on some type of moral ground, as specious as it is. “Beto” would not even be mentioned in articles such as this had he not made that remark several weeks ago.

  11. “If it saves just one school child’s life, it is worth it.” TV reporter solicited comment heard at gun violence seminar the other week.
    Logically, just think how many lives would be saved if the government lowered highway speed limits to 30 mph.

    1. And how many more would be saved at 10MPH?

      1. Preceded by a walking person with a red flag. (It was a real thing.)

        1. Yeah, but only when crossing intersections – in Chicago, I think

    2. This actually happened in the 70s; a response to the Arab oil embargo was a national 55 MPH speed limit.

      “According to the National Research Council, there was a decrease in fatalities of about 3,000 to 5,000 lives in 1974, and about 2,000 to 4,000 lives saved annually thereafter through 1983 because of slower and more uniform traffic speeds since the law took effect.[23] Later, the National Academies wrote that there is “a strong link between vehicle speed and crash severity [which] supports the need for setting maximum limits on high-speed roads”

      If it saved 2,000 to 4,000 lives, but don’t make me take an extra two minutes to get home from work.

  12. Don’t think for a moment there would be a shortage of cops to confiscate weapons.

    Today’s American cop will have no problem swatting your home. They will do what their told to do, and won’t hesitate at all.

    Oh, they’ll give some initial patriotic drivel that they won’t, but they will fold like a cheap suit.

    1. thats my take as well, any opportunity for them to prove they are the Authority they will take

      1. They’re also cowards. They only get all “Respect my authoritah!” when they think no one is going to shoot at them.

        Remember that 1 guy in Philly a month or so ago? Took a whole swat team 6 hours to deal with him. That was 1 guy with an AR-15 and a handgun who didn’t want to go peacefully.

        Do you suppose they have the manpower to do what they did in Philly if even 5% of AR-15 owners decide they don’t want to cooperate?

        1. They’d get a lot less gung-ho if that same 5 % of gun owners started getting proactive instead of just refusing to cooperate.

    2. Still doesn’t change the fact that I lost all my guns in a deep sea mining accident.

      1. That sounds very unfortunate.

  13. I suspect that when people like Beto push confiscation of “assault weapons” they envision it being harshly enforced on some horrible Deplorable in flyover country. They don’t realize that will be the exception not the rule; there will be far more enforcement in minority communities in cities, just like the War On Some Drugs and Prohibition.

    If they hated “stop and frisk” in NYC because of “disparate impact” just wait until they see this.

    1. Hell, rural areas would be more likely to have cops refusing to implement this shit, cause 1. They don’t have the resources a big city department does and 2. people tend to know everyone else out there. You start pissing everyone else off and they’ll know where to find you.

      Hell, didn’t a good number of Oregon sheriffs refuse to implement Oregon’s newest BS gunlaw?

      1. Ditto Colorado sheriffs and the magazine ban.

        1. Can confirm, I had a little run in with law enforcement while I was shooting out in a state park recently. Apparently there was a fire ban in place so I wasn’t supposed to be shooting out there, honest mistake, but the cop didn’t say a word about my magazines despite the fact that he watched me dump a 30rd one about a minute before he came by to chat with me.

          Also have never had any issues at any of the indoor ranges here. There’s been law enforcement at those when I’ve shot, they give exactly 0 fucks about your magazines.

          1. That’d be a State Park Ranger, and I’m surprised he didn’t bust your balls about violating the shooting ban. Every one I’ve dealt with was an asshole.

            But your 30rd, I doubt any fuzz would bother bringing the matter up. After all, they’re not illegal to own, just illegal to transfer. What’re they going to do, ask you for a receipt dated before the ban? Stupid, unenforceable law.

            Good to hear the firing ranges don’t give you crap though. I could envision them just issuing a blanket ban to avoid hassles. (Though I’ve never brought that big of a magazine to a gun range anyway.)

    2. I believe one of the Iron Laws is that foreseeable consequences are not unintended. It follows that the people wanting to ban guns are super eager to put lots more otherwise innocent young black men in prison.

  14. Notice that while the other Dem candidates are giving O’Rourke “flak” for advocating an impractical policy which “distracts” from other more “workable” policies, none of them have gone on record as opposing confiscation in principle.

    The folks who claim they only want “reasonable”, “commonsense” gun laws continue to let the extremists set the terms of the debate. The Commonsensers remain reluctant to disavow the extremists. I wonder why…….

  15. dude’s such a dork i don’t see why even 20-something chicks think he’s anything

    1. He’s the Morrissey of American politics.

      1. worthless sans Johnny Marr.

  16. Beto is a useless airhead. It will be amazing to see what his next job is if the networks don’t offer him a talking head gig. Does he possess any useful skill at all?

    1. He rides a mean skateboard.

      1. no, no he does not he looks like my dad on a skateboard

      2. He’s the example of what happens when you ride a skateboard with no skill and no helmet.

  17. Beto should take his schtick to Hong Kong.

    1. Winner!

      But, but…That would never happen here! /prog

    2. lol. word.

  18. If banning is the action that is taken then just where would that banning stop? There are controls that are to keep these weapons out of the hands of those who would abuse theme. It has been the background checks that has failed. So the correction should take place in that area.
    When banning starts then our freedoms are in danger. If one thing can be banned then other things can also be banned, including our right to vote another constitutional right just as owning and using weapons are. BTW the weapon that they wore guaranteed that they could keep and use was the same weapons that was used in war!

    1. The banning would stop when all reasonable gun restrictions have been implemented. /prog

    2. That is the question I always ask and never get answered. What happens when they ban entire classes of cars because they are not fuel efficient or “environmentally friendly”? What about when they start banning foods or drinks because of healthcare costs? Gun bans are like every other proposal from progressives. It is not about guns but control.

  19. Banning guns?
    What next?
    Banning all of the Bill of Rights?

    1. Without the 2nd amendment all the others become privileges granted at the discretion of the government.

  20. There is only one calculation at the core of any political debate. In this one, it’s how many human lives are worth the right to own a murder/suicide machine.

    As gun nuts are wont to do, you’ll probably find some way to weasel your way out of the real data, so just for shits and giggles, let’s pretend that increased gun ownership means increased gun death.

    How many deaths are too many?

    1. And our resident anti-gun zealot has spoken!!! Yours is a red herring argument and no different than claiming more umbrellas means more rain. People killed each other and committed suicide long before guns even existed. Guns do prevent one thing that cannot be denied. They prevent people from being easily killed by their own government. Why do you think the first act of dictators like Hitler, Stalin and Chavez was to disarm the people?

    2. Are we gonna ban cars too? What about tobacco? Tobacco related illness kills 400,000 people a year! What about fast food? Sugary drinks? Alcohol? A gun is a tool. I can kill someone as easily with a screwdriver as I can a gun. The two greatest acts of mass murder in US history, 9/11 and OKC used no guns.

    3. Depends on who dies, Comrade. Everywhere that you Proglodytes have decided who has guns, it has been at the expense of the “masses” that you brainwashed into supporting your policies. The number of deaths hasn’t gone down — if you REALLY want data, go check the stats on demicide. Once you have all of the guns, then you impose tyrannical policies that kill MILLIONS.

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