The US had a ban on assault weapons. What did it expire? (2019) Yes. Twenty five years ago, when Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Congress passed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act — commonly called the assault weapons ban.
It prohibited the manufacture or sale for civilian use of certain semi-automatic weapons that could be converted to fire automatically. The act also banned magazines that could accommodate 10 rounds or more.
“Assault weapons — military-style firearms designed to fire rapidly — are a threat to our national security, and we should treat them as such,” Biden wrote in his weekend op-ed. “Anyone who pretends there’s nothing we can do is lying — and holding that view should be disqualifying for anyone seeking to lead our country.”
The earlier ban was enacted as a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, an election-year package meant to show that Democrats were “tough on crime.” Times were different then. More Americans said they worried about violent crime and the threat associated with criminals armed with powerful weapons.
So among other things, Biden and Democrats got behind stricter sentencing guidelines and expanding the category of federal crimes punishable with the death penalty. At the time, Biden defended the legislation against charges of weakness by saying: “We do everything but hang people for jaywalking in this bill.”
Stop the slaughter of our children with these weapons of war (2019). I spent my entire professional life taking up arms in defense of our country, serving in wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan, and ending my service as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I saw how our ground forces and special forces sought to improve the precision and lethality of their weapons, which took enemy lives and saved their own. Such is the nature of war But these weapons are for war; they are not for sport. Assault weapons are designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. As the tragic events last week in El Paso and Dayton attest, these weapons make it virtually impossible for law-enforcement agencies to stop those bent on taking lives. In Dayton, heroic officers responded within 30 seconds, and yet the shooter still killed nine people.
Did the assault weapons ban work? That’s complicated (2019). For more than 20 years, Congress has included a provision in funding bills that prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using money to do anything that could be considered advocating for or promoting gun control.
But some studies were funded by the National Institute of Justice to try to figure out what the impact of the assault weapons ban was. A key investigator conducting those studies was Dr. Christopher Koper, the principal fellow of George Mason’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy. In the 2013 book Reducing Gun Violence in America, Koper wrote “In summary, the ban had mixed effects in reducing crimes with the banned weaponry because of various exemptions and loopholes in the legislation. The ban did not appear to affect gun crime during the time it was in effect, but some evidence suggests it may have modestly reduced gunshot victimization had it remained in place for a longer period.”
And in 2017, he and other researchers had a slightly more positive view of the ban’s impact while it was in place. The study cautions that much more research is needed, but that..
Don’t ban assault weapons. Tax them. Arguments over the Second Amendment’s meaning too often ignore a simple fact: The goal of the right to keep and bear arms is to safeguard the security of a free state. Today’s gun policies are making most Americans less, not more, secure. Instead of simply extolling the virtues of the Second Amendment, we should take some of our cues from the policies the founding generation used, including taxation. We need to understand how the Second Amendment fit into a society that valued peace as a vital precondition for the exercise of liberty. At the very minimum, considering taxation as a tool of gun policy should spur us to think more creatively about how to solve our contemporary society’s problem with firearms. Taxation offers a more flexible set of tools to achieve a goal all Americans seek: lowering the costs of gun violence to Americans.