Assault Weapons Ban: Why It Probably Won't Work and Why That's a Good Thing

I’ve never owned a semi-automatic rifle, but I have been tempted to get one before. (“Tempted” is defined as searching for one at an affordable price.) Today, with a ban on so-called “assault weapons” pending, a lot of people are getting the same idea. I don’t think that the ban is likely to pass, but it might succeed at putting more “assault weapons” in American households.

Many of the current buyers are likely collectors, who already own one or more semi-automatic rifles and, therefore, know how to navigate the bureaucracy of the gun-ownership subculture. They already have had their background checks with the FBI; they have their permits for owning one or more guns; they know which gun-dealers to trust; and, if necessary, they know how to assemble and upgrade parts for the guns that they already own. (Given that the ban might make buying a pistol grip illegal — even though this doesn’t make a weapon more lethal — buyers may start hording these while they still can.)

No politician has a realistic plan for getting the semi-automatic weapons that are already out there back. There is talk of buying them and melting them down, but it is unlikely that someone who has already spent as much as $4,000 on registering a single weapon is going to readily volunteer to hand it back at whatever price the government is willing to dish out, especially considering the prices governments tend to offer for semi-automatic weapons are low: $200 for an AR-15? If anyone is willing to sell a weapon for that price, then I’ll take two. More importantly, people who are selling their weapons back are unlikely to want to use them in a crime.

The only other way of getting the guns back would be if the government set a deadline for them to be turned in and, after that, going house to house. This is unfortunate, given that Congress could put responsible reforms in place which would go a long way toward ensuring they were kept out of irresponsible hands (such as requiring buyers to obtain endorsements from friends or family members who would assume partial liability if the buyer used the weapon to commit a crime.)

Instead, the government elects to take a moderate sojourn down the road already taken by the United Kingdom — where the Surrey Police recently arrested a former soldier for trying to turn a shotgun in to them. This is the logical end of such bans: When the government stops believing that the innocent can also be responsible citizens, it ends up presuming everyone guilty.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

James Banks

is a Rochester-based writer. He is a former contributor to "The American Interest" Online and has written for "The Weekly Standard," "The Intercollegiate Review" and other publications. He works in web communications and is a doctoral student at the University of Rochester.

MORE FROM

Trump keeps saying he wants to “let Obamacare fail.” How would that happen?

There are several ways the administration could sabotage the law, experts said.

AIDS deaths are almost half of what they were in 2005 — but experts worry Trump could reverse that

Trump's proposed budget cuts could be detrimental for those living with HIV.

OJ Simpson granted parole after nine years in prison

After serving nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery, OJ Simpson was granted parole in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

Black Lives Matter activists respond to the police shooting of Justine Damond

“Some white people don’t feel the tragedy until one of them is murdered.”

Capitol police arrest 155 during massive health care protest

Those arrested have been charged with crowding and resisting arrest.

Both sides rally behind John McCain after brain cancer diagnosis

Both sides of the aisle expressed support for the Arizona Republican after announcing aggressive brain cancer.

Trump keeps saying he wants to “let Obamacare fail.” How would that happen?

There are several ways the administration could sabotage the law, experts said.

AIDS deaths are almost half of what they were in 2005 — but experts worry Trump could reverse that

Trump's proposed budget cuts could be detrimental for those living with HIV.

OJ Simpson granted parole after nine years in prison

After serving nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery, OJ Simpson was granted parole in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

Black Lives Matter activists respond to the police shooting of Justine Damond

“Some white people don’t feel the tragedy until one of them is murdered.”

Capitol police arrest 155 during massive health care protest

Those arrested have been charged with crowding and resisting arrest.

Both sides rally behind John McCain after brain cancer diagnosis

Both sides of the aisle expressed support for the Arizona Republican after announcing aggressive brain cancer.