Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Kristof on guns: Today's New York Times op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristof takes President Bush to task for not actively urging an extension of the decade-old assault weapons ban.
The assault weapons ban, for the record, is a joke. It is a law that is all about aesthetics -- what the weapon looks like -- not what it can do. These assault weapons are not fully automatic; you can't go shooting up the countryside pretending you're Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Kristof wants the ban reauthorized, at the very least, or strengthened to include "copycat" weapons. For example, an assault weapon has a bayonet mount. Remove the bayonet mount and the exact same weapon is magically transformed into a legal firearm.
Kristof's arguments, however are factually weak and logically dubious.
I grew up on an Oregon farm that bristled with guns to deal with the coyotes that dined on our sheep. Having fired everything from a pistol to a machine gun, I can testify that shooting can be a lot of fun. But consider the cost: 29,000 gun deaths in America each year.
Is Kristof's suggestion that we should ban all guns? By comparing the cosmetic assault weapons ban with all gun deaths in America -- including police officers who shoot armed criminals and gun owners defending their homes -- his haphazard use of this statistic seems to bear that out.
While gun statistics are as malleable as Play-Doh, they do underscore that assault weapons are a special problem in America.
They accounted for 8.4 percent of the guns traced to crimes between 1988 and 1991, and they are still used in one in five fatal shootings of police officers.
Again, it sounds like the ideal Kristof response is to just get rid of that pesky Second Amendment. If assault weapons are used in 20 percent of the murders of police officers, then those weapons are small potatoes -- let's go after the 80 percent.
Apparently Kristof's belief is that if "assault weapons" are banned, then the crimes that would've been committed with those guns will magically never occur. It's as if the criminal, when he discovers that he can't buy an assault weapon, won't see if a handgun will do.