New York’s Governor Pushes a New, Broader, Equally Pointless ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban

fbf0Andrew Cuomo New Yorks Governor Pushes a New, Broader, Equally Pointless Assault Weapon Ban

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing new
gun control legislation, including “one of the country’s most
restrictive bans on assault weapons,” according to The New York
Times. The story illustrates once again the
confusion created by treating “assault weapons” as an objective
category, as opposed to an arbitrary, scary-sounding term that has
no meaning outside of the laws that define it.New York’s current “assault weapon” ban, enacted following the
1999 massacre at Columbine High School, uses the same criteria
as the federal law that expired in 2004. A rifle is deemed to be an
“assault weapon,” for instance, if it accepts a detachable magazine
and has two or more of these five features: 1) a bayonet
mount, 2) a grenade launcher, 3) a folding or telescoping
stock, 4) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath
the action of the weapon, or 5) a flash suppressor or
threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor. The
problem, according to the Times, is that “many
high-powered rifles now in production are exempt from the ban
because, advocacy groups say, manufacturers have altered their
products to circumvent the law.”It is not clear what the Times means by
“high-powered rifles.” The definition of “assault weapon” has
nothing to do with caliber, firing rate, or the number of rounds
that can be fired before reloading (although a separate provision
of New York’s law bans magazines holding more than 10 rounds if
they were made after September 13, 1994, as did the federal
law). The reference to “high-powered rifles” suggests that “assault
weapons” are distinguished by their killing capacity, which is not
true, since their defining characteristics are essentially
aesthetic. To muddy matters further, the Times says
manufacturers who obey legislators’ dictates concerning the
appearance of their guns “have altered their products to circumvent
the law,” which makes no sense at all when you think about it. The
law says you can’t sell a rifle that accepts a detachable magazine
and has two or more of those five suspect features, so
manufacturers stopped selling such rifles in New York. That is
complying with the law, not circumventing it.Suppose Cuomo’s bill (which I have not seen yet) broadens the
definition of “assault weapons” by saying that a detachable
magazine plus just one of those five features is enough. If the
bill passes and manufacturers respond by offering New York versions
of their rifles without bayonet mounts, flash suppressors, etc.,
will that also mean they are circumventing the law?This bill is ostensibly a response to last month’s massacre at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where the
shooter used a Bushmaster rifle that was
legal under Connecticut’s “assault weapon” ban, which uses the
same criteria as New York’s current law. Therefore the legislation
Cuomo supports presumably will cover that particular model and
configuration. But since the features disfavored by these laws have
little or no functional significance in the hands of mass
murderers, why should that be considered an accomplishment? “Of 769
homicides in New York State in 2011,”
the Times notes, “only five were committed
with rifles of any kind.” Even if one or more of those rifles would
qualify as an “assault weapon” under Cuomo’s new definition, so
what? Any “assault weapon” ban that is even arguably consistent
with the Second Amendment will leave people like Adam Lanza with
plenty of equally deadly alternatives.Here is how Cuomo explains the need for new gun control laws: “I
think what the nation is saying now after Connecticut, what people
in New York are saying, is ‘do something, please.’” There’s no
denying this is something.

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New York’s Governor Pushes a New, Broader, Equally Pointless ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban

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