With the prospect of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) being elected President of the United States, the Brady Campaign is trying to rejuvenate public interest in one of the group's priority issues: a ban on all detachable-magazine semi-automatic firearms, a vast expansion of the federal "assault weapon" law of 1994--2004. As Brady notes in a new propaganda paper, "Assault Weapons: Mass Produced Mayhem," "Senator Barack Obama supports banning assault weapons."
Gun owners who still believe that Obama may be after some people's guns, but not theirs, might want to read Brady's paper. The group advocates "a stronger, more comprehensive law" than the one imposed in 1994-one that would ban the manufacture of all semi-automatic firearms "capable of accepting a detachable, high-capacity ammunition magazine." Gun owners better think again, if they think that verbiage doesn't apply to them, just because they don't have "high capacity" magazines for their deer rifles and pistols. It doesn't matter what kind of magazines they have; what matters is whether a larger magazine could be inserted in their gun. Reality check: Any gun that uses a detachable magazine is capable of using one of any size. The District of Columbia has used that basis to define the seven-round-magazine Model 1911 .45 pistol as a "machine gun," along with all other semi-automatics that typically use magazines holding a similar number of rounds.
Oddly, in the press release Brady published along with its paper, and in the paper, the group provided two items of information that seriously undercut its call for a ban. First, Brady admitted that the 1994-2004 law merely banned the inclusion of various attachments (folding stock, flash suppressor, etc.) on semi-automatic firearms, but did not ban the firearms themselves. According to Brady logic, murder should have gone up since the ban expired. Instead, since 1994, the nation's murder rate dropped 35 percent.
Second, Brady claims "Our communities are less safe today than they were four years ago" because "In the four years since the federal assault weapons ban expired, at least 163 people have been killed . . . with military-style semiautomatic assault weapons." But in the same time frame, there were more than 22,000 murders without firearms of any sort; meaning non-gun murders outnumbered those with "assault weapons" by about 123-to-1. Furthermore, in most of the 163 murders Brady mentions, no more rounds were fired than could have been fired with many other kinds of guns. For example, in the so-called "D.C. Sniper" murders Brady highlights, only one shot was fired per crime.
Echoing similar rants of the past, Brady claims that "Assault weapons have no sporting or self-defense purpose" and that "assault weapons are exceedingly dangerous if used in self defense, because the bullets many of the weapons fire are designed to penetrate humans and will penetrate structures, and therefore pose a heightened risk of hitting innocent bystanders."
But firearms that Brady calls "assault weapons"--AR-15s, M1As, and semi-automatic pistols--dominate rifle and pistol competitions. Even anti-gun commentators have pointed out that any gun can be used for self-defense. Bullets used in self-defense are supposed to penetrate a criminal attacker, and the guns that Brady calls "assault weapons" use the same calibers of ammunition as other guns.
About the only new item in this Brady effort, compared to those from the past, is that the group tries to use the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) to justify a ban. The Court suggested that fully-automatic firearms might not be protected under the Second Amendment, based in part on the history of prohibitions on the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons," and Brady said that, "Assault weapons are certainly 'dangerous and unusual weapons.'"But semi-automatic firearms are not fully-automatic. The Court did not rule on either fully-automatics or semi-automatics. And the historic prohibition on "dangerous and unusual weapons" only applied when a person armed himself "in such a manner as will naturally cause a terror to the people." American courts have never found rifles, shotguns, most handguns, or any firearms useful for military purposes and the defense of the state to be "dangerous and unusual" unless the arms were used in a threatening manner.