January 30, 2013

SHOCKER: public support for “assault weapons” ban tracks closely with public ignorance over what an “assault weapon” is

Jacob Sullum, Reason:

Although arbitrary distinctions are a defining characteristic of “assault weapon” bans, recent polls indicate that most Americans support them. New survey data suggest one possible explanation: Most Americans don’t know what “assault weapons” are.

Feinstein’s bill would ban “157 dangerous military-style assault weapons” by name, along with other guns that meet certain criteria. A rifle is considered an “assault weapon,” for example, if it has a detachable magazine and one or more of these “military characteristics”: a pistol grip or forward grip, a grenade launcher or rocket launcher, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel, or a folding, telescoping, or detachable stock.

The New York Times reported that Feinstein’s bill would “ban certain characteristics of guns that make them more lethal.” But how exactly do these features—a threaded barrel, say, or a grenade or rocket launcher without grenades or rockets (both of which are banned for civilian use)—make a gun “more lethal”? The distinguishing characteristics of “assault weapons” are mainly cosmetic and have little or no functional significance in the context of mass shootings or ordinary gun crimes.

CNN made an even bigger mistake, claiming the bill is aimed at “rifles capable of firing multiple rounds automatically.” In reality, the bill has nothing to do with machine guns such as those used by the military, which fire continuously (or “automatically”) when you pull the trigger and are already tightly restricted by federal law; it deals only with semiautomatics, which fire once per trigger pull.

Perhaps we should not be too hard on CNN, since President Obama, who supports a new ban on “assault weapons,” also seems to think they are machine guns, referring to them as “AK-47s” and “automatic weapons.” Contrary to the impression left by such descriptions, “assault weapons” are not distinguished by their rate of fire, the number of rounds they hold, or the caliber of their ammunition.

A Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey conducted this month suggests such misconceptions are common. After asking the 1,000 respondents if they thought people should be “prohibited from owning assault weapons,” the survey (which is sponsored by my employer, the Reason Foundation) asked half of the sample to “describe an assault weapon.” The answers are illuminating.

About two-thirds of the respondents described “assault weapons” as guns that fire rapidly, guns that can fire a large number of rounds without reloading, guns with a lot of “power,” or guns used by the military. More than a quarter described them as “machine guns,” “automatics,” or the equivalent (e.g., “multiple rounds with just one pull of the trigger”).

Overall support for banning “assault weapons” was only 44 percent, considerably lower than the 60 percent or so in recent Gallup and ABC News polls. But there was majority support—53 percent and 59 percent, respectively—among people whose descriptions of “assault weapons” emphasized rate of fire (including those who mistakenly described them as machine guns) or ammunition capacity.

One respondent said an “assault weapon” is a “weapon that is similar to the one that caused the tragedy in Newtown,” referring to last month’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That horrifying event, of course, was the pretext for Feinstein’s bill, although the Bushmaster rifle Adam Lanza used to murder 20 children and six adults was not covered by the old federal “assault weapon” ban or by a similar law in Connecticut.

Feinstein has addressed that omission by adding Lanza’s rifle to her list of prohibited weapons, which may seem emotionally satisfying. But since would-be mass murderers have plenty of equally effective alternatives, it is logically equivalent to banning the car Lanza drove to the school.

Media ignorance over firearms — which I suspect is quite real — is nevertheless quite easily (and readily) correctable.   So I suspect that what Sullum generously describes as “mistakes” are in fact intentionally misleading claims that the media can later excuse as misunderstandings or ignorance on their part.  After the damage of the lie has been done, of course.

The ends justify the means.

Fortunately, the failure of the first assault weapons ban — and the subsequent change in the gun culture that has more people arming and more people supporting private gun ownership — will likely mean that even modestly popular support for an assault weapons ban won’t be enough to convince lawmakers to pass legislation that would create millions of angry new felons.

The media, through polling, hopes to give some Republicans cover to support a potential ban.  That is, it is actively working to push the Obama/Feinstein gun control agenda, using a campaign of misinformation, shaming, and emotional appeal.

My only concern is that the GOP leadership is weak and easily swayed by media framing.  Which is why they should put the Feinstein bill up for a vote now and be done with it.

That they haven’t already done so suggests that at least some of them are looking for ways to alter the bill, or compromise on certain parts (likely, magazine capacity), in order to position themselves as not in favor of murdering children.  And that’s troubling.  Because this time, I don’t think that portion of the public who still believes in liberty is going to tolerate a ban on something that is self-evidently arbitrary and punitive to law abiding citizens.





Posted by Jeff G. @ 12:31pm

Comments (52)

  1. The NRA’s position on “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun Is a good guy with a gun” was so “extreme” that is was embraced by President Barack Obama.

  2. The entire gun control arguement is based on ignorance and emotion. “Assualt” rifles look scary so let’s ban them even though they are mechanically identical to semi automatic sporting arms. Crime statistics don’t support gun control so they use shooting victims as props to play on people’s emotions and sympathy, hence Gabby Giffords who will become the new Jim Brady.

  3. I’d say this is the ‘teens answer to the PMRC on steroids if the House Government Reform Committee hadn’t demonized steroids.

  4. What we need is legislation to make human being tougher, more resistant to bullets.
    Yeah.. That’s the ticket.

  5. Besides, there was a 79 year-old man killed while texting on his assault phone and driving here the other day.


  6. “STATISTICS: Gun-Controlled Britain Has More Than Double U.S. Rape Rate. Why are Democrats pro-rape?

    Posted at 2:45 pm by Glenn Reynolds ” (Seen on Instapundit)


  7. Also from Instapundit:

    “GUN CONTROL ON RAHM EMANUEL’S WATCH: Chicago murders top Afghanistan death toll. “The death toll by murder in Chicago over the past decade is greater than the number of American forces who have died in Afghanistan since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to a police analysis. In addition, police reports in Chicago – where President Obama once worked as a community organizer and where his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now serves as mayor – show most of the city’s massive murder mayhem is black-on-black crime.”

    Posted at 12:33 pm by Glenn Reynolds ”


  8. Obviously the leaders in Obama’s media don’t believe for a mirosecond that any such ban nonsense will either pass Congress, or if it does somehow, will have the slightest effect on mass killing events. If they did they wouldn’t support this, or anything else that could lower public “events”. They already have enough trouble filling their yellow tabloids with any real news as it is.

    – On the other hand, anything that has potential to make all non-Lefturds look bad is worth pursuing just for the political equity.

    – In other news……Arab Spring, what could possibly go wrong?

  9. I predict their next target will be miles-per-hour. They’ll cite gas savings and accident prevention or amelioration. I don’t mean posted speed limits, I mean actual mechanical restriction devices in cars and trucks.

    “No one (except some specially authorized individuals, of course) needs to go faster than (whatever the self-proclaimed aristoi decide) miles an hour. If just one life…”

  10. Mass transit and private jets to be exempted, naturally.

  11. – In other news……Arab Spring, what could possibly go wrong?

    The RINO they put on the radio in Boortz old time slot, (Brian Kilmeade?) had some pinhead on there the other day saying Hillary was the best SecSt in US history.

    How retarded to you have to be to argue that?

  12. Arab Spring, what could possibly go wrong?

    I’m starting to think people in that part of the world just like throwing rocks and flaming bottles of gas at each other. Spring, fall…it don’t matter. It’s just the way they roll.

  13. Leftists trotted out Gabby Giffords to speak for ‘bold gun control’. I couldn’t help but consider that, if Bloomberg’s rule limiting pistol magazine capacity to 7 rounds were in place, the crazy would not likely have bothered possessing an anemic 9mm…

  14. As I said earlier, Gabby Giffords is Jim Brady 2.0. Expect to see much more of her in the near future.

  15. Mark Kelly should feel like a jerk for whoring out his wife as an anti-gun poster child. It’s the same way I feel about Sarah Brady shoving Jim Brady’s wheelchair into the middle of every anti-gun legislation that comes down the pipe. And, Carolyn McWhatshername, the congresscritter from Long Island whose husband got gunned down by Colin Ferguson thus launching her career.

  16. What was newly revealed in the Senate hearing today?

    I heard the Baltimore (Co.?) police chief testify (under questioning from Mrs. Sen. Feinstein) that the Sandy Hook killer did not steal the AR type weapon, but that his mother had given it to him, and implied further that the murdering little shit didn’t steal any weapons, if I heard him right. It’s only strange that this bit of reporting first appears (to my knowledge) in a Senate hearing, without any accompanying account of the reporting’s origins (i.e., had the Chief had access to internal documents not currently available to the public, or personal interviews of his colleagues in Newtown? We don’t know from his account).

  17. It’s only strange that this bit of reporting first appears (to my knowledge) in a Senate hearing, without any accompanying account of the reporting’s origins (i.e., had the Chief had access to internal documents not currently available to the public, or personal interviews of his colleagues in Newtown?

    Feinstein will accept second hand testimony resulting from a seance.

    Because California.

  18. You took the words right out of my keyboard, leigh.

    I wouldn’t be suprised if Kelly did run for some elective office or end up heading an anti-firearm ‘charity’ where he pulled down over a million per year. Vile.

  19. Sorry, but I would ask the cops in fucking Connecticut about a case in fucking Connecticut, and a cop from fucking Baltimore can shut the fuck up except about cases in fucking Baltimore.

  20. Mark Kelly’s wife helped violently jam obamacare up our brokedick little country’s ass.

    She’s about as public service-minded as a case of crabs.

  21. Newtown is Fairfield County.

    The Baltimore cop must be a fluke.

  22. I don’t see the point in disparaging either the victims of such horrific, life altering crimes, or their spouses. It’s human to want to make if mean something purposeful. It’s also human find that higher meaning monetized and corrupted.

    I understand why the Bradys and Gifford/Kelly believe and act the way they do. I just don’t happen to agree with their stance on the issue. Nor will I grant to them the unimpeachable moral authority of victimhood.

  23. Pingback: What The Future Holds: GOP Cave-In On Gun Control « The Camp Of The Saints

  24. this is why you’re not on the disparagement committee

  25. Here‘s another shocker, did you know the earth has been getting greener, and has been for three decades?

    I guess all that CO2 pollution we exhale has an effect on the environment after all!

  26. “You must do something” says Ms. Giffords.

    I say 9000 laws on the books is doing a whole lot of something. Someone should ask the Police Union brass why they aren’t doing a better job of enforcing the law.

  27. vote ernst for the disparagement committee

  28. gee who knew plants like plant food

  29. “You must do something” says Ms. Giffords.

    Give me the option of shooting back, and I’ll try.

  30. Mark Kelly says that if crazy dude who shot his wife hadn’t had access to high capacity magazines, the little girl who died wouldn’t have died.

    He knows this. Because he’s psychic. Or something.

  31. Pingback: @ShuttleCDRKelly Is A Vile Jerk « The Camp Of The Saints

  32. Indirectly related:

    The elementary school my kids attend held a lockdown drill.

    The local authoriteh’s haven’t learned a damn thing from Sandyhook. But I’ve got a clear picture now of why two entire classrooms were massacred.

  33. Scary, isn’t it? I told my kid to bail out a window and run for his truck if he hears shooting in the halls.

  34. And that goes to serr8d’s point about using the most bang for your buck, so to speak, in which case his wife if most likely dead. So, tradeoff’s.

    This is the problem with letting people too close to an issue weigh in on it as if their experiences grant them special insight into it.

  35. These gun grabbers are immune to logic, that is why they always rely on emotion to sway public opinion. That is why the legislation in New York was rushed through, they had to strike before the public’s outrage died down. Meanwhile, the middle east is melting down, the Norks are threatening to test another nuke, and our economy continues to shrink yet all the blood dancers in the MSM focus on a tragedy that none of the proposed laws would have prevented.

  36. I can sympathize with the victims, yet there comes a time when one needs to let go and move on from the event. To do otherwise is unhealthy and freezes one’s emotions at that particular period in time.

    For instance, the brother of one of the girls killed at Columbine is still doing a lecture circuit to public middle and high schools and focusing on bullying, of all things. He can’t let this event in his life assume its position in the past. He is tearing off the scab of his sister’s tragic death and looking for causality in the wrong place.

    Of course, he does get paid rather handsomely for it. So there is that.

  37. – In the interest of performing a public service, not to be confused with a failure to get elected to the board of disparagy, the Psychogressives logic coiuld be taken a step further. Since we now know that “gun free zones” are so effective, surely they will want to make life insurance policies for school children manditory. Make the terms for 1 million. That’ll protect the little darlings real good. For the chillin’s.

  38. Sorry, but I would ask the cops in fucking Connecticut about a case in fucking Connecticut, and a cop from fucking Baltimore can shut the fuck up except about cases in fucking Baltimore.

    Which is a murderous shithole.

  39. Ever notice that the “murderous shitholes” Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, Newark, etc are all Democratic strongholds and have been for years. I know corelation is not causation but I think there might still be a trend.

  40. Even when police are only seconds away, those can be mighty long seconds.

  41. There are other correlations, like the demise of formerly powerhouse economies through error compounding errors (unions levering bargaining power into their own destruction, managements incapable of imagining their concessions will prove their death), political mistakes chasing those changes with horror policy (the tax base is shrinking! let’s raise taxes to make up the shortfalls! hi California! What, you don’t see yourself in the Philly mirror, the Detroit mirror? schade).

  42. As seen in the above video, the attack by Rashad Greene, 30, occurred after he was briefly left alone in the courtroom with Dominique Morrow, 28, and Greene’s grandmother.

    “white folks’ greed runs a world in need,” so shut up

  43. the tax base is shrinking! let’s raise taxes to make up the shortfalls!

    Ha! They did this in Baltamore, actually the entire state of Maryland, a few years ago and those with means they wishes to keep left.

  44. I know corelation is not causation but I think there might still be a trend.

    – If theres any possibility at all we should be doing everything we can to encourage it.

  45. The man has to be credited with being one of, if not first in class, of the most effortless liars in the history of the political stage in America.

  46. To paraphrase in emphasis.

    “Every word he says is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ”

    “He would rather climb a tree to tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth.”

    You have to be very exceptional to stand out in the company of the Left.

  47. “Media ignorance over firearms — which is quite WILLFUL …”


  48. Brady, Kelly, Gifford… I guess football really is bad for the brain.

  49. Pingback: ZION'S TRUMPET » Nothing The Liberal Gun-Ban Freaks Love Better Than A Poor, Disabled Victim to Exploit for The Boo Hoo Effect