Ordinarily you wouldn’t expect much accuracy or sense in an article about guns and gun control from the New York Review of Books, but there it is, in David Cole’s review of three new gun books in the current edition. In particular, this:
Congress has not passed a gun control law since it sought to ban assault weapons in 1994, and that law proved largely ineffectual. It is remarkably difficult to define an “assault weapon.” They are semiautomatic, which means they fire a new bullet with each trigger pull, while automatically reloading. But most guns made today are semiautomatic, so the ban on assault weapons focused on the cosmetic military appearance of certain guns, and was easily evaded by alterations in design. Moreover, while gun rights proponents are hard-pressed to offer a legitimate reason for civilians to own assault weapons, they are used in a very small proportion of gun crimes. Most crimes involve ordinary handguns. So the assault weapon ban did little if anything to advance gun safety and Congress let it lapse in 2004.
Cole is skeptical of some of the improvisations of gun grabbers, such as Firmin DeBrabander’s tortured theoretical argument that gun possession is anti-democratic:
These assertions, notwithstanding the obligatory references to John Locke, Machiavelli, Hannah Arendt, and Michel Foucault, are frankly difficult to square with political reality. The NRA may advocate for an individual right, but its influence derives precisely from collective democratic action. Far from threatening democracy, it expertly deploys the techniques of majoritarian politics. The NRA has achieved its victories not by threats of insurrection but through the classic methods of democracy: debate, dialogue, lobbying, and electioneering. Its source of strength lies not in the weapons its members own or carry, but in the votes they cast and the arguments they make.
Surely by this point NYRB readers on the Upper West Side will be getting the vapors. It gets better. Cole implicitly throws cold water on the proposal that Democrats sat in for this week of banning anyone on the terror watch list from buying a gun:
Others have proposed adding “suspected terrorists” to the list of those ineligible to purchase guns at licensed gun stores, a sensible suggestion so long as Congress adopts fair procedures and clear standards for so designating individuals. (At the moment, terror watchlists are notoriously overinclusive, adopted in secret, and virtually impossible to get off of, so significant reform would be necessary.)
It is precisely the reform of a prospective terror watch list gun buying ban that Republicans proposed but which Democrats opposed for purely political grandstanding reasons.