The Assault Weapons Ban: A Red Herring
By Tina Dupuy
The philosophy behind the quackery known as homeopathic medicine is that "like cures like." As in: have a burn, apply a hot compress. This widely-panned pseudoscience (oh man, am I going to get letters) in its 300 years of existence has a history of being debunked, going away and then popping up a few decades later.
But this is the solution the NRA offers: Too many shootings requires more people armed and able to shoot. The problem AND the cure are basically the same: lots of guns.
On the other side is a call for ban of certain types of guns. This immediately gets into the weeds of "weapon-ese." Semi-auto? Assault weapons? Machine guns? Military-style characteristics? High capacity magazines? Bayonet mount? Flash suppressors?!
Which if you don't really care about guns (just care about being shot) is a booby trap set by gun enthusiasts. Because if you don't know what semi-auto actually means (it's a ridiculously broad term) - they can always tell you that you don't know what you're talking about. Which is true. Then the much-coveted conversation about guns in America is over.
Because in America you can't hate guns. That's not a legit stance. You have to love guns, possibly own a couple and be able to talk about them competently in order to have a seat at the table. Mitt Romney had to say he hunted "varmints." Really.
The problem with the assault weapons ban is that it's something. It's something for a nation, in the wake of Sandy Hook, crying out for some kind of SOMETHING. Anything but the bogus and tone-deaf prescription for more weapons on the streets made by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA.
There's a perfectly understandable cry for more gun control, which the assault weapons ban claims to be. It bans certain types of purchases on future weapons but it's not (in reality) a good law. It won't actually (as gun enthusiasts love to point out) affect gun deaths. Most gun deaths are by handguns. It's the legislative equivalent of banning large bags of candy to curb obesity, when the real issue is the wide availability of said candy.
Gun lovers gleefully pointed out last week that Chicago, with its assault weapons ban, police-issued Firearms Owners Identification Card mandate and its refusal to issue open carry permits plus its ties to President Obama, had their 500th homicide of 2012. If we cherry pick this information (disregarding the fact Louisiana and Mississippi with their lax gun laws actually consistently lead the nation in murders per capita) it appears gun control is futile.
Recently the Chicago Police Department requested the University of Chicago Crime Lab researchers study the guns used in crimes. In a groundbreaking report they found those guns were bought legally and locally in Cook County (where Chicago is located). Even more specifically from Chuck's Gun Shop in Riverdale. The Sun-Times reported, "From 2008 to March 2012, the police successfully traced the ownership of 1,375 guns recovered in crimes in Chicago within a year of their purchase." They continued, "Of those guns, 268 were bought at Chuck's - nearly one in five."
"How do the guns get on the street?," the study asks. Straw purchasers. People without a record legally buying a weapon and then selling it. Which is outrageous and illegal. But the ATF - the law enforcement organization that would crack down on these sales - the Sun-Times points out, has been largely budget-cut out of business and doesn't have the resources to track it or prosecute those crimes. It's an agency that hasn't had a full-time director in six years thanks to Congress insisting it requires a Senate confirmation. In short: In Cook County, Illinois (as with the rest of the country) it's easy to get a gun and easy to sell a gun.
This leads me to one plea: If we get one bite at the proverbial gun safety apple, don't make it the largely cosmetic assault weapons ban.
Federalize background checks, waiting periods and databases. Close the secondary market loopholes. These are things even card carrying NRA members agree with. Slow the flood of guns. But most importantly give the agency responsible for enforcing those laws a director and funding.
Then we can all learn weapon-ese and it's not completely useless.
Tina Dupuy is a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist, freelance investigative journalist and comedian. This article was originally published at L.A. Progressive.