The assault weapons ban and the Democrats

Since the assault weapons ban expired, AK-47s are showing up in the hands of criminals, and some of them are killing cops. Is this an issue for the Democrats? I’m not sure.

A question to which I don’t know the answer:

As a purely political matter, is the assault weapons ban something Democratic Presidential candidates would be well advised to raise as a campaign issue? Since the Republicans allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004, there has apparently been an upsurge of killings &#8212 including killings of police officers &#8212 with guns that would have fallen under that ban, especially in South Florida.

The ban as written didn’t make much technical sense, but apparently it’s not technically hard to define a class of high-lethality, high-fire-rate long guns that aren’t actually used either in hunting or in target shooting.

In terms of numbers, public opinion is very much on the gun-controllers’ side on this issue. But for the gun-rights fanatics, this is a voting issue; being perceived as “anti-gun” probably cost Al Gore New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Tennessee in 2000.

Footnote The issue has an international dimension: the Mexican drug cartels, which are becoming significant threats to the rule of law in places such as Nuevo Laredo, get many of their weapons from the U.S.

Second footnote The technical illiteracy of reporters and many gun-control advocates continues to be a problem. Someone needs to tell CNN that fully-automatic weapons, otherwise known as “machine guns,” are still banned under the National Firearms Act. It’s not the military version of the AK-47 that’s at issue; it’s the semi-automatic version, which has great penetration power and will fire as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger, but can’t actually “spray at a rate of up to 600 rounds a minute.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: