Colorado passed one of the nation’s toughest gun-control laws last week, but it didn’t include the one component that its advocates most wanted to see. Governor John Hickenlooper went on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday to explain why he didn’t press for a so-called “assault weapons ban,” which he called “a tough sell.” Left out of that analysis, of course, was the fact that the Newtown shooting which revived the long-moribund gun-control cause was committed in a state (Connecticut) that already had an assault-weapons ban in place, which did nothing to prevent the shooting.
Do note as well that we have yet another entry into the Gun-Ignorant Media Style Guide, courtesy of CNN’s Candy Crowley:
“Semi-assault weapons”? What are those, guns used in a passive-aggressive style? I show you mine and you don’t show me yours? Obviously, Crowley wanted to say “semi-automatic weapons,” a broad class of firearms that includes anything with a magazine of any sort, or perhaps “semi-automatic assault weapons,” which means even less than the meaningless phrase “assault weapons.” Hickenlooper alluded to the nonsensical nature of the term “assault weapons” shortly afterward:
“I think the feeling right now around assault weapons, at least in Colorado, is that they are so hard to define what an assault weapon is – there’s a lot of questions whether the 10 year federal ban was in existence, made a difference,” Hickenlooper said.
Actually, there aren’t a lot of questions about that — it made no difference at all. That’s because only three percent of murder victims are killed with rifles of any kind, “assault weapon” or not. In fact, in every year between 2007 and 2011 inclusive, the number of people killed with every class of firearm dropped from one year to the next.
A revamp of background checks might keep some weapons out of the hands of those who would abuse them, although as Jazz Shaw wrote yesterday, there may be an even greater possibility for government abuse of that system. Hickenlooper argues that this is where legislation can make a “significant difference,” but also suggested that conservative arguments about slippery slopes are on target, pun intended:
For its part, Colorado focused on mental health related issues in their bill to address gun violence. Hickenlooper on Sunday said a step-by-step approach could help build support.
“We focused on mental health first, then universal background checks … which clearly make a significant difference, that’s where we put our initial focus,” Hickenlooper explained.
Making background checks more efficient and reliable would provide a little more security. However, the “significant difference” point of view relies on an assumption that most criminals buy their weapons from gun stores. They don’t; they steal them instead, and the Newtown shooting was a case in point. The shooter tried to purchase his own guns, but a background check flunked his application. He then stole the guns from his mother. Most criminals won’t be deterred from finding a firearm by more intense background checks, but more law-abiding citizens will have a tougher time defending themselves, especially if those background checks include non-adjudicated findings of unfitness to exercise Second Amendment rights.
And if more robust background checks are the first step in the “step by step approach,” what does Hickenlooper have in mind for step 2? Step 3?