Dem rep: Uh, no, I don't want to ban all semiautomatic weapons

Via the Free Beacon, I don’t get it. Why would a Democrat from Michigan be reluctant to admit his party’s obvious desire to ban–

Oh, right. Right. I forgot.

Let me give CNN a bit of credit here, on a day when my opinion of the network has never been lower. This is a question that should be asked of Democratic pols, not because it’s a gotcha but because there’s a genuine conflict between the party’s beliefs and its electoral aspirations. They need to claw back some ground with white working-class voters, particularly in purple states like Dan Kildee’s Michigan, which points towards a more moderate position on gun control. But there’s no denying that the party’s increasingly influential left wing wants, at a minimum, semiautomatic rifles banned, not just “assault weapons.” What’s a Democrat to do?

You got a taste of the dilemma last night at CNN’s town hall, when the crowd erupted in cheers after Marco Rubio broached the idea of banning semiautomatic rifles — not just “assault weapons” — in passing. Asked about that moment, Kildee whines here that “Gun advocates, the NRA will seize upon that as evidence there’s a slippery slope.” But it’s not a matter of it being a slippery slope; it’s a matter of the logic behind an “assault weapons” ban necessarily leading to designs on all semiautomatics, which was Rubio’s point. The objection to semiautomatics is that they can be reloaded quickly, letting a killer fire more or less continuously until he’s interrupted. An “assault weapon,” i.e. an AR-15 with a minor modification, isn’t meaningfully different from a standard AR-15 in that respect. And a standard AR-15 isn’t meaningfully different from a semiautomatic pistol in that respect either, although it fires with more power. Assume the left managed to get all semiautomatic rifles banned but not semiautomatic pistols, as part of an, ahem, “reasonable compromise.” A month later someone shoots up a school with semiautomatic pistols a la Virginia Tech, killing dozens. Would Democrats react the next day by saying, “Nothing further to be done, as we’ve made our compromise between rights and regulations”? They’d start chattering immediately that banning all semiautomatic weapons is the only logical thing to do.

Besides, since when is it silly to believe the left is dishonest about its regulatory ambitions? We spent the better part of a year in 2009-10 being told that Democrats have no interest in a government takeover of health care, that ObamaCare was in fact a conservative-ish plan that would leave insurance in the hands of the private sector. Eight years later Bernie Sanders is the most popular pol in the party preaching “Medicare for all,” with various 2020 contenders destined to follow his lead in the next Democratic primaries. Democrats lie about their policy plans all the time so as not to spook swing voters who might be nervous about sudden, too-dramatic change. Kildee’s assurances here are worth less than that CNN town hall was last night to meaningful public debate.

On the other hand, is this really true?

Conservatives like to tell themselves that but more than one poll lately has put support for an “assault weapons” ban well over 60 percent. Quinnipiac had it 67/29 and a new survey from Morning Consult has it 69/23 if you include “soft” supporters. (WaPo had a more modest 51/45 split.) Polls on banning all semiautomatic rifles are harder to come by since Democrats haven’t pushed hard on the idea — yet — but maybe someone should take one. As I say, if you’re open to an AWB, logically you’re open to a fanciful, highly unfeasible ban on all semiautomatics too.

In lieu of an exit question, enjoy two critiques of CNN’s repulsive town-hall mob event last night. David Harsanyi calls it a “clarifying moment on guns” and says it went a long way towards convincing gun owners that liberals really do want to confiscate their weapons. I don’t know that most gun owners needed convincing on that point, but insofar as they did, I agree. Ramesh Ponnuru laments that CNN has gone all-in on advocacy over the past few days, abandoning its neutral “this is an apple, not a banana” pretenses. I made the same point yesterday. The network is already in sufficiently low standing on the right that they probably don’t care about losing more credibility, but I haven’t been a Trumpy CNN-hater in the past (Acosta excluded) and my own opinion of the outlet has suddenly curdled. Take that for what it’s worth.