How many readers assumed that the “Fox anchor” would be … Shepard Smith? Nope — in this case it’s Minnesota’s own Gretchen Carlson, who wants action taken by Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban in the wake of the terrorist attack in Orlando on Sunday morning. “Yes, the Orlando massacre was terror,” Carlson told her audience last night, “but there’s no doubt that Omar Mateen was able to kill so many people because he was firing an AR-15, a military style assault weapon, a weapon easier to buy in the state of Florida than buying a handgun.”
Maybe before we start banning weapons sales, can we at least research which weapons are which? Via Leah Barkoukis:
“I think some of these mass shootings would have be less deadly today if that were the case, but I’m also with the majority today taking a stand,” she added, pointing to a recent Quinnipiac poll that showed 58 percent of Americans support banning the sale of assault weapons.
“Cant we hold true the sanctity of the Second Amendment while still having common sense?” she asked.
Sure. Let’s start with offering an objective, consistent definition of “assault weapon.” The AR-15, as has been endlessly discussed here and elsewhere, hardly fits the bill. It is, like the majority of firearms sold, a semi-automatic rifle — which means it can fire only one bullet per trigger pull. It uses 5.56 NATO or .223 ammunition, which is far from the power of most calibers and firearms. The AR-15 is one of the most popular models because of this — it’s easy to control and therefore more reliably accurate, especially for smaller shooters. If one wanted to plan an assault, it would be a remarkably poor choice.
And once again, the AR-15 wasn’t the firearm used in the Orlando shooting. In fact, the deadlier shootings have generally used pistols, as was the case in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting and others, as Bob Owens noted yesterday. They are easier to conceal, easier to handle, and easier to reload.
Calling for the ban of “assault weapons” is as useful as demanding “safe firearms” or calling semi-automatics “weapons of war.” All are meaningless phrases. Firearms are deadly — that is their purpose, and why 60 million households own one or more of them for target practice, hunting, and especially self-defense. The US already bans the manufacture of machine guns (automatic-fire weapons) for civilian use, which are the actual weapons used in war.
The previous assault-weapons ban never offered an objective definition of “assault weapon,” either. It picked and chose between dozens of different firearms, barring the sale of some while allowing others of equal or greater capability on a completely arbitrary basis. It had absolutely no effect on shootings; in fact, homicides by all rifles (the FBI category in which “assault weapons” incidents are counted) have fallen every year since the 2004 expiration.
In 2014, the last year for which we have complete data, the FBI recorded 248 homicides by rifles and 262 by shotguns, both the lowest in the previous five years. Rifles accounted for just two percent of all homicides. More than twice as many homicides were committed by “personal weapons,” such as hands, fists, feet, and so on (660), and almost twice as many by blunt instrument (435). Knives and cutting instruments accounted for 16.4% of all homicides, eight times as many as rifles. It’s also worth pointing out that murders overall declined in every year from 2010 to 2014, including murders by firearms, without a so-called “assault weapons” ban. (Also worth noting: Handgun homicides dropped by 9% during the same period, even as concealed-carry permits exploded in popularity.)
Gretchen is still one of my favorite Fox anchors. She’s kind, gracious, and usually much sharper than this. She posted a poll on her site asking whether Congress should reinstate the assault-weapons ban. Be sure to take part in it, but if you leave a comment, remember that she’s a friend who just happens to be wrong in this instance.
Update: The AR-15 shoots .223, not .22LR, which I knew. I’ve corrected the error, and my apologies.