Not only is confiscation politically untenable — the compliance rates of gun owners when bans are passed are laughably low. The distribution of these weapons across society makes even their prohibition nearly impossible. In 1996, Australia launched a mandatory gun buyback of 650,000 military-style weapons. While gun ownership per capita in the country declined by more than 20 percent, today Australians own more guns than they did before the buyback. New Zealand’s leaders, in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, launched a compulsory buyback effort for the tens of thousands of military-style weapons estimated to be in the country.
For context: In 2016 alone, more than one million military-style weapons were added to America’s existing civilian arsenal, according to industry estimates.
Not only are the number of total guns in America orders of magnitude larger than other nations, the political imagination is far less ambitious. Consider a federal assault weapons ban that Democrats introduced this year. It is purely a messaging bill since there was no chance it will win support from Republicans and become law. Yet even this thought experiment falls far short: The bill bans military-style weapons, except for the millions of military-style weapons already in circulation.