Warner: On second thought, maybe we need a gun ban

Virginia Senator (and former Governor) Mark Warner used to be a thorn in the side of some members of the Democratic Party because of his “moderate” position on guns. In progressive circles, that pretty much means anyone who doesn’t favor repealing the Second Amendment, but Warner was opposed to any form of gun bans. Now that Florida school shooting has lit up the political playing field, however, Warner is finally starting to get weak in the knees. Last week he had the question put to him and conceded that he might be in favor of an “assault weapons” ban. (Free Beacon)

Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) has reversed course from his long-stated views on gun control, signaling that he now supports a federal ban on “assault-style weapons” and limits on high capacity magazines.

“I don’t know how I can responsibly look at those young people and not say ‘We need to do something,’” Warner said on Friday, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “We can debate around the edges where and what the perfect solution is. … But it’s time for action.”

Warner’s change of heart comes as Congress weighs how to adequately respond to the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The shooting, which left 17 dead, has reignited the national conversation surrounding gun control and school safety.

Warner admitted that a blanket ban would be difficult to implement as it would require the federal government to find consensus on the definition of what constitutes an “assault weapon.”

Two points to consider here are what the political implications are for Warner and how Congress would answer the very important question he’s asking. Let’s just say that he’s willing to go along with such a ban. How would our cohort of congressional critters define an “assault weapon” if they want such things banned? Keep in mind that the 1994 ban prohibited rifles with two or more of the following features:

  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Bayonet mount
  • Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
  • Grenade launcher

Does that hold up today? I mean, is anyone really on the lookout for people with bayonet mounts on their rifles? I can see a ban on grenade launchers (assuming you somehow have access to grenades), but how does a flash suppressor increase your kill rate in a crowded school setting? As for the rest, there are semiautomatic hunting rifles out there which easily pass muster based on those criteria and they’re every bit as lethal as the ones that make the list.

Swinging back to the politics of all this, is Virginia really so blue at this point that Warner can afford to take a yes vote on a gun ban? He’s not up for election again until 2020 (assuming he plans to run, which might wind up being the deciding factor here) so there will be time for the issue to cool down. Still, keep in mind that in 2014 he only beat Ed Gillespie by roughly 17,000 votes. It’s not as if the guy is invulnerable.

All of this may turn out to be moot if the GOP can manage to not develop a sudden case of disappearing spine and refuse to bring such a ban up for a vote. But Warner is now on the record on this subject and the internet has a long memory.