‘Assault weapons’ debate: The folly of Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s buyback bill

Gun control advocates introduced a bill in April that only gun control supporters could love. Connecticut Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro is so serious about getting so-called assault weapons off the street that she is offering $2,000 tax credits for each gun that people turning in limit one per year.

According to her, assault weapons are not about hunting, or even self-defense. There is no reason on earth, other than to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that anyone needs a gun designed for a battlefield.

Sometimes you have to wonder if politicians actually read the laws that they write up.

She believes that offering $2,000 a gun will ensure guns will be turned in. She is correct that people would turn in guns, that is old, non-working guns or guns bought cheaply and then make a profit turning them in. After all, many brand new assault weapons sell for less than $700.

Gaming the gun buyback system has pretty much become standard fare these days. There are also plenty of stories featuring people buying BB guns from a nearby Walmart and turning them in.

A better name for the “Support Assault Firearm Elimination and Education of our (SAFER) Streets Act would be the “Full Employment Act for Gun Makers.”

As the National Research Council reported in 2004: “research evaluations of U.S. efforts have consistently failed to document any link between such programs and reductions in gun violence. Even studies commissioned by the Clinton administration couldn’t show that going farther and banning these “assault weapons” from 1994 to 2004 lowered any type of crime rate.

Moreover, none of the semi-automatic rifles that DeLauro wants to buy up are “battlefield” weapons she claims them to be. The AR-15 or Bushmaster bear a cosmetic resemblance to the M-16, which has been used by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. The AR-15 and civilian version of the AK-47 are “military-style weapons.” But the key word is “style”they are similar to military guns in their cosmetics, not in the way they operate.

The AR-15 uses essentially the same sorts of bullets as small game-hunting rifles, fires at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and does the same damage. The civilian version of the AK-47 is similar, though it fires a much larger bullet .30 inches in diameter, as opposed to the .223 inch rounds used by the AR-15. No self-respecting military in the world would use the civilian version of these guns.

DeLauro claims that these semiautomatic assault rifles are not about hunting, or even self-defense.But, in fact, they are just hunting rifles made to look like a military weapon.

But the point isn’t to help hunters. Semiautomatic weapons also protect people and save lives. Single-shot rifles that require you to physically reload the gun may not do people a lot of good when they are facing multiple criminals or when their first shot misses or fails to stop an attacker. It is easy enough each month to find a dozen or so cases where people have had fire at least ten bullets in self defense because they have faced two, three or even four people breaking into their home.

Sometimes you have to wonder if politicians actually read the laws that they write up. It is one thing for them to believe that guns that look like military weapons are military weapons. But one would hope that politicians would understand the simple rule that if you subsidize something you will get more of it. In this case, if DeLauro’s bill became law, we would get a lot of wealthy gun makers and no long term change in the number of working assault weapons.

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including “More Guns, Less Crime.” His latest book is “Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench” Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.

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