3/96 Repeal Of Semi-Auto Ban Is Only The First Step

Repeal of Semi-Auto Ban is Only the First Step
Larry Pratt
Executive Director
Gun Owners of America

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the ban on semi-automatic firearms and large magazines. While the vote was certainly a good first step, the bill clearly did not go far enough.

The repeal bill which passed on Friday does nothing to protect gun dealers from the BATF, which has used provisions in the crime bill to drive thousands of gun dealers out of business since 1994. If Congress is going to heed the wishes of the electorate, they need to pass a full repeal of the Clinton gun control package.

The American people sent a strong message in the 1994 elections regarding gun control. Even President Clinton had to admit that the gun ban “cost the Democrats an estimated 21 seats in the House and therefore handed control of the chamber to the Republicans.”

Having said that, the House’s actions represented a good first step; and the Senate should follow suit. The gun ban is completely unconstitutional and prevents decent citizens from owning good self-defense firearms.

As for it’s unconstitutionality, even the Supreme Court had to admit last year (in U.S. v. Lopez) that there was no authority in the Constitution to pass gun control laws like the one banning possession of a firearm near a school. Moreover, several prominent law journals and criminologists have done excellent work recently in stating the case for the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Despite all this scholarship, some pundits feel the founders would never have intended the Second Amendment to cover the modern type of firearms in existence today. Of course, to argue this would be like saying the First Amendment was never meant to cover modern outlets such as radio and T.V.

In fact, the Second Amendment was specifically intended to protect an individual’s right to own the type of firearms in “common use.” Consider the statement by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Miller (1939): “The Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense . . . [and that] when called for service, these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.”

So what is one to conclude from all this? First, the Constitution gives Congress no authority to enact gun control legislation. Second, and perhaps even more surprising for modern-day pundits, the Constitution allows the Congress to require gun ownership (see Article I, Section 8).

This should not strike fear into one’s heart. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals over 2.4 million times every year — or 6,575 times a day. A substantial number of these self-defense firearms are semi-automatics, and are internally indistinguishable from the firearms banned in the 1994 crime bill.

The 1994 crime bill banned many of the very guns with which the Korean merchants used to defend themselves during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Those firearms proved to be extremely useful to the Koreans. They were facing mob violence and the police were nowhere to be found; truly, they needed firearms that would shoot more than just six bullets. When it was all over, it was their stores which were left standing while other stores around them were burned to the ground.

The Sarah Brady crowd would like people to think that these guns have become the criminals “weapons of choice.” Not true.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 1993 that violent criminals only carry or use a “military-type gun” in about one percent of the crimes nationwide. And according to the FBI, people have a much greater chance of being killed by a knife or a blunt object than by any kind of rifle, including an “assault rifle.” In Chicago alone, a person is 67 times more likely to be stabbed or beaten to death than to be murdered by an “assault rifle.”

One can’t have it both ways. If one wants to ban truly dangerous weapons, then one should start by banning knives and baseball bats. Of course, such an option would be as ineffective in stopping crime as banning firearms. Hopefully, the current Congress will restore some sense to our criminal code and take steps to uphold the Second Amendment.