Assault Weapons Ban 101. A Brief History of Its Origins

Assault Weapons Ban 101. A Brief History of Its Origins

(why you should care, even if you don’t own one)

In Defense of our Gun Rights II
One in a series.

The origin of the term “Assault Weapon” is widely attributed to Josh Sugarmann, a former communications director for the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, now known as Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. The name change became necessary after the Coalition’s efforts towards an outright ban on handguns in the ’70s and ’80s met with strong resistance, and they decided that they wanted to go after other types of weapons too.

In a 1988 strategy paper titled “Assault Weapons and Accessories in America” Mr. Sugarmann hit upon the idea that while the media had grown tired of the handgun ban issue, a public relations campaign could readily be built around banning military-style semi-automatic rifles, commonly called “assault rifles”.  Many of these guns cosmetically resembled their fully-automatic military brethren. In the conclusion (*) he wrote:

Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary:……. handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons. (italics are mine)

At the time, military-pattern semi-auto rifles had a much smaller constituency. Sugarmann correctly deduced that most gun owners could be counted upon to ignore any issue that didn’t effect them directly. If even a few guns could be banned, it would set a precedent that would make it much easier to ban more commonly owned guns in the future. It was to be the camel’s nose under the tent.

At the time Mr. Sugarmann complained about the difficulty in defining exactly what an “Assault Weapon” was, but you have to wonder if privately, he was encouraged by that difficulty. For once you banned one class of weapons, it would be relatively easy to tweak the definition to include all manner of weapons. Indeed that process is in full swing in the state of CT. With the passage of SB1160/ PA13-3 entire new groups of weapons have been added to the list of “assault weapons”. But that is a subject for another day.

Suffice it to say, even though you don’t own, or ever intend to own, a black gun, you shouldn’t feel that your guns will not be threatened. Even common bolt-action hunting rifles quickly become “sniper guns” when the anti-gunners decide to come after them. Nothing is safe. It is just a question of what will be next.  What will you do to help stem the tide?

Remember in November

*   -  6/14

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