May 13, 2008

Killing The Zombie

On the morning of Saturday, May, 3, Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was brutally shot down at close range by one of three bank robbers. Liczbinski was hit at least five times with bullets fired by a cross-dressing thug armed with a Chinese-made SKS. It was a horrific crime that left Liczbinski's wife a widow, and his three children to grow up without a father.

On Thursday, May 8, Governor Rendell sent out a press release calling for a reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban, a 1994 law than banned the cosmetic features of various firearms, and several specific firearms by name. The features banned in the ill-fated law were insignificant to the function of these firearms, and lightly modified versions of these same guns (with the offending features removed) were already on the market by the time the law went into effect with no impact to the accuracy, rate of fire, or lethality of these weapons.

Pre-1994 TEC-9 made illegal by 1994 "Assault Weapons" ban(Left).

1994 and later AB-10 (AB mockingly meaning "after ban") AB-10 already in gun stores before the 1994 "Assault Weapons" ban became active(Right).

Functionally, both firearms are identical, with only banned "scary looking" features removed.

The ban did have one unintended consequence, that of creating an entirely new class of weapons, sub-compact semiautomatic pistols, which now sell at brisk pace to concealed weapons permit holders.

The Governor's press release is replete with falsehoods, inaccuracies, and embellishments, betraying a sloppiness of thought on the part of the Governor as he spoke, and on the part of his staff in compiling a press release based upon wishes, but not reality.

For starters, and perhaps ironically, the rifle used in this killing is not an assault rifle. The ownership, selling, or buying of SKS rifles such as the one used in this shooting was not outlawed under the failed 1994 federal law.

All the same, Rendell claimed:

"The firearm used to murder Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was designed for one thing only - the death of a fellow human being," Governor Rendell said of the Chinese-made SKI assault rifle fired at the officer as he responded to a bank robbery Saturday morning. "There was no chance that his body armor could have protected him from the power of this weapon."

To be fair, the statement is partially correct. The SKS was designed to shoot at human beings when created back in 1945. The popular intermediate-powered carbine is best known, however, for its reliability and economy. It is popular in the civilian market, used as a knock-about utility rifle for plinking, wild animal control, and brush-country hunting.

Rendell is also partially correct on another point: it is unlikely that the unfortunate officer's body armor had any chance of stopping the carbine's 7.62-caliber bullets, but that result would have been the same for nearly any centerfire rifle bullet. "Bulletproof" vests worn by most police officers are not bulletproof, but are instead designed to stop moderate-velocity pistol bullets. The relative power of the cartridge used in the SKS is similar to that of the .30/30 lever-action rifle on the lower end of the rifle cartridge power scale.

Rendell could perhaps be forgiven some hyperbole due to the emotional nature of the day as he stood with members of the fallen officer's police force and the city's mayor, but only if the emotion of the day was a valid excuse.

Emotion isn't nearly a valid excuse, however for the blatant lies in Rendell's press release. The sheer scope of Governor Rendel's fabrication was magnificent to behold, completely misrepresenting not only the essential nature of a law that governed this nation for a decade, but miscasting it's subtleties as well.

In 1994, Congress banned the manufacture, transfer or possession of semiautomatic firearms and large capacity ammunition magazines, as well as the import of automatic assault weapons not already banned under law.

In that one masterstroke of a sentence, the Governor's press rewrote the entire ten-year history of failed law to make it something it never was.

Contrary to what the press release stated, however, the so-called "assault weapons" ban in the 1994 Crime Bill:

  • Did not ban the manufacture of semiautomatic firearms. In fact, companies that manufacture semi-automatic firearms, such as Bushmaster and Olympic Arms thrived throughout the length of the ban, and Kahr Arms was founded as a direct result of a market created by the ban;
  • Did not ban the transfer of semiautomatic firearms. Sales of semiautomatic firearms actually increased during the 1994-2004 ban.
  • Did not ban the possession of semi-automatic firearms. This includes weapons defined as "assault weapons" under the ban, as long as they had been manufactured prior to the law going into effect, and tens of thousands of semi-automatic firearms made and sold during the ban;
  • Did not ban the possession or sale of high capacity magazines. The manufacture of "high capacity" magazines (arbitrarily set at 10 rounds by Congress) was stopped during the ban, but magazines of up to 100-rounds manufactured prior to the ban were available for sale and ownership during the entire lifetime of the ban, and were commonly featured in sporting goods catalogs. An entirely new class of subcompact semi-automatic pistols designed for concealed carry such as the Kahr K9 and Glock 26 were developed as a direct result of the 10-round limit, with manufacturer's competing to see who could make the most compact handguns under the ten-round limit.

Rendell's press release is an example gun-grabbing revisionist history, lamenting the "loss" of a law that never existed as he described it, ignoring the ineffectually of the law during it's existence in slowing or stopping the manufacture or distribution of semi-automatic firearms, and glossing over the fact that it was responsible for the "revolution" in the handgun industry to design ever smaller and more concealable firearms.

Sadly, Governor Rendell is not alone is this alternate reality, where a long-dead and failed law is remembered as being bigger, better, and more robust now than it was during it's lifetime. The 1994 "assault weapons" ban was a "zombie" law that only became stronger after its passing. Lies about the ban's reach and effectiveness are pervasive in the media, perhaps encouraged by their own biases and ignorances, and certainly encouraged by many politicians in the Democratic Party and in dishonest gun control organizations such as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which I've exposed for apparently falsifying evidence before.

From ignorant local reporters to national reporters that continue to deceive readers about the ban after being corrected time and time again, to op-ed columnists that base their work more on felling than facts, to misguided and occasionally dishonest local, state, and national politicians, the power of the "zombie" ban on "assault weapons" continues as ignorance, bias, and inaccuracies breed mythology.

Let's kill this monster now.

The "Assault Weapons" ban provisions within the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 did not ban a even a single assault weapon, firearms that are capable of selective modes or fully automatic fire.

It only banned firearms that looked like military assault weapons, i.e., similar cosmetic features such as flash suppressors, threaded barrels, or bayonet lugs. These cosmetic features were removed, and the exact same firearms—minus the offending cosmetics—were back in stores and for sale before the ban went into effect, and were sold without impediment throughout the life of the ban.

So-called "high-capacity" magazines were never banned for anything other than new manufacture, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, were available for sale in catalogs, on web sites, and in retail stores. Likewise, ownership was not banned.

It is time for those cling to the myth of the effectiveness of the so-called "assault weapons" ban to concede that this failed law never accomplished its goal. It posed no impediment to criminals when it was passed, served as only an annoyance to law-abiding citizens during the life of the ban, and actually served to increase sales in semi-automatic firearms prior to, during, and after the ban died.

The "assault weapons" ban was an unmitigated failure, and trying to bring it back from the dead won't change that fact.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 13, 2008 09:52 AM

To put it another way: The 7.62*39 is designed to kill medium-sized mammals at short to intermediate range. It does a fair job of it, and is as unstoppable by common "bulletproof" vests as any other rifle round designed to kill medium-sized mammals. And yes, we are medium-sized mammals.

Posted by: Tully at May 13, 2008 11:31 AM

Rendell is an idiot liberal. No brains at all.

Posted by: Conservative CBU at May 13, 2008 11:34 AM

If he doesn't like history, he can just rewrite it.

Posted by: brando at May 13, 2008 03:04 PM