September 2005

Downrange: 09/05

Though the news is unquestionably positive on the national legislative scene, there’s still a lot of hooey on the state beat.

You may remember when the federal assault- weapons ban expired last September, Sarah Brady claimed that the streets would be filled with AK-47s and Uzis. Of course, nothing like that happened.

What has happened is this: The ban’s expiration has showed how useless the law was.

Researcher John Lott Jr. has repeatedly said that “not a single published academic study has ever shown that these bans have reduced any type of violent crime.”

Gun owners knew the phrase “assault weapon” was bogus, that the rapid-fire machine guns used by the military were never in significant circulation. And, we all knew semiautomatic hunting rifles weren’t going to be used in widespread crime.

But gun ignorance is now afflicting .50-caliber guns in New York. A proposed ban would outlaw these big boomers, but you and I both know these guns aren’t suited for crime. When we tested them in January 2003 (“For a Real Kick, Try a Big Fifty: We Test a Quartet of BMGs”), we learned how unwieldy they are. It’s just laughable to think about them being used in an urban environment like New York City. The fact is, no one in the U.S. has ever been murdered by a .50-caliber rifle.

Shouldn’t the facts count for something?

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And in Illinois, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was expected to sign a new state law requiring background checks for all buyers at gun shows. He also planned to veto a measure that would have required the Illinois State Police to clear out most records of background checks within 90 days of their creation.

Illinois gun owners complain that police use the database to harass law-abiding gun owners.

Of the 157,440 people who applied to buy guns in Illinois last year, 1,108 were denied, state records show. More than 500 of those applicants had expired or canceled firearm owner’s permits. The rest were ineligible for reasons including felony convictions, mental incapacity and domestic battery offenses.

Certainly shooters will not like these measures, but Blagojevich is also investing public money in a new state-of-the-art shooting complex in the southern Illinois town of Sparta, so he doesn’t feel these new restrictive statewide laws will hurt him at the ballot box.

Gun-control advocates said they are confident that this law will stop criminals from buying guns. But it won’t, because criminals most often steal their guns, not buy them. It may take a few years to prove, but this Illinois law will work out just like the expired assault weapons ban — it will keep private citizens from buying guns without the nosy government looking in, and criminal supply of guns won’t change.


-Todd Woodard