WSJ 9/14/04 AWB's Demise


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Legionnaire
September 14, 2004, 09:04 AM
Gun Show
September 14, 2004; Page A20

The 10-year political exercise known as the "assault-weapons ban" ended yesterday, and you may have noticed that nothing much happened. Oh, there was a lot of sound-bite mugging for the cameras. But in terms of law and order, this is a non-event.

The gun ban was always a cosmetic exercise, a symbolic attempt by Democrats in the early Clinton years to scare suburban voters and show they could defeat the National Rifle Association. So they managed to outlaw a handful of semi-automatic weapons, though with a simple modification or two those same weapons could be made legal again. Criminals have hardly been at a loss for firepower. "We agree that the 1994 law is ineffective," Kristen Rand, a leading gun-controller, told the Washington Post yesterday.

Ms. Rand would like to see a complete ban, but the fact that no such thing will happen is the real story here. The truth is that most Democrats are only too happy not to have to vote again on any gun ban. As Bill Clinton explains in his memoirs, the 1994 gun votes were one reason Republicans swept the House that year. And gun control has continued to be a political loser for Democrats everywhere but outside big cities and rich, peaceful suburbs. Most Democrats have dropped the subject, and John Kerry has rarely failed to show up in a rural district this year without posing with a rifle in his hand, Charlton Heston-like.

Which makes it especially odd that Mr. Kerry has now begun to fire away at the "assault-weapon" issue this late in the campaign. Last Friday he lit into President Bush for letting the ban expire. Perhaps he's trying to rally his liberal base, or perhaps he's seen that something labeled an "assault-weapons ban" does well in some polls. The NRA is already responding with a big anti-Kerry ad campaign, and somehow we suspect Republicans are saying, "Make my day."

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