In an opinion piece published in the New York Times on April 27, former president Jimmy Carter — who did his darnedest to undermine the Second Amendment when he was in the White House — asked, “What Happened to the Ban on Assault Weapons?”
The answer is, the same thing that happened to Jimmy Carter. After one of the most unsuccessful presidencies in U.S. history, Mr. Carter couldn’t get enough votes to be reelected. Similarly, once Congress realized that gun control supporters had exaggerated the role of “assault weapons” in crime, they couldn’t get the votes necessary to extend the ban past its 10-year “sunset” date.
There was no particular reason to think that Mr. Carter would fail as president before he took office, but there was every reason to think that the gun ban would fail to reduce crime. Before the ban was imposed, NRA repeatedly pointed out that the much-maligned semi-automatics were used in only a very small percentage of crime. After the ban was in effect a few years, a study mandated by Congress reached the same conclusion, setting the stage for the ban’s demise.
NRA also pointed out that the things that caused a gun to be defined as an “assault weapon”—such as a flash suppressor and adjustable-length stock—were not essential to the gun’s basic operation. One anti-gun group, the Violence Policy Center, eventually conceded on this point, but other gun control supporters, Carter apparently among them, still stick to their original, erroneous assumption.
Mr. Carter said he supports the right to firearms for hunting, and on that point we’ll take him at his word. However, as the Supreme Court reiterated in District of Columbia v. Heller last year, the Second Amendment protects the Right to Keep and Bear Arms primarily for defensive purposes.
Mr. Carter tried to dismiss the concern that “assault weapon” legislation threatens the right to arms. But in addition to adversely affecting the defensive use of firearms, “assault weapon” bills introduced the last few years have proposed to ban many more types of firearms than the 1994 law did, including semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action rifles used by millions of hunters like Mr. Carter.
Most outrageously, Mr. Carter, or whoever ghost wrote his piece, claimed that the only reason anyone would want an “assault weapon” would be to murder police officers, schoolchildren and co-workers. The millions of good Americans who own these guns deserve no such insult and, frankly, it is beneath the degree of dignity we expect from a former president.
In any event, the insult is without merit. That’s proved by the fact that while the number of Americans who own so called “assault weapons” has risen to an all-time high, the nation’s murder rate has decreased to a 43-year low. Contrary to the catchy propaganda line about the guns being “on the streets,” they are more commonly found in the homes of honest citizens throughout the country.