Even the most committed of gun-control advocates will admit that handguns are a far more prevalent problem in the United States than the semiautomatic firearms that are generally thought of as assault weapons. Yet banning handguns is out of the question, especially after the Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision unequivocally stating an individual’s right to own a firearm.
That leaves Obama and Democrats stuck with pushing for an assault-weapons ban, even though the last ban (from 1994 to 2004) grandfathered in existing assault rifles and allowed manufacturers to change a few specs on their new rifles to dodge the standards. It hardly seemed worth the effort.
It will also be tricky to determine just how many automatic bullets should be allowed in a rapid-fire magazine clip. Three? Ten? Twenty? Democrats in favor of restricting high-capacity magazines say that three bullets is enough to kill a duck or a quail. Fair enough, but gun enthusiasts say that 10 or 20 rounds makes more sense for people who possess firearms for self-defense purposes. How do negotiators strike a deal on that one?
(Feldman also is quick to point out that one can easily double the available rounds by simply owning two guns.)
Who’s Gonna Pay? Any efforts to shore up safety in schools or take care of people who have mental disabilities or simply prosecute more unlawful gun buyers will cost money. And money is in short supply these days at both the federal and state levels.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., pointed out in an op-ed on Tuesday that even the most commonsense ideas for curbing gun violence cost money. If you want to see a huge drain on a state or local treasury, try increasing the federal prosecutions for gun crimes, rather than using more lenient state laws, and incarcerating more of those those found guilty for longer. When Kaine was Virginia’s governor, that’s exactly what he did, as well as paying for strengthened standards on mental-health treatment and an expansion of community services.
Even the NRA's proposal to put armed guards in schools would cost money. NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre suggested that such funding could come from local communities and volunteers. However, it isn’t at all clear that the communities that need the assistance the most would have the resources or the volunteers to put such a squadron together. In the tight budget setting of Capitol Hill, any costs associated with gun-related changes will have to come from somewhere else, and the chances are good that the guardians of that “somewhere else” will protest.