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March 03, 2009


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The assault rifle ban will probably come back no matter what. That's a popular Democratic[1] touchstone. I'd expect that to come about in a year or two once everyone chills out[2].

The nationalist bit...I can see the US doing this. We give out a fair amount of money and take care of other countries at least to s small extent. When cast in the light of the War on Drugs or some such this would probably easily pass muster. OTOH, Mexico...well...that might not fly so well.

1. When did the adjective for the Democrats move from -ic to ic-less? I noticed it pretty heavily this last election. It's like saying the Republic Party, at least to my ears.

2. Herd mentalities suck some times.

The problem with the assault weapon ban is that it tends to be based on cosmetics, i.e., which weapons look the scariest. But "looks like something out of an action movie" is a piss-poor criterion for banning something, so you have things like the size of the magazine or whether or not the rifle has a bayonet stud going into what makes something illegal, which is really silly for public safety reasons.

I strongly suspect that if drug cartels want sub machine guns, drug cartels will get sub machine guns. The low-level thugs who think that an AK-47 (or realistically one of its cousins) looks badass don't seem to me to be the problem that Mexico's facing.

Precisely Andrew.

Who really believes that the ridiculous profits these cartels make aren't enough to find weapons regardless of silly AW bans that we impose.

Of course, if the media continues to erroneously portray machine guns (which are legal but heavily taxed/regulated) as what is being banned under the AWB, they may succeed in passing it again.

What's to stop the cartels from still obtaining black market arms?

It's easy to get carried away about the immediate impact the assault weapons ban will have, and of course the cartels will still find machine guns, as the Colombians did. But it's still a good idea to crack down on gun sales for a number of reasons.
1) Much of the violence in Mexico right now is more organic style street violence a la NYC in the late 1980s, not cartel warfare as we have understood it in the past. A lot of the people killing and being killed arent millionaires, but street kids fighting for turf. With more guns in circulation, AKs get cheaper, and its easier for small-time kingpins operating in neighborhoods (like the Durangueña in my Torreón) with a relatively small amount of drug profits to use violence on a grand scale.
2) It's not all about what the cartels will be able to get on the market wihtout American sales, but what we want them to get from us. There's something of a moral component here, no? For instance, we don't sell arms to China, but of course that doesn't mean that China won't get arms, nor is it our goal. It's just a message of disapproval, that we dont Chinese' blood on our hands. The southwest border is obviously quite different, but the situation is in some way analogous.

Patrick, the problem is that if the AWB were re-instated, it would be trivially easy to make, for example, a commercial version of the AK-47 that didn't have one of the features that defines it as an "assault weapon" in the AWB. I have an AR-15 back home in TX that's perfectly legal under the Clinton AWB regime because it lacks a bayonet stud and didn't come with the magazine. I did a Google search and found this in under fifteen seconds. Everything described in that book would work on a weapon that's legal under the AWB.

Or maybe you will want to make weapons illegal on the basis of "thugs want it because it looks badass." How then are you going to define that? Will there be an enforcement commission that views every action movie made and then devises a formula based on use of guns in the movie and bad assitude of its characters, in which a weapon becomes illegal if there's a certain value reached?

Unless you're just going to ban all semi-automatic weapons (which I know a great many members of the Democratic party would like to do), the AWB isn't going to do much.

As far as the Clinton AWB, I agree with that completely, so perhaps the AWB as it exists under Clinton shouldnt be the jumping off point, even if that is the most likely scenario for legislation. My point is more that --assuming we can implement some level of control on gun traffic-- even if we couldn't prevent the cartels getting their hands on weapons, anything we can do to prevent them from using the southwest border region as an arms bazar is a good thing. Moving beyond that to the points you make about practically implementing a gun-control policy, there's no denying that there's a welter of problems. I tend to think that greater control should be based more on monitoring purchasers and suppliers of semi-automatic weapons. According to the NY Times, there's 6600 gun dealers in the border region, which is a lot, but not an impossible number to monitor. Right now there are 200 ATF agents dedicated to policing them. If that number were quadrupled and if the regulations for using straw-buyers were stiffened, then we might be able to make an impact. Mexico would remain violent, but I think that the status-quo can be greatly improved on.

Yeah, I'm in full agreement that there's much more that could be done in policing gun dealers. And it could be done. In several states out and out machine guns are legal, but you have to go through some incredibly onerous legal procedures to be able to afford them. As a result, the bad guys don't usually legally (or quasi-legally) buy machine guns from licensed Class III weapons dealers. If you could put, not the same level of controls, but controls that have that level of forethought in place on how semi-automatic weapons are distributed, you could probably clear up a lot of the problem.

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