New Republic: It's Time to Regulate 'Assault
Weapons' the Same Way We Do Machine Guns

Machine Gun Vegas (Nick Leghorn for TTAG)

By Dan Zimmerman April 20, 2020

Could shooting ranges [like Machine Gun Vegas] be the future of Bushmasters, or SKS rifles and AR-15s and AR-10s? It seems the thought experiment we need in Second Amendment debates, where pro-gun advocates warn that federal ownership registries and licensing are the sine qua non of government tyranny.

Yet the United States has successfully depleted the supply of machine guns, as well as the ease and attractiveness of their use by criminals, with exactly these measures: a gun database and a thoroughgoing application process. (That said, the left should be as wary as libertarians—perhaps more so these days—of the potential risks that gun registries run as a tool of discrimination and harassment; one need not sympathize, as some on the gun right do, with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians to acknowledge that the ATF has abused its oversight powers before.)

But compared to regulating the types of semiauto rifles that have grown popular in mass shootings, the machine-gun regulatory blueprint also seems quaint today. As gun proponents never tire of pointing out, it's much easier to define a class of "machine guns" than it is to define "assault weapons."

One formidable argument for the ineffectiveness of the Clinton era's ban on assault weapons was that it defined those guns largely by cosmetic modifications or accessorizing. .....


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