The Column, No. 142:

A Tragically Stupid President and his Reinvention of Assault Weapons

By Randy Wakeman

We have been there before.

The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act or Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a United States federal law which included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms that were newly defined as assault weapons as well as certain ammunition magazines that were somehow redefined as large capacity. The 10-year ban was passed by the U.S. Congress on August 25, 1994 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. The ban applied only to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment. It expired on September 13, 2004, in accordance with its sunset provision.

What happened to follow the science? The scientific consensus among criminologists and expert researchers is that the ban had little to no effect on overall criminal activity, firearm deaths, or the lethality of gun crimes. Crime is one of the most heavily studied fields of the human condition. For ten long years, law-abiding citizens were unfairly taxed, harassed, and infringed upon by the 1994 “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” that had no clear beneficial effects.

In 2010, the Supreme Court strengthened Second Amendment protections in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 567 F.3d 856. The plaintiff in McDonald challenged the constitutionality of the Chicago handgun ban, which prohibited handgun possession by almost all private citizens. In a 5-4 decision, the Court, citing the intentions of the framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment, held that the Second Amendment applies to the states through the incorporation doctrine. The unconstitutional Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was not as clearly unconstitutional then as it is today, as it was enacted long before the Supreme Court Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010) decisions.

The United States government has long held that if you a male and eighteen years of age, you can be sent to various parts of the world to die for your country. "You're old enough to kill but not for votin'" was reflected in anti-war protests as was "Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote"—a rallying cry against the draft and for the right of draftees to have some say in their fate. In 1965, 130,991 young men were inducted in the military service; a year later, the number ballooned to 382,010. Many of them were ages 18-20, and thus legally prohibited from voting. 

Back in his 1954 State of the Union address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower urged lawmakers to take up the issue. "For years our citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 have, in time of peril, been summoned to fight for America," Eisenhower said. "They should participate in the political process that produces this fateful summons. I urge Congress to propose to the States a constitutional amendment permitting citizens to vote when they reach the age of 18." It took a good long while from President Eisenhower's urging, but the Twenty-sixth Amendment (Amendment XXVI) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from using age as a reason for denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States who are at least eighteen years old. It was proposed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and three-fourths of the states ratified it by July 1, 1971.

For over 50 years, fundamental Constitutional Rights such as voting can not be denied to 18 year old Americans. It is a little late in the day to assert that, although you can enter into legal contracts, drive a car, vote, get married, own property, and die for your country you somehow are not yet a full American citizen or only some random portion of becoming an adult in the United States.

If eighteen year old Americans are children, not adults, then the Federal Government of the United States is profoundly guilty of the most heinous mass child abuses in modern history: sending them off to kill or be killed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as various and sundry other countries to be named later.

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