A sensible move on guns

Checking the merchandise at an Albany gun show.

Checking the merchandise at an Albany gun show.

In the U.S. Senate, a proposed ban on so-called assault rifles has been stripped from a bill intended to combat gun violence. Supporters of banning these guns may be disappointed, but there's a good reason the ban did not get the support of even 40 senators, as Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced on Tuesday.

The reason is that such a ban made no sense. First, it would apply to guns based on cosmetic features, such as whether they have pistol grips or shrouds on the barrel. That's not what makes them lethal, though. What makes them potentially lethal is that they fire bullets, but then all guns do that, and many can accept magazines with a dozen or more rounds.

The second reason is that more than a million of those rifles are said to be in private hands in the United States, and only a tiny fraction are ever used in crimes. Most are used for target shooting, if at all, and in formal matches they are loaded and fired one round at a time.

Finally, a federal ban would be quite ineffective without an accompanying plan to track down all the owners and confiscate their guns. There's a good chance the ban would have turned a lot of harmless and otherwise law-abiding citizens into potential federal criminals. That's why a majority of U.S. senators are against this ban, and they are right. (hh)

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