Law-abiding citizens of Connecticut were forced to wait on line to register their “high capacity magazines” (more than 10 rounds) and “assault weapons” (semi-automatic rifles with scary-looking cosmetic features). If they did not, they would be felons.
Some will find this image exhilarating. Some will find it depressing. But don’t mistake the significance of this photograph.
Don’t forget what conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in 1996. He conceded that the assault weapons ban would not result in a decrease in violence, but it served as an important symbolic step in desensitizing Americans towards the path of banning all guns.
“Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquility of the kind enjoyed in sister democracies like Canada and Britain. Given the frontier history and individualist ideology of the United States, however, this will not come easily. It certainly cannot be done radically. It will probably take one, maybe two generations. It might be 50 years before the United States gets to where Britain is today.
Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic — purely symbolic — move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation. Its purpose is to spark debate, highlight the issue, make the case that the arms race between criminals and citizens is as dangerous as it is pointless.
De-escalation begins with a change in mentality. And that change in mentality starts with the symbolic yielding of certain types of weapons. The real steps, like the banning of handguns, will never occur unless this one is taken first, and even then not for decades….
Nelson “Pete” Shields III, a founder of Handgun Control, Inc.—the progenitor of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence—openly advocated for the elimination of all handguns: “‘We’re going to have to take this one step at a time. . . . Our ultimate goal—total control of all guns—is going to take time.’ The ‘final problem,’ he insisted, ‘is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition’ for ordinary civilians ‘totally illegal.’” John Hechinger, a sponsor of the D.C. handgun ban and a board member of Handgun Control, Inc., put it simply: “We have to do away with the guns.”
One step at a time.