President Clinton enacted the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) in 1994. [For an overview of the AWB concept click here.] Since its expiration, the Democratic Party has been hell bent on reenacting and strengthening an “assault weapons” ban. While that may have been a winning argument back in the early 1990’s, a new poll by Gallup shows that support for outlawing scary black rifles has done nothing but decline over the last decade and a half.
Released yesterday, the latest Gallup poll shows that not only is there now far more opposition to the concept of an “assault weapons” ban among the American public in general, support for the idea has now fallen below 50 percent even among Democrats.
While Gallup voices some consternation at the continued decline in the AWB’s popularity — despite continued high profile “mass shootings — the pollsters don’t speculate what’s behind this striking sea change. I have a few ideas.
When the original AWB was enacted in 1994, the AR-15 was still something of a novelty. The “this isn’t your grandpa’s bolt gun” platform hadn’t yet been recognized as an ideal choice for hunting, plinking or self-defense, wonderfully adaptable for shooters of any size, shape or age.
The civilian disarmament complex preyed upon public ignorance to convince voters that this scary-looking “military style” black rifle was inherently dangerous. They coined the name — “assault rifle” — to propagate their propaganda.
Over the last twenty years, AR-15 platform sales have exploded. Over the last decade the AR-15 has become the most popular rifle in the United States. It’s often the choice of new shooters looking to buy their first firearm, as well as experienced shooters looking for a versatile platform. From competition shooting to varmint control to hunting, the AR-15 has become the go-to rifle platform for tens of millions of American gun owners.
With the AR’s ascendancy, the public has gradually changed its view on the advisability of an “assault weapons” ban. No longer seeing the AR as a “weapon of war” and frightening object that can be prohibited without any undue harm to the American gun owner, more people now view the rifle as commonplace and — for many — nearly essential.
As firearm designs improve and and the AR ownership continues to spread among the gun-owning population, it’s likely that this trend will only continue. The only question is whether politicians will pay any attention.