The NY Times blows fog over an under-reported aspect of the Newtown massacre - although the Federal assault weapon ban lapsed in 2004, Connecticut maintained a parallel ban which mirrored the Federal law. The weapon used in Newton was bought in compliance with that law, which leaves us wondering - if it wasn't an assault weapon per Connecticut law, why does the press routinely refer to it as an assault weapon?
Maybe the media can report on the after-market modifications that moved this weapon out of compliance and turned it into an assault weapon as defined by the law. Or maybe they can admit that most of the "assault weapon" definition covers cosmetic modifications that make the gun look cooler on a Hollywood set or at the shooting range but have no relevance to its lethality. Grenade launcher fittings? Flash suppressors? Bayonet lugs? Really?
The obvious point to ponder - if this gun wouldn't have been banned by the Federal law, just what is the value of re-passing that law?
I think the real point of contention will be the clip size. Sen. Manchin of West Va is giving ground there. I have already noted that plenty of home defense experts opt for the classic pump shotgun with roughly a six or eight shell capacity. Thirty in the clip probably does make someone somewhere feel safer but I doubt that, taken in isolation, the home defense necessity will stand. Nor, following the massacre of school kids, are people in the mood to hear about how much fun it is to empty a thirty round clip at a target. Apparently in Newton the shooter was swapping out clips to reload, so smaller clips would have simply slowed him slightly. One might suggest that limiting clip size wouldn't have any notable impact and is simply a feel-good exercise, but right now people wouldn't mind feeling good.
Slippery slope arguments will probably find some traction - First, they came for the thirty round clips and I said nothing because I had a pump shotgun... But this is where the distrust on both sides makes any deal difficult (and the parallels to the abortion debate are striking).
The gun rights crowd knows, correctly, that some of the gun control crowd (now re-branding as the 'gun safety' crowd) would view any restriction on gun owners rights as an opportunity to seek further restrictions. The gun enthusiasts then insist that the controllers are just one vote away on the Supreme Court from enacting their entire agenda and that the extreme controllers are driving the other side's agenda.
Meanwhile the controllers insist that, although there are some extremists on their side, most of the controllers are reasonable and will be happy with sensible compromise. Yet somehow, the enthusiasts don't trust people like Mayor Bloomberg.
One hopes that folks like Sen. Manchin actually have some clout, because he probably is a true moderate on this topic. Unlike Bloomberg or, I would guess, Obama, who looks for all the world like a typical urban liberal who never fired a gun in his life and never saw a gun regulation he thought was too restrictive.