Anti-gun Senator Dianne Feinstein admitted to CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that no gun control law could have prevented mass killer Stephen Paddock from creating the carnage in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, an admission that gun rights supporters would probably carve in stone.
Asked by host John Dickerson if any proposed gun law could have prevented the tragedy, Feinstein’s candor has surprised people.
“No, he passed background checks registering for handguns and other weapons on multiple occasions,” she responded. A full transcript may be read here.
Over the weekend, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox took Feinstein to task for a statement she made more than years ago about taking guns away from American citizens. She told CBS reporter Lesley Stahl, in a discussion about so-called “assault weapons,” that, “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them, ‘Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ‘em all in,’ I would have done it.”
Politifact quickly jumped in to provide cover for the perennially anti-gun senator from California, insisting that Cox was “off target, because he said Feinstein said she wanted to take away all guns. In reality, back in 1995, Feinstein said she wanted to take away all assault rifles.”
But many in the gun rights movement believe Feinstein would hardly have stopped at semi-auto rifles, because once it is acceptable to ban a specific class of firearms, it becomes easier to ban another class of firearms. Her track record speaks for itself, so what is Cox supposed to think?
Politifact alluded to remarks from David Hardy, a pro-rights attorney and author, who testified before Congress in 2013 that there are an estimated 9 million people who went target shooting that year with an AR-type rifle. Hardy further estimated that about one-fourth of target shooters own an AR-type rifle. By that rough estimate, the number of such rifles in private hands would reach well into the millions.
Balance that against data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report for any given year, 2016 being the most recent for which statistics are available. Of the estimated 15,070 homicides committed last year, 11,004 involved firearms. Of that number, a paltry 374 were identified as having involved rifles of any kind.
Another 3,077 were committed with an unidentified firearm, but if the numbers were apportioned to reflect murders committed with known firearms, rifles would still make up a small fraction of crime guns. When compared to the millions of so-called “assault rifles” now in circulation, the figure is miniscule.
Feinstein’s admission that gun control laws would not have prevented the slaughter in Las Vegas could easily come back to haunt not only her, but other proponents of gun bans or stricter laws.
If gun control has failed, and there are countless violent crimes to suggest that is the case, then Second Amendment advocates have an opportunity to make alternate proposals. If Feinstein and her anti-gun contemporaries are sincerely interested in public safety rather than public disarmament, they need to show a willingness to listen.