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January 17, 2013 9:59 AM Sign of the Times

By Ed Kilgore

You can read all the assessments you want of the politics of gun regulations (there’s a good assessment today by Sean Sullivan at Wonkblog of the likely fate of Obama’s legislative initiatives).

But if you want a quick indicator of how tough legislative action will be, check this out from the Rochester (Minnesota) Post-Bulletin:

On the day that President Obama proposed a sweeping package of gun-control measures, U.S. Sen. Al Franken signaled his support for several components of Obama’s plan.
Franken, speaking during a press event in Rochester, said he supports limits on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and tightening the nation’s system of background checks. But, he declined to say whether he supported a ban on assault weapons, a key provision of the president’s plan.
“I guess I don’t have an answer for you,” said Franken spokesman Marc Kimball, following a press conference during which the senator omitted a ban on assault weapons when asked about gun restrictions he might support.

Wow. I admit I haven’t followed Franken’s Senate career as closely as I might have, and yes, he’s up for re-election in 2014. But still—he’s Al Franken, and he seems fearful of supporting re-establishment of an assault gun ban that didn’t seem to leave any scars on U.S. freedoms during its ten years on the lawbooks.

Here’s the closest we get to an explanation in the Post-Bulletin piece:

Minnesota is home to a vibrant gun culture, as well as many retail and gun manufacturing outlets. In talking to Minnesota deer hunters, Franken noted that many use semi-automatic rifles, but use a clip that holds only a few rounds.
“I think most people agree that you don’t need 30 rounds to bring down a deer,” Franken said in arguing for ammunition magazine limits.

It’s going to be a long, weird debate.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Josef K on January 17, 2013 10:02 AM:

    Its going to be a long, weird debate.

    That's fine, so long as the rhetorica grenades getting thrown every which way remain strictly rhetorical.

    Why do I have the sick feeling it won't?

  • hdware on January 17, 2013 10:23 AM:

    I sympathize with Franken; he has a delicate line to walk in a state that's not as full of crazies as some one might mention (I'm lookin' at you, Tejas!).

    One thing that the reflexive Amendment 2 literalists pick on is the general lack of knowledge most gun-control moderates-to-enthusiasts possess about the weapons they would like to see banned or at least restricted. Not all assault weapons are M-15s or AK47s. And not all semiautomatic rifles are assault rifles. And not all weapons with magazine capacities of five or eight or even ten are assault weapons.

    And then, not all of us who own and use firearms are rabid lockstep gun-rights absolutist NRA fellow-travelers...but the NRA seems oblivious to this, so maybe we could agree that there are knowledge gaps on all sides of this debate. If Al Franken knows his limits, and wants to learn more, so much the better for him.

  • c u n d gulag on January 17, 2013 10:26 AM:

    Well then, if most people agree it doesn't take 30 bullets to take down a deer, then what's the argument against large magazines?

    Also, a "true" sportsman, should want to have the game have a fair shot at the game.
    Having a semi, with a scope where you can shoot a deer from almost a mile off, doesn't seem all that "sporting" to me.

    Bow-hunting seems the most sporting. But again, using a simple bow and arrow, and not some sort of compound bow, with a scope and new-fangled arrow tips.

    Somehow or other, the Native Americans took down a lot of deer, even buffalo, using simple bows and arrows - and, maybe going as a team for the bigger game - you know, it was more sociable and more fun than the lonely American white male hunter, all dressed up in cammo, with deer musk smeared all over him, so that no other human could want to be near them.

  • gandalf on January 17, 2013 10:47 AM:

    If your perceived as being a pussy by gun toting Minnesotans for advocating 10 round or less mags then what kind of spineless jellyfish are you really for not standing up for what you believe in Al? I will withhold judgement until further info comes out but make no misstake people respect you for standing your ground if thats what you actually believe.

  • Peter C on January 17, 2013 11:21 AM:

    The proposal has not been out a full 24 hours yet. Give Al some time to do his homework and understand it all.

    Let's not fault someone for being thoughtful. I trust him to speak powerfully and rationally about it. Asking thoughtful people to make snap pronouncements is a bad idea.

  • SteveT on January 17, 2013 11:33 AM:

    Whatever Franken's motives are, he's right. The old assault weapon ban had HUGE holes in it because it didn't define assault weapons very well.

    The old law was concerned about a COSMETIC definition of assault weapon -- irrelevant considerations like the shape of the stock and whether there was a place for a bayonet.

    If we are to ban assault weapons, then the law needs to use a definition that will encompass weapons that are ONLY useful for military combat. Otherwise, the ban will be worse than useless. It will create a false sense of security while allowing combat weapons to continue to be sold. And when the ban doesn't halt mass killings, gun advocates will once again be able to claim that regulations won't solve the problem.

    For what it's worth, here are my characteristics of a military weapon that should be illegal to privately own:

    1) The weapon's overall length is short enough that the weapon can be used effectively in close quarters.

    2) The weapon can be converted to full automatic fairly easily using basic tools.

    I admit that I'm far from being a gun expert. Other than shooting a .22 rifle at summer camp many years ago, my knowledge of guns comes from books, movies and television. So I welcome input from those with more experience.

  • Rafterman on January 17, 2013 11:57 AM:

    c u n d..

    The Native American to a modern hunter comparison makes no sense. Native American would've hunted for a "job", they would've tracked and hunted game full time. Here in Maine they used to build funnels and drove deer into them. Several men would be waiting on the narrow end ready to shoot the deer. It was about hunting for food, not a fun social activity. Certainly not a very sportsmanlike way of killing deer.

  • Joe Friday on January 17, 2013 12:04 PM:

    Post-Bulletin: "Minnesota is home to a vibrant gun culture, as well as many retail and gun manufacturing outlets. In talking to Minnesota deer hunters, Franken noted that many use semi-automatic rifles, but use a clip that holds only a few rounds."

    Eh, the 'Assault Weapons Ban' that was in effect from 1994 through 2004, in addition to banning large-capacity clips, also specifically EXEMPTED from the ban 650 semi-automatic rifles utilized by hunters, sportsman, and target-shooters.

    The sheer ignorance in regards to this issue is astounding.

  • Jay Furst on January 17, 2013 1:26 PM:

    Check the Post-Bulletin story (updated at PostBulletin.com) for the full account of how that went down...not quite like Kilgore would have it...it was a Franken staff guy hesitating to respond to an important question on a breaking story...Franken's staff had a full statement on it within two hours. End of story.

  • John on January 17, 2013 1:27 PM:

    From Sen. Franken's office today (via TPM):

    I also support the principle that we should reinstate a ban on assault weapons, and I will carefully review any proposal to do that. We need to make sure we dont have weapons out there that are really designed for the battlefield, and not for hunting.

    A pretty reasonable position without much equivocation.

  • Jay Furst on January 17, 2013 1:28 PM:

    Meant to add my sig...I'm the Post-Bulletin m.e.

    Jay Furst, managing editor
    furst@postbulletin.com

  • beb on January 17, 2013 6:44 PM:

    My Dad liked to hunt in his younger days. We were talking about various gun control proposals during our holiday visit. He said that if you couldn't get your animal with your second shot you were never going to get it because by then they'd have disappeared in the bush. So while hunting with an assault weapon seems weird, there is still no need for ammo clips larger than 10 rounds, or even 5.

  • ajay on January 18, 2013 5:32 AM:

    One thing that the reflexive Amendment 2 literalists pick on is the general lack of knowledge most gun-control moderates-to-enthusiasts possess about the weapons they would like to see banned or at least restricted. Not all assault weapons are M-15s or AK47s.

    This gun control enthusiast knows that the assault rifle's called an M-16, not an M-15... and that there are very few AK-47s out there. Most of the Kalashnikov-type rifles you see are AKM variants - the version they switched to manufacturing at Izhevsk and Tula in the 50s, with the stamped rather than milled receiver.

    Never shot a deer with one, though.