Buried in a new CNN report about anti-gun New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sudden shift of attention almost totally to background checks is an indication that the Big Apple billionaire may be starting to understand the futility of arguing that a ban on semiautomatic rifles will have much of an impact on deadly crime.
Bloomberg has not experienced an epiphany; these things happen slowly, but at least according to CNN yesterday, the co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns acknowledged, “This year in America, 12,000 people will be killed with handguns. Four hundred people will be killed with assault weapons or high capacity magazines. So it is the vast bulk of - of the, uh, murders are done with handguns.”
Well, that’s not quite accurate. As this column reported, FBI crime data for 2011 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – handguns accounted for less than half of the total homicides. The data shows that, “Firearms were used in 67.8 percent of the nation’s murders, 41.3 percent of robberies, and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults (data on weapons used during forcible rapes is not collected).”
That year, there were 12,664 murders, of which 6,220 were committed with handguns and only 323 were positively linked to rifles. There were 1,587 cases in which the type of firearm was not identified. Overall, 8,583 murders involved firearms, another 1,694 were committed with knives or “cutting instruments,” and 728 – more than twice the number killed with rifles – were beaten or stomped to death and another 85 were strangled. Here is a breakdown of all 50 states.
In none of those cases, was the weapon identified as a “high capacity magazine,” so it is not clear where Mayor Bloomberg gets the impression that anybody “will be killed with…high capacity magazines” this year, or where he thinks handguns will be used in 12,000 slayings. Anti-gunners habitually lump all murders as committed with firearms.
But Bloomberg, who still wants to ban so-called “assault weapons,” now at least realizes they are involved in only a fraction of the nation’s murders. Perhaps he is merely slower on the uptake than members of Congress, for whom a semi-auto ban does not appear to have much traction beyond the confines of ten Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it’s a start.
Large oaks, tall pines and giant redwoods all began as small seeds. They all took time to grow.
Mayor Bloomberg is now focused on background check legislation, apparently because it has the best chance of passage. That door is not entirely closed here in Washington State, provided the proponents are willing to work with gun owners and forget about appeasing smaller interest groups.