What If the Democrats Had Passed an Assault Weapons Ban in 2009-2010?

by John Sides on December 17, 2012 · 4 comments

in Campaigns and elections,Legislative Politics,Violence

Via email, Pat Egan emails his thoughts on that counterfactual question:

If the Democrats controlled the House right now, there’d be an assault weapons ban on the books in two months. But if there were an assault weapons ban on the books right now, the Democrats wouldn’t even control the Senate.
The logic: A Republican-controlled House will never pass an assault weapons ban. If the Democrats had passed a ban when they last controlled both chambers of Congress (2009-2010), it would have required the votes of Democratic senators from rural, pro-gun states including Jon Tester (MT), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Harry Reid (NV). Casting these votes would have made it much harder for these and other rural Dem senators to win the (often-narrow) election victories that have kept the Senate in Democratic hands.

A lot depends on whether everything else is equal in this counterfactual.  Reid and McCaskill won convincingly enough—and against weak enough opponents—that I’m not sure their vote on an assault weapons ban alone would have cost them the election.  (Unless such a vote produced somehow produced a better GOP challenger.) And would an assault weapons vote have mattered above and beyond other controversial roll call votes during that time, especially health care reform?

Tester did face a better opponent, but his race also wasn’t that close—he won by 4 points. But since our estimate of the penalty from supporting health care reform was almost 6 points, I don’t want to rule out the possibility that support for the assault weapons ban could have erased Tester’s margin of victory.  But a 4-point penalty would still be fairly large, as judged by the effects of various roll call votes estimated in the literature.

Naturally, a lot in this counterfactual depends on the campaign activity on either side, gun rights or gun control.  I’ll only note that Senate races see a lot more spending than the typical House race, making it harder for a single group—like the NRA or Handgun Control—to make as big a difference via campaign contributions or by spending independently.

Overall, I think that the Democrats would be more likely than not to control the Senate now had they passed an assault weapons ban when they were in the majority.  That is a probabilistic statement, however, and perhaps others see Pat’s scenario as more likely.

{ 4 comments }

Mark December 17, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Just to be clear CT currently has an assault weapons ban modeled on the former Federal ban. The rifle used in the Newtown shooting was not banned under either the CT or the Federal statute (when it was in place).

Crash December 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Then it should have been. I wonder why the ban was so weak that it allowed such weapons? Could it have been watered down by the petulant, psychotic opposition from gun worshiping Wolverine wannabees?

Fun story: a bill was proposed in CT in 2011 to ban the very high capacity clips used by the shooter to inflict so much death in so short a time. What happened? The NRA and the gun industry went batshit (as usual) and unleashed their crazy minions and killed the bill. There’s blood on their hands, every drop spilled by bullets #11-30.

So let’s not pretend that nothing could have been done, or that nothing could have lessened this tragedy, when the gun nuts stopped that very action from happening just last year.

handworn December 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Crash, the more you act dismissive, gibbering and blithering with terms like “gun worshiping Wolverine wannabes,” the more you supply them with someone to point to when they say that compromises won’t stop the Left from then demanding ever-more-restrictive laws, and so you encourage them to try for more than they’d be satisfied with if they believed compromise would end the dispute. It’s overreach by the Left that has created this degree of gun culture, which never existed before.

B-dawg December 25, 2012 at 7:04 am

handworn, you do realize that Crash (and people like him) want America to be just like England, don’t you? Jolly Old Blighty! (Where you can go to jail for carrying a pocketknife, you can be sued (with government assistance to the plaintiff) for “pain and suffering” if a burglar stubs his toe while robbing your house, and you’ll face assault charges if you throw a punch at a mugger.)

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