The gun-control effort that almost stopped our addiction to ‘weapons of war’

In the wake of mass shootings in Boulder, Colo., and Indianapolis, military-style rifles like the AR-15 — the frequent tools of mass murder — are once again in the spotlight. Activists have created the hashtag #BanWeaponsOfWar. And they have an ally in President Biden, who has voiced support for a new Assault Weapons Ban to replace the one he helped pass in 1994, which Republicans allowed to expire in 2004. The Biden campaign pledged to “ get weapons of war off our streets .” But this is not the first time Americans have had this conversation about “weapons of war” and what to do with them. In fact, a similar debate after World War II led to the first significant federal gun-control legislation in three decades — the Gun Control Act of 1968. Then, Congress took action to get weapons of war off the streets and out of civilians’ hands. This history offers policymakers a precedent for civil disarmament and demilitarization — with a warning about the obstacles they may have to overcome. The years after World War II were a golden age for American gun buyers, thanks in large part to the availability of cheap, reliable imported firearms left over from two bloody global conflicts. European governments recovering from war and wary of more violence wanted to get rid of millions of surplus guns. Indeed, to avoid storage expenses, some nations simply opted to sail them out to the middle of the ocean and dump them. Wily American […]

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