The editorial board of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post is responding to Wednesday's mass shooting at a Florida high school by calling for the revival of an assault-weapons ban, an idea it said made sense “only to the ignorant” just four months ago.
The tabloid splashed the message of its latest editorial on the cover of Friday's print edition. “MR. PRESIDENT, PLEASE ACT,” read an all-caps headline. A subhead added: “We need sensible gun control to help stop the slaughter.”
Inside, the editorial made several recommendations, including this one:
Reinstate the federal assault-weapons ban, or at least revive its key features. Passed in 1994 but allowed to lapse 10 years later, that law prohibited the manufacture of semiautomatic firearms that bore certain features, like detachable magazines, that made them more dangerous. Perhaps most important, it also outlawed “large capacity” magazines. Critics argue that the ban did little good — but the fact is that the average toll from mass shootings has been growing. It’s surely worth trying to trim a casualty from the next killer’s total. Note, too, that the ban did no real harm. And it certainly didn’t lead the nation down the “slippery slope” toward eliminating other weapons, let alone a repeal of the Second Amendment, as the NRA and other Washington lobbyists warned.
The conservative editorial board of the New York Post, which endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, offered different advice after last October's shooting rampage in Las Vegas, the deadliest in U.S. history.
“Wait for the facts on the Vegas attack,” read the headline on an editorial that appeared in print two days after the massacre. (Note: Friday's editorial came two days after the school shooting in South Florida.)
“There will be time when more answers are known to move forward on substantive steps that might actually make a difference,” the board wrote after Stephen Paddock killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. “For now, we can mourn the dead, pray for the wounded, hail the first responders and medical personnel who performed so heroically — and let law enforcement do its job.”
One day later, the editorial board considered what “substantive steps” might look like and wrote that “some gun-control ideas make sense only to the ignorant: The ’90s 'assault rifle ban' wound up dictating cosmetic changes that buyers could easily reverse.”
In the same report, however, the board added this: “Let’s start by looking to ban or limit features with no clear self-defense use — such as high-capacity magazines and high-caliber bullets.” Thus, the view of the New York Post editorial board has not changed entirely; opposition to high-capacity magazines is a consistent position, from October to February.
It also is worth noting that the latest editorial asks Congress to “reinstate the federal assault-weapons ban, or at least revive its key features” (emphasis added). Since a prohibition on high-capacity magazines is one such “key feature,” one could argue that the board's shift on policy is not seismic.
But the editorial board's support for a wholesale revival of the 1994 law is new. And sharp-eyed readers will notice that the board dropped the quotation marks around “assault.” Many gun-rights advocates contend that the term “assault weapon” should apply only to fully-automatic guns, not the semiautomatic rifles used in Las Vegas and Florida.
Putting “assault” in quotation marks in October was a subtle recognition that some people consider the popular phrase a misnomer; leaving off the quotation marks in February signaled an embrace of the term as appropriate.