Steve Chapman | Gun Control’s Potemkin Village

Political trends come and go in response to events. Gun control was the rage during the Clinton administration, but over the past decade or so it became an obsolete cause. After the horrific crimes in Newtown and Aurora, though, it’s staging a comeback.

One thing hasn’t changed: The agenda includes mostly measures that will have little or no effect on the problems they are supposed to address. They are Potemkin remedies — presentable fa‡ades with empty space behind them.

This is something that supporters as well as opponents labor to conceal. Treating them as serious allows them both to posture for their own advantage.

So on Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled a raft of executive actions and proposed changes in federal law intended to prevent both mass shootings and chronic gun violence. A few are innocuous and reasonably promising, like improving databases for background checks and helping "ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need."

But the most notable ones fall into three categories. In the category of "useless" is the ban on "assault weapons," which has been tried before with no evident effect. The administration is fond of demonizing a style of firearm that the gun industry likes to glamorize.

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