Talk:Federal Assault Weapons Ban

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New Background Section[edit]

I added a two-paragraph Background section to the article. This is the last version I came up with after working with User:StarryGrandma. Lightbreather (talk) 20:48, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

It contained a lot of heavy POV pushing and information that was duplicated elsewhere in the article. I've moved duplicate sections from those areas into the background section. I also stripped away all of the exciting sensational stuff that make gun control arguments so interesting and kept it to a simple boring statement of facts. --Sue Rangell 19:05, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

I have moved several pieces from elsewhere in the article into the background section, and I am coming to realize that the entire article reads like a huge background section. I'm not sure what to do about this. I like the general idea of a background section, but if it's redundant there is no point in having it. Iwould rather like to find a way to keep it for whatever that is worth, but I am having trouble seeing how a "background section" is supposed to be different from the lede. Can we get some opinions? --Sue Rangell 19:25, 15 March 2014 (UTC)


I think most of Sue's edits were and some of her comments are a bit heavy-handed. Here are the versions side-by-side. The middle version is Sue's version - and the current version. (If anyone knows how to make the columns uniform widths, please feel free.)

  • The first source, the Pittsburgh Press article, says:
A campaign for curbs on assault weapons began in January 1989 after a deranged gunman with an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle opened fire on a Stockton, Calif., school yard at recess time, leaving five children dead and 30 wounded.
  • The second source, the Hartford (Conn.) Courant story, says:
The campaign to ban assault weapons began Jan. 17, 1989, after Patrick Purdy shot 34 children and a teacher in a Stockton, Calif., schoolyard, using a semiautomatic replica of an AK-47 assault rifle. Five children died.
  • The third source, Roth and Koper's "Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994" says:
Nonetheless, the involvement of assault weapons in a number of mass murder incidents such as those discussed above provided an important impetus to the movement to ban assault weapons. Commenting on Patrick Purdy's murder of five children with an AK-47 rifle in Stockton, California in 1989, one observer noted, "The crime was to raise renewed outcries against the availability of exotic military-style weapons in our society. This time police forces joined forces with those who have traditionally opposed the widespread ownership of guns" (Cox Newspapers 1989, p.i). Later that year, California became the first state in the nation to enact an assault weapons ban, and the federal government enacted a ban on the importation of several foreign military-style rifles.

This is NPOV and factual. The Stockton shooting was the catalyst for Bush's ban on the importation of foreign "assault weapons" and for the federal assault weapons ban.

I, too, look forward to some opinions. I hope to get some support for the third, compromise/tweaked version.

--Lightbreather (talk) 03:30, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Neither of those articles is very factual. Purdy used an SKS, not an AK-47:
"at least one gun that was banned by the old law may not be prohibited by the new law, because it lacks a pistol grip: the SKS semiautomatic rifle, which a man named Patrick Purdy used to kill five children and wound 29 other students and a teacher in a Stockton schoolyard in 1989." [1]--Mike - Μολὼν λαβέ 18:42, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, Mike. I sincerely appreciate the feedback. Please don't read any tone into this, it's just a simple request for clarification, as I'm not sure I understand your post. Do you want me to add the source you've provided somewhere? The only fact I'm trying to document here is that a preponderance of reliable, verifiable sources say that the Stockton shooting was the impetus for a federal ban - not the details of the shooting itself. That is to say, there had been talk of such a ban at various levels of government for some time, but the Stockton shooting electrified the public brought the debate to the forefront among different entities, including Congress. Lightbreather (talk) 22:08, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
No problem. It definitely was the catalyst that enabled the Roberti-Roos law to pass in the California Legislature that year (I was stationed at Camp Pendleton when the shooting occured) I was just pointing out that the rifle was repeatedly misidentified as an AK-47 (or Norinco Type 56) when in fact it was a Chinese SKS.--Mike - Μολὼν λαβέ 22:20, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
OK, thanks. I agree that the sources differ in how they describe Purdy's rifle. Of the six sources I have bundled right now, only two mention it: one says "an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle" and the other says "a semiautomatic replica of an AK-47 assault rifle." Lightbreather (talk) 22:34, 18 March 2014 (UTC)


I think that discussing a tragedy that occurred 4-5 years before is off topic, POV and should stay out. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:12, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Ah, esteemed colleague, North, my friend. I hear you, and I understand your concern. If the article were to mention all traffic accidents in the years leading up to passage of AWB 1994, that would be off topic. If it were to provide the details of all the mass shootings with what would come to be called (wisely or not) "assault weapons," that would be undue weight. Even though many sources do give details about the other shootings, I am willing, for the sake of compromise and WP:UNDUE (which would therefore be, by some editors' reckoning, POV pushing) - I am willing to leave those other shootings out of this article. But one thing the sources do agree on, and cite even when they cite no others, is that the Stockton schoolyard shooting was the turning point in placing an AWB in the minds of the people, Congress, and even the sitting and a few former U.S. presidents. So presenting the basic facts about that shooting is relevant and not POV pushing. In fact, to not include at least that one, pivotal shooting would keep this article in the incomplete state that it is currently in.
This has been discussed before, in great detail, but also at a time when relations on this article were strained and stressed by other topics. On September 30, one editor asked:
[If] this article is complete and NPOV, where is the background / introductory material? What are the origins of this law? Who wrote it? Why? Who supported it? What were the legal challenges that are alluded to?
A second editor replied that the lack of origin/historical information is probably not a POV issue (in this case), but certainly it can be a lack of completeness. If you know of good sourcing, that would be an excellent addition.
(I am not giving names because I'm trying to keep it on content, not people. Please, if you do go back to read those old discussions, try to read them without letting old feelings get in the way. That's what I try to do, though my heart pounds in my chest when I remember how alone I felt. Please, look for what was good and valid in what was discussed.)
In fact, an Origins of the ban section was added back then, but lost in a rollback on Oct. 1. On Oct. 3, a third editor wrote:
I'm in favor of restoring this [Origins] section, but to the version after I did some minor NPOV editing: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban&direction=next&oldid=575230574 I believe it could also stand to have the first graf elided as it is redundant. [The Origins section is] well-written, stating the basic history leading up to the ban, though it's hard to determine emphatically that the Stockton shooting was the proximate beginning of that history.
Since that time, I have found dozens more reliable verifiable sources that name the Stockton shooting as the main impetus for the AWB. I have let five months pass since then to allow feelings about this article cool down, but I would like to now resume making the article a little more complete by adding this Background section, which is brief, relevant and not POV. Lightbreather (talk) 18:30, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
And there are a lot of sources that say that the cause is a ongoing effort by committed anti-gun people, and that such events are merely things which they try to capitalize on / utilize. And so the background would be an analysis of who was pushing this and their backgrounds regarding this issue. I think that it would be better to have straightforward coverage of the topic rather than get into POV selections of the "reason" for it. And if we go to the latter, we should cover the various prominent POV's, not just one. North8000 (talk) 19:26, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
The version that third editor created (link above) has a brief (one sentence) paragraph that it (the AWB) was opposed by the NRA. I suggest that, after I add the section back, you add a sentence or two to that paragraph using the most neutral language you can with the best sources you can provide (as I've done)... I am inviting you to work with me on this, North. Lightbreather (talk) 19:40, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
The current one doesn't look too bad from a POV standpoint, but I think that it scrambles some things by conflating the import ban with this law, and I think it also has technical errors wherever it uses "semi-automatic" as the only qualifier/adjective. North8000 (talk) 20:31, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

I thought a "background" section would add to the article, and wanted to keep it. However North has made some very important points, and I am now of the opinion that such a section, in it's present form, amounts to POV pushing as the "cause" of the ban. This raises a fair number of problems which North has gone over, and I won't bother repeating. Also, the majority of the material is duplicated elsewhere anyway. I don't think a "background" section is beneficial to the article (which has been stable now for a while) if, POV issues aside, it is going to amount to little more than a second lede. As there is no consensus to add the section, I have removed it, pending such a consensus. --Sue Rangell 20:35, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

North first said that "discussing a tragedy that occurred 4-5 years before is off topic," but I explained that it is not off topic, providing sources that prove it. I restored a tweaked version, based on a version that was supported five months ago, but never added because there was a lot of friction among editors at that time re: other issues. I also invited North to work with me to tweak any issues he might have, to which he replied that it doesn't look too bad, and offered a couple areas he'd like to address. Please let me and North go through the process - and work with us, if you wish. Please don't just delete the section. Lightbreather (talk) 00:50, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
North8000, since the import ban was already mentioned briefly as a sort of footnote to the banned weapons table in the Criteria section, I will move all mention of that ban to that section for now, to address your concern that some might confuse that ban with the AWB. Lightbreather (talk) 00:54, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
I usually speak very directly, so "doesn't look too bad" was my exact thought. Besides the technical errors, the "not too bad" was because while taken literally it only noted that efforts intensified after the tragedy, rather than claiming that tragedy was a driving force. But I still a skeptical about grouping the AWB discussioons with a tragedy that happened 4 years before, thus implying cause and effect. But now, with the section being back it, it also has the significant technical errors. Just for future info when looking at such things, saying "semi-automatic" covers about 1/2 of all firearms. North8000 (talk) 01:16, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, North. I have edited the section for the two concerns you mentioned. I moved the Bush import ban to after the banned weapons table in the Criteria (next) section, and I further qualified the terms "semiautomatic assault weapon" and "large capacity ammunition feeding device" - leaving further elaboration also for the Criteria section. Lightbreather (talk) 01:24, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Also, North: I was pro-active and added three sources to back up the fact that reliable, verifiable sources agree that the Stockton schoolyard shooting was the turning point in the AWB debate of the early 1990's. I included quotes, too, though I did not add them to the article text. I hope that this will help to mitigate any future (let's hope not) debate among other editors re: its inclusion. I also bundled four of the sources, so as not to mar the article's readability. I based these edits on the example of the "cosmetic" debate, and how we ultimately handled the inclusion of those multiple, debated sources. (Don't want to start that again; just want to explain my action on this.) Lightbreather (talk) 16:35, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
I am very strongly opposed to having a second lede in the article. I have no problem with a bulleted list of facts. I think that could be helpful. But several paragraphs of POV "This is what the ban was all about" does nothing to improve the article, and in fact damages the article. (An article that has been stable for a while now) If a single editor is going to insist on what amounts to a second lede, then I will call for outside opinions so that a consensus can be formed. I am NOT going through six months of this again. --Sue Rangell 19:59, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Sue, drop the stick. Although I do have some issues with particular bits of LB's addition, in concept it is needed and appropriate. Having a section of the background is not a second lede. The lede summarizes the entire article. Saying some of the history that many reliable sources say led to the bill is an entirely appropriate part of the article. (Although as said, I do have reservations about particular bits that will need to be improved/balanced). While LB is taking the initiative to write a section, other editors have weighed in, discussing the content - you are the only one unilaterally removing content. this has become a clear pattern for you, and you need to stop. Gaijin42 (talk) 20:13, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

There's no need for such edgy language. I'm not "unilaterally removing content", I am simply saying that I think the section would be better expressed as a bulleted list of facts. Why? Because I think the present proposal is not encyclopedic, and will simply generate 6-12 months of back and forth, wasting everyone's time. However, since I seem to be the only one of that particular opinion, I will sit back and watch what happens. If it looks like the section isn't going to be working in prose form, I will re-suggest a bulleted list. Perhaps at that time the idea will sway more editors. --Sue Rangell 18:53, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

Background section - follow-up[edit]

Since that last section is getting a bit long, I'm starting this new one to iron out any remaining kinks. I don't know who all remembers this, but when we started on this last fall (Sept. 30 & Oct. 1) I was looking for someone to help me identify more sources for the opposition's voice re: Background. At the time, I didn't find much - and I'm not finding more now. I added the best I could find from the NRA, plus something about Jack Brooks' opposition to the bill, which StarryGrandma suggested.

I will go back and re-read my posts and sources from that time. Lightbreather (talk) 22:14, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Would y'all like me to add this snippet from the Rep. Brooks' source?

"Mr. Brooks called the ban a 'vendetta dressed up in fancy clothes' against legitimate gun owners, who, he said, 'have not shot any women or little children lately.'"

--Lightbreather (talk) 22:43, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Notice of RfC and request for participation[edit]

The following discussion is closed and will soon be archived.

There is an RfC in which the participation of editors/watchers of this article would be greatly appreciated:

Thank you. --Lightbreather (talk) 23:08, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Including contentious material[edit]

Before we get too many reverts, I think we should have some sort of discussion about whether or not the material adds encyclopedic information to the article, or simply adds confusion and POV. Since it's introduction, it has only seemed to bring instability to an otherwise stable artcle. (Read above) It is for the most part the creation of a single editor who has been topic banned, although additional work was added by a second editor...who has also been topic banned. I do not advocate simply removing the material, and never did. Instead, I think the contentious elements should simply be held off until such time as we can put our heads together and do a rewrite. Presumably, as responsible Wikipedians, we can collaborate here and produce a worthy piece that is encyclopedic and pushes no particular point of view. --Sue Rangell 00:44, 17 July 2014 (UTC)