I thought I would give "memogate" a rest and talk about the expiration of the assault weapon ban. This law was a useless bit of public relations fluff which curtailed gun owner's rights with absolutely no impact on public safety.
Part of the problem, of course, is that there is no such thing as an "assault weapon." There is an "assault rifle", the proto-type being the STG-44 invented by Germany during WWII. The Germans figured out that most infantry combat takes place at ranges of 200 meters or less, so an infantryman need a lightweight weapon with a high rate of fire more than he needs a heavier weapon that will hit targets beyond 500 meters. As a result, the Germans developed a light weapon which fired a cut down rifle round in either the automatic (i.e. bullets keep coming out of the gun as long as you hold down the trigger) or semi-automatic (i.e. a bullet is fired every time you squeeze the trigger) modes. These distinctions, and a lot more, is explained here. The "assault rifle" became the norm for modern infantry.
Of course, these "assault rifles" were already illegal, as fully automatic weapons couldn't be legally owned, at least without complying with extensive federal regulations. And while semi-automatic versions of many of these weapons are manufactured, there is no evidence that they are widely used in crimes. Rather, criminals prize concealable weapons, and it is difficult to skulk into a bank with a rifle in your pants. Both common sense and DOJ statistics indicate that handguns are the overwhelming weapon of choice for your basic lawbreaker. As such, there was very little to gain, from a public safety perspective, by a law banning rifles.
Neither common sense nor statistics matter to the hardened gun banner, who apparently are happy banning these guns as "assault weapons" for the sole reason that they look dangerous. Also included in the general definition of "assault weapon" are civilian versions of machine pistols (i.e. pistols that fire full automatic) like the Uzi or the MAC-10. Of course, while these weapons also "look dangerous", when you choke them down to semi-automatic they are generally larger (and therefore less concealable) then a standard semi-automatic pistol, as well as being less accurate, with no benefit in range or rate of fire.
As a (related) aside, I got to shoot a civilian version of the MAC-10 a bunch of years ago. It was a real pig, heavy, difficult to aim, and it fired from an open bolt, for heaven's sake. (Those of you who know what I am talking about can imagine what this does to first round accuracy. Those of you who don't probably shouldn't be having opinions on gun control). In my opinion we should encourage criminals to use weapons like this rather than a (non assault weapon) Beretta or a Glock 9mm. We would all be safer.
There was no attempt to differentiate these "assault weapons" from other weapons based on rate of fire, or internal functioning, or anything that made any sense. Rather, things like pistol grips, flash suppressors, bayonet studs and whether the weapon could accommodate a rifle grenade were used as criteria. Of course these criteria are silly in terms of public safety, given that I hadn't noticed that many people were being killed by bayonets or rifle grenades. And even the "looks dangerous" criteria didn't really hold up, as manufacturers were able to get outside the ban by removing or modifing a few features. This, for example, does not qualify as an "assault weapon."
Of course, the real reason why the assault weapon ban isn't good public policy is that assault weapons are just not used in crime very much. During Senate hearings over the ban, Joseph Constance, deputy chief of the Trenton, New Jersey, Police Department, said as much:
Since police started keeping statistics, we now know that assault weapons are/were used in an underwhelming .026 of 1 percent of crimes in New Jersey. This means that my officers are more likely to confront an escaped tiger from the local zoo than to confront an assault rifle in the hands of a drug-crazed killer on the streets.
This statement is backed up by DOJ statistics. According to a 1999 Justice Department Study of the Assault Weapon Ban (and remember who was President then, and who was AG), it was difficult to determine whether the ban had any salient impact on crime, primarily because "assault weapons" were hardly ever used in crimes anyway:
The ban’s short-term impact on gun violence has been uncertain, due perhaps to the continuing vailability of grandfathered assault weapons, close substitute guns and large capacity magazines, and the relative rarity with which the banned weapons were used in gun violence even before the ban.
Given this, the only way that Democrats can make it appear that Bush and the Republicans were wrong to let the law expire is to lie about it (which, of course, they are perfectly willing to do).