Hysteria About “Assault Rifles”

Co-blogger, David Robertson, recently initiated a thread entitled Hysteria About Gun Control. In it, Robertson writes:

The American public generally favors logical restrictions on firearms and the quantity of ammunition that a firearm magazine can hold. However, as a USA Today editorial states, “The ever-powerful gun lobby stands in the way of such logical changes by twisting any move to limit the sale of certain kinds of guns into a menacing attempt to take away all guns.”

The accuracy of that last statement is displayed in an op-ed by Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. In it, Cox writes, “It’s time for us to admit that radical Islam is a hate crime waiting to happen. The only way to defeat them is to destroy them — not destroy the right of law-abiding Americans to defend ourselves.”

Cox is feeding the hysteria about gun control with such a statement. The politicians who demand stricter gun laws aren’t trying to “destroy the right of law-abiding Americans to defend ourselves.” They aren’t trying to eliminate the ability of hunters to buy the Browning, Henry, Marlin, Remington, Ruger, Savage, Thompson and Tikka rifles sold at Bass Pro Shops. The politicians aren’t trying to prevent the purchases of the pistols that Bass Pro Shops sell, either. People could still hunt with the aforementioned rifles and protect themselves with the aforementioned pistols even if the AR-15 and the Sig Sauer MCX were never again sold in the USA. Also, limiting magazines to a maximum capacity of 10 rounds wouldn’t stop Americans from hunting or from defending themselves.

I have frequently criticized David on these boards for his unwillingness or inability to understand an issue before commenting on it. The above remarks clearly show that he doesn’t have a clue what the pro-gun arguments are with respect to “assault rifles” or magazine capacity. If he showed a modicum of interest in what he is condemning, he would either change his views or at least broaden his ability to argue his points. Arguing from a position of ignorance is neither persuasive nor responsible.

On December 7, 2015, I posted The No-Fly List and the Assault Weapons Myth. Included therein is a quote from a well-known right-wing newspaper commonly called The New York Times:

OVER the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.

That idea was one of the pillars of the Obama administration’s plan to curb gun violence, and it remains popular with the public. In a poll last December, 59 percent of likely voters said they favor a ban.

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.

I added the following comments:

“Assault weapons” account for an extremely small number of murders, but the president wants to “make it harder for people” to get them. Why isn’t he focusing on handguns? To be certain, there’s no doubt that’s what he’d like to do, but political expediency comes before the facts with this administration. If the New York Times can finally admit the myth, the president should keep up with the Times instead of dwelling in his make-believe past. “Good guys” can stop terrorists so long as they have the means to do so. Targeting “assault weapons” does nothing to deter ISIS disciples. Citizens who can shoot back are an adequate remedy.

As we’ve said all along, Obama cannot really believe that his recommendations will work because he cannot tell us how his “solutions” will prevent the next attack. He can only hope that his dishonesty will convince a majority of Americans to adopt an incremental approach that will result in a total gun ban. Thus, the one who believes that it’s his responsibility to protect the American people believes that he is protecting them by taking their rights away.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, stated, “We did have an assault weapons ban for 10 years, and I think it should be reinstated.” Does anybody remember how an “assault weapon” was defined? First, machine guns are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. Many people assume that “assault weapons,” in the context of contemporary politics, are machine guns; they are not. The so-called assault weapons which were banned in 1994 were semi-automatic (a round fired with each trigger pull) rifles which could  accept detachable magazines and included two or more of the following features:   a folding or telescopic stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor, and a grenade launcher mount. Note, the distinguishing features of an “assault rifle” are cosmetic, not functional. An assault rifle is simply a semi-automatic weapon that looks like a soldier might carry it, but it is functionally no different than any other semi-automatic rifle. Semi-automatic pistols and shotguns were similarly regulated.

Since there are calls for a renewed ban, isn’t it advisable to see how effective the last ban was? As the Times admits, “It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.” The ’94 ban expired in September of 2003. According to the FBI, 390 people were murdered with rifles in 2003. That amounts to 2.7% of murder victims. So, 10 years after the ban, with assault weapons flying off the shelves, has the murder rate risen? Nope. In 2014, the FBI again reports that 248 murders were committed with a rifle. So, rather than increasing homicides, the number of murders with rifles has actually decreased (2% of murders). Who started the “more guns, more crime” mantra? As I previously reported, the gun homicide rate is down 49% since 1993. Somebody’s been selling a lie to the American people and it ain’t conservatives.

The same FBI report for 2014 shows that knives were responsible for 1,567 murders. Moreover, 660 people were murdered with “personal weapons” that the FBI defines as “hands, fists, feet, etc.” That means you are nearly three times more likely to be killed by somebody’s physical body than you are being the victim of a rifle and over six times more likely to be killed with a knife or some other cutting instrument.

What about the kinds of weapons used in mass shootings? According to the Washington Post, a very wide assortment of weapons were used, but…

Shooters in the two deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history [not factoring in, of course, the latest shooting] carried models of the country’s most popular types of weapons. The gunman who killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, used a 9mm semiautomatic Glock 19 (and a .22-caliber Walther P22, another popular caliber). These guns, used by many law enforcement officers, are generally light, inexpensive, easy to conceal and require little strength to control. In this tally of weapons, 9mm semiautomatic handguns show up more than any other weapon.

So, the weapon of choice for mass murderers appears to have been the 9mm handgun. David Robertson, if you’re so concerned about the number of potential victims of mass murderers, why don’t you take a cue from history and call for a ban of the 9mm?

The same Washington Post article states, “People killed in mass shootings make up less than half of 1 percent of the people shot to death in the United States. More than half of gun deaths every year are suicides. In 2015, more than 12,000 people have been killed by guns, according to the Gun Violence Archive.” There were 12,000 firearms deaths in 2015 with more than half of them being self-inflicted. The remaining figure of over 5,000 deaths includes accidental shootings, and, again, the historical weapon of choice is the 9mm.

Why, then, is David and those who think like him getting hysterical about scary-looking semi-automatic rifles? For liberals, their objective is and always has been to strip Americans of their firearms. Educated liberals are well aware of the above statistics, and they know that banning military-looking rifles will neither stem gun violence nor curtail mass shootings. They want America to accept their anti-gun philosophy incrementally because they know that the current political environment will not give them everything. That’s why they question your “need” to have certain types of weapons. That’s why they reflexively go ad hominem by questioning your sanity for wanting a 30-round magazine. Who needs an AR-15 to go duck hunting?? They ridicule the notion of keeping the federal government in check, apparently wanting Americans to forget that it was an armed populace that overthrew Great Britain’s tyranny and established our nation. So, by logical fallacy, ridicule and goalpost moving, they dishonestly relegate firearms ownership to hunting and home defense. Once they achieve dominance in other areas, including the overturning of the Second Amendment via the Supreme Court, they’ll use the above statistics to go after handguns.They obscenely grandstand on the bodies of innocent victims in order to prevent law-abiding citizens the means to defend themselves against such aggression. They know that the vast majority of murders occur with handguns, and once they get Americans to adopt their “guns are the problem” mantra, they’ll successfully undermine handgun ownership. They’ll argue, “If you can accept the banning of certain weapons which are used in less than 1% of mass murders, isn’t it insane to allow other weapons which kill far more people?” And how will the David Robertsons of the world answer such a question?

Clinton has already stated that she does not agree with the Supreme Court decisions recognizing a personal right to keep and bear firearms:

And she will not hesitate to nominate an anti-gun judge to our nation’s highest court.

The ban on “assault weapons” is nonsensical from a gun-rights perspective. It is statistically wrong-headed and serves only to deprive law-abiding citizens of the weapons of their choosing. If a gun ban is to be adopted, shouldn’t the target be the type of weapon that causes the most carnage and death? That would be, as already stated, the handgun. Why, then, would somebody get twisted over a weapon that has historically been astronomically less threatening than handguns but would nonetheless passionately defend a weapon that has killed far more people? Such a person’s answer is our answer:  Self-defense is a fundamental human right and a firearm is one of the most effective means of accomplishing that. From over 60,000 to millions of times each year, Americans defend themselves with a wide variety of firearms. As with all dangerous equipment, there are inherent risks, including the fact that people will misuse the equipment and people will die. We all know that automobiles, as highly regulated as they are, kill more people than firearms, but we accept that as a consequence of using them. The majority of firearms deaths result from suicides, and if we ban all guns, Americans will find other ways to kill themselves. As shown elsewhere (including Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?), crime rates are not appreciably affected by such bans. So, the answer is not to ban guns. The answer is effective law enforcement, which includes enforcing the many gun laws we already have (with the full support of gun owners) and a strong security apparatus which includes the private ownership of firearms to both deter and to stop acts of crime. Gun-free zones are open invitations to mass murder.

Our detractors on these boards wonder what reasonable regulations gun-rights advocates support. That’s a rather odd request given the fact that many of us have numerous times stated our support for reasonable regulations. We all recognize that the unlimited exercise of certain acts may result in criminal liability. I may be free to speak, but libel may incur a stiff fine. As gun owners, we support background checks and keeping firearms out of the hands of felons and the insane. We support safety regulations, including restrictions on a minor’s use and ownership of firearms. We support the reporting of suspected criminal activity, including straw purchases on behalf of those who would be otherwise ineligible to purchase a firearm. We support stiffer penalties for criminal acts committed with a firearm and regulations and restrictions for non-citizens.

Without getting into the machine gun debate for the present, semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns, in spite of the wide variety of styles, function the same:  One trigger pull fires one round. There is a wide variety of standard hunting rifles that are as powerful or more powerful than so-called assault rifles. Given the absence of a functional distinction, the difference, as noted above, is merely cosmetic. Is this the rationale upon which to base a ban? Of course not. But wait, our detractors insist, what about magazine capacity? Doesn’t a 30-round magazine turn your “innocent” assault rifle into a killing machine far more lethal than your 30-06? Well, the ’94 ban included a 10-round per magazine limit, and we’ve already shown what kind of impact that had. If the objective is to reduce crime, it appears our opponents are barking up the wrong tree. Our opponents thus lack the logical footing to effectively argue against the continued legality of scary-looking weapons. They cannot point to crime statistics, and they cannot argue that a firearm that looks scary is any more lethal than the less scary-looking ones. So, what is the rational basis for a ban? There isn’t any. Again, “smart” liberals know this. They’re not after “assault weapons”; they’re after the weapon of choice for mass murderers. They are after the weapon “responsible” for the overwhelming majority of murders with firearms—the handgun.

If an act is constitutionally protected, then it is nonsensical to argue in terms of “need.” Why do you “need” to watch an R-rated movie (or higher)? Why do you need to read a profanity-filled book? Why do you need a nose ring? The answer is that we are free to choose our entertainment and how we express ourselves. Whether or not an act is constitutionally protected is not based on your subjective opinion of what somebody else needs. One must show from the Constitution why an act or possession of certain items is not protected. The argument is a legal one; it isn’t questioning the sanity of your opponents or ridiculing them with caricatures. If they have a legal argument, let them bring it. Otherwise, they’re just blowing smoke.

Instead of throwing more laws on the books that serve only to deprive honest citizens of their rights, we should insist that those in power stop dragging their feet on some of the laws we already have instead of pursuing a feel-good-do-nothing ban on scary guns:


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