I purchased my first assault rifle in 1977 or 1978. It was made by Colt, was listed in the product catalog as a ‘sporter’ and sold for around four hundred bucks. The only difference between my A-1 sporter and the M-16 that was issued to our troops, was that my gun contained a semi-auto sear which because it was a ‘pre-ban’ gun could easily be swapped out for a full-auto sear.
This alleged difference between a gun which fires full-auto as opposed to a gun which requires a separate trigger for every shot has been the core argument used by Gun-nut Nation to turn back any legal challenge to what they now refer to as America’s ‘favorite’ gun. And since there’s absolutely no difference between all semi-automatic rifles, if you ban one of them you could ban them all, right?
For the uninitiated, this is a pretty powerful argument, and the pro-gun noise machine buttresses their narrative by pointing out that not only is the ammunition which loads into the AR less powerful than the ammo used in many semi-auto hunting guns, but that most ‘mass’ shootings occur with handguns, not the AR-style of gun. You can find these arguments in an Amicus Brief filed in the Sandy Hook case by a group known as the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League – I don’t have to tell you which side they’re on.
There’s only one little problem with this statement from these learned protectors of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ To be polite, they don’t know what they are talking about. To be a little less polite, they’re full of sh*t. And the reason I’m dispensing with polite is because this group is consciously trying to craft an argument to take advantage of a confusion found in just about every discussion about assault rifles, a confusion which hopefully this column will clear up.
It has to do with how we define the phrase ‘mass shooting.’ Actually, there is no standard definition. The FBI defines a ‘mass murder’ as the indiscriminate killing of four or more persons in a public space whether a gun is used or not. Other definitions push the idea that a mass killing event may occur either in a public or private space, and still others count the number of bodies, usually but not always four or more, regardless of whether the victims are injured or killed.
When a group like this Connecticut gun-loving bunch lumps together every multiple shooting with rampages which occurred at Columbine, Aurora, Parkland, Las Vegas or Sandy Hook, they are creating a category that is so vague they can basically say anything they want, regardless of the facts in each individual case.
Of course most ‘mass’ shootings involve the use of a handgun, if you define a ‘mass’ shooting as any time that multiple victims are hit. Of course the AR ammunition load known as .223 caliber is much less powerful that many hunting rounds, because the round my long-distance hunting rifle takes, the .300 Winchester Magnum, is designed to smack down a muley at 400 yards.
Talking about my hunting rifle, it’s a Browning BAR, which fires in semi-auto mode just like the AR. But there’s a huge difference between these two semi-auto guns which the Connecticut gun-nut group failed to point out. The magazine capacity of my Browning is 5 rounds and it loads shell by shell from the top. The AR loads from the bottom with magazines that can hold upwards of 30 to 50 rounds. If Adam Lanza had walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a Browning BAR, he maybe would have gotten off 4 or 5 shots. In fact because he used an AR, he banged nearly 100 rounds in 5 minutes or less.
When someone walks into a school and tries to kill everyone in sight, he has destroyed an entire community, whether that was his motive or not. And the only legal gun which will achieve that result in less time than it takes for a school resource officer to run down the hallway and intervene is an AR-15.