When Is An Assault Rifle Not An Assault Rifle?

              The gun industry better come up with a basic narrative to staunch what could be some serious financial problems, assuming that the AWB virus (read: assault weapons ban) begins to spread throughout the globe. Because it just doesn’t work to refer to a gun as a ‘modern sporting rifle’ when the so-called ‘sport’ results in 50 people getting killed. It also doesn’t work to refer to an AR-15 as a ‘tactical’ gun when you can hardly consider a high school, a synagogue  or a mosque to be a war zone.

              This search for a new excuse to continue making profits from the sale of .America’s most popular’ rifle’ was on full display yesterday with a really stupid op-ed in The Washington Examiner. The writerlikened allowing families of Sandy Hook victims who want to sue the gun maker to be just as ‘ridiculous’ as allowing someone to sue a company which manufactures kitchen knives after some ‘crazy person’ takes a knife out of the cupboard and sticks it in someone else’s head.

              Last week I bought a knife from an online seller whose advertisement claimed that for $69.95 I was getting my hands on the best, most versatile and most effective ‘tactical’ knife ever made.  The advertisement made a point of promising that with this knife in my pocket, I could defend myself from any and all threats. There was no mention of whether I could also use this knife to slice a loaf of bread.

Of course I could stick this knife in the same kitchen drawer where I keep the utensils which I use to prepare and eat food. But I can also go down to Wal Mart and buy an entire set of forks, knives and spoons, or a complete set of steak knives (in a nice, wooden knife-holder) for less than $69.95. And I would be the last person to argue that if my loony cousin Arthur escaped from the loony bin, showed up at my house, grabbed one of those steak knives and pushed it into my head, that my wife should be able to sue Wal Mart because they sold me a product that was designed to trim the side of my Porterhouse filet.

This is exactly why the argument against banning assault rifles falls apart. Because an assault rifle is designed to do one thing: deliver massive, military-grade firepower into a public space containing multiple human beings who are targeted by the guy who has the gun. And the fact that nearly everyone who owns such a weapon wouldn’t think of using it to hurt or injure someone else, doesn’t make this type of gun any less dangerous or any safer for civilian sale.

One of the most popular semi-automatic rifles ever manufactured is a gun made by Ruger known as the Mini-14. It fires the same type of ammunition as the AR-15 (.223 or 5.56) and bears a slight resemblance to the old M-1 carbine, which was the 30-caliber version of the storied M-1 Garand. It was designed by Bill Ruger specifically to be a lightweight, sporting gun that could be used to hunt varmints or just have some shooting fun.

When Ruger started shipping this rifle it came and still comes with a 5-shot mag. So here was a gun that looks like a military gun, feels like a military gun and shoots like a military gun except that Bill Ruger didn’t want anyone thinking they were buying a military gun. In fact, Bill Ruger first characterized his company as ‘Arms Makers for Responsible Citizens,’ but the factory now ships what they call a ‘tactical’ Mini-14, complete with hi-cap mags.

Could Ruger refit its Mini-14 with a non-detachable mag that only holds 5 rounds? Of course they could, but the gun wouldn’t sell. And this is the reason why the gun industry has become, to paraphrase Hamlet, hoisted with its own petard. Because they can’t have it both ways. Either we shoot for sport or we shoot to kill. It’s as simple as that.

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What’s The Best Way To Regulate Guns?

              Coming up shortly is a debate in the U.S. Senate about a bill which passed through the House extending background checks to all transfers of guns. At the same this issue wends its way through Congress, another approach to reducing gun violence is going through the courts in the form of the lawsuit against Remington brought by some of the parents of victims killed at Sandy Hook.

              These two initiatives represent different methods for making us safe (or at least safer) from a type of behavior which kills and injures more than 125,000 people every year.  This behavior which is referred to as gun violence because it occurs whenever someone picks up a gun, aims it at themselves or someone else and goes – bang!

              I happen to believe that the latter approach is a much more effective method for dealing with this problem. My proof for that statement lies in the fact that the gun-control method embodied in the DeSoto v. Remington case aligns itself with the way in which other countries deal with gun violence, which is the reason why other countries have gun-violence rates far below our own.

              We are the only advanced society which has decided that the most effective way to regulate a consumer product known as a gun is to regulate the behavior of the consumer who owns the gun. Therefore, in order to be a legal gun owner in the United States, you have to prove that you do not fall into a particular behavioral category which prohibits owning or buying guns. These categories are all listed on the 4473 background check form which is filled out when someone buys a gun, but they apply equally as well to owning a gun, no matter how that ownership status came about. The background check bill currently before the Senate basically extends the certification of ‘good’ behavior to any way in which someone gets their hands on a gun. But like the current system, it is still regulating how people behave with a particular consumer product, not how the product is designed or sold.

              The majority opinion in DeSoto v. Remington correctly understood that what is at issue in this case is not the behavior of the shooter per se, but the conscious effort by the manufacturer to advertise the product in a way that would attract consumers who wanted to use this gun to inflict injuries to other human beings. To quote from the decision: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.” Which is hardly how guns designed to be used for ‘sport’ can best be described.

              On the other hand, as long as a gun doesn’t fire in automatic mode, it can be bought and sold by anyone who doesn’t have a behavioral history indicating that the person  buying or owning the gun is at risk for using the weapon in a violent way. Adam Lanza, who shot and killed himself and 27 other kids and adults in Newtown, used his mother’s rifle but if he had waited a few months until he was 21, he could have walked into any gun shop in Connecticut and purchased the same gun himself.

              I’m not saying that extending background checks to secondary sales won’t have an impact on whether or not guns end up in the wrong hands. But as long as we continue to regulate this consumer product by believing that purchase and ownership of products as dangerous as an AR-15 require only meeting minimal standards for lawful behavior, the number of such guns floating around in private hands will continue to increase. And as the number of such guns goes up, the number used to commit violent acts will also go up.

              If a consumer product is dangerous because of the way it’s designed, either you change the design or the product can’t be sold. How do you make an AR-15 safer so that it can’t be used to mow down a classroom filled with kids? You can’t.

Why Is The AR-15 Too Dangerous If It’s Just Another Semi-Auto Gun?

              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.

What Happened At Sandy Hook.

It took the Connecticut Supreme Court more than fifteen months to issue a ruling in the Sandy Hook case, but when the opinion was announced, it was a doozy. Not only did the Court reverse the Superior Court’s ruling and hold for the plaintiffs against the gun maker whose product was used to kill 26 adult and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the decision got right to the fundamental issue which the gun industry has been trying to wish out of existence for at least the last twenty years.

When gun makers realized that hunting was going the way of the dial telephone, they came up with a brilliant marketing plan to keep the factories humming, namely, the idea of guns as being essential for self-defense. Now the fact that most Americans never find themselves in a situation where they need protection from a criminal threat isn’t at issue here. What is at issue is that enough consumers believed this malarky to keep the gun industry from sliding into the red.

With the advent of terrorism, non-ending battle engagements in the Near East and a generalize fear that something like 9-11 might happen again, however, the whole notion of armed, self-defense was transmogrified into messaging which blurred the traditional boundary between civilian and military weapons, with the gun industry finding its strongest new market in something called ‘tactical’ guns.

Of course the gun industry also knew, particularly after the Heller decision in 2008, that they couldn’t push this move into military-style armaments too far, because Scalia specifically refused to grant 2nd-Amendment protection to what he referred to as ‘weapons of war.’ So the industry invented the idea that guns like the AR-15 weren’t military weapons; they were ‘modern sporting weapons,’ meaning that the word ‘sporting’ could be applied to any gun which fired in semi-automatic mode.

The CT Supreme Court decision is quite lengthy, primarily because it deals not only with the state laws covering consumer protection (CUTPA and negligent entrustment) but it also explains in detail why the gun industry in this instance cannot use the federal tort immunity law – PLCAA – to shield itself from legitimate damage claims. And on Page 12 of the opinion, the rubber meets the road with the following accurate and very strong text: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency. Several features make these rifles especially well suited for combat and enable a shooter to inflict unparalleled carnage. Rapid semiautomatic fire ‘unleashes a torrent of bullets in a matter of seconds.’ The ability to accommodate large capacity magazines allows for prolonged assaults.”

Folks – the CT Supreme Court got it right. The AR-15 wasn’t designed to be a ‘sporting’ gun, unless you want to define ‘sport’ as the ability to kill 26 human beings in 4 minutes or less. And if a shooter can deliver that amount of lethal firepower in such a short period of time, it makes the idea of differentiating between full-auto and semi-automatic modes a stupid and sick joke.

What happened at Sandy Hook is that someone used a product that is too dangerous and too lethal for civilian sale. Because the product was used precisely in the way it was designed to be used – to kill as many human beings as possible in the briefest period of time. In all of this my great regret is that in order to force the gun industry to acknowledge the lethality of this product, beautiful and precious lives had to be lost.

Greg Gibson: The Delusion About Gun Violence.

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 The impressive wound ballistics of the AR-15 are not accidental. The thing was designed to do what it does. A .223 round impacts with such velocity that it generates an explosive shock wave inside the target. Also, the bullet will tumble, enhancing its destructive properties. Don’t let anyone fool you. We may not be able to settle on a decisive characterization of an “assault rifle,” but an AR chambered for a .223 round will make a mess of a human body – exactly as it was designed to do. And it will do so thirty, fifty, or many more rounds in short order, depending on how fast the lunatic on the other end can pull the trigger and swap out his mags. The industry’s characterization of this type of weapon as a “modern sporting rifle” is an obscenity.

Fortunately for the college at which he went berserk, my son’s killer was financially constrained. Furthermore, he was a novice, having never fired a gun before he went on his campus shooting spree. He settled on a used SKS, a cheap carbine that fired the lower-velocity 7.62 x 39 mm round. He purchased a pistol grip and plastic folding stock to replace the original wooden one, a conversion kit to allow the SKS to accept 30-round magazines, six of those magazines, and 180 rounds of ammunition. The aforementioned financial constraints led him to purchase inexpensive full metal jacket bullets. Because they are jacketed the projectiles tend to go through a body rather than disintegrating as a hollow point bullet might, or tumbling and generating a shock wave as the .223 round does. The killer’s chest shot shattered my son’s sternum, passed into his chest cavity, severed blood vessels, passed through a lung, severed the trachea, passed through the 7th rib and exited the back. He died on his college library floor, bullets zinging past, friends and classmates freaking out watching one of their own strangle and bleed to death. After he’d killed two people and wounded four, the wannabe psycho killer’s gun jammed – the magazine wasn’t seating properly – and he didn’t know how to clear it.  This saved many lives.

When such a thing happens to your son or daughter you don’t experience it as a chapter from a wound ballistics textbook. It is the most painful, calamitous, life-changing event imaginable.

If you manage to not kill yourself or someone else, as I just barely managed not to do, and if you don’t go so crazy as to become completely dysfunctional, you might fall prey to the very reasonable delusion that, once people hear your story, once they learn how horrific and widely damaging gun murder is, they’ll be inspired to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.

This same delusion caused those Parkland teens to speak out as they have. The worst thing imaginable had just happened to them. Surely, once they let the world know about it, the world would rise as one and cry, “Enough!”

I love their ferocity and energy, but I worry about how those kids will be feeling years down the road, when the journalists have moved on to other stories, and they are left with only the horrific images of what happened, set against the backdrop of America’s vast, self-absorbed, indifference.

This is an excerpt from a longer piece entitled “Survivor Apocalypse.”

 

What Do Gun Owners Think About An Assault Weapons Ban?

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In light of all the post-Parkland talk about an assault weapons ban, I thought I would ask the one group that would be most directly impacted by such a measure – gun owners – to share their thoughts on such a ban. So I put a little survey up and have so far collected roughly 400 responses, the survey runs another week, but I thought I would publish the early results now.

Actually, I first began with two surveys, one for gun owners and one for non-gun owners, but I deleted the non-gun owner survey because too many of the gun owners felt it incumbent upon themselves to answer both surveys, which skewed the results of the latter survey to a degree that I can’t trust the results.  I’ll deal below with the reasons why many gun owners who answered the survey behaved in such a childish fashion, for the moment let’s just put it down to a generalized case of arrested mental development which, unfortunately, tends to infect a small segment of the gun-owning community, particularly those members of the community who have anointed themselves as the public defenders of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

Anyway, back to the survey.  To make sure that the survey was getting a representative response (I pay Facebook to run ads for my survey) I ask respondents to identify the region in which they live.  Here was the result:

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The survey is representative for gun owners nationally, particularly because from other surveys I have conducted, the region of residence tends to be the one demographic that influences attitudes about guns more than anything else.

So how do gun owners feel about an assault weapons ban?  They are against it – gee, big surprise.  And they are against a ban whether or not currently-owned assault weapons have to be surrendered or not – against either option to the tune of 95 percent.

I also asked survey respondents whether they actually owned an assault rifle and 70% said they did, but this numeric reflects the fact that the survey specifically referred to an assault weapons ban, which means that AR-owners would answer the survey in greater numbers than what they represent within the gun-owning population as  whole. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of the respondents who identified themselves as owning assault riles said they used the rifle for hunting and sport shooting, with roughly 36% saying that they bought the gun for self-defense.  This is an interesting finding, given the degree to which the gun industry has been promoting black guns as the latest and greatest ‘tool’ for personal defense.

Overwhelmingly, to the tune of 90% or slightly higher, gun owners did not think that assault rifles are too dangerous for civilian ownership, nor did they want magazine capacity to be limited to 10 rounds. And last, roughly nine out of ten respondents said they would not comply with a gun ban, so much for the NRA‘s endless paeans to ‘law-abiding’ gun owners.

What this survey indicates, and I will publish final results next week, is that gun owners have little enthusiasm for regulating assault rifles, but this should come as no surprise. I have never been comfortable with national polls (e.g., Pew, Gallup) which show strong support among gun owners for additional gun regulations, such as expanding background checks or otherwise inhibiting the flow and availability of guns.

On the other hand, let’s recognize that within the gun-owning population, as within any broad-based group, we will always find a hard core who are particularly eager to jump on social media to express the most stupid and infantile beliefs simply because: a) they have nothing better to do; and, b) it’s fun.

What makes an assault rifle attractive to most of its owners is the degree to which you can pretend you are mowing down all the bad guys. Take an AR onto the range and you instantly become that kid you once were before adult life intervened. And if someone threatens to make it difficult for you to recreate those happy days, why not do what children always do when someone threatens to take away their toys?

Throw a tantrum. Why not?  Yelling a few curse words is almost as much fun as shooting a gun.

 

 

 

Take A Survey On Assault Weapons.

 

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This is a completely anonymous survey which gives gun owners an opportunity to report how they feel about the ownership of assault weapons and current plans to regulate such weapons more strictly.  The survey can be completed in 2 minutes or less and we will post results on a weekly basis.

 

If you are a gun owner, take this survey.

Remember, this survey is completely anonymous. Even Survey Monkey doesn’t know who you are.

Ted Nugent And Alex Jones: A Perfect Pair.

Let me say this about Ted Nugent.  He is a remarkably-talented musician.  And the few moments when he played some licks for Alex Jones demonstrated why this guy has sold more than 30 million albums in a musical career that is in its sixth decade. Unfortunately, in order to enjoy Ted’s music, you also have to listen to him and Jones repeating the same clichés over and over again although the media reports that he wanted liberals shot down like ‘rabid coyotes’ wasn’t exactly true.

nugent1              Ted’s beginning to remind me of what I experienced every time I went to Florida to visit my grandparents who lived in South Miami Beach before it became known as South Beach. My grandfather and several of his cronies would sit on a bench in Flamingo Park debating this subject and that, and whatever came out of their mouths was true because it came out of their mouths.  God knows what the filtering mechanism was that put the ideas into their brains in the first place. But what always struck me about their conversations was the degree to which they knew that what they said was completely and totally true.

I’m not sure how many times in the hour-long conversation Ted said that he was always guided in everything he did by “truth, logic and common sense.” I stopped counting when he repeated this brief homily for the ninth or tenth time. But every time he repeated this profound phrase his interviewer, whose entire career has been built on never saying anything which remotely connect to the truth, nodded his head up and down.

I never realized until I watched this video that Nugent considers himself to be a true, civil rights pioneer.  He pridefully mentioned how much he loved various Black musicians like Little Richard and James Brown, noting that it was America’s ‘freedom’ that allowed these artists and other Black performers to achieve fame and renown. That civil rights laws were the handiwork of all those liberals and Democrats who are trying to destroy what patriots like Nugent try to protect went unmentioned. But why let a few facts get in the way of opinions, right?

The best part of the show was when Nugent and Jones were out on the shooting range and Ted was trying to explain to Alex why the AR-15 was just like any other sporting gun. What makes the AR just another sporter, according to Ted, is the fact that it only shoots in semi-auto mode, and “no society would be so irresponsible to send the military into war with a semi-automatic weapon.” The fact that the current battle rifle carried by U.S. forces can be set to semi-automatic firing status probably means that the guns will only be shot that way when a trooper is wandering around Ted’s ranch.

Ted also made a point, multiple times, about how he’s ‘studied’ all the mass shootings, and every such event, including the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, could have been prevented if patrons inside the club had been allowed to carry guns. You may recall that D.D. Trump said the same thing during the 2016 campaign, and it was left to Chris Cox to remind him that the NRA didn’t support the idea of people mixing booze with guns.

The one thing I never did while listening to my grandfather and his friends concoct one harebrained explanation after another was to speak up and interject my own ideas. Because if I had said anything that didn’t support their nonsensical views, I would have been immediately told to shut up and learn something from what the older generation knew to be true.

When Ted Nugent stops playing his guitar and starts shooting off his mouth, what you have is a quintessential case of arrested mental development; here’s a guy who has not been told to his face that he’s full of sh*t for at least fifty years. But he sure knows how to play that guitar.

Thank God The Liberal Media Can Still Find Someone Who Loves Guns.

Now that the Parkland kids have managed to put gun-control laws in the middle of the upcoming off-year election campaign, we have to assume that Gun-nut Nation will rev up their noise machine and say whatever they can say to deflect attention away from the whole issue of violence caused by guns.  Except the last time I looked, all those 2nd-Amendment stalwarts who have been marching around with their trusty AR-15 rifles slung over their backs seem to have quit the scene.

antifa            But where are all the pro-gun marches that were going to be held to counter the national protests on March 24th?  Where are all the gun-toting patriots screaming to lock up Hillary at all those Town Halls? Even Ted Nugent ends up going from a White House dinner to a boring interview with Alex Jones.

But not to worry about how the 2nd-Amendment gang is being marginalized and pushed to the sidelines in the continuing discussion about guns. Because we can count on the mainstream media (read: liberal, gun-grabbing media) to keep Gun-nut Nation alive.  Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story about a young guy down in Texas who finally saved up enough dough to buy his first AR-15.  The compassion, the humanity of this new AR owner dripped from every page.  Here’s some of the better quotes:

“He’s here this weekend [at a gun show where he bought the gun] not because he worries about an imminent ban, but because he just sold his Mustang and finally has the cash.”

“Rodriguez has long been a gun enthusiast. He learned how to shoot when he was in elementary school, and he purchased his first gun at 18.”

“He learned more about guns through YouTube, got a job and settled into a responsible life with a gun hobby on the side.”

Get it?  This guy’s not a nut; he’s not going to run into a school with his AR and start blasting away.  He’s actually a married man with a real job and he always wanted an AR because taking it out to the range is a “lot of fun.”  He’s not even worried about a terrorist attack and says that for self-protection, he would rather rely on a handgun than on his newly-purchased AR.  Of course, it turns that he’s never actually been involved in a criminal event of any kind. But he knows that if it actually happened, he would have no trouble engaging in defensive gun use because, “Can you think of a more honorable way to [die] than trying to save people’s lives?”

Okay, our boy has a few fantasies about life and death, so do we all.  But does the WaPo reporter at any point even hint at the possibility that this kid just spent a thousand bucks on a new toy?  Of course not. Because the truth is that these same reporters couldn’t stop writing about all those gun-toting, proto-fascist kids last year who were getting ready to mount the barricades and defend freedom against the Antifa hordes.

What happened to all that nonsense?  I’ll tell you that happened. It was nothing except whatever the mainstream media decided it should be. And once the brouhaha about Charlottesville died down and nobody really cared whether this Civil War statue or that Civil War statue stayed up or came down, the whole big deal about crazies running around with guns also died down. Instead, we now have an African-American gun instructor, Michelle Tigner, whose goal is to train one million women to use guns and also touts herself as “the  perfect mediator for a civil dialogue between ‘unwilling’ to talk gun advocates and ‘uninformed’ anti-gun crusaders.”

All of a sudden everyone’s interested to talking to both sides. Am I the only person out there who sees this as nothing more than the latest manifestation of good, old American entrepreneurship to make a quick buck by promoting the idea that most gun owners are actually normal people when it comes to what they do with their guns?

Tom Gabor – A New Approach to Regulating the Most Dangerous Weapons.

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Much has been said of late about the need to ban “assault weapons” (AW) or “weapons of war”. Polls show unprecedented support for a nationwide ban on these weapons.[1]  When used in the context of legislation or bills, these terms have been defined in a variety of ways, needlessly offend certain gun owners, and may even serve as impediments to effective laws.  In this article, we propose a different approach and one that avoids the pitfalls of previous AW bans as well as bills filed since the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

 

The Problem:  Unless one has lived in a cave over the last 20 years or so, it has become apparent that mass shootings have become an increasing concern in the US.  The largest massacres have almost always involved the use of weapons like the AR-15 and its relatives in Las Vegas (with the aid of bump stocks), at the Orlando Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech, Aurora Century Theater, and Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as in Parkland. One analysis has found that an average of 9 more people are shot and 3 more people are killed in mass shootings in which these weapons or high-capacity magazines (HCM) are used, illustrating the emptiness of the slogan:  “Guns don’t kill, people do.”[2]

An analysis conducted for my book, Confronting Gun Violence in America, shows that the number of public mass killings by firearm more than doubled from the 1980s to the 1990s and 2000s.[3] Between 2010 and 2015, the annual number of incidents has again increased sharply, at over four times the frequency observed in the 1980s.  More than half of the 30 deadliest mass shootings since 1949 have occurred since 2007.  The average number of deaths per year resulting from mass public shootings also has increased and, since 2010, was almost four times that of the 1980s.  It is worth noting that the acceleration in the number of large-scale mass shootings occurred following the expiration of the national AWs ban.

 

The increasing annual number of fatalities is especially noteworthy because great strides have been made in the management of bullet wounds over the last 15 years or so due to lessons learned on the battlefields of Afghanistan.  Thus, despite higher survival rates, we see an increasing toll from mass shootings, reflecting the greater lethality of weapons and an increasing proportion of victims who incur multiple bullet wounds.  This makes sense as we know that there is a growing number of military-style weapons in the civilian market.  The gun industry introduced these weapons into the civilian market in the 1980s in response to the saturation of their core market (white, rural males) with conventional firearms.

 

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994:  The federal AWs ban, in force between 1994 and 2004, prohibited the manufacture, transfer, and possession of those semi-automatic firearms designated as AWs.  The weapons subject to the ban were characterized by features (see below) suitable to military and criminal applications rather than sport shooting or self-defense.  Over one hundred firearm models, including certain pistols and shotguns, were covered by the ban.  The ban also covered HCMs holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.   This aspect of the ban extended beyond designated AWs as it applied to many non-banned weapons that could be equipped with these magazines.  At the time the ban took effect, it was estimated that 1.5 million AWs were privately-owned in the US along with about 25 million HCMs.[4]  Millions more of the HCM’s manufactured before the ban were imported into the country by 2000.

 

The ban yielded mixed results with regard to its effect on violent crime.  While there was no discernible reduction in gun crime or gun homicide, in six major cities—Baltimore, Boston, Miami, St. Louis, Anchorage, and Milwaukee—the share of gun crimes committed with weapons covered by the ban declined by between 17 % and 72 % during the ban.  Nationally, traces of guns used in crimes were 70% less likely to involve AWs during the ban.  Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation, found that gun massacres, defined as incidents involving six or more fatalities, were nearly cut in half during the ban in comparison with the ten-year period preceding it.  In the decade following the ban’s expiration, fatalities again increased dramatically, more than tripling the deaths seen during the ban.[5]

 

The reduction in crime by assault weapons was, in part, offset by the substitution of military-style firearms that technically did not qualify as AWs. Also, during the ban, a study of four cities indicated that guns with HCMs actually rose as semi-automatics were being equipped with them.  In addition, the grandfathering provisions of the AWs ban, which allowed weapons and HCMs already manufactured to continue to be sold, undercut its effectiveness.  Approximately 25 million of these magazines remained in the country and millions more were available for import from other countries.[6]  In fact, manufacturers took advantage of the grandfathering provisions by boosting production of designated AWs in the months leading up to the ban, creating a large stockpile of these items.  By contrast, in Australia’s well-known and successful ban, pre-ban weapons were bought back rather than exempted from the ban.

 

The manner in which weapons covered by the ban were defined also undermined its effectiveness.  The federal ban and current state laws define “AWs” by their features, some of which are irrelevant to the harm the weapon can produce.  Under the 1994 ban, an assault weapon included semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting detachable magazines and possessing two or more of the following features:

  • Folding stocks for concealment and portability;
  • Pistol grip protruding conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
  • A bayonet mount;
  • A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; or
  • A grenade launcher.

 

Definitions based on these features create a loophole by allowing manufacturers to circumvent the law simply by making minor modifications to a weapon.  For example, removing flash suppressors and bayonet mounts makes a weapon no less dangerous but can get around a features-based definition.

 

Overall, the 1994 ban showed some promise but the potential effectiveness was reduced by the grandfathering provisions and the features-based definition of “assault-style” weapons.  In addition, those evaluating the law made the point that the ban’s exemption of millions of AWs and HCMs manufactured before the ban meant that the impact of the law would be gradual and would not be fully realized for several years beyond its expiration, especially as HCMs made before the ban kept pouring into the market.[7]

 

A New Approach Focusing on Weapon Lethality: The first AW ban in the US, The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, was enacted in California following the massacre of schoolchildren by a drifter who fired 106 rounds of ammunition in three minutes with a semi-automatic military-style weapon.  The law defined an AW as one with “a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings.”  Unfortunately, the law failed to explicitly define such terms as ‘high rate of fire,’ and ‘capacity for firepower”.   Instead of defining these terms and banning weapons that met these definitions, the law listed over 50 specific banned guns, and added some cosmetic features (collapsible stock, flash hider, etc.) which have no impact on a gun’s lethality.

When the Federal Government enacted its AW ban in 1994, it borrowed the list of California-banned guns, included the various design features but dropped any reference to lethality; i.e., no mention of ‘high rate of fire’ or ‘capacity for firepower’ at all. This opened the door for gun rights advocates to claim that, functionally, there is no real difference between an AR-15 and any other kind semi-automatic rifle.

To address this void, I propose identifying the most dangerous firearms and regulating them, not on the basis of what they look like but on their ability to kill and injure as many people as possible in the shortest time frame.  National gun expert Mike Weisser proposes a method of scoring the lethality of a firearm on the basis of five factors:[8]   This system is an objective one which is not influenced by cosmetic modifications intended to circumvent regulations.

  1. Caliber – Larger and faster projectiles tend to cause more damage to human tissue, although the design of bullets and the materials used to make them are also important;
  2. Capacity – The number of cartridges that can be fired without reloading;
  3. Loading mechanism – The speed at which a rifle can be reloaded;
  4. Action – Time required to fire a single cartridge and bring the next cartridge into the breech;
  5. Design flexibility—the ability of a firearm to accommodate accessories, some of which increase lethality (e.g., lasers, electronic aiming devices, fore grips).

Once a scoring system is in place, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has the expertise and facilities in place to evaluate each firearm on the market and give it a lethality score.  This will allow for a classification of firearms on the basis of their lethality, with regulation increasing with the growing lethality of the category in which a firearm belongs.  Restrictions that might be considered can vary from complete bans to special licenses and vetting for owners of more lethal weapons, registration requirements, special taxes, longer waiting periods, increasing penalties for noncompliance, and storage requirements for more dangerous weapons.  One option for semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 is to regulate them under the National Firearms Act, as is done with fully automatic firearms.

 

Thomas Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist, sociologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Quinnipiac Poll, February 20, 2018; https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2521

[2] Everytown for Gun Safety, Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings; https://crimeresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/everytown-mass-shooting-analysis.pdf

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Confronting-Violence-America-Thomas-Gabor/dp/331933722X/ref=mt_hardcover?_encoding=UTF8&me=

[4] Christopher S. Koper, America’s experience with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  In D. Webster and J. Vernick (eds.),  Reducing Gun Violence in America.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, p.161.

 

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/22/the-real-reason-congress-banned-assault-weapons-in-1994-and-why-it-worked/?utm_term=.7aab6b1f3ce5

 

[6] https://www.factcheck.org/2013/02/did-the-1994-assault-weapons-ban-work/

[7] Christopher S. Koper, America’s experience with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  In D. Webster and J. Vernick (eds.),  Reducing Gun Violence in America.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, p.166.

[8] Mike Weisser, Measuring Gun Lethality; https://mikethegunguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/measuring-gun-lethality.pdf