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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