Will the Second Amendment be shot down if we ban Assault Weapons?

July 29, 2012

44 Magnum gunBy Nancy Thorner and Edward Ingold –

According to Judith Miller, author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter formerly with the New York Times, it is still possible to honor the 2nd Amendment even if assault rifles are banned.   

The reaction was instantaneous and summarily expected after the shooting rampage by James Holmes in a Aurora, Colorado movie theater on July 20, 2012: that assault weapons must be banned. Calling for a federal ban on assault weapons in the immediate wake of the shooting was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  

New York City Mayor Bloomberg went a step further on Monday, July 23 with the following utterly ridiculous comment that is almost on par with his Big Gulp Drinks views: “I don’t understand why the police officers of this country don’t stand up collectively and say, ‘We’re gonna go on strike. We’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature do what’s required to keep us safe (ie. more gun control). After all police officers want to go home to their families.” 

It seems rather perverse that the elected head of a major city should call for an insurrection of this sort.

A New York Times article chided both Obama and Romney for not heeding the new call for gun control, even though four years ago Obama called for an assault weapons ban.    

There was even a plea calling for Obama to ban assault weapons via Executive Order in the following column at the Huffington Post by Robert David in which he further questioned the Left’s propensity to overlook what should be done because Obama is one of us:

“President Obama has said that he would rather be a good one-term president, than a mediocre two-term one. If he really means that then in the wake of the massacre in Aurora, Colo, that has left at least 12 dead and 58 wounded, why doesn’t President Obama issue an executive order banning assault weapons and with high-capacity gun magazines?”     

On the other side of the coin, gun stores in Colorado are seeing a boost in business in the days since the theater shooting. Gun stores across the Denver area say that sales are up, classes are full, and customers are asking questions as buyers express fears that anti-gun politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons. There is a corresponding spike in application for carrying concealed weapons, because people refuse to become victims of these monsters, not to mention street criminals.  

Politico.com recently posted a survey asking whether assault weapons should be banned. The results were surprising. Although 53% of the response was in the affirmative, over 40% voted no. Politico is not just liberal, but far left in its outlook. In general the site trashes all things conservative and Republicans in particular. Apparently Politico reached the wrong audience when Ed Ingold took the poll, along with the other 40% who likewise voted no. 

But what, exactly, is an “assault weapon”? Ed ingold explains.

In military terms, an assault rifle falls between a battle rifle, used at ranges up to 800 yards, and submachine guns, which use pistol rounds such as 9mm and .45 ACP, at close range. It is the mission, not the configuration, that determines that designation – close combat to about 300 yards. In civilian terms, the definition is less distinct. That’s because the term “assault rifle” is used as a pejorative to describe “nasty” weapons the liberals don’t approve. Any semi-automatic rifle falls in this category, loosely grouped with fully automatic machine guns, which are rather tightly regulated by the Federal Firearms Act of 1936. It all depends on the effect the news reader or pundit wishes to convey.

California Senator Diane Feinstein, former mayor of San Francisco, bragged that laws in CA would have prevented the Aurora incident. On closer examination, it is unlikely that CA laws would have resulted in a different outcome.

California law defines an assault rifle by cosmetic, rather than functional, features. 

A Ruger Mini-14 with a 5 round magazine is allowed, but the same rifle, firing the same cartridge (5.56x45mm NATO) as the shooter’s rifle, at the same rate of fire, with a 20 round magazine, a pistol grip, or a flash suppressor, is a banned “assault” weapon in California. In reality, a flash suppressor doesn’t make the gun invisible at night (or day), rather directs some of the gases upward to reduce recoil, and away from the shooter to preserve night vision.

In civilian usage, a pistol grip is mostly cosmetic.The military favors pistol grips because most of the recruits have little experience with firearms, and find it more comfortable.Tactically, a pistol grip is designed for waist-level shooting in a walking charge – the kind made famous by General George Pickett at Gettysburg, and not especially effective today either.Again, it is mostly a popular, cosmetic feature for people who like the “military” look.

Another example would be the popular AR-15 (the military version, in use since 1964, is the fully-automatic M-16), which along with the Russian AK-47, is often used as a synonym for “assault rifle. The shooting public prefers the term “sporting rifle.”

The Smith & Wesson rifle used by the Aurora shooter is one version of the popular Colt AR-15. It uses the same cartridge, 5.56x45mm NATO as the sometimes allowed, sometimes banned Mini-14 described above. The AR-15 looks dangerous, has a pistol grip handle, collapsible stock (not that collapsible) and a flash suppressor. 

One would think all weapons of this pattern would be banned by California’s encompassing laws. Guess again. They are not banned in California as long as it has a so-called “bullet button,” a magazine release that requires a pointed tool, like an unfired cartridge, rather than a finger tip. It takes the same magazines as any other AR style rifle, except that California limits the capacity to of any weapon to 10 rounds or less.The much maligned “flash suppressor” is allowed by California in this case.

A demented shooter intent on mayhem would have no trouble finding a higher capacity magazine, even if banned nationally. There are simply too many of them. Many are brought back by military personal who frequently buy their own to have a more reliable weapon than their GI-issued variety.

The most common magazines in civilian or military use hold 20-30 rounds. The 50-100 round drums, used by the Aurora shooter, weigh over 7 pounds (a lot for a 6 pound rifle), are cheaply made and prone to jamming – which is exactly what happened in Aurora.

Why are so-called “assault” weapons popular?  Because they are powerful, accurate, and suitable rifles and ammunition are relatively inexpensive (cheaper than many pistols). They are popular because they similar to those carried into battle by our armed forces. We have seen popularity of military weapons among civilians throughout our history, from the Brown Bess of the revolutionary war, the Springfield cap-and-ball rifles carried by Union and Rebel troops, the 1906 bolt-action Springfield in WWI and the venerable M1 Garande of WWII and the Korean Conflict. The configurations have changed, but not the sentiments. 

There’s a more practical reason too.  There are also individuals who feel weapons like this will be needed if social order breaks down again, as it did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and before that in the riots inspired by Rodney King’s beating. The King-inspired riots were stopped at the sidewalk bordering “Korean Town” in Los Angeles when shop owners stationed themselves on the rooftops with rifles. Compare that to the Watts riots a decade earlier, which saw the same businesses looted and burned.

It doesn’t take a natural disaster or invasion to trigger a breakdown in government. Mayor Emmanuel of Chicago has invited thugs from the “Nation of Islam” under Louis Farrakhan to assist the police in his “war against street crime”. As I recall, Rome issued a similar request to Atilla the Hun in the 5th century. That certainly worked out well.

Ed Ingold asks:  “Is an assault weapon ban the solution to an isolated and extremely infrequent happening in this nation, heinous as it was? Would it have prevented the Aurora incident?” 

The fact is, so-called assault weapons, the AR-15 in particular, are very popular.  By various estimates, between 5 million and 30 million of these and similar rifles are in private hands. The FBI doesn’t keep statistics, but Ed Ingold would not be surprised if 20% of new gun sales were assault rifles of some sort.  Despite their popularity, assault weapons account for only 2% of all gun crimes and 1% of violent crimes. 

Following is a summary of data available on the government website, www.fbi.gov

In absolute terms, the incidences of assault rifles used in homicides (140 a year) is a tiny fraction of one percent of the 5 million or more “assault” rifles in private hands.  According to the Huffington Post, that estimate may be very low, considering that 16.5 million firearms were sold in 2011, up from 14.3 million in the previous year.

Despite the impassioned pleas from Mayor Bloomberg and other liberal politicians, the wisest course is to let the issue settle down. It is not the NRA politicians fear, rather citizens who know that draconian gun controls have not worked in Chicago and Los Angeles, and that the dramatic (60%)  increase in annual gun sales over the last 10 years is accompanied a 30% decrease in serious crime.

Those states which offer their citizens the right to carry concealed weapons (not just celebrities as in California, Massachusetts and New York) have seen a further decrease in crime. Florida, in particular, experienced a 50% decrease in aggravated assault and robberies.

Apparently, criminals are less likely to attack someone who might be armed, or in view of someone else so prepared.  A study by Gary Kleck, PhD, shows that between 2 and 3 million crimes a year are averted by private citizens with firearms.   

Only one in 1000 results in death of the aggressor, only 1 in 100 in which a shot is fired. The rest of the time, the agressor flees. In Florida, there are about 30 justifiable homicides a year by citizens, and an equal number by law enforcement, out of 1000 homicides total. In times past, those 30 would probably been in the victims’ column. 

The danger to our freedom is that legislatures are conditioned to take premature action when politically charged situations arise, out of a need to appease public angst and fury and to promote their own political philosophy, even before they have studied the problem and come to wise decisions. A lack of information contributes to these rash actions.

In a speech to the Urban League in New Orleans, the President said, “I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms,” Obama said. “But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not on the streets of our cities.

That is an interesting observation from our Commander In Chief.The main battle weapon of our soldiers since 1964 is the M-16. We have never used the AK-47 on the battlefield, except in emergencies. On the other hand, the AK-47 has been the primary weapon of our enemies since 1960.
Bin Laden had one leaning in a corner when the Seals burst in, and was frequently photographed holding one. Perhaps the President should put a TV set behind one of his TelePrompTers to learn more about the equipment of the troops he commands?
In fairness, the President was using the term AK-47 as a synonym for weapons used by drug gangs on the streets of his home town Chicago, tragically familiar to members of the Urban League across the nation. For what it’s worth, most of these crimes are committed by and against children in the 17 year old age group, who cannot legally purchase or possess these weapon under current State and Federal law.  www.fbi.gov

Politicians should remember that self-defense is guaranteed by the Constitution under the Second Amendment, affirmed by the Supreme Court, and before that, “endowed by the Creator.” 

Assault weapons in the hands of a responsible gun owner should not be outlawed.  It would amount to yet another freedom taken away in the search of a solution to an isolated problem where the solution would create more of a problem than the suggested cure by usurping our Second Amendment rights. 

For if assault weapons were banned, what guns would be banned next?  


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