“Assault Weapons” Make Terrible Assault Weapons

There is a bit of a lack of ‘gun knowledge’ in the media and it would appear, in government. It seems to be shaping an argument and encouraging a piece of legislation which might make a splash in the political arena, but unfortunately has no chance of even slightly curbing attacks like Sandy Hook, Aurora and Virginia Tech. We might be trying to control the wrong guns, and in doing so we could miss our one opportunity to pass any real effective gun control.

I shoot recreationally and know a little about guns. This whole “assault weapons” talk… Simply put, they’re not assault rifles at all. Assault rifles have been banned for decades. Real “Assault Rifles” are fully automatic weapons. That is, the gun will continue to spray out bullets until you release the trigger. The rifles available to civilians are semi-automatic. They function just like other rifles/handguns/shotguns – one bullet at a time. They’re essentially common sporting rifles styled to look like assault rifles. They shoot ‘rifle caliber’ rounds that while powerful, are not nearly as powerful as calibers used for hunting medium sized game like deer or even as powerful as many specialty handgun calibers. They may look all “black ops” but it’s totally form – not function.

This is a problem because due to the media’s enthusiastic attention to and coverage of these scary looking guns, it seems The White House may be planning to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 and tout it as a response to the call for more gun control. It’s certainly the easy play… It existed once before (1994-2004) and those guns sure do look scary. But that’s really all it would be- a political move. If we’re going to target a weapon capable of causing the most harm, why not the handgun, a weapon that’s deadly at close range, holds a pretty good amount of ammo and most importantly, is completely concealable. The weapon of choice when it comes to shootings in America is overwhelmingly the handgun (give or take 75% of yearly firearm homicides). Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, Bobby Kennedy- all handguns. Virginia Tech, the worst US school shooting to date was perpetrated with a 2 handguns… small caliber ones. They come in multiple calibers (including rifle calibers) and the ammunition ranges from hollow point, to fragmenting rounds designed to inflict the greatest possible damage.

And we can’t ignore the ubiquitous ‘Shotgun’. The shotgun is the most common hunting weapon on the planet- mostly used for birds. In most states in the US you can buy one with a driver’s license that says you’re 18. This is arguably the single most devastating weapon a human being can wield for up to 25 yards. It would likely cause the most fatalities in a movie theater, school, shopping mall… any enclosed space basically. The shooter in the Aurora movie theater possibly inflicted the most damage with his shotgun. In fact, his “Assault Rifle” supposedly jammed within the first 30 rounds. The shotgun will NEVER be banned. Even in countries where guns are tightly regulated like the UK, shotguns are allowed for hunting purposes.

And that brings us to the real problem. Crazy people. All these mass shootings have that one common element – the shooters were all clearly what most of us would feel relatively comfortable referring to as ‘crazy people’ (I’m well aware that’s not a clinical term). Here’s the thing about crazy people… They exist on every continent and in every society. But our crazies can get their hands on guns entirely too easily. We have roughly 300 million firearms in civilian hands in this country. There are only 315 million freedom loving souls living here. Every one of you either owns a gun or knows someone who does. If you absolutely wanted to kill a bunch of people you could buy/steal a gun in a matter of hours.

The most effective approach we could take to prevent these types of shootings is that which limits the ability of a crazy person to get ANY gun. It should include multiple gun policy changes. For starters, we all have to take a test (more than one in most states) to get a driver’s license. I basically had to sign a piece of paper promising that I’m not insane (or have a drinking problem) to get a gun license and I live in NJ (a pretty strict gun law state). Is it too much to ask that we implement some sort of testing and education requirements for gun ownership? It can even be privatized and create some jobs – we still need those… And how about reducing the number of guns in society altogether? The government could offer a strongly incentivized gun buyback program. They could also legally limit the number of guns any one person can own to… oh, I don’t know – let’s say three. You only have two hands. You’ll be adequately “self-defended” with three guns. Finally, a ban on all magazines holding more than 10 or so rounds on all types of weapons. Focusing on a specific class of gun that has been recently hyped by the media is the easy political move, but unfortunately it will do nothing to stop this type of violence. I hope the guys making decisions are doing their research…

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