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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lawmakers Launch Campaign to Ban Assault Weapons

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By Ana Radelat

www.ctmirror.org

Washington—Following the White House’s lead, Connecticut’s lawmakers and other gun control advocates in Congress are trying to enlist Americans, including firearm owners, to help them blunt the political might of the gun lobby.

WestportNow.com Image
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, backed by law-enforcement officials who support an assault-weapons ban. Ctmirror.org photo

“This is not just our battle, it’s America’s battle,” said U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat who represents Newtown.

At a press conference today to introduce new gun legislation in the Senate, Esty said families of Newtown victims and others from the town will help in Democratic gun-control efforts.

Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, also helped introduce the bill, which would outlaw 158 specific types of firearms and any magazine cartridge the holds more than 10 rounds.

Click here for more of story

Posted 01/24 at 04:20 PM

Comments:     Comment Policy

I’m a guy who believes in substance, not style. I will admit that I go back far enough that my US Army service introduced me to the M1 and M14 rifles that had walnut stocks and looked like rifles we all knew back then. Since Vietnam, our forces have been accustomed to rifles based on the Armalite (AR) platform that have plastic stocks and handy rails for attaching sights. The fact that we (the US) have trained them to feel comfortable using them, and then when they come back and choose them as hunting and target firearms doesn’t make them bad—and shouldn’t surprise us.

Firearms in this configuration have become “assault style” weapons in the minds of many. But surely we can move beyond “style” to substance.

While I’m not sure the limitation of magazines to 10 rounds will help, I can understand the logic and am willing to live with it. Rifle barrel lengths have been limited to no longer than 16 inches for many years. So now we have my walnut stocked “sporting rifle” with a 16 inch or longer barrel and 10 round or fewer magazine, and we have a younger sportsman’s “assault style” rifle with a 16 inch or longer barrel and 10 round magazine.

I guess I don’t get the difference and don’t understand why “style” should be an issue here. OK, let’s limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Let’s say we can’t have folding stocks that make it be easier to hide a rifle under a coat, but let’s deal with the real issues and not get hung up on style.

I think the definition of “military style” torpedoed the last “assault weapons ban.” Why do we want to do that again. Let’s instead talk about specific firearms characteristics we want to outlaw and avoid spurious labels.

Posted by Joel Hallas on January 25, 2013 at 06:51 PM | #

Sorry, I meant no shorter than 16 inches

Posted by Joel Hallas on January 25, 2013 at 06:53 PM | #

Actually Mr. Hallas using weapons of war for domestic purposes is bad. Ask Gen. McCrystal (ret).  http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/01/08/former-gen-mcchrystal-assault-rifles-are-for-battlefields-not-schools/

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 26, 2013 at 08:33 AM | #

Yes, I agree with McCrystal that people should not be allowed to carry M16 or M4 rifles on streets or in schools. In fact, neither is legal right now. The M16 and M4 are fully automatic (machine guns), and the M4 has a 14.5 inch barrel—either characteristic has been heavily regulated by federal law since the 1930s.
The civilian version is functionally equivalent to any other semiautomatic rifle. It is also illegal in Connecticut to carry a loaded rifle of any kind within 500 feet of a road or highway, and any kind of firearm on the grounds of a school. How many laws do we need?

Posted by Joel Hallas on January 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM | #

Weapon of War?

Assault is a behavior/action not a rifle. 

The AR-15 rifle is the most popular rifle sold in the United States today.  Millions have been purchased by American citizens since 1963.

The AR-15 is the most common example of what are sometimes called assault weapons.
But what does this term actually mean?
First, it is important to understand what an assault weapon isn’t.

The terms “assault weapon” and “assault rifle” are often confused. According to Bruce H. Kobayashi and Joseph E. Olson, writing in the Stanford Law and Policy Review:  Prior to 1989, the term “assault weapon” did not exist in the lexicon of firearms.  It is a political term, developed by anti-gun publicists to expand the category of “assault rifles.”

If an assault weapon isn’t an assault rifle, what is an assault rifle?

The M4A1 carbine is a U.S. military service rifle.  It is also an assault rifle.

The M4A1 is fully automatic.  This means it fires multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled.  The M4A1 can fire up to 950 rounds per minute.
The M4A1 and other fully automatic firearms are also called machine guns.  In 1986, the Federal government banned civilians from purchasing newly manufactured machine guns, or what truly can and should be considered “a weapon of war”.

Like the majority of firearms sold in the United States, the AR-15 is semi-automatic.  This means it fires one round each time the trigger is pulled.

The AR-15 can fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute depending on the skill of the operator.  This rate of fire is comparable to other semi-automatic firearms, but pales in comparison to fully automatic assault rifles, some of which can fire in excess of 1,000 rounds per minute.

So-called assault weapons are not machine guns or assault rifles.  According to David Kopel, writing in The Wall Street Journal:  What some people call “assault weapons” function like every other normal firearm—they fire only one bullet each time the trigger is pressed.  Unlike automatics (machine guns), they do not fire continuously as long as the trigger is held.  They are “semi-automatic” because they eject the empty shell case and load the next round into the firing chamber.  Today in America, most handguns are semi-automatics, as are many long guns, including the best-selling rifle today, the AR-15.  Some of these guns look like machine guns, but they do not function like machine guns.

The truth about assault weapons is that they function just like a ranch rifle…and a shotgun…and a pistol…and a double-action revolver.  All of these guns fire one round each time the trigger is pulled.
But if that’s true, what makes a semi-automatic rifle a ranch gun, and a semi-automatic rifle an assault weapon?

The answer is perception.  According to a 1988 report by the Violence Policy Center, an anti-gun lobby:  Handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons…are a new topic.  The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.
In the late 1980s, more than two decades after the AR-15 was first sold to the American public, the anti-gun lobby began a systematic campaign to conflate it and other “military-style” firearms with machine guns.

The media followed suit, and soon the American public began to think that an assault weapon was, like the assault rifles it resembled, a machine gun.
This strategy came to fruition in 1993, when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was introduced in Congress.  The AWB would ban the manufacture and sale of new assault weapons to American citizens.

However, “assault weapon” was an invented term without a technical meaning.  Before assault weapons could be banned, legislators had to define them.

Because assault rifles were already banned, and because an outright ban on semi-automatic weapons wasn’t considered politically feasible, the AWB would define assault weapons as semi-automatic firearms that shared too many cosmetic features with their fully automatic counterparts.

These banned features included certain combinations of collapsible stocks, flash hiders, and pistol grips, despite the fact that none of these “military-style” features enhanced the weapon’s lethality.

According to the Department of Justice, the firearms that the AWB would ban were used in only 2% of gun crimes.

Nevertheless, the AWB’s passage was aided by the fact that many Americans thought they were banning machine guns and “weapons of war,” something that had, in fact, already been banned.

The AWB also arbitrarily banned magazines having a capacity higher than ten rounds.  This limitation on magazine capacity applied to all firearms, not just so-called assault weapons.

In order to secure enough votes to pass the bill, a “sunset” provision was added.  After ten years, the AWB would expire.

On September 13, 1994, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban went into effect.  A Washington Post editorial published two days later was candid about the ban’s real purpose:  No one should have any illusions about what was accomplished [by the ban]. Assault weapons play a part in only a small percentage of crime.  The provision is mainly symbolic; its virtue will be if it turns out to be, as hoped, a stepping-stone to broader gun control.

As soon as the AWB became law, manufacturers began retooling in order to produce firearms and magazines that were compliant with the new regulations.  One of those new, ban-compliant firearms was the Hi-Point 995 carbine, which was sold with ten-round magazines.

In 1999, five years into the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the Columbine High School massacre occurred.  One of the perpetrators, Eric Harris, was armed with a Hi-Point 995.
Undeterred by the ten-round capacity of his magazines, Harris simply brought more of them: thirteen magazines were found in the massacre’s aftermath.  Harris fired 96 rounds before killing himself.

In 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired.  It was not renewed.

The AWB had failed to have an impact on gun crime in the United States.  A 2004 Department of Justice study concluded:  Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement. Assault weapons were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.

Regarding so-called large capacity magazines, the study said:  It is not clear how often the outcomes of gun attacks depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than ten shots (the current magazine capacity limit) without reloading.

Furthermore, legislators had misjudged the popularity of so-called assault weapons at great political cost.  In his memoir, Bill Clinton wrote that Democrats lost control of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections because of the AWB. Other Democrats have stated that the AWB may have cost Al Gore the 2000 presidential election.

At Virginia Tech in 2007, Seung-Hui Cho once again showed the futility of regulating magazine capacity when he carried nineteen ten- and fifteen-round magazines in his backpack as part of a carefully planned massacre.

Cho used seventeen of the magazines and fired approximately 170 rounds—or ten rounds per magazine—from two handguns before killing himself.
Like Eric Harris before him, Cho demonstrated that a magazine’s capacity was incidental to the amount of death and injury an unopposed murderer could cause in a “gun-free zone.”

Although the Virginia Tech massacre was and remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, calls for new gun control were relatively scarce in its aftermath, possibly because so-called assault weapons were not used.

But after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the AR-15 and other so-called assault weapons were once again vilified as “weapons of war” and “machine guns” whose only purpose was to murder and maim.

In reality, so-called assault weapons are a popular choice among hunters and competitors alike.

It has been estimated that at least 3.3 million AR-15 rifles were sold in the United States between 1986 and 2009.  While the AR-15 is often portrayed as a paramilitary weapon owned only by a lunatic fringe, this so-called assault weapon is a modern musket—the default rifle with which law-abiding Americans exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

The AR-15 is particularly favored for its modularity, accuracy, light weight, and low recoil—attributes that make it ideal not only for shooting sports but also armed self-defense.

As such, it is the epitome of what America’s founders sought to protect when they wrote the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Nevertheless, on December 17, 2012, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the author of the original AWB, announced her intention to introduce an updated Federal Assault Weapons Ban in Congress.

However, Senator Feinstein’s own facts do not support her agenda.  The truth about assault weapons is that they are statistically underrepresented in gun crimes.

According to Senator Feinstein, so-called assault weapons have been used in 385 murders since the AWB expired in 2004, or about 48 murders per year.
But there were 8,583 total murders with guns in the United States in 2011, meaning so-called assault weapons were used 0.6% of the time.
This represents a decrease in murders from so-called assault weapons compared to the decade when the AWB was in effect, even though such weapons are more common today.

Further illustrating the small role so-called assault weapons play in crime,  FBI data shows that 323 murders were committed with rifles of any kind in 2011. In comparison, 496 murders were committed with hammers and clubs, and 1,694 murders were perpetrated with knives.

To the extent that so-called assault weapons like the AR-15 are used in gun crimes, the rifle’s popularity must be considered.

At the Aurora movie theater shooting, in addition to the AR-15, James Holmes used America’s best-selling shotgun to arguably more lethal effect.
At the Virginia Tech and Tucson shootings, Seung-Hui Cho and Jared Loughner used America’s best-selling handgun.

All else being equal, a gun that is commonly owned is more likely to be used for legal or illegal purposes than a gun that is rarely owned.

Outlawing guns that are popular today will only make different guns popular tomorrow.  But gun prohibitionists continue to target so-called assault weapons—not because these firearms have any inordinate capability, but because the anti-gun lobby has invested more than two decades convincing the American people that “weapons of war” must be banned, regardless of whether such a ban would have a measurable impact on public safety, and despite the fact that real weapons of war have already been banned for nearly three decades.
The truth about assault weapons is that there is no such thing.  So-called assault weapons are semi-automatic weapons, which are the firearms of choice for millions of law-abiding Americans.
To ban certain semi-automatic weapons because of their cosmetic features is misguided.  To ban all semi-automatic weapons is to deprive Americans of the most commonly used firearms in violation of the Second Amendment.

A ban on so-called assault weapons is the first step toward a ban on all semi-automatic firearms.
Contact your legislators, and tell them the truth about assault weapons.

No corporation, lobby, or political action committee had any part in the creation or funding of this educational project.  It is solely the work of an individual and reprinted with permission.

Posted by Rick Spoon on January 26, 2013 at 08:18 PM | #

Go ahead and delude yourself Mr. Spoon but an AR15 is a weapon of war.

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 26, 2013 at 10:43 PM | #

So is a club Andy.

Posted by Rick Spoon on January 26, 2013 at 10:50 PM | #

The Blue Parrot? Who knew?

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 28, 2013 at 08:50 PM | #

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