Posted on June 16, 2003


Assault Weapon Psychics

Dems say you can't be trusted


Daniel Clark



President Bush has promised to renew the "assault weapon" ban that's due to expire in September of 2004. This has irked gun owners, who see it as a political capitulation, and a contradiction of his own Justice Department's position that individuals have a right to keep and bear arms, just as the Second Amendment says. They have little to fear, however, because Congress is not going to send Bush an extension of the same law that President Clinton signed in 1994.

Mr. Common Sense?

While conservative legislators are content to let the ban expire, gun control advocates are pushing for an expansion that would multiply the number of forbidden weapons. For all their tripe about "common sense gun control laws," they are exposing their true desire to ban all firearms, while allowing Bush to note his willingness to move in their direction, but criticize them for abandoning "common sense."

The Clinton ban was an amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968, one of whose provisions was to ban the importation of semiautomatic weapons that are not suited for "sporting purposes." This prohibition applied to all rifles that were capable of accepting a detachable magazine and had at least two of the following traits: a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip that "protrudes conspicuously"; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor or a threaded barrel designed to accept a flash suppressor; and a grenade launcher. Also affected were pistols that can accept a detachable magazine and have two of the following: a threaded barrel that can accommodate a barrel extender, flash suppressor, or silencer; a protective shroud over the barrel that allows one to handle it without being burned; and a manufactured, unloaded weight of fifty ounces or more. Shotguns were likewise restricted, if they had at least two of these traits: a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip that "protrudes conspicuously"; a magazine capacity greater than five rounds; and the capability of accepting a detachable magazine.

The revision, which was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, made it illegal for citizens to possess any of these weapons that were produced at any time after the law took effect. Although the current law refers to these banned guns as "assault weapons," the GCA applies that term only to a selected list of specific guns. It only defines those weapons fitting the descriptions above as "semiautomatic." The automatic component of "semiautomatic" weapons is in the loading and ejection of cartridges, and not the firing of the gun, which still requires a separate pull of the trigger for each shot. Once people understand that, the term "semiautomatic weapon" becomes much less threatening, and so another, more shocking modifier becomes necessary.

Legislators' use of the term "assault weapons" is indicative of the low opinion that politicians in general, and Democrats in particular, hold for the people they are supposed to represent. To call a gun an "assault weapon" requires an assumption about the use to which one puts it, and little consideration is given to any possible use which might be innocent. You shouldn't be allowed to have one, they presume, because you're up to no good. If you legally bought an "assault weapon" before the ban was enacted, you probably keep it right next to your stab knives, kidnap rope and peep binoculars.

When reading through the GCA's list of forbidden characteristics, most people would be alarmed that grenade launchers weren't illegal already, and they might find it difficult to think of any innocent use for a silencer. However, both grenades and silencers are already very strictly regulated. A military-style weapon's ability to accommodate those features doesn't pose a serious threat when its owner cannot acquire them. The other traits are far more innocuous, and not inconsistent with self-defense, target shooting and collecting.

an 'assailant'?

A folding or telescopic stock makes a rifle more portable, which is not exclusively of concern to prospective criminals. Theoretically, this feature makes the gun easier to conceal, but criminals worried about concealing their guns aren't likely to choose a rifle in the first place. Rifles with "conspicuous" pistol grips are sometimes used in competitive target shooting. A collector might be interested in a military rifle with a bayonet mount, but bayonets (which aren't themselves illegal) are not among the preferred weapons of murderers and bank robbers.

Nevertheless, Representatives John Conyers (D, Mich.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D, N.Y.) have introduced a bill that would ban any gun that has even one of the dreaded features listed in the GCA. In the unlikely event that it should pass, all it would take to place a gun on the banned list would be for its pistol grip to protrude too conspicuously, or its stock to not protrude conspicuously enough. There's nothing about this proposal that its supporters can demonstrate would reduce violent crime, but it would increase the number of banned guns several times over, and inflict on gun manufacturers the expense of changing their designs in order to comply with the law.

In a propaganda piece designed to support the ban, CNN compared the destructive power of a dangerous "assault weapon" with a comparable rifle that is not subject to the prohibition. The video showed that, whereas the "assault weapon" riddled a wall of cinder block with holes, the second weapon didn't even leave a mark. The next day, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre charged on the air that CNN bureau chief John Zarrella "deliberately faked the story." Startled anchorwoman Kyra Phillips loyally defended Zarrella, but according to the Media Research Center, a spokesman for the cable network admitted that the images presented in the report were not accurate, although he denied any intentional wrongdoing on Zarrella's part. The spokesman explained that the sheriff's deputy who participated in the exercise had fired the second gun into the ground, and not toward the cinder block at all, and that the cameraman had failed to notice the change in target. How this was meant to serve as a comparison between the two weapons is unclear.

What was perfectly clear was the impression conveyed by the report that any gun that does what it is supposed to do should be banned. You're allowed to own a gun that can't put a scratch on a cinder block, but no weapon with any more firepower than a Red Ryder is fit to be entrusted to mere citizens.

It may be that Zarrella was somehow duped by the sheriff who orchestrated the demonstration. It's only reasonable to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he recreated the exercise in response to LaPierre's complaint, and showed that the two guns were indeed functionally similar. But why had he not first reacted with incredulity to the appearance that a gun firing the exact same ammunition as the "assault weapon" had caused no damage at all, just because the gun didn't have a telescopic stock or a threaded barrel? Moreover, the MRC's summary of this controversy reveals that the sheriff, Ken Jenne of Broward County, Florida, is an active Democrat who served in the state Senate for eighteen years. Did Zarrella know this, and if so, why did it not cause him even greater suspicion?

Sheriff Jenne said during that story that he supports the ban "because I think guns are the tools of hunters, but these weapons are really the tools to kill people and there's a major, major difference." That's not a conclusion he drew based on the bogus shooting exercise. He'd thought that way all along, and it should have disqualified him from playing so instrumental a role in the story.

no 'sporting purpose' penumbrae found

Where, one might wonder, might a police officer get the idea that guns are only meant to be "the tools of hunters," when he and his men arm themselves for an entirely different reason? Since the police can seldom prevent a violent crime, but can usually only apprehend the suspect after the fact, you would think the utility of gun ownership for self-defense would appear obvious. It would have been interesting if Zarrella had asked the sheriff whether he ever keeps a gun handy while he's off-duty, or whether the gun, in the hands of Ken Jenne, private citizen, would transform into a "tool to kill people."

This "sporting purpose" criterion is an extra-constitutional fabrication that conflicts directly with the Second Amendment. Although the independent clause, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" certainly includes the right of hunters and sportsmen, the amendment emphasizes that it is important not to infringe upon that right because "A well regulated Militia" is "necessary to the security of a free State." The GCA and the "assault weapons" ban both assume that security is not a legitimate justification for gun ownership.

When the federal government first banned some classifications of weapons in the National Firearms Act of 1934, it was allowed to stand by the Supreme Court for the exact opposite reason. In United States v. Miller, the Court ruled against a man who had been arrested for having an unregistered sawed-off shotgun, on the basis that the gun had no "reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia."

See?  It's all right there!

That decision could not have made it more clear that the term "Arms" includes military firearms. Now the advocates of the "assault weapons" ban want to forbid people from owning certain types of guns for the very reason that they are too militaristic. The contradiction reveals a legislative pincer movement, aimed at squeezing legal ownership of firearms out of existence. You can't own a gun that has no military application, but you also can't have one that is manufactured specifically for military use. For now, they're allowing this "sporting purpose" exception, but how long is it before they discover that these are "dual use" guns, that could be used for criminal as well as sporting purposes, and therefore qualify to be characterized as "assault weapons"?

If that sounds like a stretch, remember what one of the sponsors of the '94 bill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.) told 60 Minutes. "If I could have gotten fifty-one votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them -- 'Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in' -- I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here."

The arrogance of that statement is shocking. The Constitution provides a process for its own amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority vote in Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. Sen. Feinstein would ignore that, and repeal a part of the Bill of Rights by a simple majority vote, if only she thought she could get away with it. Why would she think this is justified? Because, as she was quoted as saying in a 1993 AP story, "Banning guns addresses a fundamental right of all Americans to feel safe."

That's not what Feinstein did to feel safe when she was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the mid-Seventies, and became the target of threats from a terrorist group called the New World Liberation Front. What she did then was to acquire a concealed-carry permit, which is extremely rare in California, and not an available option for most of its citizens. "I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me," she explained. Now that she is not the one who feels threatened, she and her colleagues blithely dismiss any similar needs their constituents have to protect themselves.

The gun control movement is riddled with similar hypocrisies. The late Washington Post columnist Carl Rowan shot a trespasser with an unregistered gun, then justified the shooting as necessary for self-defense, but never recanted his opinion that the rest of America should be disarmed. Rosie O'Donnell, who once said that everyone who owns a gun should be thrown in jail, made an exception for the bodyguards who protect her children. Sarah Brady bought a rifle as a Christmas present for her son, and actually had the nerve to write about it in her book, in which she whimsically reflected, "It seemed so incredibly strange: Sarah Brady, of all people, packing heat."

These people think it's okay for them to own guns, because their guns are not dangerous. You see, the reason the old slogan "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is not effective is because gun controllers believe that already. They see nothing wrong with arming themselves because they know their motives are pure. It's the motives of "Mr. and Mrs. America" about which they're not too certain.



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