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What We Mean When We Say “Ban Assault Rifles”

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What We Mean When We Say “Ban Assault Rifles”

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Nothing is more predictable when calling for a ban on assault weapons than for some gun fetishist* to reply, “ALL weapons are ‘assault’ weapons, whether it’s a rifle, pistol, knife or a TRUCK!”

Students in schools are not being slaughtered 17-26 at a time by knife-wielding maniacs. Students in schools are not being slaughtered 17-26 at a time by truck-driving psychos.

They are, however, being slaughtered 17-26 at a time by AR-15-toting lunatics.

Nobody thinks we can put an end to crazy people harming others. Sane people, however, think we can draw a line between absolute freedom and absolute safety.

We do it all the time. I’d like to drive my car 100mph down the freeway. But we drew a line at 60mph. Why? Because we balanced the risk of everybody driving 100mph vs what we could predict the carnage from that would be, and set the line at 60.

The line can change. It used to be 55. In some states, it’s 85 in some places. But everybody agrees there is a line between freedom and safety.

In fact, the gun fetishist, too, recognizes that there is a a line between freedom and safety. Fully-automatic weapons are banned and few I know are calling for them to be legalized. Banned also are Stinger missiles, light-anti-tank weapons, Claymore mines, and a host of stuff only suitable for the battlefield.

So, then, we agree there’s a line – we don’t allow fully-automatics.

Why? Because – I presume we all agree on this – a maniac with, say, an M-60 machine gun could kill a whole lot of people really quickly, right?

So, then, what we’re all getting twisted up about here is whether that line ought to be reeled in a bit, in light of the fact that we’re the only country in which it is routine enough for people to be mowed down by a gunman shooting them very rapidly that when it happens we have to ask, “Which city?”

I loathe this AR-15 debate because, believe it or not, the gun fetishists have some good points. There are many weapons similar enough to, or modifiable enough, or 3-D-printable enough to render any specific ban on what is an AR-15 as meaningless as a “for tobacco use only” sign in a Texas head shop.

Take the Vegas shooter, who helped educate Americans about what a “bump stock” is – a device that harnesses the recoil of the weapon to make the next “semi-automatic” shot happen very nearly as rapid as a fully automatic can.

When these AR-15 mass shootings happen and people call for a ban on the AR-15, you’re going to get all manner of hair-splitting justifications from the gun fetishists.

“It’s not an automatic weapon,” they’ll tell you, “it’s one shot per pull of the trigger in semi-automatic mode.” Then they’ll tell you of all sorts of other guns that work the same way that a mass shooter could (but for some unmentioned reason rarely does) use for rapid-fire carnage.

I even had one gun fetishist explain that “I could do the same amount of damage with two 9mm pistols.” Another posted the shooting speed statistics of the world record holder in revolver shooting.

Anything to dodge the point that we seem to have a problem with maniacs wielding semi-automatic AR-15s, not the one-in-seven-billion fastest pistol shooter on the planet or maniacs wielding 9mm pistols.

So, let’s be clear about when we say “let’s ban assault weapons,” because it’s not the weapon, specifically, the AR-15, that we abhor, any more than it’s the Corvette, specifically, that we don’t want barrelling down the freeway at 100mph.

It’s the ability for a maniac to mow down more people than he has fingers in fewer seconds than he has toes that we have an issue with.

That would be the litmus test. Can this weapon, in the hands of an untrained shooter, easily and reliably kill more than ten people in less than ten seconds without reloading?

Because I can’t think of a single legitimate civilian use of force that would ever call for the swift killing of more than ten people at a time. If you’ve got a dozen bad guys willing to come at you at once with their guns, consider that maybe you’ve got it coming.

So, ban the new manufacture or sale for civilian use any magazine- or clip-fed weapon that loads more than 10 bullets at a time. Require licensing, insurance, and annual training requirements for all the rest of the guns. Set ammunition purchase and possession limits. Initiate federal gun buy-back programs for semi-autos with large capacity magazines.

How would any of those policies stop my septuagenarian parents from hunting their next elk with their rifles, stop my petite female partner from defending herself with her handgun, or keep me from shooting the shit out of paper targets with an Uzi next time I go to the range?

The reply you can hear the gun fetishists screaming through their screens right now is that none of these policies will stop a determined psycho.

But those policies did stop psychos from mass shootings in Australia. When we had an assault weapons ban from 1994-2004, it did reduce the mass shootings by psychos here. Why not try?

Why not just try and see whether the next school shooter tries his luck with 9mm pistols or a truck or a bomb? Is your carnal desire to collect Billy Badass’s Weapons of War as a hobby really worth the weekly reports of teenagers shot dead?


  • I was asked to not call extreme pro-2nd Amendment people “gun nuts.” I believe the term “gun fetishist” is more accurate. It’s one thing to appreciate the utility of an inanimate object. It’s another to devote eighteen different magazine titles replete with glossy centerfolds to that inanimate object. If you enjoy porn for your hobby, you’re a fetishist.
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