Banning stuff feels good. It makes politicians feel powerful, and it makes people sympathetic to gun control feel like something useful has been done
What is an assault weapon???
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Well, if you try to stab someone with it, a pocket comb is an assault weapon. Should we ban them?
What is a defensive weapon?
Well, if you are being attacked, or an attack is certain and imminent, and your use of it is intended to stop the attack, then a Sherman Tank is a defensive weapon, and not an assault weapon.
That’s the crux. The only thing that, as a practical matter, distinguishes an assault weapon from a defensive weapon is intent. Nothing else.
If you are the one doing the attacking, whatever weapon you are using, a knife, a rifle, a hand gun, your fists, or a pocket comb, is by definition, an assault weapon.
If you are the one being attacked, then whatever weapon you use to defend yourself, a knife, a handgun, fists, a pocket comb, or a blankety-blank Sherman Tank, is by definition, a non-assault, defensive weapon.
Here’s another example.
Secret Service agents are known to sometimes carry Uzi sub-machine guns. They are not an attack force. Their job is to defend. When the agents were rushing Ronald Reagan to the hospital after he was shot, an agent took an Uzi sub-machine gun from a briefcase and covered the retreat. He wasn’t assaulting anyone. He was defending the President, and their prisoner, John Hinkley.
A SWAT team may use the exact same weapon in an operation to free hostages by storming the place where the hostages are held, with orders to shoot any bad guys they see in order to keep them from shooting hostages. In this case, the exact same weapon that WASN’T an assault weapon in the Reagan assassination attempt is now very much an assault weapon in the hostage rescue scenario.
Intent. Nothing else.
Trying to legally define what an assault weapon is or isn’t is like, to misquote Bill Cosby, trying to nail jello to a tree.
It can’t be done.
Suppose we define an assault weapon as one that can only hold a certain number of rounds in the magazine. Well, what is a magazine. It’s a box with a spring in it. I took metal shop in the tenth grade. I know how to make a metal box and put a spring in it. Especially if I’m extending the capacity of an existing magazine, where the parts that connect to the gun are already there.
Suppose we define an assault weapon by the length of its barrel. A barrel can be changed by a blindfolded drunk monkey with seven fingers missing in a minute or less. Barrel too short? Put a new one on. Barrel too long? Put a new one on, or take a hacksaw to it.
Do we define a whether a gun is an assault or non-assault weapon based on how many bullets it can fire in a period of time?
How many different kinds of stupid is that?
Machine guns are already regulated, and people who can afford to buy one, and can pass the grueling process to be allowed to buy it, are not going to be committing crimes.
Almost all other guns can fire bullets as fast as you can pull the trigger. Going back to the Reagan assassination attempt, Hinkley got off six shots in 1.7 seconds. Other than the question of whether a gun is a full automatic (a machine gun) or a semi-automatic (one bullet per trigger pull), you can’t regulate rate of fire.
Well, maybe if you break every gun owners trigger finger. I have some liberal friends who wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Banning stuff is “feel good” stuff. New York just made it illegal to have a magazine with more than seven bullets. What good is that going to do?
Let’s try to read the mind of a rampage killer.
“Well, crap, I wanted to shoot up a movie theater, and kill as many people as I can, but I’m not allowed to load my gun with more than seven bullets. I guess I better not do it. I don’t want to get in trouble for having too many bullets in my gun.”
But banning stuff feels good. It makes politicians feel powerful, and it makes people sympathetic to gun control feel like something useful has been done.
If feeling good about yourself is more important than saving children, then, please, by all means, work toward trying to ban stuff.
But, if saving children is more important than feeling good about yourself, then get behind efforts to try to predict and intercept killers before they erupt. Get behind efforts to place well trained, armed guards to protect our children. (If it’s good enough for Sasha and Malia, it should be good enough for your kid). Get behind efforts to have strong penalties for people who buy guns as straw purchasers for people who can’t buy them on their own, due to age or criminal history.
These things are harder than banning stuff, but they will save lives, and banning stuff won’t.
That’s the way I see it.