Old Article In Need of Fisking

It’s older but I saw an anti dredge this one up and I was amazed at the crap in it:

One obstacle President Obama may face in proposing a new federal ban on assault weapons could lie in the use of the term “assault weapon” itself.

The label, applied to a group of firearms sold on the civilian market, has become so politicized in recent decades that where people stand on the gun issue can often be deduced by whether they use the term.

Ok So this article is about the term “Assault Weapon”. Let’s see what they get right, and what they get wrong:

On Internet forums there is perhaps no more fiercely discussed topic than the question of what constitutes an assault weapon. And some argue that it would be impossible to come up with a definition comprehensive enough to effectively remove the weapons from the market.

In this post 2014 Sunset of the AWB, and in a land where there are several states with their own AWB with vastly different definitions, the ones that say it’s “impossible” is correct. Let’s skip ahead a bit to show why:

Equally controversial are the definitions for which firearms should qualify as assault weapons. Most assault weapons bans have been primarily aimed at rifles like the AR-15, a semiautomatic version of the military’s M-16 sold on the civilian market, although certain pistols and shotguns have also been included.

The most basic criteria have to do with a firearm’s ability to fire multiple rounds quickly. Because of this, the firearms included under any assault weapons ban are usually semiautomatic, meaning that a new round is automatically reloaded into the chamber but is not fired until the trigger is pulled again. The weapons also have detachable magazines, allowing them to fire 10, 20, 30 rounds or more without the need to insert a new magazine.

After that, however, the definition becomes more difficult. In calling for a renewed ban, Mr. Obama on Wednesday singled out “military style” weapons.

Those could include features like a pistol grip, designed to allow a weapon to be fired from the hip; a collapsible or folding stock, which allows the weapon to be shortened and perhaps concealed; a flash suppressor, which keeps the gun’s user from being blinded by muzzle flashes; a muzzle brake, which helps decrease recoil; and a threaded barrel, which can accept a silencer or a suppressor. Bayonet lugs or grenade launchers are also sometimes included.

But there is disagreement about which features are worrisome enough to include in a ban. And existing state bans differ in how many features they allow.

Advocates for an assault weapons ban argue that the military features were intended to enhance the firearms’ ability to kill.

There’s one issue, a firearm’s “ability to kill” is just something that will never be ratified with hardware solutions. Also on top of that, the “Ability to Kill” can also be confused with “Stopping power”, the ability of a firearm to be used defensively to stop a crime or lawful loss of life. Hell just look at the holsters and trunks of beat police officers. Most have a a semi-auto pistol with a magazine holding between 15 and 18 rounds, and a semi-auto rifle that takes removable magazines that hold between 20 and 30 rounds. These are not “murder machines”, and police are not death squads. Also there is no “Arms Race” between police and criminals. They’re simply the best tool for the job, and “The job” is the same for police as it is for the average citizen, the only difference is how the person gets into that situation, and if there is a paycheck involved.

Still certain features crowed about are irrelevant. I’m sure you’ll find many departments issuing rifles with muzzle breaks rather than flash hiders, or muzzles that are simply crowned. Also I don’t think anybody REALLY cares about the bayonet lug on their firearm, nor if it can accept rifle grenades. It’s all pointless to lawful people, peace officers, or criminals.

Then we have this:

Previous attempts to ban these weapons proved problematic. Loopholes in the 1994 federal assault weapons ban rendered it virtually useless, many believe. And even in states with meticulously written bans, manufacturers have managed to find ways to work around the restrictions.

The fact that these are called “loopholes” are the core of the problem. The 94 AWB didn’t ban semi-auto rifles, nor “Military Style” rifles, it banned rifles with certain features. Ban-compliant guns simply remove these features. The bottom line, the features were just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand by people looking for wholesale bans and civilian disarmament.

Simply complying with the law was NEVER enough, so the definition is indeed impossible. Also the whole “Military Style” argument is crap, given that most firearms from muzzle loaders, to breech loaders, to bolt-action hunting rifles, to AR-15s all have their roots in infantry weapons. My 1911s are ban compliant arms, and are copies of military issue sidearms. Your bolt-action hunting rifle with the fine walnut stock is based on military technology.

So yeah, that sums it all up, the term is useless, but let’s see what else they’re trying to say:

“When the military switched over to this assault weapon, the whole context changed,” said Tom Diaz, formerly of the Violence Policy Center, whose book about the militarization of civilian firearms, “The Last Gun,” is scheduled for publication in the spring. “The conversation became, ‘Is this the kind of gun you want in the civilian world?’ And we who advocate for regulation say, ‘No, you do not.’ ”

Nope, not true, the military never switched to “Assault Weapons” by any definitions. Sure in WWII we switched from the bolt-action M1903 rifle to the semi-auto M1 Garand, but that rifle was not an “Assault Weapon” because it fed from a fixed magazine. When the M1 was replaced it was done by the M14 which was a select fire rifle. This can be defined as an “Assault Rifle” (tho not really because 7.62×51 NATO is considered a full-power rifle cartridge) but not an “Assault Weapon”, same goes for the M16 and M4 Carbine, which were true Assault Rifles, but NOT “Assault Weapons”.

They argue that any attempt to ban “assault weapons” is misguided because the guns under discussion differ from many other firearms only in their styling.

“The reality is there’s very little difference between any sporting firearm and a so-called assault weapon,” said Steven C. Howard, a lawyer and firearms expert in Lansing, Mich.

The semantics of the assault weapon debate are so fraught that they can trip up even those who oppose a ban.

Phillip Peterson, a gun dealer in Indiana and the author of “Gun Digest Buyer’s Guide to Assault Weapons” (2008), said he had fought with his publishers over the use of the term in the title, knowing that it would only draw the ire of the gun industry.

That’s all true. Also the “Gun Digest Buyer’s Guide to Assault Weapons” is not a book I’ve read, but given that it was written well into the ’94 Ban, I suspect it was a buyer’s guide to pre-ban guns, and their ban-compliant counterparts. Living in Massachusetts, where the 94 ban is still alive and well, I frequently encounter pre-ban guns and magazines. They cost a LOT more simply because the supply is so limited. A buyer’s guide to prices and values is VERY valuable in that market. Is a bare-bones pre-ban AR-15 worth $3,000 or is the dealer gouging? Honestly I couldn’t say, but there are experts on these things.

Yet as Mr. Peterson noted in his buyer’s guide, it was the industry that adopted the term “assault weapon” to describe some types of semiautomatic firearms marketed to civilians.

“Assault rifle” was first used to describe a military weapon, the Sturmgewehr, produced by the Germans in World War II. The Sturmgewehr — literally “storm rifle,” a name chosen by Adolf Hitler — was capable of both semiautomatic and full-automatic fire. It was the progenitor for many modern military rifles.

But the term “assault rifle” was expanded and broadened when gun manufacturers began to sell firearms modeled after the new military rifles to civilians. In 1984, Guns & Ammo advertised a book called “Assault Firearms,” which it said was “full of the hottest hardware available today.”

Now comes the inherent dishonesty in the creation of this term. The Sturmgeweher rifles were not “Assault Weapons” but “Assault Rifles”, and while the terms are very similar the rifles differ greatly in their ability to fire full-auto. Now the claim that the term came from the pro-gun side doesn’t ring true. I haven’t read the Guns & Ammo issue in question, and the article is kind enough to blur and crop the cover. Were these guns full-auto weapons, or are they semi-auto guns? They very well could be full-auto guns, as in ’84 we still hadn’t had the Hughes Amendment so any person could apply for a tax stamp and buy a brand-new M16 or 1919 Machine gun, just the same as we today can buy a short-barreled AR. If it isn’t what the article is about, then it really seems more of editorial oversight than anything else.

“The popularly held idea that the term ‘assault weapon’ originated with antigun activists, media or politicians is wrong,” Mr. Peterson wrote. “The term was first adopted by the manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and dealers in the American firearms industry to stimulate sales of certain firearms that did not have an appearance that was familiar to many firearm owners. The manufacturers and gun writers of the day needed a catchy name to identify this new type of gun.”

“New Type of Gun”? Sorry but semi-auto rifles eating from box magazines are OLD technology! These are guns that have been around for generations, there was never a need for a “New Term” except in the need to ban SOME guns, but avoiding others for political reasons.

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4 Responses to Old Article In Need of Fisking

  1. Jack/OH says:

    Good reply to the article. Leave it to the NYT to discover deep-poop complexity where there isn’t any. Today, I went to an area ox roast sponsored by a volunteer fire department. Amish people, country folks, lots of others. Flea market vendors, including one who had a few long guns (M-1 or copy, a few shotguns, a bolt-action rifle) and a handful of bayonets for sale. Sorry, Tom Diaz, guns and knives have features and characteristics, and, yeah, “abilities” in a very loose sense. But “killing” is a human activity done by exercising moral agency. If your exercise of moral agency with a gun is lawful, you’ve thwarted a crime and may have saved a life. Is that okay, Tom?

    Tom Diaz again: “The conversation became, ‘Is this the kind of gun you want in the civilian world? . . . . No, you do not.” What friggin’ “conversation”? Who’s the ‘you’?

    My gun knowledge is a bit hazy, but a semi-auto action is a semi-auto, regardless of materials, dimensions, and other physical characteristics. That kvetch about detachable magazines seems just a slippery-sloper to me; the anti-gunners want the whole enchilada—confiscation, prohibition, etc., or, failing that, a financial “settlement” so they can maintain Potomac lifestyles “educating” the public about firearms.

    Thanks for allowing me a vent. I work among a very few Tom Diaz types, folks who will go on about guns (and other subjects) in a nosebleed-arrogant way using what I call a political-hipster style, and pretty much assume everyone else is either ignorant, or wants to agree with them..

  2. Geodkyt says:

    Honestly, other than my military surplus guns (which I like to keep “correct”, even to style of sling), there is only one reason why I have a bayonet lug on any of my guns.

    Because these bigots say I shouldn’t be allowed to have one. OK, I’m a little reflexively opposed to authoritarianism, so pretty much every longarm I can practically fit with a bayonet lug has a lug and a matching bayonet. Because I’m a citizen, not a subject.

  3. Pingback: Images of the Antis: Mixed Terms | Weer'd World

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