Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Assault Weapons" – Who Needs 'Em?

The President has asked that NRA members engage in some self-reflection.  That's a good suggestion, and in this post I'm taking him up on it.

Who needs "assault weapons?"  This is a really interesting question; interesting because it is far less straightforward than most people think.  Let's begin at the beginning, with Barack Obama's Newtown speech.  In it he claimed that "we" didn’t do enough, "we" bear responsibility, "we must change." "And we will have to change."

If there was any reason remaining to doubt that Barack Obama is an extremely dangerous man, this should dispel it.  A homicidal maniac murders a classroom full of children, and suddenly we are to blame.  We are sick.  We must change.  And Barack Obama is the man who will make us do it.  He is, after all, "our lord and savior."  He sees himself as the man who will transform our society, albeit into one that at least 50% of the citizenry have no interest in.  He's seizing the Newtown crime as a tool for his own political ends.  He is ambitious, evil, and extremely dangerous.

Just so it's clear, I am a gunowner.  I’m a member of the NRA.  I have opposed and continue to oppose all forms of AWBs (Assault Weapons Bans).  And I am not responsible in any way for the Newtown shootings.  I am blameless. And no, Mr. President, I do not have to change.  Neither do my fellow gun owning citizens, who are also blameless.  And since we are blameless, don’t expect us to change.  Your political campaigning at the Sandy Hook School vigil was outrageous and deeply shameful.  There, is that sufficient self-reflection for you?  (To see how effective Obama’s "we must come together" message was, note that sales of firearms, especially those targeted by most versions of AWBs, skyrocketed after Obama's speech, and had already been at record highs.)

Now we are going to have a "national conversation" about "common sense gun control," or in other words, Joe Biden will head a "non-commission" (so what is it then, a secret panel?) to decide what should be done to American gunowners, and Charles Schumer, Diane Feinstein, and co. will hold hearings on just how many firearms should be banned.  Joe Lieberman has asked for a commission to study broader questions of violence; perhaps the American people need mandatory psychological screening, or maybe restrictions on freedom of speech and press, to further reduce the "epidemic of gun violence?"  (Never mind that since the old AWB expired, violence committed my means of firearms has systematically fallen every year, something that also holds where shall-issue concealed carry has been instituted.  (Even the propagandists at admit this.)  Never mind that the number of firearms per capita is at an all time high and firearm violence at all time low – "we must act now" (never let a crisis go to waste).  Somehow I get the feeling that the NRA and other pro-gun groups won’t be invited to be part of these "conversations" and the "national consensus" that emerges.

So we already know the answer to my question that this "conversation" will generate.  "Who needs 'assault weapons'?"  Answer: "No private citizen does, only the government has such need and can be trusted with them, and they must be removed from private hands."  But that’s an unacceptable answer.  Here’s why.

First, the entire premise of the question is wrong.  We do not justify rights on the basis of whether they are "needed" or not.  Rights are unalienable, they exist prior to government, and government is established by the people and given power to protect those rights.  This is why the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."  The idea that we must justify a right based on some "need" or else we don't have it is contrary to the supreme law of the land, as well as to the philosophical principles on which the American Revolution was fought and the United States founded.  I realize that the left does not like this, but in fact they are acting outside of the law in even suggesting that "who needs assault weapons" is a legitimate question for designing law.  (By the way, does one really "need" the right to choose one's own clothing style?  What important purpose does that serve, and think of how much we'd save on so-called "fashion' if we'd simply wear some perfectly serviceable, practical government-approved apparel.  My readers may laugh, but the American Economic Review actually published research making this case a few years back.)

The inherent confusion of the question doesn't stop there.  What is "need," anyway?  "Need" can never be defined except by first establishing purpose.  What is one’s purpose?  Let’s consider just one firearm considered for banning, the AR-15 platform.  Supposedly an AR-15 has no sporting purpose, although my favorite gun store has a large photo of a kid with his first deer, a very large buck taken with an AR purchased there.  He earned the money himself for the firearm, his father bought it for him, and he hunted the entire season with it, turning down opportunities to take does, until on the last day of the season he harvested the deer he was after.  While a 5.56 rifle isn't my first choice for deer, with a suitable bullet it would certainly be at least as effective as the shotguns to which some eastern states restrict deer hunters.  There are other sporting uses for ARs and firearms that allegedly have no sporting uses, e.g. highpower match rifle and high power service rifle competitions, and three-gun competitions. 

But perhaps sporting uses are beside the point.  Would an AR-15 have use in civilian self-defense?  Yes.  In some home defense settings it is superior to a shotgun or handgun.  If one has the misfortune of having to employ deadly force in self-defense, the 5.56mm and .223 rounds fired by an AR-15 are less likely to overpenetrate a criminal, compared to handgun and shotgun rounds.  This makes them safer, since overpenetration means the projectile exits the criminal and goes on to possibly harm innocent people.  The AR is also easier to shoot accurately than a handgun, again, a safety feature for both the person defending her/himself from criminal attack and innocent neighbors.  (Source for these statements is an article by Lt. Commander Gary Roberts, USNR, in the journal Wound Ballistics Review 3(4):16-18.)  Why a high capacity magazine?  Pit one home defender against three or four home invaders and it should be obvious.  Or consider the L.A. Rodney King riots – a number of Korean shop owners found their businesses and livelihoods under mob assaults and were able to defend themselves successfully using .223s with 30 round magazines.  These firearms do have perfectly legitimate uses for honest civilians for home defense and for attacks by multiple assailants and mobs.

And as I have pointed out previously the police have no duty at all to protect us.  American courts, including SCOTUS, have repeatedly and systematically ruled this.  It’s the job and responsibility of the citizens themselves, i.e. us, and that’s as it should be in a country of free people.  So yes, for the purposes of legitimate self-defense, we do need AR-15s and other so-called "assault weapons."

But this brings up another confusion in the question "who needs assault weapons?"  What is an "assault weapon," anyway?  As the term is used in the "national conversation," it's whatever Diane Feinstein or some similar fanatic defines it to be in a legislative proposal.  The Clinton AWB included a sort of points system in which things like telescoping stocks, bayonet lugs, pistol grips, or a threaded barrel could qualify a firearm as an "assault weapon."  None of these things make a firearm deadlier or less suitable for civilian purposes.  In military usage, if the term "assault weapon" has any meaning at all, it refers to a fully automatic rifle firing an intermediate cartridge.  I've talked with a number of people who know nothing about firearms who believed that the Clinton AWB specifically referred to these, and that with its sunset anyone could enter any gun store and buy a full auto weapon.  But of course, the AWB specifically exempted these; they are entirely different firearms covered under an entirely different set of federal laws.  And no, you cannot just walk into a gun store and buy them.    In short, one problem with AWB laws is that there really is no sensible distinction between so-called "assault weapons" and the "legitimate" firearms that we are supposedly going to be permitted to keep.  A new AWB won't reduce violent crime, and if one is put in place and fails, the next step will be to expand it.  And expand it.  And expand it. (Anyone who has paid attention to Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Charles Schumer, Diane Feinstein, Frank Lautenberg and their ilk understands they all would welcome complete disarmament of American citizens, save for themselves and a few of their friends.)

Given all this, when the "national conversation" asks "who needs assault weapons" it is confused and misleading at best.  The real point of this phony conversation is for the left to demonize firearms, crush its political opponents and strip them of power and property, and disarm the public.  The result is supposed to be a passive, defenseless people, one far more susceptible to whatever social engineering and economic planning our civil masters choose for us.

But I'm not going to pose a question and then fail to answer it.  So here's my contribution to the “national conversation."  If by "assault weapon" we mean an AR-15, then who needs one?  My proposed answer: every law-abiding adult American citizen who is of sound mind.  Call it the "home defense gun."  As in Switzerland, let's make it mandatory.  And we should provide mandatory training in how to use them safely and effectively.  Let criminals be scared of us.  I have no sympathy for cowards and wimps who do not have sufficient personal integrity or sense of responsibility for their communities to be willing to defend them.  Yes, there can be exemptions.  If someone really has physical limitations or moral reasons for not participating, they can say so.  Perhaps there should be a qualification course before one takes one's home defense gun home, just to make certain one can handle it safely and effectively.  But let’s dispense with the fiction that gun control is crime prevention, let’s get serious about teaching people to use firearms properly and safely (that’s the single biggest thing we could do to further reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths, BTW), and let’s make sure we are a nation of free people, not subjects and serfs, and that the people in government are our civil servants, not our civil masters.

Thanks for your comment, James. In fact, I mostly agree with you. That's why individuals would be allowed to exempt themselves.

My point in "let's make it mandatory" is really meant to be thrown in the faces of the gun banners. If they are so excited about banning things, this is a ban on being helpless and would do much more to reduce violence and crime than would gun control. It also would make tyrannical government that much more difficult to institute. I'm against mandates and bans, but this proposal would be far preferable to gun control.

I think this is a serious proposal, albeit incomplete. Sure, perhaps the AR-15 isn't the best choice. Should the government provide weapons for home defense? Well, they already do; I'd rather them arm neighbors I trust than SWAT teams from ATF, EPA, NOAA, FDA, and every other bureaucratic agency in the federal government.

Training: I think that if people are concerned about the misuse and abuse of firearms, the obvious solution is to make quality training as widely available as possible. Shooting ought to be taught in schools; there are few things I can think of that teach one to be careful and thoughtful than a good course in gun handling.
The "comment moderation" option first posted the comment to which I replied above, and then deleted it. I was able to retrieve it and re-post it:

James Banovetz said...
Dr. Steele,

I would tend to agree with most everything you said, with the exception the last bit. When you say "let's make it mandatory," does that mean you advocate the use of government force to coerce each citizen into purchasing a $1,000 rifle? Or would each AR-15 (or equivalent) be provided at the taxpayer's expense, along with the training course? Or do you mean, like the Swiss, that we implement mandatory military service?

Even if people could opt out, I'm not sure that it's the government's role to purchase an AR-15 for me (as great as it would be for someone else to pay for my guns). I am very much in favor of a well-armed populace that is educated about guns. That being said, I'm always wary of promoting additional government involvement in my life.

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?