January 10, 2013

The not-so-great American gun-grab

Cpl. Aaron Diamant

YUMA, Ariz. – In the wake of a recent tragedy, everyone from politicians to the talking heads in the media to the average Joe on the street has been talking about gun control.

So far, the one measurable result of all this talk has been an explosion in the sales of firearms people fear may become banned with proposed legislation.

The laws of supply and demand have reared their heads in a huge way. The availability of factory-new, modern, semi-automatic sporting rifles is basically zero, making anyone who’s willing to sell theirs instantly rich. Used rifles are selling for more than double the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of their new weapons, ammunition costs have soared, and magazines that normally sell for $15 are now $100 or more. All of this only applies IF you can find someone selling them.

And people are selling.

In December alone, more than 2.8 million background checks were performed by the FBI for gun sales. Keep in mind, people with concealed weapons permits do not have background checks performed at every gun sale, because they were conducted in order for them to get the permit. That being said, the 2.8 million checks reflect the vast majority of firearms sales.

The majority of these sales are of so-called “assault weapons” and handguns capable of using “hi-capacity magazines,” or as politicians and media prefer to mistakenly call them, “clips.”

Indeed, many politicians, media personalities, Hollywood actors who make millions of dollars in movies with guns, and average everyday citizens are calling for a new “assault weapons ban,” patterned after the ten-year Clinton ban that was allowed to lapse in 2004 after numerous Justice Department and private studies concluded it had no impact whatsoever on murder and violent crime rates.

The misnomer of calling rifles such as the AR-15 and AK variants “assault weapons” leaves anyone with working knowledge of these weapons aghast.

By definition, an assault weapon is capable of fully-automatic or burst fire. The rifles available to the general public don’t have these features. Any weapon that does has been highly regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934. No, that isn’t a typo, it’s actually 1934. While some of these weapons are available for private ownership, they are still highly regulated, the owner undergoes extensive background checks and a lengthy wait to receive the firearm, and the astronomical cost of these weapons generally keeps them out of the hands of the average person.

Let’s look at just the AR-15 for a minute.

First of all, AR does not stand for “Assault Rifle,” it stands for Armalite, the company that first developed the platform.

More than 3 million Americans own an AR-15. They aren’t cheap, but have been the best-selling long gun in this country for decades. Why? Because they are cosmetically similar to the weapons used by the military and police agencies. Why is that a factor, you ask?

The National Shooting Sports Foundation surveyed the purchasers of AR-15s. Nearly half of AR owners are veterans, law enforcement officers, or both. It is a configuration they are familiar with and enjoy shooting. It is the most commonly used rifle for marksmanship training and competition. Nearly 90% of those who own an AR-15 use it for recreational target shooting; 51% of AR owners are members of shooting clubs and visit the range regularly. The typical AR owner is not a crazed teenage psychopath, but rather a 35+ year old, married and has at least some college education.

Contrary to what you’ll hear from the anti-gun people, the AR-15 actually makes a darn-good hunting rifle. Sure, some people buy an AR for home defense, but about six percent of buyers are either collectors or varmint hunters. The standard AR is illegal in most states for deer and big game hunting only because it is not considered powerful enough to reliably put down deer-sized or larger game, but is regularly used for coyote, wolf and feral pig hunting in many states.

Yes, you read that correctly, “not powerful enough.” Many in the anti-gun lobby will tell you the AR-15 and AK variants available to the general public are “high powered rifles.” This simply isn’t true. In fact, the typical bolt-action deer rifle is many times more powerful than an AR-15 or AK.

These guns are far from the weapon of choice for this nation’s criminals or killers. The FBI found that in 2010, the last year for which data is available, more people were beaten to death than killed with all long guns, including these so-called assault weapons.

Many of the people calling to ban these weapons are simply unfamiliar with them. They’ve never held or fired one, they just notice they look a lot like the ones they see in the movies that never have to be reloaded, never miss their target, and always kill people in one shot. If it were that easy, I’d have crossed rifles on my dress uniform instead of only being a sharpshooter.

I don’t like seafood, I don’t eat it. I tried it once, but thought it was gross. People eat it raw and get sick all the time. I’m not saying we should ban sushi simply because I don’t like it, some people rather enjoy it. More power to them! It wouldn’t be fair for me to tell them they can’t have it.

It is likewise not fair for people with no experience with firearms to tell anyone they can’t have a firearm. If you don’t want to own a gun, don’t buy one. That is your right, just as it is my Constitutionally-protected right to own one.

Granted, there should be certain restrictions on gun ownership. I wouldn’t feel overly comfortable with convicted felons, people who have been adjudicated as mentally incompetent or unsupervised children walking around with guns. But, that’s already the law. What needs to change is the enforcement of these restrictions. In the name of privacy, no one seems willing to report people who are mentally incompetent to own firearms, and these are the people perpetrating these heinous acts of violence.

We must remember to blame the person, not the tool. Pencils don’t misspell words, spoons don’t make people fat, and cars don’t cause DUIs. The common denominator is a person’s poor decision making ability.

I own an AR-15. While I have fired well over 1,000 rounds through it in the last five years, it has never assaulted anyone. To me, it is a training tool, used to hone my skills as a Marine rifleman. I’ve used my rifle responsibly, just as the more than 3 million other owners of AR-15s do. Taking away our hobby isn’t fair, and it isn’t legal.

Simply stated, banning these weapons would make not one single person safer, in fact it would make all of us a lot less safe. In the last decade, with the exception of one incident, every mass shooting has occurred in a gun-free zone. Areas known to be high in gun-ownership tend to have drastically lower violent crime rates. I highly doubt this is pure coincidence. As Robert A. Heinlein wrote, “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

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