Friday, April 13, 2018

Thoughts on gun violence Part 4: Assault Weapons

One of the biggest most popular "solutions" to the gun violence problem is to ban "assault weapons." This is problematic on a number of levels.

First off, what is an "assault weapon?" It's whatever the people banning it want to say it is. The term "assault rifle" was a Nazi propaganda name for the MP44 machine pistol in World War II. It was basically a weapon that could fire lots of small, low power bullets. Machine guns had very limited effective range, and full power military rifles, while they had great range, had heavy ammunition. The idea of this weapon was to make the ammunition smaller and lighter so a soldier could carry more, and use it at intermediate distances, less than 300 yards.

The Russians came up with a version in 1947 called the AK-47 (for "Avtom√°t Kal√°shnikova" or "Kalashnikov's machine gun"). In 1959 the US finally followed suit with the AR-15 (for "Armalite model 15" - Armalite was the manufacturer). The army renamed it the M16. In 1964 Armalite sold the name and design to Colt. Colt used the name to market a semi-automatic rifle (note, this was NOT a military rifle and NOT an assault rifle). After the patent ran out, the term "AR-15" began to refer to any rifle that looked similar to the Colt AR-15 and was compatible with some or most of its parts.

So an AR-15 is NOT an assault rifle. An assault rifle is defined as follows:
The U.S. Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges." In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
Select fire means firing a burst of shots with one trigger pull - less than a machine gun but more than a semi-automatic, which shoots one round per trigger pull. Under the gun control act of 1930, revised in 1968 and 1986 American civilians cannot buy new assault weapons, or any kind of automatic or select fire rifle, and the antiques that are out there are strictly regulated, requiring special permission from the government and expensive fees and taxes.

So, assault rifles are already banned, but some people want to ban more weapons. Best way to do that is to create a new term "assault weapon" and define it to mean anything that they can get the public to confuse with a military weapon. The term "military style" is thrown around, which basically means things like being black, having plastic or aluminum parts instead of wood and steel, and "evil features" (not my term) such as a removable magazine, a barrel shroud, a pistol grip, a bayonet lug, a threaded barrel, an adjustable stock or a flash hider.

Why choose these features? Because they are the most common features found on the most popular guns made in the last 60 years. None of these features affects whether the gun is used by criminals or law abiding citizens. Rather, because people have been fed "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" style propaganda in movies for so many years, they can be confused into thinking these rifles are somehow extra bad or extra deadly. Several politicians have issued statements to the effect that assault weapons can bring down commercial aircraft, can blow up rail roads, can turn a deer into hamburger and cook it, can fire 700 rounds in a minute, and other such nonsense.

What do I mean by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang propaganda? If you ever saw the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang you know it's about a magical car that can think, and turn into a boat, and even fly. We know that real cars can't do that, but if we never saw real cars, and only saw the movie, we might believe that that's what real cars did. So it is with guns. We see movies where people do impossible things with guns, and since most people don't have any real contact with guns they believe what is shown to them.

Now I've gone and talked so much about what an "assault weapon" is I will leave the discussion of them to the next post...

To find the rest of the posts in this series click here.

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