Every time there is a mass shooting, we always see the same problem. Half of the people talking about it do not know anything about firearms or the law, a quarter of the people cannot adequately articulate good information (making everything that much more confusing), and the other quarter just give up talking about it all together; unless its to other people who agree with their views. In this section we are going to address some of the more basic fundamentals of firearms and also discuss some of the most common myths and arguments against firearms.
I. Assault Rifles/AR-15s
When concerning an AR-style rifle, the AR does not stand for Assault Rifle but for Armalite Rifle. Armalite was the original manufacture of the AR platform and was founded in the mid-1950’s in Hollywood, California. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic platform that is chambered in .223 or 5.56 and was originally designed by Eugene Stoner. These numbers represent the size of the bullet that the rifle uses. Semi-automatic means that the weapon will only fire one time for every trigger pull; a semi-automatic is not capable of full-automatic fire without being modified (which is illegal in most respects). The AR-15 is nothing more than a glorified .22 rifle. A fact that many confuse quite often is that Eugene Stoner did design the M-16 and the AR-15. The AR-15 did come from the original design of the M-16 but they are two totally different weapons. They have different twist rates, different sears (the part that defines semi-auto and full auto) and are constructed differently. We will get into this in more detail as this section continues.
Now one thing that a lot of pro-gun activists get wrong is that they say that there is no such thing as an ‘assault rifle’. This is not true, but probably not for the reason you think. There is an intelligence document from the US Army FSTC-CW-07/03/70 that provides the exact official government definition of what an Assault Rifle is:
“Assault rifles are short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges…Assault rifles have mild recoil characteristics and because of this, are capable of delivering effective full automatic fire at ranges up to 300 meters."
An AR-15 is not capable of selective-fire, it is built strictly as a semi-automatic platform, and therefore cannot be an assault rifle. It should also be noted that “Assault Rifles” have been heavily regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) since 1934 and that the manufacturing of fully automatic weapons for civilians has been illegal since 1986. Today there are very few available on the market and even fewer states that will allow them. They are also rarely, if even at all, used during mass shootings because of their scarcity.
Civilian weapons are designed and marketed to sell, just like cars. People buy sports cars for the same reason the buy sporting rifles, they look better and work better. And much like NASCAR or Formula 1 the internal mechanisms in a race car are much different than what you will find in a typical road vehicle because of what is legal for public use and what is not. Civilian weapons and military weapons are no different.
II. The Semi-Automatic is a Weapon of War!
Today the semi-automatic platform is being characterized as a Weapon of War. This statement is simply a virtue signal used to manipulate people who do not know anything about these firearms; all they know is they are being told to be afraid. Virtually every firearm that has been designed, manufactured, and sold since WWI is a semi-automatic. This is another example of people being ignorant, confused, or intentionally over conflating information. The truth is all firearms can be weapons of war. Before semi-automatics it was muskets, and before that it was swords, and before that clubs, and so on.
III. Some of the Facts
To me, blaming an assault weapon for a tragedy would be like blaming the airplanes that were used during 9/11. It is the person that pulls the trigger that is responsible and should always be held accountable for their actions. A firearm is nothing more than a tool and a tool is only as good or bad as the person that uses it. And the fact is that assault rifles could not be further from the center of the problem. At some point every year the FBI analyzes all of the crime data from the previous year and releases the statistics concerning different areas. In 2018, on the topic of violent crime, they found that rifles were only used in 3% of crimes in 2018. Hands and feet were used in 6% of crimes and knives were used five times more than rifles. I would also note that a medical study published by Johns Hopkins in 2017 found that medical mal-practice was the cause of 440,000 Americans. On average there are close to 40,000 gun related deaths each year (we will get into this more). Why aren’t we having a national debate on limiting doctors or banning knives? It is because the ‘perceived’ good outweighs the bad.
Another common argument is that the National Rifle Association has made it so that the Center for Disease Control cannot research gun violence. This is proven false by the Dickey Amendment. The Dickey Amendment was put into a 1996 omnibus spending bill which mandated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC may be used to advocate or promote gun control”. There is nothing keeping the CDC from researching gun violence, and they have been. President Obama ordered the CDC to do many studies during his time in office. The issue became that over half (2/3s to 3/4s depending on the study) of gun deaths from year to year are suicides and that legal defensive use of a firearm happens just as much, if not more, that reported violent crimes (500,000-3,000,000,000 times in the 2008 study).
Despite what many may be told to believe the actual statistics of gun crimes and shootings in the USA are surprisingly low. Most shootings are committed with handguns, not rifles. Virginia Tech is still considered by many to be the worst school shooting in US history and that was completely committed with handguns. Speaking of mass shootings, it is interesting to me that the media and politicians never want to mention that the worst mass shooting in our nation’s entire history was committed by our own government. Wounded Knee occurred on December 29, 1890. After being disarmed by the Federal Government 300 Native American men, women, and children were killed and 51 more were wounded. Most “history” only goes back to 1949.
IV. Why Do You Need That?
Why do we need free speech? Why do we need the right of due process? Why is the firearm ownership the only right in the Constitution that is attacked with this question? There are reasons for every firearm to be available, but you must have the knowledge for them to be sensible. Ask the Korean business owners if their livelihoods would still be operational after the L.A. Riots if not for their Second Amendment rights? Would so many students have disappeared at Kitterman Square if they had been allowed to defend themselves?
V. Background Checks
This something that is constantly asked for by politicians and advocates. The thing is, we already have them. I think part of the problem with background checks is that the process has become a victim of technology. The FBI has created the NICS program that runs a person through several databases (criminal, sex offender, ect.) based on an algorithm that determines if they are eligible to purchase a firearm. This process at best takes a few minutes, and at worst several hours. Because things happen so quickly people tend to believe that there is no process or that the process is too easy. Another aspect of background checks that is frequently debated is ‘universal background checks’. There is no difference between the actual process of the two. All universal background checks do is mandate that every gun sale must be done with a background check, including private sales. While this does offer some benefit, as there is always the potential of not knowing enough about someone that you are privately selling to; it is still ultimately the seller’s responsibility to decide whether or not to sell. There are also more negatives that come with universal background checks: namely lack of resources. The FBI, Department of Justice, and the United States Supreme Court have all stated over the years that there is no way to properly enforce universal background checks without establishing a national gun registry to check against. This is a problem in the eyes of many gun owners because every single government that has instituted a gun registry has implemented a confiscation or a mandatory buy-back program; which usually includes prison time for non-compliance i.e. confiscation.
It should also be noted that most if not all confiscations and buy-back programs do not have positive results. Australia still has mass shootings; Venezuela is in shambles and as of last month New Zealand has only had 700 semi-automatic weapons turned in to law-enforcement after their weapons ban. Their government claims that there are approximately 1.5 million firearms on the island, with an unknown number subject to the newer prohibition on semi-automatic firearms.
VI. State’s Rights
It is important to give a state room to govern as it sees fit within its own territory. State’s rights are also an important part of the Constitution, as it allows states to assume some of the power that the federal government does not have (therefore preventing one entity of government from possessing complete control of its citizens). However, state’s rights are not a “ignore the Constitution and do whatever you want pass”. A state cannot create a law that violates the provisions of Constitution, via Article 7- Supreme Law of the Land
You can drive your car in any state in the Union with your Driver’s License, a license that is a privilege, but you are not allowed to carry a firearm, a constitutional right that is recognized as unalienable in the Federal Constitution. We will be doing a whole segment on the constitution and legal aspects later.
VII. Clips vs Magazines
This one is a little trivial, but the point of these articles is education. It is important, especially if you are going to talk or debate someone who is in the firearm industry to use the correct terminology. When someone talks about clips that generally tells me up front how little you really know about firearms, and what I am potentially getting into. A magazine is what holds the cartridges, a stripper clip (i.e. a clip) is used to help speed up the loading process.
VIII. The Second Amendment was meant only for muskets
This talking point is by far my favorite. I try very hard to be cordial with people but when this one comes up it becomes very difficult for me. If the Founding Fathers were not capable of imagining the possibilities in technology and had only intended arms to mean muskets than that would imply that the first amendment would not apply or protect your social media or anything that you post online for that matter. Your fourth amendment right would also not apply to any of your digital information or property either (because how would they have known?). The fact is that the Founders were well aware of advancements in firearm’s technology, and some even advocated for it. This can be seen in historical weapons such as: Griandoni Air Rifle, Kathoff Repeating Muzzleloader, Belton Flintlock, and the Puckle Gun. If you would like more information on these weapons we did write a blog entitled :The Founding Fathers' Assault Weapons.
This talking point is then usually followed up with “if the government wanted to come and take your guns they would get them”. The United States of America has had the best organized military on the planet since WWII. But they had more than their share of trouble with the citizens of Vietnam in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. In more recent history you can use the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan as well. A little lesser known example, but certainly worth mentioning, is Simo Hayha; who’s story proves that it isn’t the weapon but the person using the tools. Hayha was a Finnish sniper that earned the nickname The White Death for killing over 500 Soviet soldiers in one year, with a bolt-action rifle.
IX. Sensible Gun Control
Most of the talking points that are associated with this are already laws. We have background checks, we have a system for tracing stolen firearms, murder is already illegal, ect. One of the biggest talking points with this is typically the “gun show loophole”. This is a myth, or misconstrued, point of interest that does not actually exist in any way. When you go to a gun show to purchase a firearm every FFL sale and private sale that happens at the event is still bound to federal, state, and local law. These purchases that happen just happen to take place at a gun show. The only legal way that a person could pay cash and walk out with the gun in the same day without a background check would be if that person were an FFL.
“Common Sense Gun Control” never stops. We always hear the excuse of that we need this law or this regulation to make you safe. We need this to do it right. They didn’t do it right, but we can. The truth is that there are approximately 20,000 laws (Federal, State, and Local) that regulate every aspect of a firearm’s existence from manufacture, purchase, and end use. Where does common sense stop, and invasion of constitutional rights begin?
I hope that you have enjoyed this article and that you will leave a comment if there is a subject that you would like to see discussed. I believe that education is the biggest key to getting through to people, as there is a lot of false information floating out there. We all make mistakes when debating something that we are passionate about and I think that most of us can share some of the blame for stalling progress. There are things that we can all learn from to make us better advocates. The best virtue that I think someone can have is patience.