The Padre’s take on the rhetoric behind an “assault weapons” ban

I don’t usually get drawn into most public debates, but this has been going around for awhile, so I thought I would weigh in on the “assault weapon” issue. Be prepared: it’s a bit long.

For what it’s worth, I can agree that there are few, if any, situations where one would *need* a military-style rifle that could not be adequately filled by another more suitable weapon. Whether it’s hunting or home defense, there are other weapons available which I think make more sense and are much more practical. Most folks have rightly pointed out that exceptions can and should be made for legitimate purposes, such as hunting and self-defense, so we’re not talking banning ALL firearms (at least, not yet). So let’s consider the argument for banning what everyone commonly refers to as “assault weapons.”

I can see why many people want to get rid of them. They’re black & scary, and look too much like the weapons of war that we’ve seen on the news for the past 10 years or so in Iraq & Afghanistan. They are lethal in the right hands (as is any firearm, for that matter). They are primarily designed to spit out rounds at the rapid rate (though they are not machine guns/automatic weapons) and this in turn increases their lethality. Why would any sane, reasonable person (military/law enforcement excepted) either want or require such a weapon?? If that is the concern and the argument being voiced here, I can both understand and, to a degree, agree with it.

But is banning them outright really the solution? If it is, let’s put all our cards on the table and examine such a ban in detail.

First, is this a selective or total ban? Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has already proposed submitting an assault weapons ban immediately upon Congress’ return after the holidays. A similar ban was enacted by President Clinton back in 1994, and expired 10 years later. But in each case, the ban is (or would be) limited to the new purchase, sale or transfer of such arms. Those already owned would be “grandfathered” in, meaning there would be no confiscation of firearms that were lawfully purchased before the ban went into place. This would have two effects: 1) It WOULD NOT remove all “assault weapons” from private hands, as there would still be numerous firearms that were bought before the ban. 2) It WOULD likely increase the overall number of such weapons, as people who were on the fence about owning one would rush to purchase one before they were outlawed. This has happened before and is starting to happen again. If you doubt this, go to any website or gun shop that sells these types of weapons or parts and check on their availability – most are backordered for the foreseeable future.

Ok, so a selective ban wouldn’t remove these weapons totally from the population, so what if we passed a TOTAL ban, outlawing even those guns which were purchased legally? What if we required everyone who owned such a weapon to immediately surrender them to their nearest law enforcement agency? Leaving aside the tricky legal issues with unlawful search & seizure and state’s rights, I agree that this would probably have the intended effect. But how would this be accomplished? Would police go door-to-door searching for these guns? Would they have a buyback program? If so, would they be prepared to pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars that these weapons cost the owner? Where would such funds come from?

So a total ban would likely achieve the desired endstate, but as with anything, we must consider the cost. Numerous people have cited the large number of deaths in the United States due to firearms. 30k or more per year is what I’ve heard, though I haven’t the time to research it fully. Sounds like a lot, right? .01 percent of the population. But I don’t think this number takes into account the circumstances in which the individuals were killed – whether it was “justifiable” or not – only that X number of people died by a certain means. I would be very curious to know how many of those 30k were killed with a military-style rifle. We know about the mass shootings that have occurred in recent times, but one almost never hears about these types of weapons being used in average shooting, whether criminal, home defense, gang related activities, etc. By far the most common weapon used is the handgun – a simple revolver or semiautomatic pistol.

So for argument’s sake, let’s say that 300 people are killed each year with a military-style semiautomatic rifle. One in a million. Isn’t that sufficient reason to confiscate them from everyone and ban them forever? After all, if there’s no good reason to own one, and 300 or more lives could potentially be saved each year by outlawing them, doesn’t that make sense? Well, I suppose the answer to that question lies in your point of view and your willingness to give up your rights. But then the people calling for such a ban aren’t giving up any of THEIR rights, because none of them (or very few) actually OWN such weapons, nor would they ever really even consider owning one. It’s a win-win for them; lives are saved, and they don’t have to give up a thing themselves.

But here’s where I and many others would disagree. It has to do with one’s rights, and the freedom & liberty we enjoy as American citizens. It has to do with setting a precedent. If we ban these weapons in order to save 300+ lives per year, what’s to stop the government from deciding to ban more and more things? Once all the assault rifles are collected, what will we do when another mass shooting occurs with another type of legal firearm? Ban those? What about every other thing that’s a) not strictly “necessary” and b) would save lives if it was made illegal? Motorcycles kill way more than 300 folks a year, and nobody really *needs* one, so why not ban those? So do baseball bats. Sodas make people fat, so why not – as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted – ban the sale of anything larger than 16 oz.?

And if we’re going to selectively interpret our constitutional amendments, why stop with the 2nd? I can easily see the same argument and rationale being applied to speech, books, art, etc. Someone doesn’t like it, doesn’t see a need for it, so the response is to ban it. And rights, once taken, are rarely if ever returned. Once you have ceded the power to do something over to another entity, it is nearly impossible to get it back. It always starts small, with something that most people think is a good thing, but history has shown that once the proverbial foot is in the door, it’s just a matter of time before more and more rights & freedoms are confiscated in the name of safety, protection and our own “good.” So when and where does one draw the line?

Anyways, this is the core of my thinking when it comes to discussing this topic. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I welcome any points, explanations or clarifications that anyone has to make on this subject.

25 thoughts on “The Padre’s take on the rhetoric behind an “assault weapons” ban”

  1. I would say that banning weapons that are military grade – that designed for no other purpose but to hunt and kill other humans is the right thing to do. (military and police excepted) There is no reason whatsoever for someone to have an assault weapon in their home for “protection.” The NRA could definately show them to a weapon that is absolutely capable of letting them defend themselves. and thats where I think 2nd Amendment advocates can really lead here.

    I think that weapons of war – don’t belong in the hands of the average american. I think that the NRA could gain a lot of ground if they’d be less “they want to take all our guns away” – vs. – “they want to make it harder for ANYONE to get ahold of a weapon that is never meant to be in a civilian setting.” I think the NRA could be a huge force in reimaging the gun owner in America by educating in both directions – why an assault weapons ban and stricter controls on weapons of war is a good thing – and how “come on down to the NRA gun range and we’ll train you on a weapon that is ABSOLUTELY suitable for self defense.”


    1. Surely such a ban would have to retrospective, ie. all assault weapons must be handed in, as otherwise it would be pointless as the post mentions. people would require compensation for their legally owned guns; perhaps a no-questions amnesty on dubious guns would also be needed (or a flat $100 no questions asked etc). this would have legal implications if such weapons had ever been used in crime of course.
      also, i know us citizens think their constitution, rights and amendments are very important (and rightly so) but the whole 2nd amendment, when i hear people interpret what was written as a protection for the people vs. the government / foreign oppression and as an absolute, well haven’t you already conceded some scope to your government such that a ban on certain types of gun would not be that unprecedented? for instance private ownership of NBC weapons (why not? they are ‘arms’ after all?), or fully functional armoured vehicles etc – they aren’t allowed are they? i know my examples are a bit far-fetched, but it does seem to an outsider it boils down to guns very specifically in these debates. cheers.

    2. Military grade assault weapons are already banned unless they are bought legally and a tax is paid to the Feds for owning one.
      The first weapon of war I was taught to use while undergoing training was my mind and my hands. Followed by a bayonet or knife, then an Entrenching tool. The sign on the back walls of close Combat today for Marines states, “ONE MIND, ANY WEAPON” So would you ban minds, hands or just ban Veterans from schools and city streets?
      The old statement is still true, The most dangerous weapon of war is a highly motivated and well dedicated Marine with a Radio, compass, map and a known location.
      Would you ban Radios, maps, compasses and known locations?

  2. Padre, this is a good attempt to start the process of sorting out a very complex subject. First of all, I am against the wholesale removal of guns from responsible law abiding citizens. Many Americans would call this a US Constitutional right to bear arms. I would call this not a Constitutional Right, but more of a Constitutional Responsible Right. The question becomes what is the difference? If you notice, I talked about “law abiding citizens” and not just the general citizenry. This is a major difference. Every firearm, new and old, should be registered with your local law enforcement. The serial number and description of that firearm should be in a database and every time that its status changes, this database should also be updated. This would include the purchase/owner’s name and address, the place it was purchased, the model name and configuration. If you make changes on this particular firearm, the database needs to be updated. If the firearm is ever stolen, law enforcement should be notified within 24 hours (you become aware of the fact. If for some reason you move your primary residence, you must go to this whole process again

    To be very honest with you, I don’t like this either. But, if we are going to be Citizens of the United States, then this is part of being a law abiding citizen utilizing his Responsible Right to Bear Arms. You talk about the concept of “Grandfathering” old firearms, my answer is, no if they have no serial number, for any reason, then the firearm should be surrendered or find some way to put an identifying serial number on it.

    As we have looked at many of the tragic events, over the years, we need to come to the conclusion that things don’t just happen. Women get mad at this concept, you can thank the different serial killers. By the way, when your firearm is stolen and you do not report it, you are still responsible for what they do with your stolen firearm. You bear responsibility on until the law enforcement database is specifically informed of the fact of the theft.

    This is all a part of being a US Citizen utilizing his “Responsible Right to Bear Arms”.

    1. I guess we’ll also let politicians decide “Responsible Free Speech” also.

      Every gun registration policy throughout the world has been followed by a gun confiscation policy. And an increase in gun violence, either criminal or by the government.

      If you can’t grasp that, be damned to you sir!

    2. In order to ban the 2d and confiscate guns, the government would have to repeal the 4th and the 5th as well as the 8th.
      Literally you would have Government militarized police bashing down doors of suspected gun owners and treating them like they did to Randy Weaver or WACO.
      Are their enough jails to hold all the hold outs? Or is this where Bill Ayers desire to kill 25 million American’s to get what the liberals want?
      I got news for you, everyone won’t give up their arms and any revolt or guerrilla war Obama starts will be on the same level as Falluja or Korengal valley. Is obama willing to commence combat operations in Mississippi just to confiscate Mississippi guns from their lawful owners?
      If so what if he comes for something else? where will the red line begin?
      Will the Armed forces stay intact and fight for the usurper whose disarming or killing their own?
      Or like in Libya will the services split into loyalist to obama or rebels for the constitution?
      Someday, somewhere American citizens will call for a stop to this tyranny and like in Libya it may not end exactly the way it started out to end.
      Personally the majority of American have not even heard about that school shooting nor efforts to disarm them, fat, dumb and happy that’s what I believe Americans are.
      They won’t fight, not because of cowardliness but because of comfort and laziness. Because of ignorance.

    3. Just in case you weren’t aware of this, until 1967 or ’68, firearms weren’t required to have serial numbers, and the vast majority produced did not. So, if you’re advocating for confiscation of anything without a serial number, then there’s going to be a whole lot of people with antiques that will be mighty displeased with you.

    4. Also, as an afterthought, registration and laws regarding transfers and such only work when you have people that are willing to follow the law. Only the law abiding folks will do it, and only the law abiding folks will have their information stored by the government. Do you really think that someone that’s planning to go shoot up a school is going to blink at the idea of breaking another law by buying a gun under the table?

      1. Worse, a lot of people, otherwise law-abiding members of society, will choose to disobey that law. By inundating society with layer upon layer of laws, we’ve made it so a person who takes no action at all is now at risk of felony prosecution.

        Kinda perverts the entire concept of means rea.

  3. The Second Amendment is not a “responsible right”, nor simply a right to hunt or to self-defense. It is the last redress of the People against the tyranny of their government. The right to keep and bear arms is the act of a free man.

    So tell me again how more gun laws keeps guns out of the hands of criminals, gangs, drug dealers? And as Brad notes above, with the firm precedent of a government response to criminal activity being curtailing the liberties of the law-abiding, where does that paradigm end?

    1. The Second Amendment is not a “responsible right”, nor simply a right to hunt or to self-defense. It is the last redress of the People against the tyranny of their government. The right to keep and bear arms is the act of a free man.

      This. This right here.

      Gentlemen, I would like to hear your approach to preventing the tyranny that happened with 5 and 6-year-old children in Newton, Connecticut.

      My solution is to do what the Israelis have done. They’ve had greater reason to fear attacks upon their schoolchildren than we ever will. Their response has been to arm teachers. Israel, in their entire history has had 8 children killed in school shootings. Eight.

      But to talk of taking away rights from free citizens in the name of protecting children? Then where are we to stop? More people are killed by cars, should we ban those capable of going 200 MPH? After all, you don’t NEED a car that goes that fast. And that’s not even a Constitutionally protected right.

    2. Mike D and what about abortion which kills 100% of it’s victims all children under the age of 10 months, for now anyway.
      1.3 million Americans are killed every year by abortion devices or left to die starved and dehydrated from thirst in some empty room, every one was a child under the age of six.
      Where is the outcry to ban or confiscate or repeal abortion, the doctors the devices and Roe vs Wade?
      Banning guns for killing children while allowing abortion to legally kill children is anal and quite ludicrous.

  4. Gentlemen, I believe both of you were in the military, both of you lived under a paradigm of “responsible rights”, including that of “free speech”.

    1. I voluntarily gave up some of my First Amendment rights when I joined the Corps. Where did I voluntarily give up my Second Amendment rights so that someone who wants firearms outlawed can consider that “responsible”?

      How about we look at the disastrous policy of de-institutionalizing millions starting in the 1960s because we thought it “humane”?

  5. Gentlemen, I would like to hear your approach to preventing the tyranny that happened with 5 and 6-year-old children in Newton, Connecticut. This is not just a rhetorical term, but real flesh and blood tyranny against children. I don’t want to start down the path of registration anymore than anyone else. The mere thought is something I hate, but this is something that tells us our present strategy or thought process is not working.

    For the record, I have seen the result of real flesh and blood tyranny, in this country. What changes would you make? Respectfully, Grumpy

    1. Ban abortion, repeal Roe vs Wade make children’s lives even in the womb valuable. Had the shooter been an abortion doctor and he killed 20 + children in his clinic he would not be charged with a thing and would get paid for the killing.

    2. Well, now, there’s an interesting question, Grumpy. In the 20’s and earlier, you could buy a submachine gun at your local hardware store, and yet we didn’t hear about kids shooting up their schools.

      What about our society has changed since then?

  6. The changes in this country necessary to reduce gun violence lie in the areas of education, parental responsibility, medical treatment, the “entertainment” industry, video games and drug / law enforcement, not gun ownership. Why should I surrender my rifle (yes, my same old Mini-14 with its insanely scary black stock and 30-round magazines) that sits in my closet for about 362 days/year, year in and year out because I legally own it, while someone that possesses both a weapon and a propensity to break the law will not turn theirs in? I can’t imagine any law that would induce lawbreakers to suddenly become law-abiding. Propriety prevents me from writing the imagined narration of two thugs deciding to turn in their AKs and opt for some other form of murder weapon because Congress has deemed it necessary.

  7. Something else has been lost in this “debate over guns”. What has stopped each and every one of these recent rampage shootings (with the granted exception of the Gabby Giffords shooter)? A citizen with a gun. Be it police (in the most recent case) or an average citizen on site with a firearm. These shooters do not stop until they are confronted by another shooter, or in the sole case of the Giffords shooter, being swarmed by unarmed citizens. The national average for police response is six minutes. Even with a bolt action rifle with five round fixed capacity, do you have ANY concept

    The other thing in common is that every last one of these shooters has committed multiple gun crimes before pulling the trigger on the first victim. Unless you are serious about going door to door and seizing property from law abiding citizens (i.e. go a step further than any previous ban), then it will always be possible for madmen to kill those law-abiding owners and steal their weapons. Or to purchase them illegally. Or even (as the Virginia Tech shooter did) purchase them legally because the mental health system failed utterly to properly classify him as a danger. And please note, that was not a fault of “permissive gun laws” that was ENTIRELY the fault of mental health professionals. Banning the sale of legal firearms to those adjudged to be mentally ill is already in place. But if that judgement doesn’t occur, how in the world is the gun seller to know that?

  8. MikeD and to all of you, thank you. I have personally seen the Israeli solution in action and it works. But remember, all Israelis have firearms, by law for the defense of the nation. But also remember, this also creates a form of government control through peer pressure and everybody is taught how to handle and use firearms. With failures come consequences and therefore we have responsibilities. If that was a standard in this nation, there would be no problem. I saw an article by Bill Bennett on this subject on the CNN website which suggested some form of designated shooter in a situation like this one in Connecticut, but I would hope there would be more than just one. -Grumpy

    1. Who is this “we”? Suddenly my rights are thrown into the pot of collective responsibility? Leave me the hell out of it. Ditto with the collective guilt. It is an imbecilic and dangerous concept, and leads to tyranny.

  9. Good post Padre.

    Bottom line is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. The 2nd Amendment does not grant any right to keep and bear arms, it prohibits the government from infringing upon that right.

    Why should Americans be allowed to own assault rifles? The 2nd Amendment, that’s why.

    Assault rifles are the citizen’s last defense against his/her own government. I do not mean the government as represented by our military, I do mean government as represented by the rampant expansion of SWAT-style forces which seem to be at the beck and call of nearly every Federal agency. What are those paramilitary forces for? To return Elián González to Cuba? To protect us against Mexican drug lords (armed with weapons OUR government sold them)?

    Slippery slope. Give up the 2nd Amendment you might as well tear up the entire Constitution and let the politicians and courts decide everything based on the “whim du jour”.

    I, for one, swore an oath to “support and defend the Constitution” and in my youth was prepared to give my life for that document. I still am.

  10. To all: Very excellent points that are fabulous constitutional facts and clarifications to a living, breathing document that has existed somewhat continually since “Day-1.” My issue is that when this country started we WERE somewhat like the Israelis where in the citizenry at large was commonly united in purpose and vision. Sadly, I believe, an ever larger amount of this country’s citizenry is not involved in a level of decent, sane, purpose and vision and the notion of this “free” country has led many to believe that means “anything goes”, (and I mean anything). The beginning was where we were responsible and now its the WIFM concept with no snit of a care about common care, or cause or being a part of something larger than ones self. Not allowing weapons (I believe) falls along the lines of without fires houses wouldn’t burn down. Its not exact, but goes down the parallel same road. We can’t back up the turnip truck and renew family structure such as it was in the 1700’s, and I think that is a root cause to all this mess that (again) leads to the knee jerk run to banning “things.” Now I’m going to care for the wooden stock of my Garand and then put it away again (secured) for another “362 days” as that is what responsible people do. As an aside I wonder if any bans would include 8 round Enbloc clips or that by virtue of my weapon being semi-automatic it will be banned. Oh well, upward and onward. Regards Gentle People

  11. A little over 60% of the annual 30,000 gun deaths are suicides. Thus, there are something like 10,000 firearm homicides, not 30,000. Those 20,000 people would just find another way to kill themselves, so banning assault rifles would have zero net effect on that death toll. What good is lowering firearm suicides by 20,000 if you raise all other suicides by 20,000?

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