Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stop pretending that assault weapons are anything but toys...

I'm working on a longer post about the gun control debate, and wanted to get this out of my system up front.

I was curious to see how many incidents I could find where someone used an assault weapon to defend their home or person against an actual attack.  My search wasn't exactly scientific, but I could only find three items.

This country has a lot of people who own a lot of assault rifles, but only three documented incidents where they were used for real life self-defense?  I'm sure I missed a few, but the total number's probably going to stay small for two key reasons:

  • These are large, bulky weapons - not something you'd carry around outside every day or leave in a nightstand drawer in case intruders break into your home.  Handguns are used more because they're just more practical.
  • Assault weapons are more dangerous to innocent bystanders.  You might be tempted to fire a shotgun in your house in self-defense, but unload a stream of bullets from a Bushmaster?  Plaster walls won't be much protection for your family members on the other side.  The same goes for use in public - in war it's okay to spray bullets at the enemy indiscriminately, but in a crowded public setting it's a disaster.
These can be used for hunting, of course, but let's be honest - using an assault weapon to take out an animal is about as "sporting" as fishing using a stick of dynamite dropped in the water.

The reality as I see it is pretty simple - assault weapons are desired because they are big, bad, powerful and a rush to shoot.  I have never fired one myself, but I'll take the work of others on that.  So is it really the need for a legitimate self-defense option that makes this such a fighting-point for gun advocates, or is it the idea that a major adrenaline rush might be taken away that angers them?

What I don't get is why we can't find a way to give people legal access to shoot these guns in a controlled setting, while prohibiting their possession or use outside of that setting?  It seems pretty simple - shooting ranges or gun clubs can apply for a permit to keep one or more assault rifles on premises for target shooting only, and these registered weapons can never leave the premises intact.  Customers or members can go to the range and shoot them to their hearts' content at targets, and the guns are locked up when not in use.  

So people with an assault-weapon itch that has to be scratched can have their outlet.  The public can have a ban on them everywhere else to get them off the streets.  Over time, the remaining number in circulation starts to go down, and steep penalties for illegal possession drive that further.

This bypasses the whole "What if I need military firepower to resist the tyrannical government if it ever comes down to that?" line of argument, and that's on purpose.  That whole premise is a bunch of BS - the military is made up of citizens like us, and to assume that an all-volunteer army of men and women dedicating to serving on behalf of family, friends and country could be convinced to betray them all - yeah, real likely.

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