Wednesday, May 14, 2003


Assault Weapon -- OK, I said it.

But do you know what it is? I'll bet you don't.

I've been shooting things that go bang for my entire life and I don't know what it is, but the US of A purportedly outlawed "assault weapons" during the Clinton era.

Of course, given that the law was written by folks who probably didn't grow up with hunting and shooting, they defined "assault weapon" based upon a menu of features that, I guess, make for a "scary, military-looking" weapon. For instance, a determinant as to whether a gun was an "assault weapon" was whether it has a bayonet mount. Of course, we've all heard about the multitude of bank robberies and holdups where the crooks used their bayonet to off someone. Oh yes, another key determinant is that is has a flash suppressor or a threaded barrel that allows a flash suppressor to be screwed on (a flash suppressor makes it hard to see the muzzle flash at night -- real important in bank hold-ups). And of course one factor is that it has a pistol grip. And a folding or telescoping stock. And a grenade launcher -- finally, something which sounds "scary" (but I bet you can't easily tell the difference between a grenade launcher and a black flashlight -- most people couldn't).

Anyway (are you ready?), it's an "assault weapon" (under the law) if it is semiautomatic (will continue to fire just by pulling the trigger -- but only once per trigger pull), has a detachable magazine (allowing you to load a number of cartridges at once) AND has more than two of the above features.

You can have your grenade launcher and bayonet mount if you want and it wouldn't be an assault weapon. But add that nefarious pistol grip and, "presto", it's an "assault weapon".

Anyway, since this was a massive overreaction to a perceived problem and something way less than 1% of all crimes are committed using an "assault weapon" (no matter how you define it), Congress still feels the need to expand the definition, with some versions banning virtually any semiautomatic weapon, including my 12 gauge shotgun that is really only useful in hunting ducks, geese, pheasant and other upland game.

My guess is that if the drug-dealing gang bangers are paying attention, they are funneling $millions to the legislators who are crafting this inane legislation. Why? So that fewer and fewer LACs (law-abiding citizens) will be armed as well as they are. Gangs are well-stocked with fully-automatic UZIs, MAC-10s, M-16s, and many other already-illegal forms of weapons. Besides, their tactical weapon of choice is still a concealable pistol, preferably a "nine" (9mm semi-automatic).

I'm sorry, but this stuff just drives me nuts. With hundreds of thousands of people dying each year from preventable cancer and heart disease, I just don't see the economic sense in wasting this much time and energy trying to ban something that doesn't exist. Especially something that kills fewer people than bathtubs, ladders and stairs (dangerous things which kill many people who fall in them and down them).


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