The Problem With Assault Weapons Bans

Ruger Mini 14

Ruger Mini 14

An AR-15 style rifle

An AR-15 style rifle

As I have pointed out before, the problem with banning ‘assault weapons’ lies with the difficulty in defining one in the first place. Many firearms are not considered assault weapons legally speaking, but in practical terms only differ from assault weapons cosmetically. For example, the image above features the Ruger Mini 14. The image below is an AR-15 style rifle. The AR-15 looks menacing: it features an additional flashlight, a foregrip, a bipod, and some new sights. Aside from the extras, however, there is no practical difference between the two; they are both semi-automatic (each trigger pull produces a shot), they feature a 30 round magazine, and are both chambered in 5.56mm (or .223 if you’re not a fan of the metric system). The lower image features a weapon the new assault weapons law would ban, the above image features a weapon that would still be fully legal.

The Huffington Post notes this massive loophole in a new article:

Congress’ latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.

One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223 caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can’t be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly.

“What a joke,” said former FBI agent John Hanlon, who survived the 1986 shootout in Miami. He was shot in the head, hand, groin and hip with a Ruger Mini-14 that had a folding stock. Two FBI agents died and five others were wounded.

Politically and practically, assault weapons bans will always feature this loophole for one key reason: no one is willing to ban all semi-automatic rifles. You can, in fact, hunt with a Ruger mini 14 (or its 7.62mm caliber variant). No politician is willing to take away hunting rifles, plain and simple.

Another problem with assault weapons bans is that this loophole is easily exploitable by weapons manufacturers. If the law says a rifle cannot have a bayonet lug (it allows a bayonet, or knife to be attached to the barrel) they will simply remove them and, magically, the rifle is no longer an assault weapon! The same goes for other items the law uses to identify assault weapons, such as short barrels, flash hiders, and pistol grips.

The National Firearms Act also says that fully automatic weapons must be registered as ‘Class III.’ To get around this, manufacturers have designed fully legal ‘bump fire’ stocks. Behold the power of innovation gone wrong.

I am not suggesting that an assault weapons ban is a bad idea. It probably does no harm, but the positive affects are probably overstated as well. In my view, registration probably would do more good while at the same time retaining individual choice. The onerous process that is used to register ‘Class III’ weapons ensures that only law abiding people can get machine guns. These weapons have, to my knowledge, never been used in a crime.

This is an issue that, to the layperson, can be confusing. If you are not a ‘gun person’, it seems like a straightforward idea to ban these weapons. I hope I have been able to explain how difficult this truly is.

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7 Responses to The Problem With Assault Weapons Bans

  1. Eric Lorge says:

    You’re absolutely right: Vague definitions are the playgrounds of lawyers.

    We need to simply ban the sale of all semi-automatic weapons.

  2. Ryan says:

    This isn’t about a hobby or protecting ones self both are legitimate purposes too but it is about the right to protect ourselves from our government (not talking about militias), I just don’t believe our country should trample the rights that this great nation was founded upon. The politicians make valid points but their approach is just not the right way. as far as assault weapons ; they should make them class 3 and improve upon the background check requirements, they should determine how many rounds are required to adequately protect ones self. AR-15 models vary from 10 rd magazines to 100 it isn’t the rifle itself more than it is the modifications.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Can you clarify your opinion for me a bit? Do you support making assault weapons class III?

      I don’t think the government should trample people’s rights to own firearms either by the way. I am gun owner myself.

    • Eric Lorge says:

      Is it any wonder that our country is so fractured and dysfunctional if people, (like yourself), are so distrustful of their own government they feel they need to weaponize themselves?

      I’m not judging you for feeling that way. You have your reasons. But you can see how a nation would eventually be ungovernable if enough people begin to feel like this.

  3. john zande says:

    Did you see John Howard on Fareed Zacharia this morning? If you didn’t catch it try and dig it up.

    • I found it on Zakaria’s CNN site. Thanks! Great interview.

      By the way, you are so lucky to have normal conservatives in government. Is there anything in Australia (or even Brazil) that’s comparable to the Tea Party?

      • john zande says:

        Not in Brazil but Australia did a crazy lady (Pauline Hanson) capture the media spotlight back in the 90’s. A racist bitch (openly racist), dumb as two-planks, founded the One National Party. She won a seat in the upper house (your House of Reps) but made such a total dick of herself that it all self-imploded. It was an ugly episode, but it did play our very much like the Teabagger wave there in the US.

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