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Letter: 'Not That Easy' to Ban Assault-Style Weapons

A reader responds to Heather Dean's letter from Saturday, Feb. 9.

Since the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting and the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a lot of people have shared a similar opinion as Ms. Dean. Ban Assault Weapons! Unfortunately, it's not that easy.

Do you honestly believe that if there had been an assault weapon ban that this monster wouldn't have murdered those teachers and children? Or that he wouldn't have been able to murder as many? I'm sorry but this isn't true. He would have found another way to do it.

You point to Aurora and Sandy Hook and blame the AR-15. I look at Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Luby's Cafeteria, Columbine, Dunblane, and the University of Texas. None of these monsters used assault-style weapons. In fact, with the exception of Charles Whitman in the University of Texas shooting, all of them had pistols in their arsenal. Virginia Tech, Dunblane, Fort Hood and Luby's Cafeteria used pistols exclusively. The shooters in Columbine used a pistol, shotguns and a carbine rifle. In fact, even the government agrees that assault-type weapons are very rarely used in crimes.

That's why people are afraid that this will steal their Second Amendment rights. Your sole criteria on whether they should be banned is based on the fact that some evil people have used them to massacre people. I've already shown you that this applies even more so to handguns. People are afraid that if the government uses your reasoning to ban rifles like the AR-15, they will apply the same rules to owning any sort of gun. A mad man could walk into a school and murder too many children with a musket if no one is there to stop him.  Should we ban muskets too?

You can't even define what an assault weapon is. There is no such thing. It's a bunch of hooey that lawmakers have decided on as a definition. They have decided that an assault rifle is a semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine that has two of the five features that make it an assault rifle. These features don't change how the gun operates at all. They simply make the gun look scarier. An AR-15 without those features fires the same rate: one bullet per trigger pull. What happens when someone uses a non-assault rifle to kill people? Do we ban them too?

You are wrong when you say, “The way I see it, the Australian government took action without taking away anyone’s right to own firearms; they simply prevented the general public from owning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.” This is the furthest thing from the truth.

This is what Australia actually did. They made it nearly impossible for most people to own ANY firearm. I am quoting this from Wikipedia simply because it is the most concise summary of their laws but if you would like to read the laws in full, it's called the National Firearm Agreement.

Firearms in Australia are grouped into categories determined by the National Firearm Agreement with different levels of control. The categories are:

  • Category A: Rimfire rifles (not semi-automatic), shotguns (not pump-action or semi-automatic), air rifles, and paintball markers. A "Genuine Reason" must be provided for a Category A firearm.
  • Category B: Centrefire rifles (not semi-automatic), muzzleloading firearms made after 1 January 1901. Apart from a "Genuine Reason", a "Genuine Need" must be demonstrated, including why a Category A firearm would not be suitable.
  • Category C: Semi-automatic rimfire rifles holding 10 or fewer rounds and pump-action or semi-automatic shotguns holding 5 or fewer rounds. Category C firearms are strongly restricted: only primary producers, occupational shooters, collectors and some clay target shooters can own functional Category C firearms.
  • Category D: Semi-automatic centrefire rifles, pump-action or semi-automatic shotguns holding more than 5 rounds. Functional Category D firearms are restricted to government agencies and a few occupational shooters. Collectors may own deactivated Category D firearms.
  • Category H: Handguns including air pistols and deactivated handguns. (Albeit both SA and WA do not require deactivated handguns to be regarded as handguns after the deactivation process has taken place. This situation was the catalyst in QLD for the deactivation and diversion of thousands of handguns to the black-market – the loophole shut since 2001) This class is available to target shooters. To be eligible for a Category H firearm, a target shooter must serve a probationary period of six months using club handguns, and a minimum number of matches yearly to retain each category of handgun.

So you are wrong, Australia most DEFINITELY stripped the right to own guns away from everyone except for a select few people who could demonstrate a genuine need or reason. Not only that, but their murder rate hasn't gone down that much. Their murder rate with guns has gone down but they're still killing each other in other ways.

There are millions of people in this country who responsibly own firearms. I am not trying to diminish the tragedies we have seen but they are rare. We cannot let the actions of a few punish the rest of us. What we need to do is enforce the laws we already have to keep the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.  Maybe we can take all of this focus on an inanimate object and dedicate it to getting the crazy people some help?

Patrick Lucas

Patrick Lucas February 10, 2013 at 06:43 PM
I should also state that CT already has an assault weapon ban. Our state uses the same guidelines of the original federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 which expired. The weapon the monster (I refuse to address him by name) in Sandyhook used was legal under state law and was not an assault weapon. What Heather proposed in her letter would ban just about every semi-auto weapon on the market. I wouldn't be able to own a .22LR rifle like a Ruger 10/22. I was also mistaken. The Tec-DC9 pistol the monsters at Columbine used does indeed fall under the definition of an assault weapon. I should have researched that better. My apologies.
Patrick Lucas February 10, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Just the opposite. Legislators should be focused on doing something that WORKS. If weapons like the AR-15 are such a little part of the problem, why not focus on what really IS the problem? Focus on what is causing the problem with as minimal disturbance to the law abiding people. You want to know what the solution is? 1. Keep violent criminals locked up. Stop letting them plead out to lesser charges so when they do get out of jail, they can't legally buy a gun. 2. Severely penalize those that traffic, straw purchase and possess illegal firearms. No slaps on the wrist. Hardcore lock down. 3. Close the gun show loophole. Make everyone purchase their guns through an FFL. 4. Keep the guns away from the mentally ill. Get the mentally ill some treatment. Is this plan perfect? No. Someone will slip through the cracks and if they snap, hopefully a good guy with a gun will put them down before anyone innocent gets hurt. The problem is lawmakers aren't interested in this because this will cost money. It will cost more money than an assault weapon ban will. It doesn't seem to phase them that their "solution" won't really solve the problem at all.
Thomas Paine February 12, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Patrick - Thank you for your well reasoned letter. IIRC, the DC-9 was not the weapon that caused the most destruction at Columbine, those were a sawed off 12 ga double barreled shotgun and the Hi-Point 9mm carbine. The shotgun, 30+ years old and fully legal until they sawed the barrel, was reloaded 20 times making for 40 devastating 12ga discharges, all at close range. The carbine was designed to be fully compliant with the Federal AWB in force at that time and was only fed with compliant 10-round mags. You also should check out the killings last April at Oikos Ukversity where a disgruntled student killed 7 students using a handgun and 10- round magazines that were fully compliant with California's law, the envy of CT gun takers.
Thomas Paine February 12, 2013 at 11:01 PM
To further bolster how ineffective a ban on black rifles would be on mass murders, please see this research report from the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research (OLR). This report, completed by a senior member of OLR, opens: "You asked for a list of the weapons that have been used in mass shootings in the United States since the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999. We have identified at least 49 mass shootings in the United States since the Columbine shooting. These are incidents where two or more people were killed, not counting the perpetrator." I wonder what the requestor thought of this list the weapons used in national mass shootings. Of the 49 listed events, the following is clear: - Exactly ZERO included "assault weapons" in the proper definition of a weapon capable of full auto fire. - Eight (8) of 49 (16%) listed a firearm that would be considered a "black rifle" by my definition - either an Armalite Rifle (AR) or a Kalishnikov (AK) style weapon. - Of those eight, four (8%) were AK-47s which are already prohibit by law in CT. The report can be found here: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/rpt/2013-R-0057.htm What the report does not point out is that the Columbine attack used weapons NOT banned under the federal AWB. It also fails to mention magazine capacities use in those attacks. For those interesting in more firearms-related OLR reports: http://www.cga.ct.gov/olr/FocusAreas.asp?sWhich=Firearms
Charlie February 13, 2013 at 09:08 PM
In case anyone wants to learn more: http://wilton.patch.com/blog_posts/compendium-of-thomas-paines-firearms-related-patch-posts#comment_6370808

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