Getting some terms and issues right in the “gun control” debate

The present gun-control debate is being carried out in the MSM and blogsophere mostly by people who don’t know what they are talking about.

“Assault weapons!”, they cry, while running in circles.  “Eeek! Eeek! We have to DO SOMETHING!”

Let’s see if we can’t raise the bar, at least around here if nowhere else.

To that end, here are a few links.

First, at Darwin Catholic I found instructive posts on “assault weapons”.

  1. Assault Weapons Part 1: Battle Rifle to Assault Rifle (mostly historical in content – as a good accompaniment to the first entry, especially for those who learn visually, try this YouTube video wherein a fellow shows the guns in question.  Interesting history.  U.S. Military Rifles since 1776
  2. Assault Weapons Part 2: Assault Rifles vs. “Assault Weapons”  (cosmetics and how we got the 1994 ban)
  3. Assault Weapons Part 3: Gun Control (How often are military style rifles used in crimes? Are they particularly suited to crime? Did the 1994 AWB have any discernible effect on crime? Do military style rifles have legitimate civilian purposes?)

I learned a lot from these.

There is also a good, through roughly written, piece on the curiously named Monster Hunter Nation, by a former firearms instructor.

I have turned on comment moderation.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jbosco88 says:

    Now would be a good time for a debate on the non-liturgical use of the Beretta. I don’t think it was ever truly abrogated…

  2. Henry Belton says:

    I own several guns. No AR types. But I’m glad that I have a right to buy one.

    Just like:
    I’ve never needed a jury trial, but I’m glad I’d be given one.
    I’ve never published a newspaper but I’m glad I can.
    I’ve never been subjected to a warrant-less search but I’m glad I could legally say get the hell out.
    I don’t expect to be accused but I’m glad I can’t be held without due process.
    Military troops probably won’t attempt to stay at my home, but I’m glad I can tell them they can’t

    I don’t own one but I’m glad I can.


  3. rodin says:

    Probably a dumb question, but why is it necessary to have a magazine holding even 10 rounds? I understand that hunters can avoid having to take the gun down to reload and re-sight, all of which takes time during which the prey, possibly wounded, runs off in the woods to die somewhere else, BUT with the speedy automatic re-loading why can’t the hunter take down the animal in two, or at most three shots?

    Target practice is something else so I would assume a large magazine could be justified just as an archer is not limited in the number of arrows in his quiver.

    [Wow. What is missing from this. And when was this only about hunting? Liberal slight-of-hand.]

  4. thickmick says:

    I think its our duty to own a gun in this country and not just a hunting rifle…a squared away assault rifle, with A GOOD SYSTEM for your rifle (weapons light, normal capacity (20rd, 30rd) mags, optics). Easier to defend yourself, family with one of those than a bolt action 30.06. Guns don’t kill people…Abortions do!

  5. Stu says:

    I wish this could be required reading for all bloggers and journalists.

  6. disco says:

    I had no idea just how ridiculous the assault weapons ban was. Seems reasonable enough to ban “assault weapons” in theory, but then even a cursory review of the facts points to the utter uselessness of the law. Automatic weapons are illegal already anyway. The assault weapons ban just makes it a pain in the rear end to sell “scary-looking army guns”.

  7. Medjugorje Man 07 says:

    I happen to be in an occupation where I need to order many guns, gun parts and ammo. Even with first class service and industry connections the waiting list is intolerable because business is so good. Obama was the best thing that ever happen to business side of guns. Libs are so short sighted! This political administration has create the largest demanded ever seen, therefore, sales are off of the chart. The law abiding citizen is the one who is regulated by the way. The bad guys are always the winner when knuckleheads like Obama and Biden get involved.

  8. guatadopt says:

    Very informative. I quite frankly don’t care what type of gun people own as long as there are limits on who can buy them and people are held accountable for what happens to them. For instance, if you own an AR and it somehow gets into the hands of evil, you need to be criminally held liable. Lets add some responsibility to ownership. Or how about psychiatric testing before allowing a purchase? Even free speech has limits. If I spread false rumors about someone, I’d be held liable. Freedom without limits is anarchy. Just my two cents. Personally, I don’t own any weapons because when Christ comes in his glory, I’d be embarrassed to have him see them. I have enough issues without needing to add more things to explain!

  9. AnAmericanMother says:

    Self-defense is a fundamental human right.
    Defense of family and nation is an obligation.
    Government should not infringe upon those rights and duties, period.
    By ‘farming out’ defense to others (e.g. police), many citizens have lost sight not only of their rights but their duties as well.
    Unfortunately, the police can’t be everywhere, and legally have NO obligation to defend any individual. “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

  10. AnAmericanMother says:

    Read the “Monster Hunter Nation” article. Larry Correia writes fantasy/sci-fi but he used to be in law enforcement and was a Class III dealer. So he knows what he’s talking about.
    I have been involved in shooting sports and legal aspects of gun ownership for almost half a century. This whole “assault weapons” hysteria is just that. It has no basis in fact. The only question you should be asking is: what is the motivation of the people who are continually and knowingly lying about this issue?

  11. Kerry says:

    Rodin. The nastiest animal has tattoos all over his face and neck, has kicked in your your front door at 2:42 AM, and brought two of his feral buddies along because your wife has two daughters, the loudest sound in the world is a firing pin striking air. You are the prey. They are the animals. Do you want more ammunition or less. The 2nd Amendment is not about target shooting and hunting. Does a criminal, or a tyrannical regime, (absent the jury trial), have the moral authority to take your life from you by force? Have such regimes never existed throughout history? Have any people throughout history been made more secure by their own government denying them the use of hand held weapons? That for the most part those of us in the U.S. will likely not have to defend our homes from the above alluded to MS-13 killers, does not reduce to zero the possibility of either them, or a tyrannical EPA, TSA, HHS, Dept. of Justice, Homeland Security, ATF, DEA, FBI, et. al. making a citizen long for something more that the ATF approved, Dept. of Justice mandated, single use only, 5 round magazine. Are Obama, Holder, Feinstein, Cuomo, and all the rest true, Jeffersonian disciples? “I think not!”
    And to any hoplophobes let me say, “Opposed to guns? Don’t get one”. The “Why is it necessary” and “No one needs a…” questions are spurious. It is not called the Bill of Needs. One does not have to justify exercising their rights. Might as well ask, “Why is it necessary to say such horrible things about…”

  12. Kerry says:

    Rodin, as gently as I can, may I ask this? I assume you are seeing for yourself no need for a ten round magazine? That’s fine. If by extension, then, you are postulating that no one else need one, and perhaps also supposing, should not be allowed to have them, the word ‘allowed’ would have force of law. The popular phrasing is, “Banning this will stop that”. People asking how will that work are usually met with slogans rather than reasoning. Emotions make bad legislation. The same physical object in the hands of an honest citizen will stop a the carnage committed by the hands of a crazy one. If we were already in heaven, no one would need so much as a sharpened wooden toothpick. We are not.

  13. a catechist says:

    The “curious” blog title refers to his fictional novels about Monster Hunters Inc., a for-profit team that will take care of your zombie infestation, neighborhood werewolf, etc. Like “Ghostbusters” for adults. Rough language and violence, but in all of the ones I read, very traditional chastity & respect for women’s bodies (most of those women are also heavily armed), respect for veterans and cops, but suspicion of the Feds. The first volume has some funny lines; it’s braincandy with no literary pretense.

  14. The Egyptian says:

    hey Rodin

    read history, read Pravda
    especially love this quote
    “The excuse that people will start shooting each other is also plain and silly. So it is our politicians saying that our society is full of incapable adolescents who can never be trusted? Then, please explain how we can trust them or the police, who themselves grew up and came from the same culture?”
    I also highly recommend this
    especially the first five or six paragraphs, including the mention that Adams and others modeled the second amendment after the Swiss
    Obama has already trampled over the 1st amendment, now trying the second, speech may be next, he already has the press eating out of his hand

  15. Supertradmum says:

    AmericanMother, agree with you 100%.

    But, defense has become a dirty word. Euip

  16. happyCatholic says:

    Dear guatadopt,
    Your suggestion for “psychiatric” testing opens a whole can of worms.
    1. Who sets the parameters?
    2. Who does the testing?
    3. Who pays for it? Are you going to add additional burdens to an already cumbersome process to exercise what is a clear RIGHT and perhaps should be a duty in this country?
    4. What if the one who passes the “test” goes off the rails years from now? Keep re-testing? Who pays? Who decides that you are still “ok” — perhaps Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and such ilk who mock God with their personally opposed to but won’t impose my will on abortion stance? Yet they seem more than willing to impose their gun beliefs on the rest of the country.

    There are already many safeguards and hurdles enough, too, in the gun buying process and in the system. Try to buy a gun and get a concealed carry permit and you will see. What is needed is ENFORCEMENT of reasonable law and the will to deal with criminals as criminals, (still bearing God’s image) and not as pet projects of societal manipulators.

    Bottom line: there is evil in the world, and you can’t legislate away all danger and all risk. The best you can do is to create an environment where the most good and least harm can be done. Sometimes, really, the government CAN’T “do something,” because there is simply nothing it CAN do. Howls to the contrary only cede more power to a way- too- powerful institution at this point in time.

  17. smad0142 says:

    For people who are serious about defending our 2A rights I think it is important that we are very charitable when in conversation. For example I think Rodin on this post was sincerely asking for the rationale behind allowing citizens to have what are called “high capacity” magazines. Towards that end I think the Egyptian did a great job. Gun owners are under extra scrutiny right now so it is important to be especially mindful of public appearances right now.

  18. dominic1955 says:

    Usually when people ask for “reasonable restrictions” they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, i.e. I’d be afraid around them with a gun because they probably do not know which part the bullet comes out of. Also, things like psychological testing is dangerous. Do we really want to trust the government to tell us who is crazy and who isn’t? Or the APA for that matter since psychology is so much snake-oil salesmanship. Homosexuality was a mental disorder until homosexuals took over and decided it wasn’t anymore. Talk about objective “scientific” standards.

    I’ve been shooting and collecting guns for a few years now and all the scary bits are just that. As a purist, if I want an AK or AR, I want it as much like the real thing as possible. Living out in the country, an AK makes a handy truck gun. The bullet (7,62×39) is good for coyotes and two legged miscreants if need be (God forbid). Plus, its balistically near a .30-30, so will do for deer. Of course, if I’m leisurely hunting deer from my stand, I’d rather have one of my bolt action military calibers (ala 7,62x54R). Neutered versions are just little monuments to liberal stupidity. That, or if I do want a speciality one (like a bull-barrelled AR for target shooting or prarie dogs) then I should be the one choosing the features, …

  19. happyCatholic says:

    Yes, thanks for the reminder: charity, charity, charity. Satan revels in divisiveness. The seriousness and urgency of this issue (rightfully) elicits strong responses. Yet, a Christian must always be charitable, always Christ-like, and although He Himself exhibited a strong response to the money-changers in the temple, we must follow with caution, making sure to always act in charity. I am afraid I used a bit of intemperate language with guatadopt in trying to make a point (the all caps were for emphasis, not screaming — don’t know how to make italics here ;-) ) and I apologize for that. I have a suspicion that guatadopt by his or her very “name” had done far more than I by being an international adoptive parent. A gun-grab by the government, though, is close to the last stage of tyranny and added to all this administration has already done/is doing (eg HHS mandate), we really need to stick together and draw a line in the sand here, gun-owners and non-gun owners alike, as this administration is desperately trying to not let a good “crisis” (SandyHook) go to waste, a la Rahm Emanuel’s advice.

  20. rodin says:

    Fr. Z, I am afraid something really was missing. There is no way I would ever qualify as a liberal and the mere suggestion is laughable as those who know me, once they recovered from a ROFL attack, would tell you. Since I have not yet experienced the threat that Dianne Feinstein has experienced I continue to feel secure in my home–so far. Recent developments, however, are cause for concern. I do not assume that uniformed thugs under a tyrant’s orders are going to smash in my front door though I am well aware that we appear to be on that road. I am also a great admirer of our police in this area. Being a hunter is a poor excuse for an oversized magazine; if you cannot kill the animal in at most three shots then please consider taking up another sport. [This is not really about hunting!] If you are living in an undeveloped area and have reason to fear marauders by all means keep protection of your choice available and properly secured when not in use. As you will see from my comment in the video post I am decidedly not opposed to the possession of firearms and I hope anyone who must rely on them will do so only after proper training.

  21. AnAmericanMother says:

    I say this in all charity — you may feel secure in your home, but the problem with that is that it’s just feelings. The bad guys have vehicles, and they can drive to your nice secure neighborhood.
    There was a lady here just last week – in a nice neighborhood in the small town of Loganville, GA, population around 10k, some 40 miles outside Atlanta. She was home alone with her two 9 year old twin boys when a thug from Atlanta (just 3 months out of prison) broke down her front door with a crowbar. The thug (obviously not intent on grabbing computers and cameras) pursued her all the way upstairs to an attic crawlspace as she fled with her children. When he tore open the crawlspace door, he was facing a .38 revolver.
    Here’s the point: she shot all six rounds and she hit him FIVE times – in the face, the chest, and the abdomen. But he was still conscious and mobile. She conned him into thinking she had more ammo and fled from the house with the kids. He was functional enough to get up, get downstairs, get into his car, and flee the scene (although he wrecked a short time later due to loss of blood).
    Five bullets may well not stop a determined predator. But if that were your wife, wouldn’t you prefer that she have had a 10 or 20 round magazine? It turned out o.k., but it could easily not have — especially if he had brought a buddy along with him.
    You would think we would feel safe in our nice suburb on the outskirts of Atlanta. But shortly after we moved here, a lady was robbed at her mailbox by — you guessed it — two thugs from Atlanta. The police were there within five minutes, but by that time the perps had abandoned their car and fled into the woods behind my house. How do you suppose I felt at home alone with two little children and two armed men fleeing the police within 100 yards of my back door? They could easily have come into my house to steal an escape vehicle at gunpoint, perhaps killing me and/or my children. I put the children in their beds upstairs and barricaded myself in sight of the back gate with my grandfather’s 12 gauge shotgun and a pocketful of shells (a shotgun with the waterfowl plug in only holds two in the magazine and one up the spout).
    The police did catch the perps, they went to ground in an abandoned shack uphill from my place, but it was an anxious 15 minutes there.
    I would have felt better with more than three shells. But like the poor lady in Loganville, that was what I had handy on short notice. I accepted my warning and improved my home defense plan.

    Put it this way: you probably don’t feel that your house is likely to catch on fire. But you still have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, right?

  22. dominic1955 says:

    This isn’t a matter of hunting or what one “needs”. If this is the way we run things in the good old U. S. of A, then we should start calling it the USSR. Even they had some guns for certain purposes, mainly hunters out in the steppe. They even had semi-automatic rifles (a neutered version of the Dragunov SVD sniper/marksman rifle) as long as Uncle Joe approved.

    By law, at least here in Nebraska, one cannot hunt deer with a magazine holding more than 5 rounds. They make smaller magazines for things like AKs and M14s (rather the civilian ones w/o the fun switch) for that reason. Same with tube plugs for shotguns and waterfowl hunting. Long story short-gun laws are usually just arbitary nonsense. As a hunter, I know very well I don’t “need” a 30 rounder mag to get a deer. I’m not going to shoot unless I have a moral certainty that I’m going to drop it with one shot. Actually, I don’t even care to use my mid-powered guns for deer hunting anyway since I have plenty of more well suited calibers at my disposal. However, none of this is the point.

    The Second Amendment is not about hunting. Its not about self-defense. Its really about a free people having the tools at their disposal to resist homegrown governmental tyrants. Obama and Co. does not give a hoot about the kids killed in the latest mass murder. Gun control is not about guns, it is about control. Liberals get their undies in a bunch over guns not because they care about people (they never did and never will, the hypocrites) but because a bunch of troglodytes w/ “assault rifles” can really rain on their progressive parade of BS. We stand in the way of their implementation of Utopia. If only it weren’t for all the redneck religious gun owners, everything would be puppies, butterflies and gay rainbows. Yep, that repeats itself over and over through history as well all know. Soviet Union and China anyone?

    I own 30 round AK magazines because they make one hell of a beer opener. I need no other reason. Molon labe, you cowards!

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    Just a very slight correction.
    Automatic (“Class III”) firearms are not illegal. They are heavily regulated by the 1934 Firearms Act, but it is legal to own one, if you: (1) undergo a massive investigation and background check; (2) pay a hefty “tax”; (3) submit to warrantless searches of your home and business at any time by BATFE to make sure that you are storing the thing “correctly”.
    The reason this is important is that one of the gun control proposals currently being discussed is to make all semi-automatic firearms subject to the 1934 Act.
    How you like them apples?

  24. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    Kerry, did you coin “hoplophobe” or had you met it before? I had not. It is a marvelous word!

  25. DarwinCatholic says:

    Fr. Z,

    Thanks for the link! I’m glad you found it helpful.


    FWIW, no clearly one doesn’t “need” a magazine holding more than ten rounds for hunting or target shooting — where even with a larger mag I tend to only load ten rounds at a time anyway to make scoring easier. With self defense, there are cases in which having a magazine holding more than then rounds is important, though those cases are fairly rare. On the other hand, cases in which criminals take advantage of the ability to shoot more than ten rounds are rare as well. The National Institute of Justice study on the effects of the 1994 assault weapon ban reported that only in 3% of crimes do criminals shoot more than ten bullets, though those crimes to cause a slightly disproportionate number of the gunshot wounds in the US: 5%.

    The biggest reasons, I think, why there’s no point in banning large magazines are:
    1) There are already well over 20 million “large capacity” magazines owned by civilians in the US now. Since it would be impossible for the government to collect all of those, even if it tried, all a ban could do would be to make it a bit harder for law abiding citizens to get larger magazines. Criminals could clearly get them easily from the large supply already out there.
    2) Changing magazines is so fast, that any criminal intent on causing large amounts of damage can very easily just bring a bunch of magazines. The Newton shooter reportedly left empty mags lying all over the place. The Virginia Tech shooter had a backpack full of spare mags for his two handguns.

    Thus, while one might argue that there are not very many situations where civilians “need” larger magazines, banning them would pretty clearly not reduce the number of people killed or injured by criminals. Thus, we might as well keep them legal and let civilians gain whatever benefit they can from them.

  26. Kerry says:

    Minnesotan from Florida, no. Hoplophobe is the creation of Col. Jeff Cooper, whose commentaries see here: Lineage of quote: Pertinent to comments here, “A free man must not be told how to think, either by the government or by social activists. He may certainly be shown the right way, but he must not accept being forced into it.”
    And “In the larger sense, however, the personal ownership of firearms is only secondarily a matter of defense against the criminal. Note the following from Thomas Jefferson:
    The strongest reason for the people to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny of government.
    That is why our masters in Washington are so anxious to disarm us. They are not afraid of criminals. They are afraid of a populace which cannot be subdued by tyrants.” – Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1994

  27. AnAmericanMother says:

    And for those of you who are still thinking that oppression by tyrants cannot happen here —

    It has happened already. Google “The Battle of Athens, TN”.

    Or just read all about it here. Returning GIs took a crooked sheriff to school. Honest armed citizens defeat corrupt, oppressive, dirty government.

    The JPFO is about as hard-line a gun rights group as you will ever see; they are dead serious about “Never Again.” They make GOA look soft and are nowhere in the same universe as the NRA. But this article has an appendix with original contemporary news articles, so you can decide for yourself if they are exaggerating. I don’t think they are.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:

    Forgot — one thing I wanted to particularly point out was that there were no reprisals as is common with armed takeovers by communists, socialists and their ilk.
    After the Battle of Athens, everybody simply went back to their lives. The GIs had to organize a police force because the corrupt sheriff and his deputies had all fled, but as John the Baptist advised they did not oppress the people or harass anyone. The former sheriff himself became a car dealer and lived peacefully in the county and held no grudge; neither did his former opponents.
    That is the ideal of the American – the citizen-soldier who does his duty and then returns to the plow.

  29. DavidR says:

    My dear guatadopt;

    …if you own a CAR(automobile) and it somehow gets into the hands of evil, you need to be criminally held liable.

    Fixed it for you.

  30. In addition to the excellent links provided by Fr. Zuhlsdorf, there is a very good Wikipedia article on the German weapon that defined the assault rifle, up to an including providing that name for the breed. Insofar as I can determine, the article is quite thoroughly accurate. The weapon in question was the German Sturmgewehr 44. It includes a clear delineation of the characteristics that define what is, and by exclusion what is not, an “assault rifle,” and explains the motivation for those requirements. Appearance was most assuredly NOT a requirement.

    Pax et b0num,
    Keith Töpfer, LCDR, USN [ret]
    Navy qualified permanent Expert in both service rifle and service pistol

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