Dec 252012

(From my FaceBook status)

Do you really know the difference between an assault weapon and a hunting rifle? I think you’ll be surprised. Unfortunately – or fortunately depending on your viewpoint – there is essentially no difference, certainly no difference in their lethality.
Many hunting rifles take clips filled with ammunition. Typically, a clip would hold 10 or less rounds. In California today, 10 rounds is the largest clip you can buy for any weapon. In other states, it is possible to buy much larger clips.

The rounds for hunting rifles vary in size, but for larger game they are extremely powerful. Each time you pull the trigger of a semi-automatic rifle, a bullet is fired and a new bullet is forced into the chamber ready to be fired when the trigger is next pulled, and so on until the clip is spent. A trained hunter can exchange clips in a couple of seconds or even faster. The rounds for hunting rifles vary in size, but for larger game they are extremely powerful.

A so-called assault rifle like the AR-15 – the civilian version of the military M-16 – is indistinguishable in function from a hunting rifle. The M-16 military version is fully automatic. That is, if you hold the trigger it continues to fire until the entire clip is spent. The military version, like all fully automatic weapons, is Federally banned across the entire Untied States. The civilian version – the only one you can buy – fires one bullet per pull of the trigger just like a hunting rifle. The AR–15 is best liked for its reliability and its versatility. There are literally dozens of different barrels, stocks, sites and other accessories made for the AR-15. It is a good target rifle and it looks intimidating as hell.

Which leads us to the principal distinction between a hunting rifle and an assault rifle. Assault rifles look mean. Hunting rifles look like rifles, the kind your ancestors may have used in the plains. Assault rifles and hunting rifles work exactly the same way. Deer hunting rifles typically use much more powerful bullets.

Of course, there are subtle differences. An AR-15 can take a bayonet, a grenade launcher, usually has a flash suppressor (hides the flash from the weapon at nighttime), a pistol grip and it can have a folding stock.

That’s it, that’s the difference.

Very few people have been killed in the United States by bayonets since the Civil War. A flash suppressor is only relevant if someone needs to locate you while you’re shooting at night. That has never been a problem during any of the mass shootings that worry us these days. A pistol grip does make it slightly easier to repeatedly pull the trigger on a semiautomatic. But we are talking very subtle differences, likely well beyond the skills of any of the crazy mass shooters. Mostly, assault weapons look mean.

So what happens if we ban assault weapons? Probably nothing. We just won’t have mean looking rifles around. It won’t do anything to halt mass killings.

Again it is my view that the only thing that we can do to slow down the misuse of firearms in the United States is to limit availability of ammunition. Ammunition can only be purchased only by people who can demonstrate the safe and competent use of firearms in a written test and at the range AND who have passed a psychological test showing that they are stable.

Between you and me, I don’t really care if assault weapons are banned. It doesn’t affect me much one way or another. But it will do nothing to prevent mass shootings. If the current public outrage is assuaged by the banning of assault weapons then we will have done nothing to stop the madness. And that is bad

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