A Gun Owner’s Case Against Assault Weapons

We banned the kind of extreme firearm used in Aurora, Colo., once. It’s time to do so again

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Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

A makeshift memorial is shown behind the Century 16 movie theater where a gunman attacked moviegoers during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012

Here we are again, at a tragic impasse, this time in Aurora, Colo. There is grief and outrage — and no significant movement toward passing commonsense, moderate legislation that might disarm those who would take the lives of innocents at a rate made higher by the kinds of weapons that were once difficult to obtain in this country.

I write something like this all too often, for I write in the wake of massacres that seize national attention for a  moment and then fade. There was the series of school shootings in the late 1990s, including one at a day-care center in Los Angeles; there was Columbine; there was Tucson; and now there is Aurora. And there were so many in between, attacks that do not loom large in the broader memory but should.

(MORE: Colorado Shooter Carried Four Guns, All Obtained Legally)

I own guns — shotguns and rifles — and I hunt quail. I don’t want to give up my guns. But I know this: there isn’t the remotest chance under the sun that I will have to. And I know this too: the kind of assault rifle used in the Aurora massacre — an AR-15, which is essentially a civilian version of the military’s M-16 — has no sporting purpose save playacting, in which the shooter is in some kind of combat situation. You don’t need an AR-15 to hunt, and you certainly don’t need the high-capacity magazine that was reportedly used even if your interest is target shooting on a range.

A 1994 law banned these kinds of guns and magazines. It was a ferocious legislative fight in that first Clinton term, and I know more than a few Southern Democrats — the red state/blue state designations had not yet entered the vernacular — who say the assault-weapons bill was what defeated them in the Gingrich-led Republican landslide that November. Since then, the gun lobby has proved so powerful that it effectively shut down debate after the expiration of the assault-weapons ban in 2004.

(MORE: Must Be an Election Year: Bullets Are Flying Off Shelves)

In recent years, few political figures — notable exceptions include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Representative Carolyn McCarthy — have made serious efforts to pass commonsense gun legislation.

I’m not talking about a ban on guns — not even handguns. But we once agreed that weapons like the one used in Aurora (and the magazine that armed it), as well as the type of high-capacity magazines that were used in the Glock attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson should be banned. To borrow the language of the right, did that mean outlaws could not obtain such things if they tried? No, of course not: when certain kinds of guns are outlawed, outlaws will find ways to get them. But why not make it more difficult? Isn’t that the least we can do?

(PHOTOS: Batman Movie Theater Shooting in Aurora, Colo.)

To state the obvious, no law can ever make human life perfect or totally safe. There will always be criminals, there will always be accidents, there will always be injustice and horror and tragedy. That’s the nature of things in a fallen world.

Yet we can’t just give up. The 20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr captured our obligations well when he remarked that the “sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.” We accept limits on our rights for the sake of the larger social compact all the time. (Speed limits, anyone?) Guns should be no exception.

Giving up, though, is the prevailing ethos of the hard-line gun lobby. It’s sadly ironic that a bloc devoted to the principle of “no surrender” can discount the possibilities of hope and good sense so easily. No, it’s more than ironic. It is genuinely tragic.

MORE: The American Dream: A Perfect Idea for Dark Times

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RyanSawyer
RyanSawyer

This guy is what I like to refer to as an "Elmer Fudd".   He hunts, he owns guns and he doesn't think you need an eeeevil black rifle for hunting or sporting.   Well, Elmer..first of all who are you to decide what I need to have for any reason?  You can use semi automatic eeeevil rifles to hunt and many do.   But, they're no more or less dangerous than any other semi-automatic rifle due to cosmetic features.   Most owners of them have standard capacity magazines (30 round) because the larger mags are unreliable.  In fact, one jammed the Aurora "shooter" (can we call them murderers please?) gun.   These rifles are mainly bought and trained with by people looking for a very effective self defense rifle.   Many ex and current LEO and military buy them because it is a platform they are used to shooting.   If you have your home broken into with a guy armed with an AK-47 (well, dammit.   I guess he must have ignored the ban....shame on him) you're going to want something as mean to point right back at him.   Yes, your semi-auto deer rifle might be of use since it's only the one guy.  Now you have 4-5 attackers....they all ignored the gun laws (those jerks) and have "high cap" mags and unregistered handguns (seriously...someone needs to explain the rules to these guys).  They start firing, but you've got cover.   You fire back and you have a good angle...but not all of your shots are going to hit...  and then oops!  out of ammo!   Hey criminals, time out I have to reload.    Ok, there we go, back to it!  Now you have to reacquire your targets who may have now moved to other spots....taking you out of the fight or a period of time and giving them the upper hand.   You return fire again and.....awww crap!  Gotta reload again guys!    Now, say you have 2-3 standard capacity mags (30 rounds) you can continue to return fire, keep a target pinned longer or stop a few of them from continuing to shoot back.   Now you may be out of bullets for your rifle and the bad guys are still putting up a fight....you go for your sidearm with its 10 round "low cap" mag......  same crap now... you have to call time out again!?!?  man.....   

seanb211
seanb211

1)Assault Rifles are fully automatic.  AR-15s are not. 

2)IPSC, IDPA, NRA service rifle and other other 3 gun competitions are dominated by AR-15s, and in some states you are allowed to hunt with them.  I would argue that an AR-15 has FAR more sporting purpose than the authors quail shotgun and his hunting rifle.

3)What does "sporting purpose" have to do with this anyway?  The 2nd amendment does not have a clause "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed...as long as it's a sporting gun". 

4)The article in this weeks magazine showed a graph illustrating the  number of mass shootings over the years.  During the Clinton "assault" weapons ban there were just as many as there are/were before and after.  So what did that accomplish? 

5)The idea "there isn’t the remotest chance under the sun that I will have to (give up your hunting rifles/shotguns" is absolutely laughable.  Why don't you go talk to some English folks who used to hunt.  They will tell you how they didn't care when the government came for pistols and semi-autos because they KNEW the government wouldn't ever take their hunting guns.  Now look at them.

Nobody N Particular
Nobody N Particular

As tragic as the incident in Colorado was; you cannot assume that if he didn't have a gun, an assault rifle, or a high capacity magazine that the death toll would be less.  He did have the skills to manufacture 30 homemade grenades, and he could have just lobed those into the theater and result in even more deaths.  Murders are a lot like shoppers, if they can't find their favorite (weapon in this case) they will find a substitute for their primary choice because they still want to kill.  Also, I agree with the comments that someone else trying to use a firearm in self-defense in the situation of the attack that Holmes carried out would have to be crazy; never mind that the suspect had on body armor and would have required a marksman to make the kill shot, the chaos alone would have prevented a clear shot without endangering others on the scene.  I'm a CCW holder, and I know better than to open fire in a room full of people running around in a panic.  My heart goes out to those who have suffered so greatly due to this tragedy; I can only hope that our justice system can deliver the justice they so desperately need.

Michael Jones
Michael Jones

QUOTE:  "You don’t need an AR-15 to hunt"

So what?  Gun ownership  isn't contingent on a hunting issue.  One doesn't need a copy of Time magazine or a computer to hunt.  So based on the new standard of  "Do you need it in order to hunt?",  should one be allowed to have a copy of  Time magazine or the computer on which this is being read?  Do you NEED them?...

Oh, and if you are going to compete in the National High Power matches at Camp Perry, you darn well better have an AR-15 type rifle if you hope to place in the top 100...

Zavier McFall-Maycock
Zavier McFall-Maycock

Living in Nevada, I don't want to give up my guns, but there is no reason, a civilian needs an AR-15, yeah they're cool, but if I need to shoot one there are specialty ranges for that, no one needs to buy one.  The problem is the internet too, ban such and such gun, that gun's parts will be sold on the internet where people with welding expertise can weld em, at least here in NV I personally know people with machine guns and such they shouldn't have due to this.  It's a gray area, do I think guns are the problem in the Holmes case, not really, he had advanced knowledge of explosives, if not guns he would of blown people up, you can make explosives with common things, especially with the chemical knowledge he had. It starts you down this slippery slope till you ban drano because it might make a bomb.  I think we need to step up our mental healthcare to be honest, the U.S. has been lacking in that for two long, early screening of people might help, if his case of depression is true it wouldn't of helped, there will always be an outlier, but its not just guns we need to step it up on multiple things before we put the blame on one thing.

Love Sharing
Love Sharing

These weapons are needed because the Second Amendment is also about protecting ourselves from an oppressive, tyrannical government, which is what our government is looking more like every year.

Love Sharing
Love Sharing

All you people who want to let people kill you rather than fire back go ahead but don't expect me to take two to the chest without returning fire. Only cowards think they can't do what is necessary and lie down instead. If an accident happens and I shoot an innocent then I have to live with that, but at least I won't have to watch children die because I was too afraid to take action.

ChrisM106
ChrisM106

I see - the problem isn't  your guns, the problem is mine.  Let me bring you up on current events, the shooter also had a shotgun.  How about you voluntarily surrender your firearms before demanding mine be confiscated?

Icansee4miles
Icansee4miles

He also had gas grenades, and a bulletproof vest.  I say we arm the deer; it is about time that we made this a fair fight!!

EhCanadianEh
EhCanadianEh like.author.displayName 1 Like

Dear Mr Fudd, 

I realize that when you were a child you grew up with and become accustomed to firearms that looked a certain way. Cars and clothing also looked a certain way back then too.  Modern folk, today's youth, tend to seek out modern clothing, modern cars, and yes modern guns.   

There is nothing evil or more lethal about black guns instead of brown, guns made of plastic instead of wood, or today's semi automatics versus that your own father used back in the early 1900s.  

As with military WEAPONS of the past, including most all of those used in both world wars, most any gun that was designed to kill people is fantastic for killing deer.  Today's civilian versions of military firearms are just as good for hunting as your old WW1  308, 303, or 3006.

If you stand behind an "assault weapons ban" you can rest assured your shotguns and hunting rifles will eventually be on the list. The shooter used a shotgun, and JFK was shot with a "sniper" hunting rifle.

Mike Flint
Mike Flint

Don't we yet understand that morals can't be legislated? Don't we yet understand that placing a ban on something doesn't keep it from getting into the hands of criminals? An hour after something is banned it becomes available on the black market and all the criminals flock to get one. The honest, law-abiding citizens abide by the law and are hence delivered defenceless against the ones who don't abide by the law. 

Why don't we spend some money teaching parents to raise their kids to have morals?

The author is right about one thing. An AR-15 is pretty much useless as a hunting weapon. After all, it's only 23 caliber...

deerhide
deerhide

 mr meacham your a fool the second amendment has nothing to do about hunting or target shooting firearms,  it abut personal defense of home, state and country and if necessary to over throw a repressive government. 

Icansee4miles
Icansee4miles

There are a lot of people that need deporting to the nearest Banana Republic like this kook!!

Baird Tarr
Baird Tarr

The author really isn't qualified to speak on this matter.  His ignorance on the AR platform boggles the mind.    Mr. Meachum.  I know people that hunt big game with this platform.  I know people that participate in shooting events with this platform.  I can also use it to defend lives with it just as easily.   You come off as an elitest know-it-all who has taken it upon himself to tell me what I need when it comes to the Bill Of Rights. 

Baird Tarr
Baird Tarr

The author isn't really qualified to speak on this subject.  Many, many, people use AR type weapons every day for everything from, target shooting, to hunting and even self defense.

Harold Lloyd
Harold Lloyd

On a more practical note, there must be several hundred thousand high capacity magizines floating around. How are you going to get them back?

How will you solve the approaching phenomenon of everyone being able to manufacture pretty much whatever they want, including guns and magazines. That's already here, but the price needs to fall a bit.

Do you intend to stifle an entire technology?

gunguy45
gunguy45

Author needs some education. The 1994 did not "ban" anything. 30 round magazines  were still available as long as made prior to the ban. Rifles needed to have cosmetic changes made but they were still sold. I bought my 1st during this "ban".

notfishing
notfishing

At the Columbine Massacre it was the shotgun which murdered the most innocents.

At Aurora the shotgun did a fearful amount of damage.

We should ban shotguns because they do the most damage.  

yahoo-635MBQ5YRGCMYDBUKPXN47RRPU
yahoo-635MBQ5YRGCMYDBUKPXN47RRPU

Who cares how much ammo he had. You can only shoot 1 at a time.

notfishing
notfishing

What I want to know is who said he had 6,000 rounds on him?  Maybe out in his car.

1,000 rounds of .223 weighs 28 lbs so he was carrying around 180 lbs of ammo with 20+ lbs of firearms and what 40 lbs of tactical gear?

I suspect he only had 200 rounds of ammo on him.

yahoo-635MBQ5YRGCMYDBUKPXN47RRPU
yahoo-635MBQ5YRGCMYDBUKPXN47RRPU

To those ignorant left uneducated gan grabbers on here there have already been 4 mass shootings stopped by armed citizens. Look them up. Armed CCW  woman stops shooter in church, armed man in Appalacian school shooting. Look the brest up you will remember them longer. There is living proof. None were ever stopped by cops.

yahoo-635MBQ5YRGCMYDBUKPXN47RRPU
yahoo-635MBQ5YRGCMYDBUKPXN47RRPU

The 100 round drum is waht saved many lives in Aurora. It jammed and he had to stop and extract the jam.

Palladia
Palladia

Well, he had to stop, anyhow.  I don't think he had the experience, time, or technical know-how to "extract the jam."  I think he just went on to a different gun.

Andrew Phillips
Andrew Phillips

Oh really? Nobody would have been able to shoot him in a smoke-filled theater? Ever heard of muzzle-flash? One shot would have pointed him out in the room, I would have crawled my way towards him, and shot the perp with my five seven.