The Candidates on Guns


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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45 Responses

  1. Avatar Philip H. says:

    Both sides of what?

    Seriously, the President at least managed to point out that there are no assault weapons used in urban crimes – a distinction Mr. Romney is still struggling to grasp.Report

  2. Avatar nolan says:

    It is illegal to own automatic weapons. the guns sold at that are so-called assult weapons are not. they only look cosmeticaly different than other rifels, and the ar-15 platform is the most popular hunting rifel in the country that is a fact. Also every mass genocide started with gun contro that is also a fact. Any country that does not allow law abiding citizens to the guns they wish is not a free county.Report

  3. Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

    I look at the appellation “assault weapon” the same way as “sports car.” What defines a particular automobile as a “sports car” and why does it matter?

    In truth, I would be hard-pressed to craft a comprehensive and exclusive definition of a sport car but yet… I know one when I see one. It’s about performance, yes, but you can conceivably soup up any car if you so desire. On the other hand, if you see a Mustang or Camaro, you would immediately classify it as a sports car sans any knowledge of what’s under the hood.

    So, while it may be true that the difference between an “assault rifle” and “just a rifle” is largely or wholly cosmetic, just as the difference between a “sports car” and “just a car” is partially or wholly cosmetic, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the distinction is meaningless. If you doubt this, then call up your insurance guy and get quotes on rates for a Camaro vs. a similarly priced family sedan.

    I believe you will find that, once you’ve adjusted for repair costs, the quote on the Camaro will be significantly higher. Why? Because it a damn Camaro, that’s why. Theoretically, given the enhanced handling characteristics, the Camaro could conceivably be the safer vehicle, holding all else equal. But insurance companies know from experience that the Camaro is much more likely to incur a loss. Is it chicken or egg? Does it reflect on the kind of person that would choose to drive a Camaro, or is it because the aggressive “personality” of the Camaro encourages riskier behavior? I have no idea, but in any case you’ll pay more because, statistically, the Camaro is inherently more dangerous.

    I believe it’s at least conceivable that the same kind of dynamic holds for certain people wrt to guns. There’s a certain kind of person that desires the “assault rifle” specifically because it looks tough and intimidating. And perhaps the look and feel of the weapon may encourage more dangerous behavior even in someone who might otherwise not be so inclined. I have no proof to offer for this, but it’s clear that a great deal of street thuggery is posing and intimidation. I have to wonder how popular it would be if the AR-15 were colored hot pink with Barbie and peace symbol stickers plastered on it.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Should we decide on the legality or illegality of a weapon or a car based on the “cool” factor?Report

      • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

        No. Or at least, not necessarily. Just trying to get clear on why the cosmetics of “assault weapons” may actually be pertinent to how they’re used and by whom and for what purpose. If the AR-15 is indeed the most popular hunting rifle in America as nolan alleges above, is that popularity based on objective factors like ballistic characteristics, cost, etc.? Or is it just because a lot of people buy the AR-15 because it looks cool and tough and that happens to be what they have available for hunting?

        Look, I tend libertarianish on gun issues, which may reflect my upbringing in Red Kansas, child-hood exposure to guns in my family, experience in the military, etc. But I also don’t think the assault weapon debate is entirely pointless just because it admittedly hinges to a great degree on optics and perceptions. If those optics and perceptions have resulted in deaths–actual people buried in the cold, cold, ground–who otherwise wouldn’t be then it seems like a valid point for public debate.

        The analogy between cars and guns is limited, insofar as the primary purpose of an automobile is a means of transportation from point A to point B, while the primary, designed, purpose of a gun is to kill something or someone (specialized target-shooting guns excepted). Even stipulating that your purpose for owning a weapon is self-defense doesn’t really get you out of that since your chosen method of self-defense is to threaten or actually wound or kill someone.

        I guess I’m looking at this from a cost/benefit angle. If the legitimate aims of a gun owner–hunting, self-defense, etc.–can be met with a weapon that doesn’t have those optical/perception characteristics then a) what substantial liberty is curtailed by limiting their availability?, and/or b) what substantial liberty (beyond the general “I wanna do what I wanna do and you can’t stop me” is enhanced by allowing them?Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Your analogy isn’t bad, but it isn’t quite there.

          The difference between a standard wood stock semi-auto hunting rifle chambered is 5.56/.223, and the AR platform is equivalent to the difference between the stock Ford minivan, and the Ford minivan with all the factory bells & whistles.

          It’s the same power plant, same transmission, same suspension, same chassis, but one has power everything, leather interior, entertainment center, nav system, nice stereo system, trailer hitch, roof racks, etc.

          The overall performance is the same, one is just more fun/comfortable to drive than the other.Report

        • Avatar nolan says:

          There are many many more deaths from knives and guns. It rifles of all sorts are rarely used in any crime. only about 1.7% of murders are from assult weapons. If we ban these we first should ban spoons because they have made rosie o’donald fat.Report

  4. Avatar Damon says:

    I fail to see the difficulty in understanding what a real assault rifle is. This is a damn good explanation. From Wikipedia:

    An assault rifle is a select-fire (either fully automatic or burst capable) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine……

    The term assault rifle is a translation of the German word Sturmgewehr (literally “storm rifle”, as in “to storm a position”). The name was coined by Adolf Hitler[3] to describe the Maschinenpistole 43, subsequently renamed Sturmgewehr 44, the firearm generally considered the first assault rifle that served to popularise the concept and form the basis for today’s modern assault rifles.

    The translation assault rifle gradually became the common term for similar firearms sharing the same technical definition as the StG 44. In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:[4][5][6]
    It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);
    It must be capable of selective fire;
    It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
    Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine rather than a feed-belt.
    And it should at least have a firing range of 300 meters (1000 feet)

    Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles despite frequently being considered as such. For example, semi-automatic-only rifles like the AR-15 (which the M16 rifle is based on) that share designs with assault rifles are not assault rifles, as they are not capable of switching to automatic fire and thus are not selective fire capable. Belt-fed weapons or rifles with fixed magazines are likewise not assault rifles because they do not have detachable box magazines.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      but the law has some cockamamie thing about bayonet mounts in it (among other things). The law, perforce, isn’t using your definition. and is a rather poor law for it.Report

    • This would all be well and good if the topic of discussion was a ban on fully automatic or “burst-capable” firearms. This, however, is not the topic of discussion when we are discussing the Assault Weapons Ban, since fully automatic and burst-capable firearms have long been heavily restricted (and outright banned if manufactured post-1986), there is no meaningful movement to overturn those restrictions, and the actual AWB legislation at issue only purports to apply to semi-automatic firearms. The Wikipedia definition of an assault rifle thus has exactly zero to do with discussion of an “Assault Weapons Ban.”

      As much as anything else, it is the popular (amongst non-gun owners) perception that an “Assault Weapons Ban” would ban automatic weapons, and that automatic weapons are not already heavily restricted (and outright banned if manufactured post-1986) that gives Assault Weapons Bans any significant constituency.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Guess I’ll have to clarify. What I posted is what an assault weapon is. The law that was passed banned weapons that had 2 or more COSMETIC features, like a grenade launcher and a bayonet mount. A grenade launcher is cosmetic because the grenade falls into the list of stuff that’s currently illegal absent a FFA stamp. Here’s the full list by weapon type:

        Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following: Folding or telescoping stock
        Pistol grip
        Bayonet mount
        Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
        Grenade launcher (more precisely, a muzzle device that enables launching or firing rifle grenades, though this applies only to muzzle mounted grenade launchers and not those mounted externally).

        Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following: Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
        Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
        Barrel shroud that can be used as a hand-hold
        Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
        A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.

        Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following: Folding or telescoping stock
        Pistol grip
        Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds
        Detachable magazine.

        All this is cosmetic because it doesn’t impact the mechanism of the weapon, i.e. the weapon is still semi-automatic, one round fired per trigger pull. So, it all came down to “how scary” the weapon looked. In other words, the ban was nonsensical vis a vis its purpose.Report

        • I appear to have misunderstood you, as we seem to be in agreement on this.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          Threaded barrels are not just cosmetic. They are attachment points for things that either are often illegal (suppressor) or make the gun more deadly (extended barrel). As such it appears somewhat reasonable to have laws about that. (And people who want to attach a harmless handgrip are just SOL. But I’m confused to what that is, I don’t see why those would need to attach to a threaded barrel…and isn’t the end of the barrel a bit far for a handgrip?)

          Bayonet mounts and grenade launcher attachment points are sorta the same way, but no one ever illegally attaches grenade launchers and uses them in crime, and no one uses bayonets outside of an actual close-combat war. In real life, if someone was going to close enough to bayonet people, they’d bring a handgun, not a rifle + bayonet.

          Of course, it makes no sense to have a law where threaded barrels are allowed if they are the _only_ thing on the weapon. I frankly would rather have a policy that no weapon barrel modifications are allowed, and no gun can have a place to screw those in, and everything else is allowed. (Yes, I know, people will just buy swap out the barrels for one that do have threaded ends, but whatever. At least a trivial inspection can detect those, instead of having to dismantle the gun and carefully check it out to see if it’s capable of fully automatic.)

          Telescopic and folding stocks are _also_ not just cosmetic, they are slightly useful to get the gun in places it could otherwise not be found…but considering the prevalence of handguns, which are much smaller, a stock that can make a rifle 2/3rd the original length but still much larger than a handgun seems stupid to worry about. (I think people have perhaps been watching too much TV where assassins, even in small auditoriums, bring a rifle in and assemble it. Like it’s impossible to shoot someone at 100 feet with a handgun.)Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Suppressors are becoming legal in more states. They allow them here in KY. Unfortunately it involves a separate permit AND they are ridiculously expensive.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              …why on earth would we be making those legal? What sort of justification is there for that?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Super-cool to shoot and handy for hunting. The permitting requirements and high cost of the silencers create a sufficient barrier to criminal usage.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                I don’t think ‘Super-cool to shoot’ is a particularly good reason to allow things. RPGs are also super-cool to shoot. (And speaking of an entirely different sort of RPG, kill sats are also super-cool to shoot, as evidenced by playing Fallout New Vegas.)

                And I’m not entirely sure what sort of usefulness they would pose in hunting. Unless animals have gotten much stupider recently, even a suppressed gunshot should startle them.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                I’ll provide a decent example of why a suppressor might be put to good use. Here on the east coast, we have a lot of deer running around getting hit by cars. Often times, the legal hunting of deer is relatively close to inhabited areas—i.e. suburbs. Those suburban folks might like to NOT hear gun shots every fall so close to them. I know of folks who have complained of this personally.

                Also, as someone who lived a few miles from an outdoor gun range, I can tell you that some suppression of the weapons would have been nice on some of the more powerful weapons being shot. While I was far enough that it didn’t impact my life, I’m sure the folks living closest to the range would have liked to hear less noise.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                David – coolness factor seems good enough for me. Like I said, the permitting requirements and the high cost of the suppressors makes it unlikely they will aid criminal elements much (if at all).

                And I can tell you that even suppressing some of the noise from a firearm does make a difference. Subsonic .22 rounds are available now that are noticeably quiter, though still make some noise. I’ve seen squirrels react much differently to them. And often deer will give a person multiple shots at certain ranges. Less noise would help with that.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                How about reducing noise pollution at ranges as once rural ranges become surrounded more & more by neighborhoods. Also it reduces hearing damage for shooters. The length of a silencer makes it difficult to conceal a handgun fitted with one, so criminals won’t use them (bad Hollywood stereotypes aside)Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I want to see a NON-assault weapon. Maybe one of those old fashioned toy guns where the flag with the word “BANG!” comes out.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      I’ll be deer hunting this weekend with a non-assault weapon. It’s muzzleloader season here in the Bluegrass.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I guess my point was that weapons, by their very nature, are meant to “assault”. Unless you are simply parading around with the muzzleloader as decoration, you are still planning to “assault” something.Report

        • Avatar Scott says:


          So now you want to define muzzle loaders as assault weapons? Since liberals keep redefining what an assault weapon is to suit their purposes I guess it is only the next logical step for them.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:


            I don’t know crap about guns. I don’t know what an “assault weapon” is. As such, I don’t support a ban on “assault weapons”. To me, the idea of a weapon not being designed to “assault” seems counterintuitive. My very amateur understanding tells me that the use of the phrase “assault weapon” is designed more to evoke and emotional reaction and instill fear than to serve as an actual useful term for delineating types of weapons.

            If you took the time to really read what I wrote, you’d see that I am not actually in favor of an “assault weapons” ban or any other time of blanket ban. I might be behind the idea of an “automatic weapons” ban, but even that might catch a number of guns that it shouldn’t. Again, I don’t know crap about guns.

            I’m just waiting for someone to show me a gun that isn’t a weapon of assault.Report

            • Avatar Scott says:


              “I’m just waiting for someone to show me a gun that isn’t a weapon of assault.”

              Really? Personally, I’m waiting for someone to show me a knife, brick, hammer, car, etc. that isn’t a weapon of assault. I hear there has been a growing trend of murders with assault knives. Knives are sharp and pointy so they must be designed with no other purpose than to assault people and things, right?

              Here is a link from an LA Times story that discuss the fact that the assault weapons ban did not result in a drop in crime and that the end of the ban did not result in the surge of crime liberals claimed it would.


              Maybe liberals might be better off trying to find a real solution for society’s problems instead of always blaming guns.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                You’re so partisan you don’t even seem to realize when I’m agreeing with you. Show me where I blame guns. Show me where I advocate a ban on assault weapons.

                ALL WEAPONS ARE ASSAULT WEAPONS! And I don’t think all weapons ought to be illegal. It is possible that there is a class of weapons that ought to be banned. I don’t know if private citizens ought to own bazookas or tanks or nuclear weapons. But I don’t think the demonization of certain weapons and their owners by the invocation of emotionally-charged and value-laden terms like “assault weapon” is particularly useful in determining which weapons, if any, should be banned.

                The use of the phrase “assault weapons” is a silly one. That is my point.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Yawn. yes, get rid of need for guns in cities. We have cops for REASON, folks.
                End drug war.
                Solve most problems.

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Something I was thinking about recently…

    Would a law outlawing the manufacturing of a particular type of weapon violate the 2nd Amendment? Suppose the law allowed citizens to “keep and bear” any weapon but outlawed the manufacturing of certain weapons within the nation. And the important of certain weapons. Etc. Would that be unconstitutional?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      It might be useful to re-read United States v. Miller in light of what you’re thinking about.

      That is a *VERY* interesting case, indeed.

      (Personally, I think that it is to the 2nd Amendment what Schenck v. United States was to the 1st.)Report