Why Doesn’t the 2nd Amendment Give Me the Right to Own an RPG?
Uninspected Passenger Vessel (aka 6-pack) is kind of a wild-west, seat of the pants designation. It puts the burden on the skipper to maintain his vessel and operate it properly, and on his paying customers to exercise their judgement about whether or not they should even step aboard in the first place. And whatever happens, people are only going to get killed six at a time.
For any weapon outside the battlefield, a 30-shot magazine is a novelty, an amusement; a chance to make a lot of noise and smoke and send a lot of lead down range. I have a 30-shot magazine for my Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rifle. It’s fun. You set up a bunch of cans down range and then knock them all down — firing off 30 rounds just as fast as you can pull the trigger.
I spent today researching the history of the regulation of machine guns, and pondering why we, as a society seem to naturally see machine guns, grenades, RPGs and other common infantry weapons as being outside the penumbra of the Second Amendment, while seeing a weapon such as the Colt AR15 as falling plainly within Second Amendment protection.
The ban on civilian ownership of machine guns traces back to the National Firearms Act of 1934. This is what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has to say about the law:
While the NFA was enacted by Congress as an exercise of its authority to tax, the NFA had an underlying purpose unrelated to revenue collection. As the legislative history of the law discloses, its underlying purpose was to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in NFA firearms. Congress found these firearms to pose a significant crime problem because of their frequent use in crime, particularly the gangland crimes of that era such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Now for those of you who don’t know, the ban on civilians owning machine guns really isn’t a ban. You, or I, or just about any other law abiding citizen can own a machine gun; it’s just that there’s a lot more red tape and cost involved than there is in purchasing a pistol, rifle, or shotgun.
I’ve also been researching the invention of the submachine gun (US M1, M3, British Sten, German MP40, etc) and its eventual hybridization with the infantryman’s rifle to give us the modern assault rifle; a weapon with the magazine capacity and automatic action, combined with a cartridge with less power and range than a rifle, but much more powerful than the pistol cartridges used in submachine guns.
What I’ve found that interesting to me is that most militaries have abandoned the idea that fully automatic fire is an option that they want their soldiers to use regularly. For example, the US Marine Corps version of the M16 only offers single shot, or three shot burst. The legendary Russian AK47 is designed to “trick” a panicked soldier into selecting single-shot mode instead of fully automatic. The M4, a carbine version of the M16 also only offers single shot or 3 shot bursts. (The M4A1, a special operations variant, offers a fully automatic, ie “machine gun” option.)
I bring all of this up because a few years ago I changed my mind about magazine capacity restrictions.
Magazine capacity was sort of regulated when “gangster guns” were banned, but the focus then was on the fully automatic action, not on the magazines required to feed that action. But as far as I can tell, there has only been a brief period when magazine capacity was regulated in this country, the ten years of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, aka the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB).
The AWB proported to ban “military style assault weapons” and laid out the criteria for assault weapons as follows:
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.
I have long held that the above criteria are meaningless, cosmetic features, and that banning them does nothing but decrease the boner-quotient of the guns that gun-nuts can stroke themselves into a lather over. Government wheel spinning at it’s worst. (Except that it comes at the expense of men who see firearms as penis substitutes, so it doesn’t bother me that much.)
But the AWB also banned something that made my life less fun, and that did bother me, or at least it used to.
The AWB banned magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds. And that, my friends, is a friggin imposition of my constitutional rights!
You see, I have a Ruger 10/22, a nifty little plinking rifle with a cunning 10-shot rotary magazine.
I also have an after-market 30 shot magazine, which means I can blast away three times longer without having to stop and reload. If that magazine had broken between 1994 and 2004, my constitutional right to shoot 30 times before I had to stop and reload would have been impinged!
Except I changed my mind.
Somewhere along the line I realized that magazine capacity is what makes a weapon more deadly. The US military knows this. When the M16 was introduced it had a 20 shot mag and could go fully auto. 50 years and who knows how many fire-fights later it has a 30 shot magazine and can’t do fully automatic fire.
Which is to say, for all intents and purposes, an AR15 with a 30 shot magazine is a military weapon, and whatever it’s current legal status (it’s perfectly legal) it doesn’t have any place in the hands of the average citizen.
Disagree with me if you want, but then I want you to explain to me why I can’t have an RPG.