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David Hines [userpic]

The assault weapons ban and sex toys have more in common than you think

August 5th, 2004 (08:51 pm)
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Via vvalkyri a while back, I found a quote on the decision permitting the Alabama legislature to outlaw sales of sex toys that struck me:

So, in Alabama, it is currently legal to sell a Bushmaster sniper rifle, and as soon as the assault weapons ban ends in September it will be OK to sell an AK-47 or Uzi, but you would be guilty of a crime if you sell a vibrator to a consenting adult. I mean, if there were even one case of someone using a dildo to hold up a bank, at least there'd be some logic to the whole matter.

The reason it struck me is that it made me realize, again, how little most folks understand about how gun laws work, and about the gun laws we do have. The assault weapons ban being a case in point. So I figure a very brief explanation from your friendly neighborhood gun nut might be in order.

The first thing you need to know is that the assault weapons ban does not actually ban assault weapons.

Sounds crazy, I know. Stay with me!

An assault weapon is a battle weapon. That is, an assault rifle is capable of fully-automatic fire (when the trigger is depressed, the weapon continues to fire until the trigger is released or the magazine is empty). They've been illegal to possess for anybody without an expensive, hoop-jump-requiring federally-issued firearms license since the passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act, which did the same for sawed-off shotguns, silencers, that kind of thing.

So, if assault weapons are banned already, then what does the assault weapons ban actually, y'know, ban?

Well...
It shall be unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon.

The problem is that "semiautomatic assault weapon" is an oxymoron. An assault rifle, by definition, is capable of firing full automatic -- which means that you can't ban the semiautomatic assault weapon and leave it at that, because there's no such thing. You have to actually define your new concept. Which is where things get silly.

Rifles fall under the ban if they have any two of the following: a folding stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor, and a grenade launcher. (Grenade launcher! you say. But those should be banned! Well, they are, effectively. They're for launching rifle grenades. Good luck getting those; they're highly regulated on their own.)

OK, what about pistols? You're in trouble if it has a detachable magazine and any two of the following: its magazine is longer than the grip, its barrel is threaded for screw-on attachments (silencers! you're thinking -- but remember, they're highly regulated as of 1934), there's a shroud on the barrel (so you can grip it when it's hot), it weighs 50 oz. or more unloaded, or it's the civilian (semi-automatic) version of a fully-automatic gun.

If your eyes haven't glazed over, maybe you've noticed one thing these regulations don't actually address.

How the gun shoots.

The assault weapons ban affects the manufacture and import of rifles and pistols that shoot just the same way as every other semi-automatic weapon in existence. They just look scary.

As one wag put it, it's sort of like banning red cars because they look fast. Or, given Alabama law, like banning vibrators that are purple and bumpy.

(And yes, I know how sad it is that I read the quote that started this whole thing off and my immediate reaction was, "that's not how the assault weapons ban works!" I'm a gun nut. That's how we think. It's almost like those folks I know who are so slash-keyed that they need to make a conscious effort sometimes to read actual text. Only, y'know, with more explosions and less porn.)

Comments

Posted by: superheroes failing at oatmeal (some_stars)
Posted at: August 5th, 2004 08:07 pm (UTC)
ready aim fire

I've always wondered--what the heck *is* a semiautomatic? I understand the 'automatic' concept just fine--it's a machine gun--but I'm not sure how you'd devise a semi-machine gun...

And, man, in my ideal world? The porn and the explosions will be a matched set. *happy sigh*

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: August 5th, 2004 08:25 pm (UTC)

A semi-automatic ejects the fired cartridge and draws a new one from the magazine without human assistance. Guns that aren't semi-automatic -- pump-actions (like Linda Hamilton's shotgun in T2), lever-actions (like Arnold's gun from the bike chase, same movie), and bolt-actions (like the sniper's rifle in PHONE BOOTH) -- require you to do something manually to chamber the next round. A semi-automatic does it for you.

Porn and explosions? I like your world.

Posted by: Dammit, Clark's penis is going in *something*. (thete1)
Posted at: August 6th, 2004 03:01 am (UTC)
Dizzy likes it.

And, man, in my ideal world? The porn and the explosions will be a matched set.

And this is why I adore you. :D

Also, David? Thanks for another interesting post. *g*

Posted by: the Jack (buggery)
Posted at: August 6th, 2004 03:13 am (UTC)

Okay, so the whole debate on banning assault weapons is based on a false premise distracting most people on both sides from the real danger -- in this case, guns that are more dangerous (as opposed to dangerous-looking) and/or easier to use. Reminds me of the whole huge blow-up over the beating of Rodney King, the moving of the trial out of LA county, and the acquittal of the four cops; what hardly anyone realised, at the time or now, is that those cops weren't acquitted because the jury was white but because under California law, a police officer can beat a civilian as long and hard as they like with any foreign object they like so long as they aren't deliberately aiming for the head or spine, and it's not only not excessive force, it's not even a crime.

Regarding the "semi-automatic" designation: my understanding was that a semiauto does everything a fully automatic gun does, except fire continuously without the trigger being released and pulled repeatedly, except for short bursts on larger rifles with larger magazines. A revolver wouldn't be a semi-automatic, because you have to do that thing that makes the revolving part turn between shots, right? (My use of the terminology gives me away as a real expert, hm?) Or do they have semi-automatic revolvers now, too?

Posted by: Ednoria (ednoria)
Posted at: August 6th, 2004 05:20 am (UTC)
from <lj user="kugelblitz">

A semi automatic simply chambers a round each time the trigger is pressed. Once. Some can have worn parts (the sear) and fire more than once, too.

When this ban arose back when the Brady Bill happened I was somewhat bemused. I own several WWI and WWI firearms that I would call bolt action rifles. You move a lever and a bullet gets chambered. Pull trigger. Repeat until finished. The Ban implied that my SMLE ten shot bolt action rifle, which mounts a bayonet AND a grenade cup discharger is a deadly assault rifle. Which I don't think was the original intention of the lawmakers before the bill got all watered down in committee.

II felt that the intent was to get the AKs and Mag 10s and the various automatic weapons into a prescribed area that made them difficult to access or own. Of course the BATF does just fine with the laws as they exist right now.

The cup discharger just holds a tennis ball. Wheee!

Posted by: Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez (en_ki)
Posted at: August 6th, 2004 11:11 am (UTC)

Good post, but there are legitimate assault rifles (the M16A2 and M16A4 come to mind) that shoot bursts rather than full-auto. They're still controlled by the NFA, of course.

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