Let’s talk about “assault weapons,” shall we?

I tried to post this in response to a friend’s Facebook post of “for the love of all that is holy, NOW can we ban military-grade assault weapons?”
 
Apparently, my post was too long for a “reply,” so I’m posting it here. Incidentally, doesn’t it say a lot about the fact that Facebook – probably the #1 place where important issues are discussed in all the world – does not permit people to respond in a way long enough to actually properly treat important subjects? If that isn’t a sign of how our ability to really discuss important issues has declined, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, to my reply:
 
Actually, no. One more pre-discussion note: BEFORE you go off your hinges, please understand (and I say this about eight hundred other times in the below, but fully expect some people not to read anything other than a lack of 100% agreement with both their thoughts and their methods) I AM IN FAVOR OF SOME THINGS CHANGING IN RE GUN CONTROL LAWS. But most people on the pro-gun-control side are going about it in an ineffective way from the basic point of view of the vocabulary they choose (as in the above).
 
Now last time I posted something that even tangentially touched on politics, and explicitly said, “I’m not for this PERSON, but I like this SENTIMENT,” a number of people came into the comments, starting screaming and cursing, then blocked me and unfriended me on Facebook.
 
I’m not going to say “good riddance” to those people – then or now. I am sorry to see ANYONE self-select out of my circle of friends, and actually MORE sorry in a lot of ways when it’s someone I disagree with. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber, because that’s the secret to stupidity.
 
But… yeah… I’m betting the same will happen here. And as then, I’ll be sorry to see you go. But I also can’t sit by and watch so many of my friends argue such an important thing in a way that is guaranteed to reach a poor result.
 
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QUOTE: “…for the love of all that is holy, NOW can we ban military-grade assault weapons?”
 
MY RESPONSE:
FYI “assault weapons” is a nonstarter because it’s a nonsense term. The fact that this is a nonsense term is discussed in detail at the bottom of this post, but for now… here’s the problem with using it:
 
 
I am not saying I’m against tighter gun control – I actually lean toward some restrictions, though not many that I’ve seen proposed make any sense from a real world perspective, given the current state of technology and what statistical analysis I’ve seen.
 
But whenever people start talking about “assault weapons,” the very people you want so hard to convince turn off their ears because it convinces them that you are echoing a sound bite rather than doing the basic research necessary to have a competent conversation on the issue. Worse, it actually ENLISTS other people to side with them.
 
The equivalent would be if someone hacked a person to death with a chainsaw and there was an immediate outcry against “high-speed action knives.” The folks at the Craftsman chainsaw division are going to go on the offensive – but so are those from Ginsu, Swiss Army, and Sears.
 
 
Again, PLEASE DO NOT SHUT DOWN BECAUSE I AM SAYING YOU ARE USING THE WRONG WORDS. I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT DISCUSSION TO HAPPEN. But you can’t have good discussion where one side (the gun people, in this instance) understand the technical aspects of the subject under discussion, and so many of the pro-gun-control people don’t even bother to learn the right terminology. Why would ANYONE on the gun side of that spectrum want to bother?
 
 
Example: A rocket scientist has designed a rocket that he believes is to be used for surveillance purposes, and for defensive action in case of attack against US soil. In fact, the rocket has been used to deliver payloads to unsuspecting enemies of the US. YOU know – and have proof that – his product has been turned into a missile/bomb, and is being used illegally and/or imorally! You make an appointment to talk to him, and start off with, “Your pointy airplane is killing everyone! And there’s no use for your pointy airplane, you KILLER!”
 
 
How long do you think that discussion would last? And how unreasonable do you think the rocket scientist would be for throwing someone who shows all the signs of being either an idiot or a nut job out of his office?
 
 
Again, AGAIN AGAIN AGAIN: this is not to say stay out of the conversation. The OPPOSITE – GET INTO IT! But get into it in an educated way, because THAT is the way to get a measurable result.
 
NOTE AGAIN: even though I have made it SUPER CLEAR that I’m not against gun control, and that the purpose of this post is to HELP PEOPLE WITH GUN SAFETY CONCERNS BETTER ARGUE THEIR CASE, AND DO SO IN A WAY THAT MORE GUN-USE ADVOCATES WILL RESPECT, I fully intend someone to start arguing about why gun control is good here. They will miss the point and lash out at anyone who disagrees with them in any way – even if it’s not in substance, but just in the ineffective way they are dealing with the subject. Worse, those people will likely start screaming about “assault weapons” and echoing the other talking points – which is the entire point of this (tl;dr) post.
 
This is the way spoiled children react when told they don’t get a toy because they haven’t bothered to read the instructions and will break it. I would hope it is NOT the way most of us want to reach decisions in the most important questions of our day.
 
 
Engage, engage, engage! But don’t go into someone else’s house (or the place they perceive as their house, which is reasonable since they are the only ones who seem to want to be there), and start arguing with them in a made-up language. Speak to them in words they understand, and words that actually MEAN something.
 
 
**
PROBLEM WITH “ASSAULT WEAPONS/ASSAULT RIFLES” AS A TERM:
 
 
The following is quoted from a really good article on gun control issues, written by my friend Larry Correia.
 
For the record: I DO NOT AGREE WITH EVERYTHING IN THE ARTICLE. But Larry is extremely smart, and extraordinarily knowledgeable on the subject. More than that, he will actually engage – POLITELY – with anyone who has shown they have educated themselves on the subject and want to talk about why they think he is wrong.
 
He will also mock and then excoriate people who walk in under the assumption that their reading a newspaper article gives them the necessary knowledge to competently argue the very technical issues of gun laws.
 
But he is kind and considerate to others who show HIM kindness and consideration – even when he disagrees with them. I have seen this. I put all this ahead of the definition so you will know that a) he is an expert, b) I don’t always agree with him, and c) he’s shown a willingness to talk to me about any and all things that concern me – even to the point of taking me to a gun range to show me details of shooting everything from handguns to the things most folks would definitely think of as “assault weapons.”
 
In other words, he’s a good example of a “good” gun nut (and I call him that with a measure of affection, especially since that’s what he calls himself). You want people like HIM to believe you – especially since they are the movers and shakers (the below-linked article is the #1 most-shared internet article on gun control in the history of the internet). If you want to change things, you have to change THESE minds, and you have to do it at a level of competence and thought that folks like him will respect – because it shows that you respect both the subject, and respect them as people.
 
 
The link to the entire article (which contains an exhaustive list of his qualifications, as well) is below the excerpt:
 
 
And a final note: if all this is “too long,” then I would suggest you TAKE YOURSELF OUT OF THE DISCUSSION. I believe, strongly, that the issue of gun safety, gun availability, proper use of force, and gun control is one of the most important questions of this generation. But most people think “one of the most important questions” means: “I will scream and yell about it (on both sides), but can’t be bothered to do research. That’s too much like school, and who needs that to deal with something as EASY and OBVIOUS as gun control?”
 
 
Well, if it was that easy and that obvious, it wouldn’t still be a problem. Not unless you believe that over fifty percent of the U.S. population is both stupid and evil (not to mention the rest of the world). And in that case, we are well and truly screwed no matter what.
 
 
I choose to believe most people are good, and most people are smart. But experience has also taught me that I have to talk to people in a way they understand and respect if I hope to provide them with good advice that they will actually take.
 
 
***
by Larry Correia
 
 
 
_____We should ban Assault Rifles!_____
 
 
Define “assault rifle”…
Uh…
Yeah. That’s the problem. The term assault rifle gets bandied around a lot. Politically, the term is a loaded nonsense one that was created back during the Clinton years. It was one of those tricks where you name legislation something catchy, like PATRIOT Act. (another law rammed through while emotions were high and nobody was thinking, go figure).
To gun experts, an assault rifle is a very specific type of weapon which originated (for the most part) in the 1940s. It is a magazine fed, select fire (meaning capable of full auto), intermediate cartridge (as in, actually not that powerful, but I’ll come back to that later) infantry weapon.
The thing is, real assault rifles in the US have been heavily regulated since before they were invented. The thing that the media and politicians like to refer to as assault rifles is basically a catch all term for any gun which looks scary.
I had somebody get all mad at me for pointing this out, because they said that the term had entered common usage. Okay… If you’re going to legislate it, DEFINE IT.
And then comes up that pesky problem. The US banned assault rifles once before for a decade and the law did absolutely nothing. I mean, it was totally, literally pointless. The special commission to study it said that it accomplished absolutely nothing. (except tick a bunch of Americans off, and as a result we bought a TON more guns) And the reason was that since assault weapon is a nonsense term, they just came up with a list of arbitrary features which made a gun into an assault weapon.
Problem was, none of these features actually made the gun functionally any different or somehow more lethal or better from any other run of the mill firearm. Most of the criteria were so silly that they became a huge joke to gun owners, except of course, for that part where many law abiding citizens accidentally became instant felons because one of their guns had some cosmetic feature which was now illegal.
One of the criteria was that it was semi-automatic. See above. Hard to ban the single most common and readily available type of gun in the world. (unless you believe in confiscation, but I’ll get to that). Then what if it takes a detachable magazine! That’s got to be an Evil Feature. And yes, we really did call the Evil Features. I’ll talk about magazines below, but once again, it is pretty hard to ban something that common unless you want to go on a confiscatory national suicide mission.
For example, flash hiders sound dangerous. Let’s say having a flash hider makes a gun an assault weapon. So flash hiders became an evil feature. Problem is flash hiders don’t do much. They screw onto the end of your muzzle and divert the flash off to the side instead of straight up so it isn’t as annoying when you shoot. It doesn’t actually hide the flash from anybody else. EVIL.
Barrel shrouds were listed. Barrel shrouds are basically useless, cosmetic pieces of metal that go over the barrel so you don’t accidentally touch it and burn your hand. But they became an instantaneous felony too. Collapsible stocks make it so you can adjust your rifle to different size shooters, that way a tall guy and his short wife can shoot the same gun. Nope. EVIL FEATURE!
It has been a running joke in the gun community ever since the ban passed. When Carolyn McCarthy was asked by a reporter what a barrel shroud was, she replied “I think it is the shoulder thing which goes up.” Oh good. I’m glad that thousands of law abiding Americans unwittingly committed felonies because they had a cosmetic piece of sheet metal on their barrel, which has no bearing whatsoever on crime, but could possibly be a shoulder thing which goes up.
Now are you starting to see why “assault weapons” is a pointless term? They aren’t functionally any more powerful or deadly than any normal gun. In fact the cartridges they normally fire are far less powerful than your average deer hunting rifle. Don’t worry though, because the same people who fling around the term assault weapons also think of scoped deer rifles as “high powered sniper guns”.
Basically, what you are thinking of as assault weapons aren’t special.
Now, the reason that semi-automatic, magazine fed, intermediate caliber rifles are the single most popular type of gun in America is because they are excellent for many uses, but I’m not talking about fun, or hunting, or sports, today I’m talking business. And in this case they are excellent for shooting bad people who are trying to hurt you, in order to make them stop trying to hurt you. These types of guns are superb for defending your home. Now some of you may think that’s extreme. That’s because everything you’ve learned about gun fights comes from TV. Just read the link where I expound on why.
I had one individual tell me that these types of guns are designed to slaughter the maximum number of people possible as quickly as possible… Uh huh… Which is why every single police department in America uses them, because of all that slaughtering cops do daily. Cops use them for the same reason we do, they are handy, versatile, and can stop an attacker quickly in a variety of circumstances.
When I said “stop an attacker quickly” somebody on Twitter thought that he’d gotten me and said “Stop. That’s just a euphemism for kill!” Nope. I am perfectly happy if the attacker surrenders or passes out from blood loss too. Tactically and legally, all I care about is making them stop doing whatever it is that they are doing which caused me to shoot them to begin with.
The guns that many of you think of as assault rifle are common and popular because they are excellent for fighting, and I’ll talk about what my side really thinks about the 2nd Amendment below.