Yes, gun militants, there IS such a thing as an “assault weapon”
Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don’t do what I want them to
— Talking Heads, “Crosseyed and Painless”
Keep quibbling semantics if you want, NRA and friends, but the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court just declined to review Maryland’s assault weapons ban upheld by a conservative-majority federal appeals court, letting the law stand. Bam. Game over.
“We conclude … that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment,” the 4th circuit federal appeals court in Richmond decided, underscoring “not”.
The Maryland ban now stands as a model for other states that wish to protect citizens from what the court called “weapons of war.”
The SCOTUS decision not to review is an important victory for sensible gun laws, and also should please conservatives who tout state’s rights.
Naturally, in lamenting the decision, the alt-right Townhall.com parroted the tired NRA talking point: “First, there is no such thing as an assault weapon.”
Sigh. Like college sophomores arguing Sartre’s “Nothingness haunts being,” gun militants get all existential about the definition of weapons that can kill dozens of children in church or school suddenly and quickly.
The appeals court and SCOTUS decisions should help clarify things.
Somehow, these seasoned legal professionals and jurists, the highest in the land — versus the self-styled, self-serving Constitutional “experts” who bloviate angry opinions online — found it easy to accept that yes, Virginia, there are assault weapons. And they’re not the same as your Winchester duck-hunting rifle.
Just like a 1967 Dodge Dart sedan and a 2017 645-hp Dodge Viper are not the same, even though they’re both cars.
The Maryland law spells it out pretty simply, citing the “Colt AR-15,” “Bushmaster semi-auto rifle,” and “AK-47 in all forms. The ban defines the prohibited rifles and shotguns including, “specific assault weapons or their copies, regardless of which company produced and manufactured that assault weapon.”
Drilling down, the law cites 41 primarily “semiautomatic rifles” by brand and type, from the American Arms Spectre da Semiautomatic carbine to a certain “street sweeper” to the Daewoo USAS 12.
The Maryland law also defines banned copycat weapons “premised on a weapon’s characteristics” that include:
— “a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that can accept a detachable magazine and has any two of the following: 1. a folding stock; 2. a grenade launcher or flare launcher; or 3. a flash suppressor;
— “a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds;
— “a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 29 inches;
— “a semiautomatic shotgun that has a folding stock; or
— “a shotgun with a revolving cylinder.”
Importantly, the appeals court rejected the claim that semiautomatic weapons are not unusually lethal.
“The difference between the fully automatic and semiautomatic versions of those firearms is slight,” the majority opinion stated.
“That is, the automatic firing of all the ammunition in a large-capacity thirty-round magazine takes about two seconds, whereas a semiautomatic rifle can empty the same magazine in as little as five seconds. (‘Semiautomatic weapons can be fired at rates of 300 to 500 rounds per minute, making them virtually indistinguishable in practical effect from machine guns.’)
“Moreover, soldiers and police officers are often advised to choose and use semiautomatic fire, because it is more accurate and lethal than automatic fire in many combat and law enforcement situations,” the decision noted.
See the decision here:
This was before the recent Las Vegas mass shooting that highlighted how semiautomatic weapons could be easily rigged with bump stocks and other devices to rapidly spray bullets.
After the NRA initially paid lip service to a bump stock ban, Congress kicked the issue to the White House, which kicked the issue to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which said it lacked authority to ban bump stocks, kicking the issue back to Congress. So far, nothing.
Still confused or nitpicking over what an assault weapon is or isn’t?
Seems clear to me. But at this point, why bang your head against the wall? Maybe anyone who doesn’t get it doesn’t want to get it. Or they’re deluded that arguing over semantics is a winning strategy.
Time to let it go. Even the NRA lickspittles and conservative political hacks/fake journalists at Townhall.com conceded, “if I had to pick a fight to roll back assault weapons bans or push to expand concealed carry rights, I’d choose the latter. It would be a more expansive win as well.”
I do worry about concealed-carry too, that bar fights, road rage, neighbor spats, Black Friday shopping scuffles or misunderstandings could turn deadly quickly.
But I hope the SCOTUS decision to let the Maryland law stand can lay to rest the extremism and quibbling over assault weapons so we can have a shared, reasonable discussion that leads to a responsible national gun policy.
Frankly, full disclosure, maybe I’m too stupid to understand why anyone needs a semiautomatic center-fire rifle that can accept a detachable magazine and has either a folding stock, a grenade launcher or flare launcher, or a flash suppressor.
Maybe I don’t get the logic of defending gun freedom that floods the market with weapons and then pointing to Chicago as proof that gun laws don’t work. Or that we need more guns to protect ourselves from people with those guns. This would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic.
Or maybe I’m too emotional about the issue because someone close to me suffered that her mother, 72, was slaughtered in a spray of bullets while she was volunteer teaching at a local community center.
So I ask: Really, people? Really?
Why do you need these assault weapons, for god’s sake?
Why defend them when so many people fear them? For your hobby or pleasure? For your political philosophy? For your paranoid fantasy of arming a rag-tag citizen militia to defend against a liberal gun-taking government or other imagined tyrants?
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer