Every Gun is an “Assault Weapon”
Following the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we’ve heard the predictable chorus from the left for a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 or even more stringent gun control measures. As a shooter, gun collector and sportsman, I find myself bemused by the ever evolving definition of “assault weapon,” and amazed by the nonsensical notion that banning such weapons will prevent incidents of mass violence.
The Bushmaster .223 allegedly used by Adam Lanza is only the latest incarnation of the “assault weapon.”
In fact, nearly every gun I own was designed as an “assault weapon” and used as such at one time militarily.
As the pistol’s name suggests, the Colt Navy 1851 was originally produced as a military weapon, and was extremely popular with forces of both the North and South in the Civil War. This quaint revolver was, in its day, a fearsome “assault weapon.”
Like millions of American sportsmen, I do most of my deer hunting with a bolt-action rifle. I shoot a Thompson/Center Icon Classic chambered in .30-06.
My T/C Icon is a tack driver, but I bought it primarily for its beautifully figured, high-grade walnut stock. It’s rifleman eye candy, and every time I uncase it at the deer camp I do so to the oohs and aahs of my fellow hunters.
My deer rifle, like all bolt-action rifles, is directly descended from the Mauser M98 rifle first used by the German Army in 1898. The Mauser rifle and its variants were so successful that they served as the primary infantry “assault weapon” of both WWI and WWII. Close copies like the American Springfield M1903, the British P14 Enfield and the Japanese Arisaka were used by the combatants of those nations. All told, the bolt-action “assault weapon” antecedents of my innocuous deer rifle have accounted for millions of war casualties. Lest anyone think the bolt-action rifle is unsuited for mass mayhem and murder, bear in mind that a bolt-action hunting rifle was the primary weapon of Charles Whitman in the Texas Tower massacre of 1966.
Virtually all projectile weapons have been used for armed conflict at one time or another. This is true of firearms, the bow and arrow, spears, etc., all the way back to the first rocks thrown by our distant hominid ancestors. The evolution of projectile weapons has been an inexorable progression towards greater power, accuracy and reliability, higher rates of fire, and more rapid reloading. In armed conflict, small differences in these factors can spell the difference between life and death. When it comes to firearms, newer is generally better.
Although modern firearms are superior, older designs are not ineffective. In modern warfare the most up-to-date weapons provide a small tactical edge to our troops, but when it comes to a criminal madman’s capacity to slaughter innocent, unarmed men, women and children, the type of firearm used is practically irrelevant. Adam Lanza used an AR-style rifle because it was available. But make no mistake, against defenseless children and school teachers, two braces of Colt Navy 1851 black powder revolvers would have produced exactly the same horrific result.
Banning specific types of guns, or even all guns, will do absolutely nothing to curb massacres by psychotic murderers. Criminals and madmen, by definition, don’t obey the law. Norwegian gun laws are among the most restrictive on the planet, but that didn’t stop Anders Behring Breivik from obtaining firearms and slaughtering dozens of innocents at a Norwegian youth camp in 2011. Even if we somehow managed to ban and confiscate all firearms, that wouldn’t stop psychotic nutballs like Lanza and Breivik. Breivik slaughtered eight and wounded hundreds with a homemade bomb. In fact, as the 9/11 hijackers so amply demonstrated, when the victims are defenseless, even simple edged weapons will suffice.
Firearms are inanimate objects. Not once in my life has one of my guns ever unlocked the gun safe from the inside, loaded itself, crawled out onto the street (let alone into an elementary school), and shot someone. Rather than placing (proven to be ineffectual) bans on certain types of firearms, which punish only sane, law abiding citizens, perhaps we ought to concentrate on the real problem: the person behind the gun. We need to do a better job of identifying the psychotic and potentially violent individuals among us, and getting them help before they go on a rampage.