Opinion

Assault weapon ban: Taking that bullet back | The Firearms Lawyer

In 1994, Congress enacted a ban on assault weapons.

President Bill Clinton declared that such semi-automatic weapons were “built only for the purpose of killing people.” In the estimation of President Clinton and the U.S. Congress, Americans did not need such weapons to hunt and practice marksmanship. In 2004, the ban expired because its supporters could not show any impact on crime.

Americans increasingly favor owning light, semi-automatic rifles that fire many rounds (one pull of the trigger at a time) for competition and other purposes such as protecting our children from predatory criminals. What makes assault weapons distinctively different from other semi-automatic weapons?

Automatic weapons that fire more than one shot with one pull of the trigger are already prohibited under federal law. Politicians seeking to gradually eliminate gun ownership know that the ability to create a banned category of weapons provides politicians with power to expand an Assault Weapon Ban (AWB) to all semi-automatic weapons or even to weapons that hold more than 10 rounds.

Thus, politicians recognize that by creating a list of characteristics defining certain weapons as illegitimate, firearms can be regulated out of existence. Many people think that pistols have no legitimate purpose. Is it true, however, that firearms with “legitimate” hunting and sporting purposes are the only weapons that Americans should be allowed to possess?

The men who drafted the Constitution had an intense debate that was finally settled by leaving the question of standing armies and military preparedness to the executive and legislative branches of the state and federal governments. In the event that inadequate attention to security issues put national security at risk, it was decided that the people themselves should be ready to take up arms to protect the republic. On the other hand, the question of how to curtail a tyrant from controlling a large standing army was also addressed by providing for an armed populace.

The Second Amendment secures other liberties like the right to express dissent and to be free from governmental intrusions while enjoying privacy in our homes. State and federal legal cases resound with the precept that militarily useful weapons, not sporting goods, are what the U.S. and state constitutions provide for. Laws that required citizens to have a working rifle, suitable for military purposes and a prescribed amount of ammunition, were common until modern standing military forces became the rule. Semi-automatic versions of the M-16, determined to be militarily useful by the United States government, are deployed every weekend as rifles of choice in competitions all over the State of Washington and the U.S.

The law 10 USC 311 defines the militia as consisting “of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and… under 45 years of age….” The U.S. Constitution distilled legal wisdom from the classical world of Greece and Rome and Biblical Israel. Politicians were just as prone to disarming citizens in former times as they are today. The ancient despots stripped your weapons and there you stood, a slave. The moderns put you to sleep in lukewarm water while gradually turning up the heat.

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