Monday, March 26, 2018

Gun control proponents keep denouncing semi-automatics; do they know what they are?

    In all of the grab-the-guns hysteria going on right now it’s clear that a lot of gun critics don’t know what they are talking about. Again and again I read or hear people say that semi-automatic weapons should only be used by the military, that there is no need for any private citizen to own a semi-automatic weapon, and that they need to be confiscated.
    These people apparently aren’t aware that the majority of guns in this country are semi-automatic weapons. Most hunting weapons are semi-automatic. Most pistols are semi-automatic. Revolvers aren’t semi-automatic, but they might as well be. A semi-automatic weapon shoots one round with one press of the trigger, at which point the energy from the fired round automatically ejects the spent shell and loads another round; but the gun will not shoot again until the trigger is depressed for a second time. A non-automatic weapon requires the manual operation of a bolt or pump to eject the spent round and load a new one, or else the manual reloading of the gun.
    An automatic weapon is most commonly known as a machine gun. They have been essentially outlawed through taxation and regulation for the better part of a century. If you want to own a machine gun you will need around $40,000, a very clean record, and a lot of patience.
    What are popularly called "Assault rifles” are hunting weapons that have been gussied up to look like military weapons. But they still fire just like hunting rifles; if anything, they are less accurate. They are often fitting with extended magazines holding 10 to as many as 30 rounds of ammunition. At one time magazines holding more than 10 rounds were illegal under federal law, but this law expired. Many, but by no means all, hunting rifles can accept larger magazines.
    It’s possible to modify some semi-automatic rifles to act in a manner similar to an automatic. For example, the Obama administration issued a ruling that bump stocks were legal. These stocks cause a rifle to bounce against the finger and act as an automatic weapon, albeit with terrible aim. The NRA has urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to ban these. I believe the ATF also has the authority to ban any gun designed so that it can easily be modified to become a fully automatic weapon, and they should.
    I'll save my Second Amendment arguments for another day. But if the issue of gun control is to be debated I do think it is important for people to understand the difference between an automatic and semi-automatic weapon.