There Are Assault Rifles and Then There Are “Assault Rifles”

By , January 4, 2013 9:30 am

Dear reader, this rifle:


Is not the same as this rifle:

(Note the owner’s discussion of his rifle; unfortunately, what to him looks “cool,” to others looks scary.):


Wouldn’t it be more honest and wouldn’t it lead to more productive debate on the important gun control issue if we referred to actual assault rifles as, you know, assault rifles and mock “assault rifles” as, well, mock assault rifles? Or look-alike assault rifles or pretend assault rifles or fake assault rifles or __________ (fill in the blank) assault rifles?

Our military uses assault rifles. People who hunt or shoot recreationally do not. The dweebs, schmucks, twits, wackos who shoot up schools and theaters also do not use actual assault rifles. They use the pretend, the mock, the look-alike variety. And that variety is not automatic. It is not a machine gun. It shoots one bullet per trigger pull. Actual automatic rifles and machine guns have been well-regulated and basically outlawed for personal use (with very minor exceptions) since the National Firearms Act of 1934.

The Wikipedia** entry on assault rifles, provides the following definition of an assault rifle, the type of rifle our men and women in uniform use in battle:

An assault rifle is a selective fire (either fully automatic or burst-capable) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.

Wikipedia then list 5 criteria a rifle must meet to qualify as an assault rifle:

In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
-It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);
-It must be capable of selective fire;
-It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
-Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine rather than a feed-belt.
-And it should at least have a firing range of 300 meters (1000 feet) (emphasis supplied)

The key element for my purposes is “It must be capable of selective fire“; that is, the shooter must be able to change from fully automatic mode to semi-automatic or “burst-capable” mode, essentially by a flick of a switch on the gun.

Now here’s the important part: the AR-15 used at Sandy Hook and the guns used at the Aurora, Colorado, theater and at Columbine and at the mass shootings elsewhere, by this definition were not assault rifles. They had only one mode: semi-automatic, which means that each pull on the trigger results in just one shot. Yes, I realize that trigger pulls don’t take a lot of time, but that’s another argument. For now, I’m just trying to define one term of this important debate.

So why is the term “assault rifle” and its cousin “assault weapon” bandied about so cavalierly? Well, we have Congress and the the gun control lobby (and a less than vigilant and sometimes cheerleading media) to thank for that. In 1994 Congress, with the help of the gun control lobby, enacted the Assault Weapons Ban. According to Wikipedia:

In United States politics and law, “assault weapons” are usually defined in legislation as semi-automatic firearms that have certain features generally associated with military firearms, including assault rifles. Some definitions in “assault weapon” legislation are much broader to the point of including the majority of firearms, e.g. to include all semi-automatic firearms or all firearms with detachable magazines. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired on September 13, 2004, codified the definition of an assault weapon. It defined the rifle type of assault weapon as a semiautomatic firearm with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and two or more of the following:
-a folding or telescoping stock
-a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
-a bayonet mount
-a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor
-a grenade launcher (emphasis supplied)

Note the absence of the “selective fire” element. Folks, I repeat: We’re talking about weapons here that fire just one bullet each time you pull the trigger.

So, by a simple sleight of hand, Congress took a weapon that is really no different than most hunting rifles in its essential mechanics and turned it into one that general public thinks must be the same type of rifle our military uses in Afghanistan–simply by hanging the word “assault” around its neck.

Again, my purpose in this post is not to debate gun control. My purpose is to define terms fairly and accurately, so that when we participate in the debate, we use terms accurately and thereby actually communicate.

Now if the media would just pitch in.

**Yes, I know that Wikipedia has its problems as a reliable source; however, I chose to use it here because it is easily accessible and because the discussion seems fairly balanced.

If Money Taints . . .

By , January 3, 2013 8:41 am

Will these guys ever get clean?

Al Gore pockets $100 million in the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera, a broadcast entity owned by the Arab state of Qatar.

Matt Damon’s anti-fracking movie, Promised Land, financed by oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

To be clear, that the money in both cases comes from an Arab government doesn’t bother me in the least. That it comes from governments whose source of wealth is more than 80% dependent on oil revenue does. And then, that only bothers me because both Gore and Damon are so anti-carbon footprint and all that. And that only bothers me because if the print were on another foot, say, the foot of someone whose environmental research were funded by the oil industry, you know what the storyline would be.

In almost all cases, opponents/critics use the source of the money as an ad hominem and a red herring to smear the researcher or person making an argument and to distract from the real and very important question: is the research or argument sound? Yes, the source of funding may sometimes play a part in that assessment, but only a minor one.

Pete, Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Butt

By , January 2, 2013 1:45 pm

I have never cared for Congressman Pete Stark (Dem.-Calif.). He was a demagogue of the worst sort, illustrated here by his parting comments on Morning Edition today. (I can give you more evidence if you want, but this will do.)

And what will Stark miss most when he leaves Congress?

“It’s one of the areas in which you get up … in the morning and look at the mirror … and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do something today that’s going to make life better for somebody.’ And that’s pretty neat,” Stark says. “When I was a banker I’d get up and say, ‘Whose car am I going to repossess?’ or ‘Whose house am I going to foreclose?’ and that didn’t start you out on a very nice approach for the rest of the day.”

Because that’s all bankers do, you know, repossess and foreclose. Nothing else. And no mention that much of what Stark did to make “life better for somebody” almost certainly made life worse for somebody else.

Given that he (as a former banker, no less) reduces banking to repossession and foreclosure, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t understand the law of unintended consequences. For example, we have a stock market that has climbed to great heights under Mr. Obama–who gets lots of credit for that. But why is the market climbing? Well, it’s due in no small part to the almost-free money policies of the Fed. And who does that hurt, who does that “make life” worse for? Well, among others, people on fixed income, especially retirees who find themselves with nest eggs unable to generate enough interest income to sustain them in their golden years.

How low are the rates? Here’s a chart from the Treasury showing short-term and long-term rates on Treasuries over the last year. The second chart shows those same rates, starting back in January 2008.

Treasury Rates_2013-01-02_1305

Treasuries_Longer Period_2013-01-02_1309

Note the steady decline in rates since 2008, until 10-year rates hover around 1.5% and 1-year rates are around 0.25%–that’s 1/4 of 1%, for the decimally challenged. Now imagine that you’re living on a fixed income at those rates. Yes, Pete, when you help someone to a better life, you often impact the life of another for the worse. How many of those on fixed income have lost their homes or cars to the bank.

Afghanistan’s Bulwark Against the Taliban

By , January 2, 2013 9:32 am

From my Wikitour of the 206 countries of the world. In other words, this jumped out during my reading this morning. I had never heard of Massoud.


I’d now like to know more:

Ahmad Shah Massoud remained the only leader of the United Front in Afghanistan. In the areas under his control Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women’s Rights Declaration. Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud. In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. National Geographic concluded in its documentary “Inside the Taliban”: “The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud.”

In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced “a very wrong perception of Islam” and that without the support of Pakistan and bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year. On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent.

On 9 September 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers inside Afghanistan and two days later about 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 attacks in the United States. (emphasis added)

Blind Men Bluffed

By , January 1, 2013 10:37 pm

My brother Chris gave me a book for Christmas, a book by Ireland’s Aidan Higgins titled Blind Man’s Bluff.


The book, a series of short anecdotes, cartoons, and photos, contains the following two photos stacked on top one another on page 45:


The word chilling comes to mind.

Update: I was in a hurry last night. I want to add that I was struck by two questions when I first saw Higgins’s juxtaposition of the two photos, both of which I’d seen before: What was he thinking? And what do I think? We can only guess at his thoughts, but my guess is that they were close to mine: Hero worship is bad in that it can lead to unspeakable evil. Hitler would be but a footnote to history–if that–but for the adoring masses who apparently saw him as someone who could solve their problems and could see nothing more for some reason.

I hesitate to bring President Obama on stage at this point because I’ve just mentioned Hitler. I certainly don’t see Mr. Obama as Hitler. I don’t even see him as a bad man. In fact, from what I can tell, he’s a good man, trying to do good things. I don’t approve of some of his methods, but neither do I approve of what a lot of politicians do.

No, my gripe is really not with the President. Mine is with those who adore him, those–the media–who fail to probe, to question, to properly vet him and his policies. We need a vigorous, honest, critical press, one that gives equal treatment of both sides of the aisle and every side of an issue. We don’t have it, and if we don’t get it, don’t be surprised if someday we get something akin to what Germany gave the world.

Blind people men are easily bluffed. Unfortunately, much of what we see of the world and how we see it comes via the media. Right now, that view is squinted at best.

A Novel Idea for a New Year’s Resolution

By , January 1, 2013 1:29 pm

Ann Althouse has been full of suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions this year. For example, she’s going to write about The Great Gatsby, one marvelous sentence at a time. (The idea came to her as she responded to another fellow’s goal to again read a book a day in 2013.) I may follow along.

For another, she’s made it her goal to read Wikipedia’s history pages for all 206 countries of the world. I am going to follow her lead on that one. Given the changes to the world map over the last 20 years, I need a good refresher course in geography.


And you?

Colorful Blast from the Past

By , January 1, 2013 1:03 pm

I will not attempt to score political points with this post. I’ll just say that the New York Times has some incredible photographs from the Heart Mountain Internment Camp between Powell and Cody, Wyoming (I’ve always referred to is at the Relocation rather than Internment Camp). The interesting mountain in the background of a couple of the photos is the camp’s namesake: Heart Mountain. My father and Uncle helped build the camp. You can read more about the camp here.

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