The Assault Weapons Ban
Debate Rounds (4)
Statements like "Who needs an AK-47?" echo throughout our political landscape, conjuring horrifying images of school shootings and deranged murderous killers. And that image is directly applied to any gun owner who happens to own of these 'assault weapons,' regardless of whether or not he's been law-abiding and minding his own business.
But, who can oppose such a 'common sense' measure?
Well, there is a difference between conventional wisdom and actual knowledge. Conventional perceptions are vulnerable to biases, and weak against false ideas that have become mainstream. Given the choice of listening to an expert as opposed to an armchair general, I will almost always side with the expert. That is the way a system should be run. With knowledge and expertise. Except, the assault weapons ban isn't based in that.
It's sort of a modern equivalent to passing laws about minorities in public areas. It targets the perceived problem through the lens of society. In short, why do we perceive assault weapons as a problem to be banned? It comes with what we watch.
Let's just say America has a thing for violence. Whether we're mowing down brown people in another country on a tv screen with our M-16 rifles or gunning down random citizens in the latest Grand Theft Auto game, we've always had this obsession with guns. It's definitely easiest to gravitate to the scary rifles too. People want to play with them in games, see them in movies. Once mass shootings became 'common' we grew more accustomed to associating 'assault weapons' with them.
The thing is, however, an assault weapon is responsible for less than 1% of gun crime in this country. If the media focused in on 1% of crime in this country, the way they focus on mass shootings, then we'd have weekly specials about how the Croatian Mafia is taking over the meth market in Boise. Could it happen in your town?
Why is it all over the media then if it's so rare? Well that's because nothing sells like fear and tragedy. Your typical news viewer is an older white person. Depending on the network of choice, they either like to get scared of brown people (Fox) or guns (everyone else). It's just juicy for ratings. Nothing sells ad time quite like dead kids. Or barring that, a bunch of dead people. The media is just waiting for the inevitable shooting at a petting zoo, so they can run sad photos of sad animals. This is what sells, so they will jump at every story they can. And yes, you'd better believe the national obsession is driving up the rates of mass shooting as well. Any nutcase loser knows his ticket to infamy is mass murder.
So these weapons account for maybe 1% of all gun crime. [http://bjs.gov...]
Why does anyone want something so insignificant banned?
The answer is in the term. What is an assault weapon? A semi-automatic rifle with a number of cosmetic features. So yes, what makes this special dangerous weapon that no one should own different from a hunting or sporting rifle anyone can own is...
Little bits and pieces that don't affect how it works in any way. It's a category clearly defined by appearance, preying off of fear.
Calling for an assault weapons ban because you saw a mass shooting in the news is basically the same as calling the flight attendant over because a Sikh guy used the bathroom twice during your flight. Or crossing the street to avoid an Hispanic kid with tattoos on the sidewalk. Or following a Black teenager in a hoodie because he looks suspicious.
Yes, that's right. The AR-15 is the Trayvon Martin of guns. Don't hate it because it's black.
Let's begin by agreeing that the Second Amendment upholds the right of citizens to bear arms.
Let's also agree that there is much confusion about the term "assault weapon," and for good reason. Assault weapon is essentially a political term used to highlight anti-personnel features and appliances in association with semi-automatic firearms. The term is often misused or conflated with assault rifle or semi-automatic firearms. Let's use the definition from the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban-
‘‘The term semiautomatic assault weapon means—
‘‘(A) any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the
firearms in any caliber, known as—
‘‘(i) Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat
Kalashnikovs (all models);
‘‘(ii) Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and
‘‘(iii) Beretta Ar70 (SC–70);
‘‘(iv) Colt AR–15;
‘‘(v) Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC;
‘‘(vi) SWD M–10, M–11, M–11/9, and M–12;
‘‘(vii) Steyr AUG;
‘‘(viii) INTRATEC TEC–9, TEC–DC9 and TEC–22; and
‘‘(ix) revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar
to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12;
‘‘(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept
a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of—
‘‘(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
‘‘(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath
the action of the weapon;
‘‘(iii) a bayonet mount;
‘‘(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed
to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
‘‘(v) a grenade launcher;
‘‘(C) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept
a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of—
‘‘(i) an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol
outside of the pistol grip;
‘‘(ii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel
extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;
‘‘(iii) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or com-
pletely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter
to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being
‘‘(iv) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when
the pistol is unloaded; and
‘‘(v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm;
‘‘(D) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of—
‘‘(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
‘‘(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath
the action of the weapon;
‘‘(iii) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds;
‘‘(iv) an ability to accept a detachable magazine.’’.
The law also banned magazines that could hold more than ten rounds of ammunition.
In essence, an assault weapon is a semi-automatic weapon with 2 or more anti-personal appliances.
Importantly, although politicians want to make a big distinction between semi-automatic weapons and assault weapons, the American people do not.
Whether polls ask about banning semi-automatic weapons or assault weapons, the same majority, roughly 55% support banning either.
Tellingly, support for gun ownership as a second amendment right has increased over the past 30 years, even as support for the ownership of semi-automatic weapons has declined. Although gun sales are up, gun ownership is down sharply over the past 30 years- a decreasing percentage of the population is owning an increasing number of guns.
http://www.washingtonpost.com...; width="632" height="459" />
These are pessimistic trends for those people who wish to preserve their right to own a semi-automatic weapon.
With any new sensationalized mass shooting, pressure is going mount to take action. If gun owners continue to resist the relatively cosmetic bans on assault weapons, they risk the possibility of a popular ban on all semi-automatic weapons. If gun owners take their lumps now and accept the the relatively cosmetic bans (which we agree are likely to have little impact on murder statistics), gun owners will have the advantage of arguing, "the ban on assault weapons had little effect, why should we expect results from a ban on all semi-automatic weapons?"
I'll take exception to the 1% assault weapons statistic for a few reasons:
1). Con and Pro agree that assault weapons are a semi-automatic weapons with cosmetic features. So why cite the cosmetic assault weapons number rather than the much larger semi-automatic number? Most gun violence is committed with pistols and most pistols are semi-automatic, The majority of all gun violence is committed with semi-automatic weapons, which Con agrees is the less cosmetic number
2) The number cited is for rifles only. We are considering the assault weapons ban which includes bans on pistols.
3) The number cited indicates possession of firearms by prison inmates at time of offense, but you call this 1% of all gun crime. This statistic does not consider gun crimes where the perp wasn't caught, or wasn't imprisoned, or (importantly) died.
1. Target Semi-Automatic Weapons
3. Political Expedience
So, targeting semi-automatic weapons. Essentially the problem I see there is that semi-automatic is one of the absolute widest brushes you can select to draw across the field of firearms. It covers all types of longarms and pistols, dating from 1885 to today. Now, can you give me one good reason to ban a curio and relic German Gewehr 43 that some collector has paid 4,000 dollars for? Or a first world war Luger pistol? To forestall an argument about protecting curios and relics, I will point out that A. The President has already barred the import of curio and relic firearms, calling them 'military weapons,' and 2. The dates of production that designate something a curio and relic have been increasing year for year as we advance in time, but protections have been denied to weapons deemed 'scary.'
Polls. I know I'll sound like the Grinch Who Stole Politics here, but I'm not a big fan of polls. That's for two reasons. One, polls are always subjective and prone to errors based on who asks the question, how it is asked, and how it is perceived. Two, operating from the precept that all opinions are equal is pretty foolish. An expert gunsmith or a law enforcement officer are better sources of opinion. A random man who has never held a gun and works at a deli is not such a great source of opinion. Call me a technocrat, but I want policies made by people who understand the issues, not a bunch of armchair generals.
Political expedience. You act as if it's either 'assault weapons go now' or 'Semi-autos go later.' Considering that the Supreme Court has finally incorporated the 2nd Amendment and cracked down on gun bans, permanently ruining the 'militia means national guard' argument, the position of gun rights has never been stronger. The simple fact is that people need to realize the tree they're barking up is getting pretty bare of leaves. And it's a pretty political tree. We need to reexamine this divisive approach, and find some solutions that are bipartisan, and endorsed by experts. Simply passing a law banning something isn't going to have any change as a result unless you literally go door to door with a search warrant to find and seize weapons.
Statistics. I'll keep this one brief because I don't want it to turn into the battle of the experts that makes everyone fall asleep. Again, here's an itemized response.
1. I cite the cosmetics because they are being targeted as somehow more dangerous. The fact that they aren't needs to be noted. Additionally, show me a remotely politically viable call for a ban on semi-automatic firearms. We discuss the issues that are in the mainstream of belief, because they are actual possibilities.
2. The pistols it includes are pistols in name only. They are much larger, not concealable, and are essentially shorter rifles missing stocks. If you want those 'assault pistols' banned, I'd actually agree to that. They serve no purpose.
3. Can you show me a better statistic? For example, what caliber of bullet was recovered from each crime scene? I can assure you that the most common weapons used in crimes are small caliber pistols, and shotguns. Unless you can find a better statistic, all you're doing is nitpicking the data provided by Law Enforcement.
Now, a few points of my own.
1. Rights. Yes, I know the whole 'GUNS ARE MY RIGHTS!' point is too loud and prevalent. But catchphrases or not, the Supreme Court has ruled that every lawful individual in the US has a right to own a firearm, and in US v Miller they ruled a firearm was not protected unless useful for a militia. So, essentially, why are we even acting as if this is negotiable? Hunting isn't protected per se. National and self defense is. To be clear, I am NOT arguing about fighting the government. But if such a fight did happen, do you really think gun laws would prevent massive violence?
2. Extremes. So we've looked at things to ban and examined either an overly broad category, or a misled specific category. In a proper technocratic sense, we should look at this through the lens of what is an actual problem. You'd find that Police even have a term for the problem. Saturday Night Specials. Little pistols, easily concealable, low capacity, and dirt cheap. Jennings, Hi-Point. That's the favored weapon of crime. So, why not take aim at those?
3. Cosmetics. Why should the public accept a ban that is, essentially, pointless? That would be an abuse in many ways.
4. Inevitability. It's my opinion, from observations of the debate, statements, and human nature in general, that gun control doesn't stem from reactions to news quite so much as it does from the guidance of political interests. Sure, people will support a ban on scary guns if one was used on the tv, but people tend to rally around dumb arguments and banners all the time. Someone guides them
In round 1, Con argued against the assault weapons ban as unlikely to be effective, since that bill only addresses a small subset of semi-automatic weapons defined by relatively cosmetic appliances. Pro agreed with Pro that the bill only addresses a small subset, but argued in favor of the ban for exactly that reason. Accepting an inconsequential ban on assault weapons will forestall more general bans on all semi-automatics and the inadequacy of the former will inoculate against future prohibitions against the latter.
In round 2, Con argues that the position of gun rights has never been stronger due to Supreme Court rulings. I'll assume Con refers to the DC vs. Heller (2008) ruling against a total ban on handguns. This is a point on which Pro and Con clearly diverge. Con rests on the strength of that decision at considerable peril. First, the decision was a highly contentious 5-4. Justice Stevens in his minority dissent characterized the decision as a major upheaval in the law and overthrow of the stare decisis established by 12 decades of US vs. Cruikshank and 7 decades of U.S. vs. Miller. The replacement of a single pro-Heller justice could tip the balance back in favor of precedence. Second, although Heller had an immediate impact on the District of Columbia and a subsequent impact on some districts, especially in the Chicago suburbs, we should note that New York and California's relatively restrictive gun laws made no change in response to Heller, and have become more restrictive since (Multiple suits in both states are still playing out in respect to Heller). Third, as pointed out in Round 1, ownership has declined by 40% over the past 40 years. If ownership continues to decline at this rate, the militia argument loses ground. That is, Scalia defines protected weapons as those in common use by the community militia. As that militia becomes an increasingly small aspect of community action and increasingly unused except in unlawful application, the definition of "weapons in common use for lawful purposes" may likely be re-defined.
Yes, I understand that semi-automatics have been around a long time and certain meet Scalia's definition of common use. Nevertheless, no Supreme Court decision upholds against a reversal in popular opinion. Dred Scott vs. Sanford ruled that no African American could claim U.S. citizenship just six years before the Emancipation Proclamation. Bowers vs. Hardwick upheld Georgia's sodomy laws just ten years before Romer vs. Evans tore down the basis for discrimination against gays. As ownership declines, as non-lethal protections like tasers, cameras, alarms become more commonplace, as long as the media reports mass shootings and gang shootings accidental child deaths but rarely report successful home defense the tide inexorably turns towards increased gun control.
I think the argument is increasingly evolving into an evaluation of firing rates and ammunition. For all primary lawful purposes- hunting, target shooting, self-defense, the community reasonably expects a certain amount of consideration and decision-making before every round is fired. Likewise, no lawful use of firearms in unreasonably restricted by limiting the number of rounds in a clip, for the same reason of introducing pause for consideration during reloads. I expect whole classes of firearms will remain protected by Heller for the near future, but enforcing a slower reload will gain in popularity until semi-automatics are eliminated or modified to slow fire rates.
Polls- It's fine to view polls with skepticism, but we're looking for evidence about popular opinion. Citing a wide range of polls estimating from their average seems like the most logical evidence to present. Do you have some evidence to cite that contradict? I'll take exception to only considering the opinions of gun owners when considering gun policy. Gun violence impacts the community at large, so everybody should and will have an opinion. In fact, my argument is predicated on the irresistible weight of that majority.
Statistics- The point I'm making is that 1% number can't be trusted and is probably not representative. When a shooter is caught by surprise or murders with the intent of getting away with it, that shooter will likely use a handgun. When a shooter wants to kill and doesn't much care whether he comes home again, he is more likely to take a rifle. Any statistic that doesn't include the shooters who get killed or commit suicide is going to skew low. We can agree that the numbers of rifle murders are small compared to handguns, but the mass shooters often use rifles and often do not survive and these are the cases that will provoke legislation.
I think I've addressed your new arguments in part. I'll add more specific rebuts in the next round as space allows.
Historically in the modern period, SCOTUS doesn't like repeating controversial decisions. Take Roe v Wade, as abortion is arguably the only thing as disagreed on as gun control. It's been in place for a long time now, through many conservative Presidents who appointed conservative judges. Yet, it still stands. I see no reason to assume it will be undone. Nor do I see any contradiction with US v Miller. As to US v Cruikshank it's very important to note that the Court freed the Ku Klux Klan after it murdered a hundred Black men in 1876, and that subsequently, the Federal Government has prosecuted against that ruling by charging people with civil rights violations.
As previously stated, the unorganized militia is every man between 17 and 45. http://www.law.cornell.edu...
So, the militia argument is a semantic tool that is easily defied by common sense.
Now, as to firing rates, this is a valid point I can address. I do believe that some magazines have capacities that are too high. For example, the drum magazines that hold over seventy rounds, or the pistol magazines that hang down out of the magazine well in order to hold thirty or forty rounds. Such magazines are bulky and inefficient for any lawful use. With that said, I do not believe a ban is wise. I believe that they should be classified the way short-barreled rifles or silencers are, and put under control of the ATF, available to collectors with the right scrutiny rather than just banned.
What I do take issue with is the discussion of 'high capacity.' Every weapon has a set standard capacity. A revolver may hold six shots, but a new Glock pistol may hold 15. The idea that anything over ten rounds is inherently high capacity is ridiculous, as for many weapons that would be considered a low capacity magazine. Bans need to be made in accordance with the weapon. For example, I would support a position of 15 round limits on pistols, and 30 on rifles.
Polls again. You might be looking for popular opinion. I am not. The fact is, popular opinion historically has led to bans on gay marriage or interracial marriage, to poll taxes and to literacy tests. Popular opinion is very widely drawn from media slogans and sound bytes, and not from substance. I am making a technocratic argument, and not a populist argument. Additionally, everyone should not have an opinion. I don't believe the Ku Klux Klan should have a say on race affairs, so why should I believe that rabid people of any streak should?
Statistics. It's the best number I can find, as if you looked carefully, it does indicate it includes weapons recovered at the scene of the crime. That means it does account for mass shootings. And, as I have previously said, mass shootings are exceedingly rare and only noteworthy for high visibility in the media. Less than one tenth of one percent of all murders. http://www.bloomberg.com...
Fundamentally, what I want is a truly sensible law. A law that looks at realities of law enforcement without bias, without a jaundiced view, and acts based on the ideas of experts, of people who know firearms, and people who know all about the legitimate civilian uses of marksmanship, self defense, and hunting. The fundamental question should not be 'do we need more gun laws?'
We don't need more laws. We need to reevaluate all the laws and restructure a flawed system. Otherwise, we are putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound. Or, depending on how we look at it, putting a bandaid on a paper cut as we ignore our leg broken at a horrifying angle with protruding bone.
I think we are already in agreement on the principles supporting some gun freedom and the necessities of some gun control, so where to draw the line? Con has suggested that the differences are essentially technocratic vs. populist. His technocratic argument is that assault weapons are not the weapons primarily used in gun violence so policy should focus elsewhere. Con does not offer policy changes we might adopt that might offer relief. Con argues that my concern that semi-automatic weapons, which are primarily used in gun violence, may be targeted altogether is essentially a populist argument that will be dismissed by the experts and therefore by people.
I would not characterize my argument as populist so much as realpolitik. Populism is siding with the people against the elite ruling class. Although advocates of increased gun control are in the majority, I would hardly define the gun rights position as occupied by the elite. Realpolitik is a practical political assessment rather than promoting an ideal. If legislation prioritized issues by magnitude of impact, as Con suggests we do here, we would devote far fewer resources to preventing terrorism in favor of health and education. The fact is that terrorism by its nature commands the public's attention and forces legislatures to act even against public benefit. A technocrat might correctly argue that our security infrastructure is a disproportional burden. Realpolitik knows that any politician who tears down security is politically vulnerable in the wake of a new terrorist attack, and will probably lose office to a politician who is even less reasonable about proportional responses to terrorism. So it is with gun control.
Con offers Roe vs. Wade as an example of a controversial issue that SCOTUS has not reversed. Realpolitik suggests that the reason the courts have not reversed is not due to SCOTUS reluctance to overturn precedent so much as it is that popular opinion supports legalized abortion in roughly the same degree as it did 40 years ago. If support for a ban on abortion ever returns to 55%, I expect that even a liberal SCOTUS would find an argument to ban abortion. That may be cynical, but that's also democracy. We see this again and again with gay marriage, marijuana, Obamacare, etc. Judges are politicians, too, and they want to want to be seen siding with majority.
In round1, Con offered a "don't hate it because it's black" argument: don't ban weapons just because they have the superficial trappings of military use. May we then judge as assault weapon, not by the color of its skin so much as the contents of its character? The reason assault weapons have a bad rap is not because they are deadlier (they are not), but because they advertise themselves as anti-personnel weapons. Appliances like silencers, grenade launchers, and bayonet mounts are intended to project a message contrary to lawful use. They have little value in hunting, targeting, or home defense. They're designed for crowd control and intimidation. Gun advocates weaken their argument for the preservation of guns for lawful purposes when they embrace tools that exceed that legal mandate. I'm sure the NRA has offered some kind of rational purpose for every appliance listed on the '94 assault weapons ban, but the unstated and primary purpose is what concern the pubic: this gun is reserved for the purpose of killing many people. Justice Scalia may find the value of an armed militia compelling, but most folks look back on the history of self-appointed militias with dismay. Con mentioned the Klan. We also remember Patriot movement that bombed Oklahoma City, the Black Panthers, the bombings at the Atlanta Olympics. The fact is few of the people who arm themselves in the name of militia have interests or goals in common with the average peaceful American. In this respect, assault weapons are not the Trayvon Martin of guns. Rather, the men who stockpile assault weapons are the George Zimmerman of peacekeeping. The public may be divided about whether Zimmerman committed murder, but the vast majority wish the fool had stayed home or at least not patrolled with a loaded gun.
Let's agree then that owning a gun is a serious right and a serious responsibility. Guns should be licensed and regulated like any automobile. Gun owners should be well-trained and well-practiced: to which end hunting and target shooting should be cheap and commonplace. Gun owners also have the responsibility to endorse controlled, considered, and lawful uses of guns. A gun tricked out with a bunch of anti-personnel gadgetry does not promote responsible, restricted use of guns. Those apparatus instead suggest that the gun owner also reserves the right to engage in mass killing under circumstances defined by the gun owner. This has never proved to be a serious requirement in our democracy, so it projects an unlawful intent. Let's reject the trinkets of threat in favor of serious gun ownership.
What makes me say that argument is populist is that knowledge is power, in a way. Those who have knowledge are opposed, those who don't are in favor. So essentially the large numbers of ignorant people who are being catered to are the populists. Terrorism is a complete red herring that would derail us, so I won't waste characters on it.
Your claim I didn't offer any solutions is also wrong, as I specifically pointed to Saturday Night Specials as a target for legislation, and I discussed limits on magazine capacity.
While some judges may be politicians, Judges should not be political. Their job should be to examine the law, and only the law. Period.
What I really want to discuss are these so-called 'anti-personnel' features you mentioned. You see, the silencer is already under ATF control like machine guns or sawed off shotguns. Grenade launchers are really just adapters integrated to the barrel that were used in the past to fire rifle grenades with a special cartridge. It seems to me that worrying about someone getting a 1960s rifle grenade from Yugoslavia and a special cartridge is a bit silly. Bayonet mounts? All of my rifles have them. That's because they're from WW1 and WW2, when people actually used bayonets. Now can you point to any murderers who used bayonets fixed to their rifles to prove why this feature is dangerous? What are the other features? Flash suppressors, which prevent a shooter from being blinded at night. Valuable for hunting. Pistol grips. More comfortable on any weapons, nothing aggressive about it. Folding stocks. Easier storage, hardly dangerous.
You claim none of these are useful for hunting, target shooting, or home defense. That claim is wrong.
The .223 Remington round of the AR-15 is one of the most common rounds used for varmint hunting, namely small game like rabbits, squirrels, and even things as large as coyotes. As to target shooting, the AR-15 and M1A are both used in competitions as the gold standard. There are AR shooters who pride themselves on putting bullets through the exact same hole. And defense? Many people with rural property rely on rifles, such as the Ruger Ranch Rifle (again in .223) to defend larger areas.
So as you can see, these 'assault weapons' are useful for all of these functions.
What makes this weapon somehow better for killing many people? Absolutely nothing. There is nothing that sets an 'assault weapon' apart as somehow more lethal or more dangerous. In fact, I can say with certainty that if we went back to WW2 and showed them an AR-15, they'd say it's too fragile, difficult to maintain, and fires a tiny bullet. They'd rightly say it's less lethal.
Essentially, what proposing bans based on these features is tantamount to is...
Banning clothing in the color black, because you're clearly trying to blend in with the night.
Banning camouflage clothing, because it's military-style.
All that such a ban would accomplish is taking away freedom of expression because ignorant people are frightened. It seems obvious to me, as a rational individual, that the solution is to end the ignorance, and not encourage it. If my neighbor told me that African-Americans have no souls, I wouldn't just nod and agree. I'd tell them they were wrong, even if it hurt feelings.
Simply put, we cannot and should not, ever cater to the whims and wishes of ignorant outrage when someone else's rights are at stake. Otherwise, it will never end.
I wonder if Con has noticed today's headline out of California, where Gov. Brown vetoed an effective ban on the sale of all new semi-automatic rifles, essentially categorizing all semi-automatic rifles as assault rifles.  Although the Governor's moderate response has killed the bill for this year, legislators in Sacramento promise to renew their efforts next year.
I'm sure if Con had a chance to respond he would dismiss the bill as unconstitutional and unlikely to be sustained by the Supreme Court, to which I would probably agree. Nevertheless, California's bill is a good example of the kind of legislation that is only going to increase in popularity and regularity in the coming years.
I would summarize Con's argument as an appeal to the ideology of expertise: If assault weapons definitions are spurious and assault weapons are not themselves a major contributor to gun violence, why "cater to ignorant outrage?" In ideology, then, Pro & Con are in agreement. We agree that assault weapons definitions are spurious. We agree that assault weapons do not kill as many people as pistols.
Where Pro & Con diverge comes after ideology. To quote William F. Buckley, "Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive." Con wishes to stand on ideology and ignore the changing world. In contrast, Pro offers a pragmatic accomodation. I argue that if gun owners wish to preserve the core of their present material right, semi-automatic weapons, they are going to have make compromises in response to changes within the American electorate.
Those compromises include a new emphasis on responsible gun ownership and a rejection of the increasingly irrelevant militia mentality. But the compromise under consideration here is acceptance of the assault weapons ban- not in spite of its irrelevance, but because of it. Since we agree that the differences between ordinary rifles and assault weapon are mostly cosmetic, gun owners have the advantage of appealing to the moderate position with little sacrifice. Standing firm in defense of those cosmetic differences will lead to more intrusive restrictions like those proposed in California, not less.
Con does not argue against the likelihood of Pro scenario, he only argues that accomodation would be nonsensical.
I offered statistics to show that gun owners are now a shrinking minority, increasingly unable to sustain gun rights via election. Con did not contradict the argument, but replied that he does not care for statistics.
I offered polls to show that the majority of Americans are now okay with banning semi-automatic weapons. Con does not dispute the number, but replied that he does not care for polls.
I argued that semi-automatic rifles have an image problem, which compromise might help correct. Con does not disput my rationale, but replied that he does not care for compromise.
I suspect that Con's position is representative of the majority of gun owners and positions on both sides will polarize. Inevitably, there will be some mass shooting or assassination that will provoke the majority to further gun legislation. If assault weapons bans were in place, then gun owners might have an argument that those bans were ineffective so legislation should focus elsewhere- perhaps even on those cheaper handguns that Con recommends. Without those bans, rifles will be the more likely target and as I have cited before, the public makes little distinction between semi-automatics and "assault weapon" rifles. A small compromise in the short-term may be very effective in forestalling a much heavier price in the longer term.
This is may be "catering to ignorant outrage," but history is replete with tales of the power of such outrage. As Jefferson said, Democracy is mob rule. You can either spot the mob coming and take measures to avoid it or you can stand your ground and let the mob overtake you.
Thank to Con for a good debate.
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