Should civilians have military guns?

In an effort to be reassuring, gun control advocates promise us that they’re not coming for our guns.  They only want to ban “assault weapons” or “military style guns.”  But press them on the meaning of these terms, and you’ll find either ignorance about firearms or an agenda the activists want to keep hidden.

One infamous example of this is a tweet from Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America declaring that an assault weapon “enables humans to shoot 10 rounds in one minute.”  This is an absurd claim, as anyone who has a minimum of experience with firearms or knowledge of their history will recognize.  Recall the Mad Minute challenge with bolt-action SMLE rifles, at least fifteen rounds on target at three hundred yards in sixty seconds.  The record was thirty-six shots in the period by Sergeant Major Jesse Wallingford, though Sergeant Instructor Alfred Snoxall may have bested that by two rounds.  Or if you think that these brass cartridge guns are a passing fad, carry some preloaded cylinders with you, and your cap-and-ball revolver will qualify as an assault weapon, according to Watts, as Clint Eastwood’s character demonstrates in Pale Rider.

But the disingenuous nature of the term “assault weapon” is well-known.  Perhaps, though, we can find a difference between firearms that ordinary citizens would use and the weapons appropriate to the military.

Many nations have bans on calibers that are used by their militaries.  While this could be a standard that could work, at least with regard to offering a consistent definition, it’s easily circumvented.  Consider the 9x21mm IMI round used to get around bans on 9mm Luger in some European countries.  And here in the United States, such an effort would fight against the reality that civilians use a lot of rounds of .30-06 for hunting, among many other popular calibers, for all manner of legitimate applications.

What if “military style gun” means any model of firearm that’s been used by militaries?  I often ask gun control advocates to name any gun that hasn’t been used in war.  A innocuous .22 target pistol?  No, as the High Standard HD shows.  What was one name of those popular .38 Special Smith & Wesson revolvers?  Yes, the Military and Police model.  If you carry a .45-70 in bear country, you’re in trouble under this scheme, since the cartridge’s full name includes “Government” in the title and its history.

These are what we could use to create a clear definition.  Of course, those would end up banning every gun, and that’s what we’re continually promised isn’t the goal of gun control.  The definition that is offered is a laundry list of naughty features that some regard as “military.”  Here is Dianne Feinstein’s list given in her 2013 proposed ban:

  •     All semiautomatic pistols that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: threaded barrel; second pistol grip; barrel shroud; capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip; or semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.

  •     All semiautomatic rifles and handguns that have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

  •     All semiautomatic shotguns that have a folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; pistol grip; fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 5 rounds; ability to accept a detachable magazine; forward grip; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; or shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

  •     All ammunition feeding devices (magazines, strips, and drums) capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

She also lists 157 firearms by name, while claiming to exclude over 2,200 rifles and shotguns that have what she regards as a legitimate hunting or sporting use.  And she’ll let you keep your antiques and whatever you own currently—though you won’t be able to transfer the latter.

Are these features really military?  They make the gun easier to aim, control, and carry.  Those aren’t characteristics that are limited to military applications.  We could ban olive green in dyes or paints on the same line of reasoning.  In fact, if we’re trying to find factors that make personal weapons appropriate to the military, reliability and durability, along with ease of manufacture are the things that look good on the balance sheet.  But those are also qualities that ordinary consumers value.

Whether we accept arbitrary lists or attempts at reasonable definitions, there is no sensible distinction between guns that are uniquely “military” and guns that are not.  Advocates of gun control might as well be honest.  They either don’t know what they’re talking about, or they do indeed wish to ban all guns. We know this already, and it would be refreshing if they would stop pretending otherwise.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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