David Rosman wrote an editorial for the Columbia Missourian, in which he makes a variety of statements about guns and crime, most of which seem to show a lack of understanding about the issues at hand. My responses are below:
No one has ever explained to me why someone must own an assault rifle if all you plan to do is hunt deer. Assault rifles are designed to kill people . . .”
Here we have a rather typical misunderstanding of so-called “assault weapons.” The fact is that such weapons are defined only by a rather arbitrary set of cosmetic and safety features, none of which make the gun any more deadly. Also, these so-called “assault weapons” tend to shoot lowered powered ammunition than most hunting rifles. For example, the AR-15 fires a 5.56mm (.223 caliber) bullet that is considerably less powerful than, say, a .30-06 (a very common hunting round).
Note that many of the features that define a so-called “assault weapon” are the very features that make a gun suitable for self defense. A large magazine can ensure that a citizen who defends themselves doesn’t run out of bullets at the worst possible time. A pistol grip can help the citizen to control and quickly aim their self defense gun. A telescopic stock or folding stock can allow two spouses of different size to comfortably and effectively use the same gun, meaning that a (smaller) wife can pick up her (larger) husband’s gun and effectively use it against a home invader. Such a stock also allows a larger gun to be folded and safely stored in a smaller gun safe, which I think we can all agree is a good thing, making responsible gun storage easier and cheaper. Similarly, a muzzle compensator can make it easier for a recoil sensitive person to effectively use a gun in self defense, hitting only the criminal. The “assault weapon” bans, which target such features, just make self defense more difficult for law abiding people. Criminals, being criminals, have no problem breaking such laws, and possessing even machine guns.
I would like to draw your attention to this recent self defense example, where just such an “assault weapon” allowed a citizen to defend himself against an armed home invader.
More importantly, the Second Amendment is not about hunting. To be sure, hunting is one of the “traditional lawful purposes” that the Supreme Court made clear was protected in the landmark case of D.C. v. Heller. However the Court (and the plain language of the Second Amendment) make clear that the purpose is to protect the right to own guns suitable for defensive purposes against criminals. In other words, the Second Amendment protects the right of law abiding citizens to have a gun suitable for use against humans, not just deer.
Finally, I find the idea that a law abiding gun owner should have to justify their gun selection to be rather unreasonable. Firstly, not even gun enthusiasts can agree on what gun is best for each purpose. I’ve spent quite a bit of time debating the “which pistol caliber” and “what gun for home defense,” questions with fellow gun owners, and we simply can’t reach a consensus. That seems to be because there is no single right answer for everyone. If we gun enthusiasts can’t answer the question about what gun we need for what purpose, then I don’t think that an anti gun writer or the government can answer the question any better. Secondly, and more importantly, I don’t feel the need to justify my lawful gun ownership. I have a motorcycle that can easily exceed 140 MPH – but I don’t hear anyone demanding to know why I didn’t buy one that can only reach 75 MPH (the highest speed limit in the USA, I believe). My fiancée has some large and sharp chef knives, but I don’t inquire if she could have cooked dinner with a smaller and duller knife. I’ve had large dogs, but no one asked me if I could have gotten a Poodle instead of a Doberman. Similarly, even if an AR-15 were overkill for self defense or target shooting (and I’m not saying that it is), I don’t see how that means that it is reasonable to restrict them, especially seeing as how criminals use so-called “assault weapons” in fewer than 1% of gun-related crimes.
The argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is true, but the weapon of choice is usually a firearm. Another argument is that anything can be used as a weapon and kitchen knives can be used to kill. True, but if Seung-Hui Cho had a 10-inch cooking knife, 32 would not have died at Virginia Tech.
Criminals with knives can indeed cause quite a bit of havoc, such as this case where a man stabbed 13 people, most of whom were babies. Or this case, where a man with a car and a knife managed to kill or wound 18 people. However if we want to really discuss mass murder, then the discussion must move from guns to explosives & airliners. The biggest cases of mass murder in this country involved airliners and box cutters (the 9/11 attacks) and explosives (the Oklahoma City bombing).
Getting back to guns, the reason that Seung-Hui Cho was able to kill so many people at Virginia Tech is because the law abiding victims were disarmed, while the law breaking killer ignored the gun ban the same way he ignored the law against murder. A person who is bent on killing as many people as they can, before taking their own life, will be quite willing to violate any other laws of our society – and that is a problem that even a total gun ban won’t solve. As we can see from Britain, where guns are basically banned all together, those criminals who want one will still get one, by smuggling it into the country, or manufacturing it themselves. Since gun control doesn’t work in the UK, which is an island nation that has fewer freedoms against unreasonable search and seizure, there is simply no way that it could work in the US, with our porous borders and stronger protection against police searches.
The lethality and technology incorporated in the modern handgun, shotgun or rifle could not have been imagined 300 years ago.
This is also a common anti gun argument, which does not stand up to much scrutiny. Firstly, this is an argument based upon the meaning of the Second Amendment, which the Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller conclusively declared protects modern firearms, including handguns. Looking at Mr. Rosman’s biography, I don’t see any indication that his a judge or even an attorney, so I think that he is not really qualified to essentially tell our nation’s highest court that they misunderstood the constitution (which it is their job to interpret). As someone who graduates from law school in less than a month, I think I’m somewhat qualified to opine on the meaning of the Second Amendment, and see that it was intended to allow citizens to keep and bear arms suitable for self defense, and the resisting of tyranny. As such, it would undercut that very purpose to allow only 18th century muskets in todays world.