Politician after politician have joined the television talking heads in calling for a new “assault weapons ban” patterned after the ten-year Clinton ban that was allowed to lapse in 2004 after Justice Department and private studies concluded it had no impact whatsoever on murder and violent crime rates and had become a symbol of wrong-headed governmental attempts to restrict firearms ownership in this country.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has called for reinstituting the old Clinton ban to outlaw the sale, transfer and possession of such guns in the future while grandfathering those already in the hands of private parties. Others, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have gone so far as to suggest “confiscation” or forced “buy back” programs “to get these weapons off the street.” In the last week dozens of commentators, reporters and politicians have said they support the 2nd Amendment, but would support an “assault weapons” ban because such weapons aren’t used for hunting and have no purpose other than to kill people.
While such suggestions reflect a simple minded and narrow understanding of why the founders included the Second Amendment in our Bill of Rights, they also suggest that those making them neither understand the nature of the firearms they would ban, their popularity or legitimate uses.
Those who would ban what they like to call assault weapons like to portray them as automatic weapons designed for use on the battlefield simply because they look cosmetically like their military counterparts. In fact, they are semi-automatic firearms that are designed and built not for the military, but for the civilian market and function differently than their military counterparts. Were our soldiers outfitted with ARs, they would be at the mercy of every army in the world.
The more than three million Americans who currently own AR-15s must wonder if any of these people know what they’re talking about. These guns are not cheap, but they have been the best-selling long arm in this country for some years. Those three million people didn’t buy have purchased them just to look at or because they are planning to use them to kill their fellow citizens.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation has surveyed the purchasers of AR-15s. The AR-15 is the most commonly used rifle for marksmanship training and competition. Nearly 90% of those who own an AR-15 use it for recreational target shooting; 51% of AR owners are members of shooting clubs and visit the range regularly. The typical AR owner is not a crazed teenage psychopath, but a 35+ year old, married and has some college education.