Monday, September 15, 2014

Assault rifle or deer rifle?

Here in the US the anti gun folks have been beating the drums to outlaw "assault rifles".  The phrase "assault rifle" sounds so terrible that they have had some luck in getting laws passed against them.  In actual fact, assault rifles, like are issued to soldiers, have been illegal in the US since the 1930's.  Back in the heyday of Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, and all the rest of the infamous American gangsters, who got Hollywood movies made of their exploits, and made the FBI famous,  Congress passed a law that made machine guns illegal.  The 1930 law required registration and payment of a $200 tax (humungous in 1930) for each machine gun owned.  A later law tightened that up more and now machine guns are just plain illegal to own.  By machine gun, we mean any weapon that keeps firing, round after round, as long as the trigger is depressed. 
   In the years after WWII armies issued their soldiers machine guns,  reasonably light (7-9 pound) shoulder weapons with detachable magazines holding 20-30 rounds, chambered for low power cartridges to keep the recoil down in full automatic fire.  The Russian AK-47 and the US M16 (AR-15 when sold to civilians) are typical examples.  The troops loved them, thinking that spraying bullets like a garden hose would make up for poor marksmanship.  The Army leadership worried about ammunition supply.  One good long pull on a trigger and brap,. 20 rounds expended.  If the troops set off with 200 rounds, which is a lot, and they get heavy fast,  then do brap ten times and you are out of ammunition.  Every Army officer from corporal on up worries about this problem.  In fact, the US Army modified their M16 rifle so it only does three rounds in "automatic".  Each pull of the trigger gives a mere three round burst, rather than a magazine emptying brap.  Conserved ammunition.
    Anyhow, veterans who carried assault rifles in the service, and liked them, will buy legal versions of the Army rifle for deer hunting after discharge from the service.  Legal means no automatic fire.  Pull the trigger and fire a single shot.  You gotta pull the trigger once for each shot.  Semi automatic is the buzz word, another is self loader.
   And, the legal weapon is no different from any other deer rifle.  The objective things, caliber, power of cartridge, range, accuracy, weight, barrel length, are all the same as a deer rifle.  In fact the "assault weapon" rounds are less powerful than the old 30-30 round for my 1950 Marlin lever action rifle.
   Which left the anti assault weapons lawmakers with a problem.  How to describe an assault rifle?  In California the law listed illegal assault rifles by model number.  The industry assigned new model numbers, and presto, chango, their product became legal again.  Other states  listed cosmetic features such as bayonet lugs, flash hiders, and bipods as making a gun into an illegal "assault rifle". The industry quickly removed those cosmetic features. 
   After all this sound and fury, one needs to remember that crimes are mostly done with handguns, not shoulder weapons.

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