The Necessity Line
Gun Control Policy in the United States
Policy surrounding the legal ownership and usage of firearms has provided for an extraordinarily complex political argument. Unlike most other civil issues, there is no one defining aspect of “gun control”; the idea is broken up into different aspects. Of these components (which include distribution restrictions, magazine capacity, and efforts to keep guns away from the mentally ill), perhaps the most controversial element is the proposed restriction on “Assault Weapons.”
Contrary to popular belief, the term “Assault Weapon” does not necessarily refer to an automatic firearm. Automatic weapons have not legally been produced in or imported to the United States since the Hughes Amendment of 1986. According to The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an “’Assault weapon’ means any Semi-automatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine (and has one or more features such as a pistol grip or thumbhole stock, a folding or telescoping stock, or a shroud attached to the barrel…), or a semi-automatic pistol… with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.” It should be noted that this definition is given by a biased organization primarily interested in limiting gun ownership and usage.
Those opposed to such restrictions may contest that an “Assault Weapon” should not be deemed a term of legal standard, as the differences between such weapons and hunting rifles are seen as minimal. While similarities can be found between hunting rifles and semi-automatic “assault weapons” – such as the internal structure of the weapon as well as its basic function – The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence shares an opposing viewpoint. The organization claims that “Assault weapons are distinguishable from other semi-automatic firearms based on the combat-style features that allow a shooter to control the weapon while rapidly spraying large amounts of fire,” referring to the above-mentioned elements of an “assault weapon” that enhance rapid-fire capabilities by reducing recoil and increasing the user’s stability and control over the weapon. Again, there is a counterargument to this view; is an increase in recoil stability and control dangerous? Or, in reality, does it improve accuracy, thereby reducing accidental misfire and increasing overall public safety? It seems that the core of the argument is based upon whether or not one believes in the alleged significant combat advantage given to the user of the firearm.
Recently, President Barack Obama proposed legislation that the capacity of magazines in such firearms be limited. The reasoning behind this proposal is fairly obvious; if a criminal does not have to reload while using a firearm, more damage can and will be incurred. The strongest counterargument to this limitation involves personal safety. A gun ownership advocate may contest that criminals will always have access to high-capacity magazines, and therefore will have a significant advantage over law-abiding gun-owners in the case of a firefight. This contention brings about the central point in this entire discussion: what is the necessary number of bullets in a magazine to serve the purpose of the defense of one’s family and property?
If one doesn’t possess enough bullets in a magazine, then he or she is at a defensive disadvantage against an attacker; but if too many bullets are available per clip, criminals will have a new advantage at their disposal. At what point is this median determined?
The same principle can be applied to the types of firearms available to the public. Few would deny that citizens should have the right to possess enough firepower to defend themselves, but how much firepower is enough, without giving criminals the upper hand? At what point is this line of necessity drawn?Assault rifles? Machine guns? Cannons? Tanks? With new legislation well underway, we’ll find out soon enough.
Kevin Finkelstein, Staff Writer
Agresti, James D., and Reid K. Smith. “Gun Control Facts.” Just Facts. N.p., 13 Sept. 2012. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. <http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp>.
Klimas, Liz. “So What Is an â€˜Assault Rifleâ€™ Really? We Look at the Definitions and How the Term Is â€˜Demonizedâ€™ | Video | TheBlaze.com.” Breaking news and opinion on TheBlaze. N.p., 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. <http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/11/so-what-is-an-assault-rifle-really-we-look-at-the-definitions-and-how-the-term-is-demonized/>.
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Model Law to Ban Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines.” Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. N.p., 1 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. <smartgunlaws.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Law_Center_Assault_Weapons_LCAMs_2012_Model_Law.pdf>.
Singer, Alan. “Does the US Constitution Prevent Gun Control?.” Huff Post: Politics. Huffington Post, 10 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013. <www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/gun-control-constitution_b_2657841.html>.