BCS - Massachusetts Firearms Laws

Report
……About Assault Weapons and
Large Capacity Magazines
Presented by three citizens:
Bruce Blessington, Jesse Cohen, Esq. & Rick Swasey
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Copyright 2013 S2 Alpha Training, LLC. All rights reserved.
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This presentation addresses the common misperceptions
about so-called assault weapons and large capacity
magazines as well as the history and effectiveness of the
regulations applied to both.
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AR-15 Modern Semi-auto Rifle
This is an AR-15 rifle. Today, it is the most popular rifle in the United
States. Millions have been sold to American citizens since 1963.
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The AR-15 is the most common example of firearms
that are sometimes called assault weapons. But
what does this term actually mean?
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First, it is important to understand what an assault weapon isn't. The
terms "assault weapon" and "assault rifle" are often confused.
According to Bruce H. Kobayashi and Joseph E. Olson1, writing in the
Stanford Law and Policy Review:
Prior to 1989, the term "assault weapon" did not exist in the lexicon
of firearms. It is a political term, developed by anti-gun publicists to
expand the category of "assault rifles."
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If an assault weapon is not an assault
rifle, what is an assault rifle?
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M4A1 Carbine
This is a M4A1 carbine. It is a U.S. military service rifle. It is also
an assault rifle.
The M4A1 is capable of fully automatic operation. It is able to fire
multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled. The M4A1 can fire up
to 950 rounds per minute.
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The M4A1 and other fully automatic firearms are also called
machine guns. In 1986, the Federal government banned the
sale or transfer of new machine guns to civilians.
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AR-15 Semi-auto Rifle
Like the majority of firearms sold in the United States, the AR-15
is semi-automatic. This means it fires one (1) round each time
the trigger is pulled.
The AR-15 can fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute
depending on the skill of the operator. This rate of fire is
comparable to other semi-automatic firearms.
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The truth about “assault weapons” is that they function like
this Ruger Mini-14 ranch rifle...
...and this Remington semi-automatic shotgun...
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...and this Model 1911 pistol...
...and this S&W double-action revolver.
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All of these guns fire one (1) round each time the trigger is pulled.
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But if that's true, what makes this semi-automatic rifle a ranch gun...
...and this semi-automatic rifle an “assault weapon”?
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The answer is perception.
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According to a 1988 report2 by the Violence Policy Center, an anti-gun lobby:
“[H]andgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons ... are a
new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion
over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—
anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can
only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”
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In the late 1980s, more than two decades after the AR-15 was first
sold to the American public, the anti-gun lobby began a systematic
campaign to conflate it and other "military-style" firearms with
machine guns. The media followed suit3, and soon the American
public began to think that an assault weapon was, like the assault
rifles it resembled, a machine gun.
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This strategy came to fruition in 1993, when the Federal
Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was introduced in Congress.
The AWB would ban the sale of new “assault weapons” to
American civilians.
However, since "assault weapon" was an invented term, it
had no technical meaning. Before “assault weapons” could be
banned, legislators had to define them.
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Here’s the BATF’s proposed definition:
Assault Weapon Derived Semi-Auto - a firearm
cosmetically similar to an Assault Weapon, but
incorporating entirely different receiver and internal
components, designed in cooperation with BATF,
not to be convertible to full-auto, rendering the
firearm capable of semi-auto fire only, it is
functionally identical to commercial semi-auto
hunting rifles, target rifles and shotguns and may
incorporate a detachable box magazine[,] bayonet
lug and pistol grip/folding type stock.4
…which Congress ignored.
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..and so since assault rifles were already banned, and because an outright
ban on semi-automatic firearms wasn't considered politically feasible, the
Congress in drafting the AWB defined “assault weapons” as semi-automatic
firearms that shared too many cosmetic features with their fully automatic,
military counterparts.
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These banned "military-style" features included certain combinations of
collapsible stocks...
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...flash hiders...
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...and pistol grips.
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None of these cosmetic features changed the
functioning of the firearm or actually made the
firearms more lethal.
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According to a Department of Justice study5, the firearms that
the AWB would ban were used in only 2% of gun crimes.
Nevertheless, the AWB's passage was aided by the fact that many
Americans believed the bill would ban machine guns and "weapons
of war," something that had, in fact, already been banned.
The AWB also banned magazines having a capacity greater
than ten rounds. This restriction applied to all firearms, not just
so-called “assault weapons”.
To secure enough votes to pass the bill, a sunset provision
was added. After ten years, the AWB would end.
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On September 13, 1994, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban went into
effect. A Washington Post editorial published two days later was
candid about the ban's real purpose:
“[N]o one should have any illusions about what was accomplished
[by the ban]. Assault weapons play a part in only a small percentage
of crime. The provision is mainly symbolic; its virtue will be if it turns
out to be, as hoped, a stepping stone to broader gun control.”
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In 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired. It was not
renewed. The AWB had failed to have an impact on gun crime in the
United States. A 2004 Department of Justice report5 concluded:
“Should it be renewed, the ban's effects on gun violence are
likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable
measurement. [Assault weapons] were rarely used in gun crimes
even before the ban.”
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Banning firearms because of their
cosmetic features was misguided.
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Regarding large capacity magazines, the same
Department of Justice study said:
“[I]t is not clear how often the outcomes of gun attacks
depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than ten shots
(the current magazine capacity limit) without reloading.”
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In 1999, five years into the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the
Columbine High School massacre occurred. One of the
perpetrators, Eric Harris, was armed with a ban- compliant, semiauto Hi-Point 995.
Undeterred by the ten-round capacity of his magazines, Harris
simply brought more of them: thirteen magazines would be found
in the massacre's aftermath. Harris fired 96 rounds before killing
himself.
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At Virginia Tech in 2007, Seung-Hui Cho again showed the
futility of regulating magazine capacity when he carried 19
ten and fifteen-round magazines in his backpack as part of a
carefully planned massacre.
Cho used seventeen of the magazines and fired
approximately 170 rounds—or ten rounds per magazine—
from two handguns before killing himself.
Although the Virginia Tech massacre was and remains the
deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, it resulted in relatively
few calls for new gun control, possibly because so-called assault
weapons were not used.
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Like Eric Harris before him, Cho demonstrated that a magazine's
capacity was incidental to the amount of death and injury an
unopposed murderer could cause in a "gun-free zone."
Limitations on magazine capacity are therefore of marginal
practical utility in the prevention of gun violence. Limitations
below ten rounds will likewise be ineffective and will put law
abiding citizens who rely on firearms for personal defense at risk.
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Summary and Conclusion
Modern semi-automatic rifles with cosmetic features that resemble
military firearms (so-called assault weapons) are not assault rifles.
Legislators and the public have been misled and influenced by firearms
opposition groups and some in the media to confuse modern semi-auto
rifles with machine guns.
The AR-15 and other modern semi-auto rifles have been depicted as military
weapons whose only purpose was to rapidly kill large numbers of people. In
fact, these rifles are widely used in competition, hunting and for home defense.
3.3 million have been sold for these purposes between 1986 and 2009.
Despite their political appeal, limits on magazine capacity have been
shown to be of little utility in reducing the death rates in mass shootings
in particular and gun violence overall.
Efforts to regulate the AR-15 and other modern semi-automatic rifles diverts
scarce legislative time and attention from more effective means of addressing
gun violence.
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Summary and Conclusion
Modern semi-automatic rifles with cosmetic features that resemble
military firearms (so-called assault weapons) are not assault rifles.
Legislators and the public have been misled and influenced by firearms
opposition groups and some in the media to conflate modern semi-auto
rifles with machine guns.
The AR-15 and other modern semi-auto rifles have been depicted as military
weapons whose only purpose was to rapidly kill large numbers of people. In
fact, these rifles are widely used in competition, hunting and for home defense.
3.3 million have been sold for these purposes between 1986 and 2009.
Despite their political appeal, limits on magazine capacity have been
shown to be of little utility in reducing the death rates in mass shootings
in particular and gun violence overall.
Efforts to regulate the AR-15 and other modern semi-automatic rifles diverts
scarce legislative time and attention from more effective means of addressing
gun violence.
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References
1.
2.
In Re 101 California Street: A Legal And Economic Analysis Of Strict Liability For The Manufacture
And Sale Of "Assault Weapons” Bruce H. Kobayashi * and Joseph E. Olson Stamford Law and
Policy Review vol.8, no.1 1997:41
Violence Policy Center Assault Weapons and Accessories in America “Conclusions” para. 2 1988
3.
Shooting Blind: Tonso, William R., November 1, 19954 Hearings to Consider S. 386, the Assault
4.
Weapon Control Act of 1989, and Similar S. 747 the Antidrug, Assault Weapons Limitation Act of
1989 Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Comm., 101st Cong. (Feb.
10, 1989) (Attachment 1 to the statement of Edward D. Conroy, Deputy Associate Director, BATF). In
his prepared testimony, Mr. Conroy stated: "The AKS is a semi-automatic that, except for its deadly
military appearance, is no different from other semi-automatic rifles. As a matter of fact, the identical
firearm with a sport stock is available and, in appearance, no different than other so-called sporting
weapons" (emphasis added). Accepted firearms terminology includes the term "assault rifle" but not
"assault weapon." GARY KLECK, POINT BLANK: GUNS AND VIOLENCE IN AMERICA 70-74
(1991).
An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun
Violence, 1994-2003 Report to the National Institute of Justice, United States Department of Justice:
Koper Christopher S.
A special note of recognition to the anonymous author of The Truth About Assault Weapons whose
original work was the inspiration for this piece and may be viewed at www.assaultweapon.info.
5.
6.
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