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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Assault Rifles are Different in More Than Just Appearance

If the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer serves any useful purpose at all, it's to prove conclusively that the American Family Association is a hate group. His views on the subject of homosexuality are pretty much identical to those of Fred Phelps and Phelps' thankfully small hate cult, the Westboro Baptist Church. The only real difference between Phelps and Fischer is that Phelps is willing to use the word "fag" and to protest funerals. They disagree on method and there the difference ends.

But Fischer's opinions aren't limited to criticisms of the Homosexual Menace. He believes he's Big King Expert on just about any subject under the sun, so long as there's a conservative take on it. Like his criticisms of the LGBT community, these other opinions are completely ridiculous. When it comes to identifying idiotic conservative opinion, Bryan Fischer is the low-hanging fruit. The worst of the religious right, he makes Pat Robertson look like a hippy.

I point all of this out because Fischer said something stupid yesterday. This should come as no surprise. But, as so often the case, Fischer's simply repeating a conservative talking point he'd likely heard from someone else. The reason Fischer's such an easy target is because he doesn't waste a lot of time dressing up conservative arguments to make them more palatable. He puts them bluntly, offering right wing talking points up in all their naked stupidity. I'm not picking on Fischer specifically, but rather the argument he so helpfully distills.

Raw Story:

“Whoever controls the language is going to control the debate,” Fischer explained in a recent radio broadcast obtained by Right Wing Watch on Monday. “They picked the word ‘assault weapon’ to make it sound bad, to make it sound mean. They’re trying to say the Second Amendment does not protect assault weapons.”


“I say exactly the reverse. That is exactly what it protects, that is exactly what it was designed to protect,” he continued. “It was designed to protect the right of the American people to keep and bear arms.”

Fischer went on to insist that today’s assault rifles were “the same kind of arms, rifles, assault weapons, military-style weapons that were used to defeat the British.”

Yes, because technology was so limited back then that the average citizen had a firearm nearly identical to the average soldier, we get to have rifles nearly identical to those carried in Afghanistan. Of course, the British also had battleships and artillery, so Fischer's argument is logical mush.

But this was all a lead up to the more common argument; that assault weapons just "look different" than hunting rifles and that gun-grabbing liberals want to ban them simply because they're so scary-looking.

"They just used their hunting rifles and used them to defend their independence," he argued. "So the Second Amendment is exactly designed to protect assault rifles [and] that's just nothing more than a fancy-pants hunting rifle."

OK, so the first part of that is wrong. The US Army won the Revolutionary War, not a bunch of farmers with muskets. Militia barely even fought. But that's neither here nor there. The real argument here is that hunting rifles and assault rifles are basically identical. The former head of the NRA, Marion Hammer, recently made the same argument -- while managing to add a pinch of racial insensitivity.

"Banning people and things because of the way they look because of the way they look, but here they are again," she said. "The color of a gun, the way it looks. It’s just bad politics."

But the thing is, assault weapons aren't just different in appearance, they're different in design. The argument that these are just hunting rifles that look scary is incredibly dishonest. No hunter should need a 30-round magazine. If it takes you 30 freakin' shots to bring down your target, someone should take your gun away from you. You're a menace. You're blind and couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence explains some other differences:

Some assault weapon features, like pistol grips, second handgrips, or barrel shrouds, make the gun easier to hold with two hands. This allows the shooter to spray an area with bullets without taking careful aim, and to control the gun without getting burned as the barrel heats up. Others, like detachable magazines, make it easier to maintain a high rate of fire for an extended period of time. Still others, like flash suppressors, allow the shooter to conceal his position. These features, most of which were specifically designed for the military, are unnecessary for hunting or target shooting.

The most common feature of an assault rifle seems to be the pistol grip, which allows the shooter to fire more rapidly by reducing recoil. Hunters don't need this feature, since the time to recover is also the time to aim. Pistol grips exist to create a hail of bullets, where there's no need to aim. Another common feature is a second pistol-like grip under the barrel, to protect the shooter from being burned by the heat of the rapidly fired bullets; again, a feature only necessary to for someone not interested in aiming carefully, instead intending to fire off a lot of bullets in a short amount of time.

And there's the irony; assault weapons bans aim very carefully at a very specific weapon that's uniquely problematic. It's a cautious approach to the incautious killer. And the idea that you need one of these weapons of war to protect you from the government? People try to use guns to protect themselves from government all the time. It's called a "police standoff" and it never works. The guy holed up in his house with an assault rifle never comes out on top. Never. And he shouldn't. He's a dangerous criminal who belongs behind bars. The Second Amendment was meant as a way to reduce the need for a standing army, nothing more. When it comes to removing government officials who abuse our rights, we use this thing called "democracy." It's worked better than police standoffs for more than two centuries. I say we stick with it and abandon the idea of voting via assassination -- which was never what the founders intended anyway.

Assault rifles don't just appear to be different, they are different. Substantially different. And those differences warrant substantially stricter regulation. If Bryan Fischer and the rest of the right refuse to see that, then screw 'em. We don't need their approval to do what's right and necessary.


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