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Jim Geyer, Horace, N.D., Published February 06 2013

Letter: Children’s lives more important than ‘fun’ with assault weapons

We are in a national discussion about banning assault weapons. What are they? After World War II, U.S. Army studies discovered that accurate rifle fire caused fewer enemy casualties than rapid, inaccurate rifle fire. They developed assault “rifles” that could fire automatically by holding the trigger back until a 20- to 100-shell magazine was empty. The rate of fire can be 650 rounds a minute, nearly 11 rounds a second. Thus we had the M16, and the Russians developed the AK-47.

With a small exception, federal law forbids the sale or ownership of assault “rifles” that fire automatically. Gun makers saw a marketing niche and started selling assault “weapons” that are identical to assault “rifles,” except you can fire only one shell per trigger pull. You can fire as fast as you can move your finger.

Hunting?

Assault weapons are legal for hunting but not particularly useful. They are not very accurate. If you can’t hit a deer with a six-shot, standard semi-automatic rifle, 20 or even 40 shots in your assault weapon probably won’t either.

Assault weapons are not practical for home defense either. Going to keep one at your bedside loaded, ready for a burglar? Doesn’t sound very safe. And you might shoot your neighbor in his house, given the bullets would go through windows and walls. It’s difficult to defend yourself with an assault weapon outside the home. Try taking one down to the mall. See how long you last.

Tyranny?

Some folks claim they need assault weapons to fight tyranny. Not sure how that would work. Who decides there is tyranny? How does a civilian fight it with his assault weapon? Any tyranny is likely to have trained and disciplined soldiers able to kill a civilian before his first magazine clip is empty. Our best bet to avoid tyranny is to follow the rules set out in our Constitution, including the right to bear arms, which, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, is subject to reasonable regulation.

The best argument I have seen for the value of assault weapons is that they are fun to shoot. The 10-year-old boy deep within me would like to try one; and I haven’t been 10 in nearly 60 years.

‘Kind of fun’

A recent online article by NBC News reporter Matthew DeLuca says: “Ross Meyer, a manager at Gun World and Archer, a Nevada gun store, said some of his customers buy AR-style weapons for defense – but many also simply enjoy shooting the guns. ‘A lot of them, it’s just kind of fun to go out and shoot,’ said Meyer. His store sold out of the 150 AR-style weapons it had in stock within three days of the shooting in Newtown (Conn.). ‘And then also the high-capacity magazine, that’s fun to have.’ ”

I don’t see how having “fun” can justify a weapon that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers at Newtown. Using 30-round magazine clips, the shooter fired 50 to 100 rounds in 11 to 13 minutes. One first-grader was shot 11 times.

Lock ’em up?

I do not see how improvement in mental health care will catch every one-in-a-million crazy who will kill first-graders without mercy. We are not going to lock up everyone who seems weird; that would leave no one to lock the door. What might save some other first-graders is banning all assault weapons and all large magazines.

The bottom line is that the right to have “fun” with an assault weapon, with its other dubious uses, is far less than the right of 20 first-graders to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.