On Gun Control in 2016

Before I write a single word in this post, I want to clarify something – nowhere is this post meant to attack or insult those of you who are anti-gun, or for firearms bans. While I strongly disagree and stand by our Second Amendment as it is written today, we’re lucky enough to live in a free world where we can express our opinions.

That being said, I know that this is an extremely polarizing topic. In any site, scenario, or place where it’s discussed, it turns into an enormous argument with neither side actually being factual, and both sides filled with emotion and hate – things our nation has recently come to embrace in an “us vs. them” mentality. For that reason, I’ll be closing comments on this post. We are supposed to be a nation united, indivisible, and I won’t play host to another fruitless argument. If you have something to say, feel free to contact me and chew me out, give me a high-five, bash me on social, or whatever else you want to do. I’d much prefer if you just send me Chipotle or something, though.

Disclaimer: this is not legal advice, I am not a lawyer, and laws change frequently. Check your state laws on requirements to own a firearm by looking for your state’s Attorney General website or by calling the local police station, which will have the latest laws that apply to you.

Now, for your feature presentation.

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I try to avoid political posts, but today I’ve been pushed over my limit. In his “Weekly Address” on January 1, 2016, Barack Obama let out this steaming pile of thoughts:


Which leads me to respond with this video:


As with many things this man says, I have a whole lot to say. First, some fact checking – his “90% of households” fact is untrue, as unbiased polls taken at the time indicate. There effectively IS no “gun control loophole” anymore, which was a step that the firearms dealers did themselves. The American people do not support new gun control legislation by a majority, which is the most grievous lie that the gun control advocates like to say.

Even today, by the most recent polls from December 13, 2015, 53% of Americans were AGAINST new gun control, while only 45% supported it in some form. Despite the fact, a new bill has gone to the floor that would propose a sweeping ban on some of the most common firearms in the nation, regardless of actual combat effectiveness and based primarily on the fictional term “assault weapon” – a term used to describe how scary something looks. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look.

On Intentionally Confusing Terminology

How “Assault Weapon” is meant to mislead

Let’s go back to the year 1988. While technically I wasn’t born yet, I hear it was overall a pretty okay year. Back then, a whole 27 years ago, we had a similar debate on the table as covered in this article by the Washington Post. I’ve referenced an excerpt they used, which I’ll include below. Bolding added by The Washington Post.

Excerpt 1:

…the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. . . . Assault weapons — just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms — 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.

“Assault weapon” is by no means a technical term, nor a classification used for firearms anywhere in the world. It’s a fictional term used to group everything the lobbyists (that’s right, there’s anti-gun lobbyists, too) don’t like into the same category, and is used to confuse Americans into what restrictions are actually being put into place, AND confusing different action types, thereby misleading the public.

What is an “Assault Weapon”?

What does “Assault Weapon” mean? Absolutely nothing! Amazing that it’s used by every sensationalist news piece and anti-gun politician. In each use of the term by politicians, the actual meanings change, and if you were to ask someone what an “Assault Weapon” is, they would probably only be able to give a half-guessed term. There is, however, a general running trend, with the following items in no particular order. I’m also going to quickly discuss each of them before my comments will be in blue below each item

Loosely Defined TermMy personal thoughts
Semi-automatic firearm capable of accepting a detachable magazineThis is, essentially, every modern firearm today with the exception of specialized hunting rifles and revolvers. You need to go back to around 1950 before modern combat rifles used clips vs. magazines – that rule alone is concerning to a majority of gun owners.
Folding or telescoping (collapsible) stock, which reduces the overall length of the firearmAgain, this is a very common feature in rifles, but prominently in models that are typically associated with military rifles – AR15s, AK-47s, and hundreds or thousands more variations.

  • The idea of a telescoping sight isn’t for concealment purposes – it’s to allow the firearm to better fit the user. Not all of us have the same length arms to hold the rifle, and so a system to easily adjust it is required, as otherwise it would take extensive gunsmithing to properly use.
    In my own personal case, I am left-eye dominant. A majority of people are right-eye dominant, and so, rifles are built for right-eye dominant users. This means to properly use a scope, I have to put my face further across the stock of the rifle – if I didn’t have the ability to extend and adjust the stock length, this would be near impossible.
  • A folding stock is much more for storage purposes than any practical use. You’ll see folding stocks on systems similar to the AK-family. Try firing an AK-47 without a stock. You won’t hit a thing unless you’ve got a few bodybuilding trophies at home.

Regardless, the length of the firearm is not being modified with either stock system – the firearm, legally, is the part of the entire package that is involved in firing a round. This is actually an important clarification, as gun enthusiasts everywhere need to know – it’s one of the first things taught in any basic class. See “Existing Laws” below.

Pistol grip, whether rifle, shotgun, or pistolThis one is just ridiculous. In no way does a pistol grip make any weapon more deadly – it’s a matter of comfort. In addition, saying that “a pistol grip can’t be on a pistol” is ridiculous, and the only way to abide by a ban with this classification is to either forfeit your firearms or illegally modify them. See “Existing Laws” below.
Bayonet lug, which allows the mounting of a bayonetI want to know who actually feels threatened by a bayonet anymore. It’s impractical for modern use – if you need a knife, use a knife (it’s a whole lot shorter). If you need a spear, use a spear (it’s 5 to 10 pounds lighter). This would actually encapsulate rifles from before 1950 (which were previously exempt from guideline #1), meaning that old piece of history your great grandfather passed on is an assault weapon, too.
Threaded barrel, which can accept devices such as a flash suppressor, suppressor, compensator or muzzle brakeThis is a very different topic, and there are already restrictions on this. See “Existing Laws” below.
Grenade launcherReading this actually got a laugh out of me. That’s like saying your grocery list is “milk, eggs, bread, and heroin” – an entirely different category. See “Existing Laws” below.
Barrel shroud, which prevents burning of shooter’s arm or hand as a safety device… So, a safety feature? A barrel shroud on a firearm is, as stated, a safety device to avoid burning yourself.

How does this make something more dangerous? It doesn’t! This is probably an addition to dump in any remaining firearms that the above rules didn’t catch, since even single-shot rifles may have a barrel shroud.

Now that we’ve gone over that joke, I’m going to try and clarify some top-terms used in firearm classifications. These are terms used by manufacturers, by militaries and police, by informed gun owners, and everyone in between. These are real definitions, and hopefully serve as a nice reference for those of you who aren’t gun owners or into firearms, but care about the issue.

Single-Shot, Semi-Automatic, and Automatic Firearms

There are a few types of firearms when it comes to rate-of-fire and trigger action. Allow me to explain:

single shot firearm, typically seen in hunting rifles or boy’s rifles (older, .22lr rifles intended as a first firearm for decades), does as it implies – fires a single round before it has to be reloaded. You then have to manually open the action of the firearm, insert the round into the barrel, and close it before it can be fired again.

semi-automatic firearm, the most commonly manufactured and confused variant today, will fire a single round each time you pull the trigger. It is fed by either a clip (a system to hold the bullets in place to allow the rifle itself to load the next round, typically using a built-in spring system) or a magazine (what people typically think of as a clip – the spring is inside the detachable box and the box feeds the round into the firearm). I strongly need to reiterate this – a semi-automatic firearm can ONLY fire a single shot per pull of the trigger. There are no exceptions to the rule on this one.

An automatic firearm will fire multiple rounds per pull of the trigger. This can come in burst-fire (i.e. 3 rounds per trigger pull, standard on military rifles) or full-auto (the firearm will continue to fire until it jams, overheats, or in 99.99% of the time the magazine or belt runs out of ammunition). Most automatic weapons are NOT owned by civilians – they are owned by the military.

What does this mean? It means that rifles such as the AR-15 platform (the most commonly targeted firearm by gun control lobbyists) are almost always semi-automatic when owned by a civilian. See “Existing Laws” below for more on this.

Common Firearm / Gun Classifications & Configurations

There are a lot of variations and interpretations. These are, in broad strokes, the key and most common or relevant classifications and shouldn’t be taken as an extensive, complete list. Instead, it’s used to illustrate that there is no term “Assault Weapon”.

ClassificationMeaning
HandgunThis is, simply, a pistol. It includes semi-automatic handguns (see above), revolvers, single-action pistols, and anything that is… Well, a handgun.
Long GunThis is a classification that goes along with most things that aren’t a handgun – carbines, rifles, and shotguns. They require two hands to operate and are typically fired from the hip (if you want to miss a lot) or the shoulder.

The bore of the barrel (the internal diameter) cannot exceed 1/2 of an inch (.50 caliber), with the exception of shotguns and flare guns.

Semi-Automatic RifleThis is a long gun with a semi-automatic action. Civilian AR-15s and AK-47s are almost always semi-automatic rifles, and not assault rifles, as described below.

It’s worth noting that a variety of what we call “Assault Rifles” (see below) are not, in truth, assault rifles, but are semi-automatic rifles. The military and police primarily use semi-automatic functions for the individual unit/soldier.

Again, the bore of the barrel cannot exceed 1/2 of an inch (.50 caliber).

Automatic RifleA long gun with automatic functionality. Almost always military. See “AOW” below.
Assault RifleThis is likely the root of the term “Assault Weapon”, though again, any firearm can be called an “Assault Weapon” because it’s simply made up.

An Assault Rifle is a rifle with automatic (including 3 round burst) capabilities, chambered in a round more powerful than a pistol cartridge but less than that of a full power cartridge.

Battle RifleThis is a ‘larger’ version of an Assault Rifle. Simply, it fires a larger bullet meant for greater range or effect.

As there are hundreds of bullet types, pressures, and manufacturer differences, there’s no clear cutoff as to what an intermediary vs. a full cartridge is – however, the 7.62x38mm round used in the AK-series of firearms is large enough to classify as a Battle Rifle.

Any Other Weapon (AOW)This is a special classification for certain types of weapon, specifically:

  • Machine Guns – Any firearm that can shoot in an automatic mode.
  • Short-Barreled Shotguns – Shotguns with a barrel length less than 18″ in length or with an overall length less than 26″.
  • Short-Barreled Rifles – Any firearm with a barrel less than 16″ or with an overall length less than 26″. Unmodified pistols do not fall under this regulation (though addition of certain features will convert to a SBR).
  • Destructive Devices – Explosives or firearms with a bore greater than 1/2″ (.50 caliber). Exemptions include shotguns and flare guns.
  • Suppressors – A ‘silencer’ or device intended to reduce the noise of the firearm below a certain extent.
  • Antique Firearms – An antique that cannot be used to fire. Usually rendered non-functioning on purpose and with permanence.

It should be noted that it is 100% legal for a citizen to own a firearm in the AOW category so long as one meets the criteria and properly registers. Failure to meet the criteria wile in possession is a felony with a charge of up to 10 years in prison.

See the “Title II Weapons” footnote for more information.

Relevant Links:
BAFTA | NFA | Title II Weapons
Firearms on Wikipedia

Existing Laws

As mentioned above, there are already a variety of existing laws in place. While I won’t go into each of them because there are a lot, check out the NFA and Title II Weapons links. Of course, the AOW policies mentioned above apply.

Gun laws vary from state-to-state. The “gun-show loophole” frequently mentioned was that, commonly, at gun shows an individual would sell a large number of firearms to other individuals, exploiting the state’s law that a person-to-person firearm transfer does not require a background check. However, most reputable gun shows enforce this regardless of state law – you need a special license to sell firearms, and if you’re a business, then selling firearms will always result in a background check. It’s a simple, easy way for sellers to reduce legal liability, so most businesses will do so.

Here’s a fun little video I like that shows how uninformed many people are regarding gun laws, even those in authority positions:

Use of Executive Powers in Gun Control

Just like he’s done so many times before, Obama has specifically stated that due to the lack of action in Congress (read: the lack of Congress doing what he wants them to do), he will issue executive orders on gun control. Aside from the fact that he’s issued more executive orders and overreached (as ruled by the Supreme Court) multiple times in his terms as President, that doesn’t seem to hinder him – it’s expected that he’ll announce his intentions sometime this week.

Congress is there for a reason, and that’s to serve as the voice of the American people on determining new and changing laws. Executive orders to implement gun control aren’t actions of the leader of a republic – they’re actions of a dictator. In the past, the Supreme Court has barred Obama’s executive orders, as his use of them directly bypasses the balance of power we have set up as a central part of our government.
This raises the big question in my mind – how are we allowing this to happen? Having a president bypass the legal system to fulfill their own agenda or impose their opinion on a free nation is not freedom. In any other time period, with any other president, claims to simply override Congress vote with an executive power would cause an uproar, and yet a huge part of the country is simply sitting by and letting it happen, or worse, supporting a unilateral decision.

People can claim that statements and thoughts like the ones I’ve expressed earn me a tinfoil hat, or that I’m arguing a ‘slippery slope’, or that I simply don’t care about innocent lives… None of which is true. I care individual lives, and I’m just as devastated whenever a mass shooting occurs – the difference is that I don’t blame the tool, I blame the individual at fault.

A Quick Wrap-Up

I’ve gone on quite a bit with detailed information, terminology, and my beliefs. This started out as a simple Facebook post that I couldn’t simply fit into one – the various issues around terminology and misconceptions have been building up for months, and now they’ve spilled out into the world.

As I said before, to those of you who have opposing views (some of whom I consider friends) – I understand your side of the argument, and there is merit to some points. However, the sweeping measures that are being pushed for are not rational. They are a knee-jerk reaction using tragedy and misconceptions as fuel to disarm law-abiding gun owners. They are a direct contradiction to one of the most controversial statements written in the history of the United States – a statement I hold dear:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.