Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bill Monroe on “Assault Weapons” and Hunting

I continue to think that there may be hope for The Oregonian yet. The most recent salvo is this editorial by Bill Monroe, the Outdoor editor simply entitled “'Assault rifles' have a legal and useful place in hunting”. In the wake of the Jim Zumbo incident, the title alone is a step in the right direction. I did, however, find a few things in the article that seemed confusing or contradictory in light of the bold title. I also found a few too many popular anti-gun misconceptions in the article.

Problem one was indicating that the Ruger 10/22 used a “banana clip” and implying that when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine it qualified as an “assault weapon”. Rifles like the Garand and Carcano rifles have “clips”. The cartridges are held together and inserted into the magazine well in a clip. The magazine well provides the remaining moving components to allow the rifle to load. Conversely, the Ruger 10/22, AR-15, and many other semi-automatics descended from post World War II automatic rifles have “magazines”. Nor would I consider any variant of the Ruger 10/22 to be classified as an “assault weapon”.

So why am I overly hung up on semantics in this case? If you want to win a debate, you have to define your terms. Modern debate over the Second Amendment has typically used terms coined and defined by individuals who would like nothing better than to see private firearm ownership in the United States strictly regulated, at best, or eliminated all together. That effectively cedes the advantage to the anti-gun movement. I therefore think it’s very important that those who recognize and support our Second Amendment rights are very careful in our word choice to try to frame the debate in terms based on real technology, not terms devised to create a political or emotional reaction.

Bill also still seems to be bitter about the Jim Zumbo incident referring. I can at least understand where he’s coming from here – he and Jim are effectively in the same line of work. For me the Jim Zumbo situation boils down to a few simple facts. First, Jim has a right to say whatever he pleases within the limits of the First Amendment. His comments were well within those confines. However, his sponsors and many of their customers were quite taken aback by the ignorance of his remarks and how easily those remarks could be taken by the Gun Control lobby to support their own aims. Pro-Second Amendment groups were well within their rights to drop Jim, and I believe it was appropriate to do so as his blog made it into Senator Carl Levin’s weekly tirade calling for nationwide gun bans the next week. In my mind it would be no different than a member of the Brady Campaign being dismissed because they wrote a pro-Second Amendment piece.

There’s one confusing statement in the editorial that seems to be a non sequetur when compared to the rest of the article: “We all wish there weren't assault weapons afield during hunting seasons -- or perhaps any other season.” I don’t understand who he’s referring to when he says “we all” and it’s not clear what class of weapons he refers to when he uses the phrase “assault weapons” in this context? I certainly have no problem with weapons the Brady Campaign mistakenly labels “assault weapons” being in the hands of the law abiding. Why? By their definition any semi-automatic firearm with certain features can be branded an “assault weapon”. Whereas the true weapons that date back to the tradition of the German Sturmgewehr are fully automatic. Fully automatic weapons are rare, expensive, and strictly regulated. I agree that in fully automatic mode they really don’t have any place in hunting, but again, I have no problem with these weapons being in the hands of law abiding citizens either.

Bill continues to state “The fact is, as one reader pointed out, one of the newest, the AR-15, when reduced to a five-round magazine and semi-automatic (pull-the-trigger-each-time), and with a scope mounted above the barrel, is an uncommonly steady hunting weapon.” I agreed with him in sentiment here. I own an AR-15 with a scope and a 20” free floating barrel. It routinely puts 5 rounds through 3 touching holes at 25 yards and is only limited by my accuracy at longer distances. However, no modern “assault rifile” is “reduced to… semi-automatic.” By indicating that they are “reduced” to semi-automatic, Bill seems to be falling prey to the (incorrect) conventional wisdom that “assault rifles” can be easily made fully automatic. AR-15’s, semi-automatic AK-47’s and others are PURPOSE BUILT RIFLES. They are built on specially designed semi-automatic receivers, and are not “converted” or “reduced” from their military counterparts. Some of the parts interchange, but not the critical fire group components. Semi-automatic receivers also lack the correct pin-out configuration and rail system to convert the firearm to a select fire weapon.

Going forward, I’ve actually been impressed with Jim Zumbo. He realized he screwed up – big time – and in the process endangered everyone’s Second Amendment Rights. Not only has he issued a retraction of his previous comments, he’s endeavored to learn more about the rifles he ignorantly and unfairly demonized in his blog. Unfortunately when you’re in a position of responsibility, when you screw up, you’re held accountable for it, and that can mean losing your job.

In closing, overall I thought Bill made some decent points in the article. Not as many as I’d hoped when I read the title, but it’s a real step in the right direction. What really detracted in my mind was the sloppy terminology and the clearly tenuous familiarity with “assault rifles”. The only way that the Second Amendment is going to remain secure is through breaking through the anti-gun crowd’s miasma of fear and ignorance with facts and data.

Until next time!!!

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