A New Approach to Assault Weapons Control

It’s literally two sentences:

“Any firearm with a detachable magazine of any capacity, external feed mechanism of any capacity, or internal magazine greater than 10 rounds capacity, shall be considered a Class III weapon under the National Firearms Act (NFA). In addition, any and all external or aftermarket mechanisms designed to increase the rate of fire of an otherwise-legal firearm are comprehensively banned.”

First, this proposal bans no guns, which should mollify those who view firearms bans as unconstitutional, bad policy, incentives for black marketing, or simply unfair to law-abiding gun owners. By banning nothing, this proposal acknowledges and recognizes the need to protect rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Rather, this proposal makes it possible for law-abiding citizens to exercise their rights to the fullest, while blocking those who might constitute a danger. It bans nothing; it does require owners to meet higher standards of accountability, making it at least a proposal not inconsistent with conservative values, and worthy of serious consideration across ideological lines.

Second, this proposal sidesteps technical arguments about what constitutes an “assault weapon”. There is such a definition (see above video), but there are so many variations and gradations that trying to establish a definition that satisfies everyone is often impossible.* Therefore, this proposal identifies the one design feature that allows users to kill large numbers of people very quickly, reload instantly, and continue killing: the large ammunition capacity and rapid reload capability afforded by detachable, high-capacity magazines, which serves no other purpose beyond facilitating the mass killing of human beings. Period. There is one environment, and one only, in which one may require this capability: a battlefield. This also prevents the kind of travesty that occurred with the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, when gun companies simply changed stocks and removed bayonet lugs to turn banned AK-47s into legal, so-called “sporters”, which were still every bit as lethal as the original weapons. While some detachable-magazine weapons carry less than ten rounds, the ability of the aftermarket to create higher-capacity replacement magazines is prodigious, making the classification of all firearms built with detachable magazines as Class III weapons essential.

Third, there is a burgeoning market in aftermarket items designed to increase the rate of fire of traditional semiautos, enabling them to fire at rates comparable to fully-automatic machineguns. These make previous controls on fully-auto weapons obsolete; this obsolescence, along with the fact that almost any semiauto can be made to fire this way, demands the classification of these weapons with other weapons that fire at those rates. Whether that type of sustained rapid-fire capability is the product of internal or external mechanicals is of purely academic interest. If it can fire like a machinegun, it should be regulated like a machinegun. And practically any semi-auto can be made to fire that way-for more examples than you can count, go to YouTube and type in “bump firing.” Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Did you see that? Who knew?

Fourth, this proposal does not require amending the Constitution, and may not even require the passage of new laws: it is possible that the changes to the NFA necessary to implement this law could be done administratively, bypassing the torturous and unlikely-to-be-successful legislative process. In any case, the NFA has been the law of the land for more than 80 years, and is unlikely to be overturned.

Note: this proposal does not ban ANY guns. Rights are respected. The overwhelming percentage of firearms would remain legal and available; this proposal applies only to weapons which have been specifically engineered to kill people in large numbers, and even then, requires only that prospective owners meet the standards that have applied to owners of fully-automatic weapons since 1934. As most, if not all, legal semi-autos can be made to fire in a manner indistinguishable from full-auto (so-called “bump firing”), they should be regulated in the same common-sense Constitutionally-approved manner that other full-auto weapons are (and have been) in the US for more than 80 years. We know it can work; there is precedent. Before the NFA, the Thompson submachine gun made the Twenties Roar; after the NFA, crimes involving legally-owned full-automatic weapons dropped away to almost nothing, and have remained there ever since.

Pass it. Pass it now.


*Generally speaking, an “assault rifle” embodies four design characteristics: a straight-line stock with a pistol grip (for recoil control during rapid fire); a detachable high-capacity magazine; a cartridge that splits the difference in power between a full-powered rifle, and the pistol bullets used in submachine guns; and  selectable semi-auto/ full-automatic capability (Semi-auto fires one bullet with each pull of the trigger; full-auto is the sustained rapid fire associated with machine guns.). While only the first three are included on most “assault rifles” sold to the civilian market, a wide variety of simple, inexpensive add-ons (such as so-called “bump stocks”, triggers that fire multiple rounds, and trigger springs and cranks), or even simply adjusting the way the gun is held, can enable the gun to fire in a manner indistinguishable from full-automatic, making the lack of select-fire less of a difference than it seems at first. Likewise, weapons that embody all these characteristics except the bullet, such as civilian-market Uzis, are included, as they lack only the ability to reliably kill at long battlefield ranges. Hence the use of the term assault “weapon” instead of assault “rifle.”


Can we do anything about gun violence in the U.S.?

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that's not normal or OK.

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that’s not normal or OK.

Once again, Americans are reeling at the sight of another mass shooting. In what’s become all-too-commonplace, we react with horror, sorrow, anger, and discussion, but at the end of the day, we all know this will happen again. President Obama said as much during his remarks addressing the shooting in Oregon, and regardless of your politics, every American probably agrees with Obama when he said it’s likely he’ll have to address another mass shooting before his term is over. However, in our efforts to end the horrific violence caused by guns, we address a few key issues: the ease in which potential shooters access guns, how we handle mental illness in the United States, and whether any reasonable limitations on gun ownership are appropriate if it means preventing another mass shooting like we’ve seen across the country, year after year.

The following piece attempts to address a few key issues. First, we must try to find a way to prevent mass shootings from ripping apart communities across the country and if reasonable gun legislation is off the table (despite overwhelming support in most parts of the country), we need another solution. We simply cannot accept mass shootings as normal, or something that cannot be prevented because the Second Amendment prohibits the adoption of any legislation preventing some individuals from accessing firearms. The piece takes a look at perhaps a key psychological reason why it’s so challenging to pass reasonable legislation aimed at ending the scourge of gun violence affecting Americans every single day. Additionally, we must consider our rhetoric towards guns–especially the paranoid notion that someone is coming for them–which may–or may not–be contributing to gun-related violence in the United States.

What’s laid out here isn’t a series of concrete solutions to gun violence, but perhaps it will provide us with an outlet for deeper discussion–on both sides of the aisle–on what can be done to make sure we can end the evils of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States.

Continue reading

Guns, Mental Health and Florida’s Failure

To say that Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, is not popular is a massive understatement.

He helped make Florida the first state to require those seeking assistance (welfare) undergo a drug test. Unsurprisingly, this move didn’t save the state money. It cost the state money.

Governor Scott has most recently signed a bill that stigmatizes those who seek treatment for mental health issues.

I have to pause here. This latest move infuriates me.

The bill infringes on a Florida citizen’s right to bear arms. You know, that thing better known as the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution?


Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that will close a loophole that allowed dangerously mentally ill people to admit themselves for treatment, then quickly check out and buy a gun.

The legislation was one of the most significant gun bills to pass this year’s legislative session and was supported by Democrats, Republicans and the National Rifle Association…

The gun bill addresses people who doctors say pose a danger to themselves or others. Their names will be put into databases to prevent them from buying guns.

If the patient doesn’t agree to be voluntarily admitted for treatment, an involuntary commitment petition would be filed. Patients who voluntarily committed themselves would do so with the understanding that they would be barred from purchasing firearms.

If patients refused to give up their gun-purchasing rights, the involuntary commitment process would proceed.

The bill includes a pathway for people to petition the court to regain their gun-purchasing rights after they are treated. A doctor would have to agree that the person should regain the right.

Maybe it’s not clear why this bill isn’t good. After all, I don’t want guns in the hands of people who will do bad things.

But I don’t want people to do bad things. And I don’t want a gun. Still, rights are rights.

But there’s a faulty assumption here. For starters, having a mental illness that requires hospitalization doesn’t mean a person is bad, or is unable to determine right and wrong. People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be targets of violence than to commit acts of violence. See this, this, this, and this.  (I could go on…)

This bill may actually keep people from getting help and treatment they need.

The stigma around mental health is huge, and to get people to seek treatment is hard enough. But now, with this bill, there’s a state-sanctioned stigma. It’s now permissible by the State of Florida to stigmatize someone having a hard time through no fault of their own and seeking help.  It’s permissible to take away a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

I could go on (and on and on), but this bill is just terrible. Stigma by the state for severe depression? Loss of constitutional rights for an eating disorder? (Which, by the way, I was hospitalized for at age 15.)

It’s now legal in Florida. Assuming you get treatment.

This law does nothing productive to curb gun violence. It does nothing to address the real issues behind gun culture, the pervasive violence in our society. This law certainly doesn’t help and only hurts a group of already vulnerable people who society tends to shame anyway.

I leave with this this fantastic  image, but keep in mind, this was supported by Democrats and Republicans–shame on you.


Thank you, Justine, for this sadly relevant image!

My Party Identification

If you haven’t read many of my posts here on the Everblog, you might not be aware that I am a classic “yellow-dog” Democrat.  I’ve never, not once in my nearly three decades as a registered voter, voted Republican.

I’ve contemplated moving Left of my Party more than once, and if there were viable state and national options in that direction I would have probably given them my vote in recent years.  That’s not my point here.  What I want to announce is that I am willing to vote Republican.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I would happily vote Republican …

If … a Republican candidate could be trusted to protect the right (yes, right) of my daughters, my wife, my sister – all  women – to control their own reproductive destinies.

If … the modern Republican Party were not in thrall to economic policies that haven’t worked outside of Ayn Rand novels.

If … the Republican Party’s Congressional Leadership were not made up – entirely – of white males.

If … the Republican Party’s national platform were not so concerned with who my neighbors can marry.

If … Republicans were thinking of immigration reform more in terms of human decency and less in terms of rebranding their marketing.

If … Republicans were as concerned about  billionaires paying a reasonable tax rate as they are about local tea party groups maintaining 501(c)4 designations.

If … Republican House members seemed less sure that universal (and universally affordable) health insurance would destroy the fabric of American competitiveness.

If … Republican elected officials at all levels seemed more alarmed about the epidemic of gun violence in America.

If … Republicans were less-hostile toward traditional public education.

If … Republicans weren’t so certain that privatization can cure all ills.

Yes … I would happily vote for a Republican candidate if even most of those conditions were met.  But they’re not.  They haven’t been.  For my entire memory as a voter, R’s have been convinced that overwhelmingly male legislative bodies know what’s best for women’s bodies.  They’ve consistently promoted policies of “trickle-down” economics that have damaged our national character.  They’ve resisted placing women and racial minorities in positions of authority.  They’ve been obsessed with who people are allowed to fall in love with.  They’ve opposed reform in immigration.  They’ve insisted that it’s OK for tens of millions of Americans to walk around uninsured.  They’ve shifted the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle-class.  They’ve flooded our streets with guns.  They’ve starved public schools, from kindergarten through graduate education.  They’ve funded private prisons, private schools, etc. at the expense of existing functional and efficient public programs.

No … Democrats are not perfect on any of these issues.  They are, in my opinion, moving past the center and to the right on too many issues.  I want my Party to do better.  But the alternative is entirely unacceptable.

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface.  I didn’t mention Social Security or Labor or a variety of other issues close to my heart.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could vote Republican?  If a fine, upstanding candidate could win my vote without me worrying about party identification?  Yeah, it would.  But in today’s political climate the facts tell me that checking the “R” column gets me exactly the opposite of what I hope for America.