Monday, November 22, 2004

Here we go again.

Are you all ready for a good gun-control debate? If not, you'd better get that way before you read this story:

A dispute among deer hunters over a tree stand in northwestern Wisconsin erupted Sunday in a series of shootings that left five people dead and three others injured, officials said.

The suspect was "sniping'' at the victims with a SKS assault-style rifle, Zeigle said. He was "chasing after them and killing them,'' he said.

The dead included four males, including a teenage boy, and a woman, Zeigle said. The man who radioed for help was not fatally wounded. Some of the victims were shot more than once.

Besides the poorly written story, this incident is tragic, but the question at hand is whether gun control laws, and specifically a ban on assault rifles is the way to prevent such tragedies.

First of all, I believe that 'assault rifle' defines a weapon that can either be fired one round at a time or in multiple round bursts. The SKS is semi-automatic, meaning that it does not have the capability to fire more than one round at a time.

Therefore, an SKS is not actually an assault rifle. Read more about it here and here.

Now check the photo below and see if it fits your mental image of 'assault rifle.' When I hear 'assault rifle' I think of an uzi, not a pre-WWII era semi-auto.

SKS "assault rifle"

The point being that a ban on assault rifles would not even outlaw the SKS, and thus this incident would have still occurred, ban or no.

To ban the SKS, one would have to ban semi-automatic weapons, which would include virtually every handgun on the market and many sporting weapons as well.

Once we get our definitions straight, we are still left with the question of whether we should ban assault rifles. I haven't completely made up my mind.

As I discussed this question with my insightful roommate Dan, he asked me if I thought a citizen should be allowed to own a tank. Though I am sympathetic to the libertarian cause at time, I don't think I can support the right to keep and bear M1A2s.

I am fairly certain then, that somewhere between a hunting rifle and an Abrams tank there must be a reasonable place to draw the line.

Apache Attack helicopter gunship - No. (why you'd want one when you could fly a Blackhawk is beyond me though)

155mm Howitzer - No.

M19 fully automatic grenade launcher - No.

M60 crew-served machine gun - No.

M16A2 assault rifle - ???

I can't think of a reason why a law-abiding citizen would want an assault rifle, except to take it to the range for fun. However, I am extremely reluctant to take away their rights to purchase one, since undoubtedly criminals will still have access (albeit more difficult) to them.

How about this: anyone with a conviction of any violent crime (gun related or not) is banned for life from possessing an assault rifle. Thoughts?