The New York Times > Opinion > On Guard, America

The NYTimes Blows It Again:

Here follows a critique of yesterday's lead editorial, "On Guard, America":

As regressive milestones go, few are as frightful in this new era of homeland security as the decision by Congress and the Bush administration to allow the expiration of the 10-year-old law protecting the public from assault rifles and other rapid-fire battlefield weapons. The law - a far from perfect but demonstrably effective restraint on high-tech gunslingers - expires on Monday with not a whimper from the White House.
This lead paragraph needs as much correction as any whole article normally would. I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I shall begin with the outright untruths.

First, none of the weapons banned by this bill -- not one! -- were "rapid-fire." All of them fired one shot per pull of the trigger. All weapons that do otherwise (properly termed "automatic" weapons, or "select-fire" if they have a switch that lets you choose the rate of fire) were illegal before the ban, and remain illegal now. They were regulated by the National Firearms Acts of the 1930s. No one may legally own or possess one except the military, certain police units, and persons holding what is known as a "Class III" permit. A Class III permit requires large fees, extensive background checks, and other safeguards. In a lifetime spent around shooting ranges, I've met only one person who actually had one.

Second, none of these firearms -- not one! -- were "battlefield weapons." The military has firearms that look like these, but they don't function the same way. Battlefield weapons are generally speaking select-fire. None of these are. The Army would not issue any of these to forces it planned to send into the field.

Third, there is no evidence of any sort that this law was "effective" at stopping crime.

Fourth, I object to the notion that this is "regressive." As Chesterton pointed out, what's regression to one is progress to another. I consider this a major step forward in removing unconstitutional restrictions from the law; I also think it's generally progressive to strip away useless laws. But my goal is that of building a society based on individual liberty and independence, not that of building a society based on a life that is regulated 'for our safety.'

Fifth, I wonder at the suggestion that these were "frightful" and "high tech" weapons. Most of them have been around in their current form for between thirty and fifty years. All of the Kalishnikov variants, for example, are based on a WWII-era design. There have been minor adjustments and refinements since then, but it's pretty much the same rifle as ever.
When George Bush was a candidate four years ago and under campaign pressure from moderates, he announced that he did support the renewal of this highly popular law. It turned out that he was shooting rhetorical blanks; his support depended on the renewal's ever getting through Congress in the first place. As president, Mr. Bush has never once demanded that his G.O.P. leaders cease playing first responder to the demands of the gun lobby and take the initiative on this public safety issue.
The Times has an annoying habit of assuming the mantle of moderation. Anyone who agrees with them is a "moderate." Now, honestly, the fact is that the Times' position on gun control is reflected by the laws of only a double-handful of states; the vast majority of states now permit concealed carry on a shall-issue basis. Most of the rest permit concealed carry, though not on a shall-issue basis. The Times' position is hard to the left of what the majority of America practices, and the momentum is on the side of those who believe in the Right to Bear Arms.

Roughly the same objection can be raised against the notion that this was a "highly popular law." If that were the case, why have the Democrats been so quiet about gun control this election season? Kerry took a swipe at Bush over this, but made sure the same week to get out to the gun range and get photographed blasting away at sport clays. (Amusingly, the firearm he used was one he voted to ban.)

Again, pretty much the same argument can be fielded against the Times' demand that Bush should have done more to resurrect this monster. If this were such a moderate, highly popular law, why should it have been a hurdle to say that you would be glad to sign it if Congress sent it to you? The fact that the bill had no chance of getting through Congress is a little telling. Blaming it on the influence of the "gun lobby" doesn't get you out of the pit. The "gun lobby" is just American citizens, after all. I'm the NRA! (And so are you, Sovay, if you'll get around to cutting them that check you promised after losing a certain bet, which forfeit has been outstanding since February.)
A decade's experience with the assault weapons ban showed clearly that the only people who were inconvenienced were the criminals, the gun lobbyists and the least responsible gun dealers. Certainly the Second Amendment rights of responsible hunters were never crimped. Anyone taking to the woods next week with a freshly unfettered AK-47 or Uzi, or a TEC-9 assault pistol, will only make mincemeat of the game and a mockery of sportsmanship.
First of all, this garbage about "sportsmanship" needs to stop. The argument for firearms rights has almost nothing to do with hunting. By far the majority of the argument has to do with self-defense, and a citizen's duty to protect himself, his family, and his community. We have both the right and the duty under the law, and we also have a constitutional right to the tools.

However, since you mention it, an AK-47 is a .30 caliber rifle (7.62x39mm). Since (again!) none of these are automatic weapons, there's no fear of making "mincemeat" out of the animal; you get one shot per pull of the trigger. One shot from a .30 caliber rifle is the single most common means of bringing down a deer for your table. The AK-47 is not ideal: most people prefer a scoped .30-30 or .30-06 for the task. On the other hand, some persons apparently prefer crawling on their belly through the mud with a 12-gauge, so to each their own.
....Now the greedier gun dealers are preparing to profit on the law's expiration as if it signaled the arrival of Beaujolais nouveau. The Bush administration has allowed the right to bear arms to degenerate back to the right to brandish battlefield weapons on the home front.
"Beaujolais nouveau." Somehow that phrase does as much to show the Times' bias as anything else in the article. If you didn't get it, though, they hammer the point one more time: they repeat the dishonest formula, "battlefield weapons," and they refer to a restoration of our rights as "degenerate."

Once again, the Times has misrepresented the truth about these firearms. They have dishonestly portrayed them as automatic weapons, "rapid-fire" "battlefield weapons" that would make "mincemeat" out of their targets. They have suggested, in despite of the facts, that the ban somehow impacted crime rates. They have also misrepresented the argument of firearms rights proponents, who have never suggested that hunting was the reason for these firearms' legality.

The editors of the Times have, in other words, approached the issue without any regard for facts or fairness. If they wish to know why the majority of the country is opposed to their suggested policy, they might take that as a starting point.

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