We are all susceptible to the occasional knee-jerk reaction. We hear something and immediately jump to a position of opposition or support with little or no evidence to support the position. Sometimes such gut responses are correct and are subsequently validated by additional information, but often they are completely off base.
As a Second Amendment advocate I run into a lot of jerking knees and gut feelings that can be very difficult to overcome. They usually hit me as questions – like “why should anyone be allowed to have a gun like that,” or “why should anyone be allowed to have a gun in a church – library – school – bank, etc.” There are typically two parts to my answers to such questions. First I point out that, as the person exercising a constitutionally protected, fundamental right, it is not I who carry the burden of proof – it is the person wishing to restrict my rights. Therefore the questions should be; “what justification and authority exists for banning this type of gun, or prohibiting firearms possession in this location.” Because these questions come from gut feelings, most people asking them are completely blind to the bias implicit in the questions, even when it is pointed out to them. So the second part of my answer tries to apply some logic and proven historical facts to the issue. Of course, if the person is more committed to emotion than reason, there is little hope of swaying them, but, if a person is willing to suspend their emotions and let fact supercede assumptions, there is a chance I can make a convert.
In 1988, Josh Sugarmann, the founder and director of a propaganda-mill called the
“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. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.”
A true assault rifle is selective fire, meaning that it can fire either semi-auto, like a conventional rifle – one shot for each pull of the trigger – or full-auto, like a sub-machinegun – shooting repeatedly (and rapidly) as long as the trigger is held back. Gun guys did use the term “assault rifle” in advertising and discussion of semi-auto, civilian versions of military looking rifles, but we understood the difference. To this day it is common for TV news reports to include clips of someone firing a full-auto assault rifle as part of a report about semi-auto assault-rifle look-alikes.
Note Sugarmann’s references to “armor piercing bullets.” The anti-rights crowd liked to call these “Cop Killer Bullets” – because they can potentially penetrate police body armor – even though no police officer had ever been killed by such a bullet penetrating his vest. The hype about “Plastic Guns” being able to slip past airport metal detectors and x-ray machines was generated in response to introduction of the Glock pistol, a gun with a polymer grip-frame topped with a heavy steel slide and barrel, and easily detected. At the same time that this “plastic gun” was being decried as being purpose-built for terrorists, it was being adopted as the official duty-weapon of police departments around the country. Today, notoriously reliable, low-maintenance Glocks are the best selling handgun line in the country.
Along with emotional and intentionally misleading terminology, those who oppose individual rights play heavily upon natural mistrust and erroneous assumptions. Laws and regulations banning the legal carry of firearms in certain places – churches, schools, post offices, restaurants that serve alcohol, etc. – depend on the misguided notion that people who have proven themselves to be highly responsible and law-abiding with their firearms are going to become irresponsible hooligans if they enter one of these arbitrary “sensitive areas.” Not only have gun owners in general, and concealed carry permit holders in particular, demonstrated little inclination toward crime or criminally stupid behavior, the gun owners in states or localities where these types of restrictions have been repealed – or have never existed – have further proven that not having such restrictions does not result in any increase in crime or firearms stupidity. This is not based on speculation or hypothetical scenarios, but real life experience and clear statistics. Gun bans are only effective at keeping the most scrupulously law-abiding gun carriers from carrying in the “gun free zones.” Just like most gun control laws, bans on carry only effect the law-abiding. Criminals and jack-asses don’t obey such laws.
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