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Semi-automatic weapons unnecessary, unsafe in civilian hands

Posted on December 24, 2012 | by Marcelo Cicconet

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The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 and the Bushmaster XM-15 are, undeniably, good examples of clever engineering. What is clever about these rifles is that they are semi-automatic — when a bullet fires, the power from the explosion is used

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to load a fresh cartridge into the chamber, and the weapon is ready to shoot again. This mechanism allows for rapid fire, making these two devices attractive choices not only for law enforcement organizations around the world, but also for civilians to use in shooting sports, hunting and personal protection.

That sounds like an advertisement, but reality is less black and white. On July 20, James Eagan Holmes carried a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 when he killed 12 and injured 59 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. On Dec. 14, Adam Peter Lanza took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., using mainly a Bushmaster XM-15. Both rifles were legally bought in the United States.

Civilian ownership of so-called military-style weapons is a major topic in the controversy surrounding gun control that re-emerged after the tragedy in Newtown.

The Newtown tragedy finally prompted President Obama to urge for practical actions aiming to reduce gun violence in the United States. Although specific points will not be available until late January, proposed measures will likely include a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, as well as the closing of loopholes that allow people to buy guns without a proper background check. On the other side, the National Rifle Association, a powerful gun-rights lobbying group, is calling for a more armed society, suggesting that schools should be protected by armed police. Some politicians even propose that teachers should carry concealed guns.

One can not help but doubt how successful a teacher would be trying to defend their class from a determined shooter with a semi-automatic rifle or be wary of teachers using these weapons improperly. Besides, armed guards did not prevent the mass shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

Banning legal access to military-style weapons is a critical, necessary first step towards less gun violence in the United States. To begin with, it is obvious that the events in Newtown and Aurora would have had different outcomes if buying semi-automatic weapons was legally impossible.

The debate about this subject is intense mainly because gun rights advocates tend to exaggerate the protections offered by the Second Amendment. President Obama will definitely not suggest a complete ban on personal guns. “Like the majority of Americans,” he wrote in an op-ed after the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., last year, “I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. And the courts have settled that as the law of the land.” Regarding background checks, he said responsible, law-abiding gun owners agree that “an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to buy a gun so easily; that there’s room for us to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety and are fully compatible with a robust Second Amendment.”

The Second Amendment could not predict how semi-automatic weapons would be used by civilians for mass shootings. But, evidently, preventing civilians from owning semi-automatic guns does not infringe on the Constitution.

For those who still believe in the right of owning military-style weapons and magazines, the questions that remain are: What do you need them for? Are they really necessary for hunting, target-shooting at the gun range or even self-protection?

Marcelo Cicconet is a contributing columnist. Email him at opinion@nyunews.com.

Comments

  • Steve

    Many hunting rifles are semi automatic. They have been for years. There is little difference between what is now being called an assault rifle (a true assault rifle is fully automatic capable) and many hunting rifles. The size of the bullet is actually smaller than many hunting rifles. There may be more powder in the cartraige for a longer range. But the truth is, a small .22 cal rifle has a range of up to a mile and a half. The stock, along with a clip size, is really the difference between…

  • Tom RKBA

    1) None of the above. The purpose is war against governments and hunting, shooting, and protection are side benefits.

    Do music artists need swear words for their songs? Do they need to sing about murder, rape and other dark topics?

    Be very careful what you wish for from Congress. Their laws tend to creep beyond the intended scope and the “reasons” can be found to “apply” to other rights.

  • Tom RKBA

    Also, the purpose of personal arms of any sort under the Constitution is war. Read The Federalist Papers. The people who wrote the Constitution knew what they were doing, despite your wishful thinking.

  • Ken

    To answer your questions: “What do you need them for? Are they really necessary for hunting, target-shooting at the gun range or even self-protection?” Yes – as most firearms used for hunting, target shooting or self-protection are semi-automatic. These are no more of a threat than any other type of repeating firearm. Many of the most popular shotguns used for competition or hunting are semi-autos. This has nothing to do with military weapons. BTW, clips are rarely used – magazines are.

  • MrApple

    “Preventing civilians from owning semi-automatic guns does not infringe on the Constitution.” How is that exactly? Saying the 2nd Amendment only supports the right of the American citizen to own the antiquated technology of the period in the Bill of Rights was written is like saying the 1st Amendment only protects the speech options available at the time period. No more computers, internet, smart phones, TV, radios, or movies. The Constitution is a living, breathing document.

  • John007

    “[2nd Amd] could not predict how semi-automatic weapons would be used by civilians for mass shootings. But, evidently, preventing civilians from owning semi-automatic guns does not infringe on the Constitution”

    Yeah, much like how parchment became keyboards & planes are legally called Naval AIRSHIPS? What asinine analogy!

    Bill of Rights don’t “grant” anything but GUARANTEES PRE-existent NaturalRights. Const. is about LIMITING FedGvt to very few explicitly enumerated delegated…

  • John007

    “What do you need them for? Are they really necessary for hunting, target-shooting at the gun range or even self-protection?”

    YES to ALL

    Real question is, whoTF are you who don’t know anything about SelfDefense/dynamics of real-life fights/deadly encounters, to arrogantly deem yourself competent enough to dictate a whole segment of population what they need or not? We’re a REPUBLIC, NOT a “democracy.”

    U don’t get2vote away rights of others on your perceived majority/prevailing…

  • RetMSgt

    There are nine citizens that might well argue that semi-automatic handguns are unsafe in the hands of New York City’s police department.

  • Nonya

    You conveniently neglect to mention that the shooter in CT KILLED his mother and STOLE her rifle. And that CT already has an “assault weapons” ban.

    And that the Aurora shooter had an apartment full of explosives.

    And that the Columbine shooters were already covered by an “assault weapons” ban, AND had explosives.

    And the Virginia Tech shooter only used 10 round magazines, as did the Columbine shooters.

    Are they necessary for hunting, target shooting and self protection?…

    • Nonya

      Absolutely. A man in Sacramento recently had his kids slumber party interrupted by three armed men. He managed to protect his family and guests from them. How many shots do you think were “necessary” for him to do that?

      In addition to that, it is called the Bill of RIGHTS, not the Bill of Needs.

  • steve

    I would GLADLY give up my semi automatic firearm (a handgun), but only if someone could prove to me that most of the violent criminals in our society were completely disarmed of these firearms as well. Until then, I believe I NEED that tpye of firearm for my own defense against an armed criminal element.

  • Truth

    People like you are brain washed.. the only thing stopping an invasion from enemy forces is civilian guns, whether that enemy be foreign or domestic. Read the Constitution once if you’re an American. You have the freedom to say what you want, but you don’t have the freedom to come here slander our Constitutional or our God given RIGHT to protect ourselves. Stop being a coward Marcelo… by the way it was proven ON RECORD the batman shooting was a government job. Do some research gossip writer.

  • MrApple

    “The Second Amendment could not predict how semi-automatic weapons would be used by civilians for mass shootings.”
    The Founding Fathers were amazing people but I don’t believe they had the mystical power to see into the future. I would bet that they also could not “predict” how many firearms would be used for self-defense either.

  • SouthernVanguard

    I truly hope the government devolves into tyranny further then it already has and crushes you under its boot, I hope you suffer a terrible fate and your family does with you. It will be quite the fitting reward for a propaganda spewing coward that would give up his rights for the illusion of being “safe”.

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