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Journal Article

The "assault weapon" panic

01 Jan 1993-Journal on firearms and public policy (Second Amendment Foundation)-Vol. 5, Iss: 1, pp 29-66
TL;DR: The Second Amendment protects only "sporting guns" as some particularly important activity to a free society as mentioned in this paper, and if "assault weapons" posed a substantial threat to public safety, control would be in order because protecting many people from death is more important than enjoying sports.
Abstract: Persons who claim that the Second Amendment protects only "sporting guns" implicitly assert that protection of recreational hunting and target shooting was seen by the authors of the Bill of Rights as some particularly important activity to a free society. The framers, as the "sporting gun" theory goes, apparently intended to exalt sports equipment used in recreational hunting to a level of protection not enjoyed by equipment for any other sport. It is true that the framers did see sport hunting as an activity better suited for building good character than other sports. Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe that the Framers would follow an amendment guaranteeing speech, assembly, and the free exercise of religion with an amendment protecting sporting goods. Moreover, to the extent that there is a real conflict between public safety and sports equipment, public safety should win. Hence, if "assault weapons" posed a substantial threat to public safety, control would be in order because protecting many people from death is more important than enjoying sports. One reason that "assault weapon" bans are improper is that government statistics prove that "assault weapons" are no more threat to public safety than any other gun; the "safety vs. sports" conflict is non-existent. Reflecting a sports-based theory of gun ownership, "assault weapon" prohibitionists claim that these guns have no purpose except to kill. As a factual matter, the claims are incorrect. The guns, are frequently used for sports. But even if the gun prohibitions' claim were correct, it would do nothing to militate for a ban on the guns. Despite their "evil" appearance, so-called "assault weapons" are no more dangerous than many non-semiautomatics. According to empirical evidence and police experience, the guns are not the weapons of choice of drug dealers or other criminals. Even if these guns played a significant role in violent crime, sociological evidence suggests that "assault weapon" legislation would not reduce the criminal misuse. To limit the criminal misuse of firearms, legislators must take the more difficult and costly steps of providing sufficient funding to the prosecutors and prisons that directly confront the problems of firearms misuse. While these measures may not seem as simple as passing a severe "assault weapon" prohibition, an effective firearms policy -- one that preserves basic Constitutional rights -- will be logical, legal, and moral, and well worth the effort.
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01 Jan 1958

185 citations