Sunday, August 17 2003

Clues for the candidates, part 1

While browsing the list of potential California governors, I decided to take a quick peek at their web sites, and since they’re in alphabetical order, one of the first ones I hit was Brooke Adams.

Summary: she’s young, pretty, not a socialist, not a member of the Religious Right, and seems to grasp the major tax-and-spend problems in California. If she weren’t clueless on the subject of gun control, I’d be willing to back her.

Here’s her position on the subject:

Under the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, the “right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”  While I fully embrace the 2nd Amendment, and support an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, that does not mean citizens should own assault rifles or other guns of mass destruction. I support reasonable legislation restricting individual ownership of inappropriate weapons that can be used as killing machines.

Let’s break that down, shall we? She fully embraces an amendment that includes the words shall not be infringed, and then says it does not mean citizens should own assault rifles. In other words, “you can own only the guns that I approve of, despite the fact that I don’t know anything about guns”.

The simple truth is that assault rifles — real ones — have been unavailable to the general public since before she was born. More than forty years before she was born. Possession of real assault rifles, such as the M-16 that is issued to American troops, has been tightly regulated at both the state and federal level since 1934, when automatic weapons were considered the “weapon of choice” for gangsters during Prohibition.

California’s “assault weapon” laws ban guns that resemble assault rifles and sub-machine guns, but have no functional relationship to them. Miss Adams’ confusion on the subject is evident in her use of the words or other guns of mass destruction.

No rifle that can be legally purchased by the general public matches this description, because a federal agency exists which has no sense of humor about the subject. If you make a gun which can fire more than one bullet with a single pull of the trigger, or that they can figure out how to convert to do so, then it’s covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934, and requires special permission to manufacture or purchase. That permission is almost never granted in California, unless you’re a Hollywood prop company.

There is no functional difference between a “sporting rifle” and an “assault rifle”. Both fire one bullet each time the trigger is pulled. California’s assault-weapon laws focus on cosmetic features and a laundry list of scary-looking guns precisely because there are no functional differences between the good guns and the bad ones. It’s significant that the law had to be amended to include the following exemption:

The Legislature finds a significant public purpose in exempting pistols that are designed expressly for use in Olympic target shooting events. Therefore, those pistols that are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and by USA Shooting, the national governing body for international shooting competition in the United States, and that are used for Olympic target shooting purposes at the time the act adding this subdivision is enacted, and that would otherwise fall within the definition of “assault weapon” pursuant to this section are exempt, as provided in subdivision (c).

Worse, there is no evidence that any of these features make a gun more popular for criminal use. Not surprising, since criminals hardly ever use bulky military-style weapons in the first place, preferring the sort of handguns carried by police officers.

If she’s really interested in restricting individual ownership of inappropriate weapons that can be used as killing machines, I suggest she start by looking into the California DMV’s habit of allowing incompetent senior citizens to kill people with cars. Car “accidents” result in a helluva lot more dead innocents than armed criminals do, while armed law-abiding citizens almost never kill anyone at all.