By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Let me begin by asking what I consider to be the most important question in the current gun debate: Why does any law-abiding civilian need a semi-automatic or automatic weapon? We hear talk about these types of weapons all the time, but what exactly are they and how do they differ?
A semi-automatic weapon, on one hand, could be described as a civilian version of a military machine gun, one that is less capable of rapid fire. Although the firearm automatically reloads, a shooter must pull the trigger separately to fire another round. On the other hand, an automatic weapon fires continually until the trigger is released.
There is also considerable confusion and debate as to what constitutes an “assault weapon.” The gun industry’s traditional definition of an “assault rifle” is a weapon the military generally uses and has “select fire capabilities,” or the capability to switch between semi-automatic and a fully automatic mode.
However, the civilian AR-15s do not have the select fire capabilities, only semiautomatic settings, so the firearms industry insists they are not an actual assault rifle or assault weapon.
But, as we have seen far too often, an AR-15 becomes an automatic weapon when coupled with a bump stop device. Hence, gun control backers pushing for an assault weapons ban now include the AR-15-style rifle that has been used in recent mass shootings.
Truth be told, rapid-fire assault weapons with large clips of ammunition have only one purpose: the mass slaughter of large numbers of human beings. They were designed for use by the military to achieve that mission in combat — and that mission alone.
No one argues that other combat weapons like rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s) or Stinger Missiles should be widely available to anyone at a local gun shop. Why in the world should we allow pretty much anyone to have easy access to assault weapons? The potential for destruction by assault weapons is staggering because they can mimic the weapons of war.
The NRA loves to repeat its mantra about the “slippery slope.” “If we ban assault weapons, shotguns will be next,” they say. Really? By banning anyone from buying Stinger Missiles that are used to shoot down airplanes do we make it more likely that the government will one day prevent people from hunting ducks?
Here’s the simple fact: There are no absolute rights because rights can, and do, conflict with each other. Your free speech does not give you the right to cry “fire” in a crowded theater. Likewise, the Second Amendment is not “absolute” in the right that it bestows.