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Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Featured, Law, Science & Technology, Society | 39 comments

A Primer On Gun Technology And Weapons Bans

TEC 9Updated When I started posting articles on Facebook related to gun control, my gun-toting friends — in the main — weren’t happy with me. They told me in no uncertain terms that I didn’t know what I was talking about. They said I was being inflammatory and had a responsibility to not share inaccurate news stories or commentary.

But the more they posted, the more it felt like they were shouting at me. Verbal attacks, as it were.

Thankfully, I got this Simple Primer on Assault Weapons in an email from another friend. He owns a gun but isn’t a shouter. (For the record, I grew up with guns, too.)

I encourage everyone to read this because

  • The author, Brad Taylor, writes clearly and, more importantly, pretty dispassionately
  • He’s credentialed in my book: a retired Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel and former Assistant Professor of Military Science at The Citadel in Charleston, SC.

But here is the primer in a nutshell:

You can ban guns based on how they operate or you can ban guns by name (make and model). Neither is going to work, according to Taylor. Here’s why.

rifleman rifleIf you try the former, you wind up banning deer rifles, target pistols and shotguns used for duck hunting. That’s because modern rifles are semi-automatics. That is, they fire a single bullet when the trigger is pulled. No need to ratchet a bullet into the chamber manually. You know, like in the westerns where the sheriff walks down the street with rifle in hand, manually cocked and ready for one shot. (Note: Australia has severely limited legal ownership of semi-automatic rifles.)

Added: a friend who is a hunter tells me that hunting rifles are also available with bolt action. I do not know why Brad Taylor failed to mention this. If that is the case, then it would be possible to ban semi-automatic long arms and still have long arms for hunting. What this would do to the “sport” of precision shooting, I do not know. Clearly it would put a dent in long arms sales.

Let me say this again: banning semi-automatic weapons bans all modern guns. Read Taylor’s primer to understand why he says firearms are a lump sum.

If you try the latter (per the 1994 ban), then the gun manufacturers simply change the item name. (It seems to me there should be some way to counter this evasion.) Here’s Taylor on the gun I’ve used as an illustration at the top of this post:

You can ban it outright – as the ’94 Assault Weapons Ban did, IE – “the TEC 9 is now illegal for sale”. Four months later the maker changes the name to “Homedefender 10” and starts selling again (actually they changed it to “AB-10”, as in “After Ban”).

There are two other factors that determine the “deadliness” of modern guns:

  1. The caliber and type of the bullet
  2. How many rounds can you shoot before adding more bullets

According to Taylor, if you ban a caliber (the diameter of the bullet), gun manufacturers will simply retool the weapon. This is a variation on renaming an existing model to circumvent a ban. That’s because guns are big business, a $4+ billion industry. The March Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. recently donated $1.254 million to the NRA — one dollar per gun sold in its campaign.

Hollow point bullets are banned by the The Hague Convention of 1899 for international conflicts. Hollow point bullets cause more damage to our bodies; at high velocity, a normal bullet will simply pass through the body. Hollow points are designed to flatten and expand; no small hole from these. Hollow points are not banned in the U.S.

I do not know if what is best for war is best for civilians but on the surface banning hollow points sounds logical. Taylor does not address this issue, but San Francisco is reportedly planning a ban. It may blow your mind (it did mine) to know that the Social Security Administration (among other government agencies like DHS) has stockpiles of hollow point bullets.

Added: game hunters argue for hollow points in order to be more certain that they kill their prey rather than have them simply injured where they can wander away to a lingering, and painful, death. Britain “solved” this dilemma with an exception for hunting. I do not know how effective it is, but I’d love to have their homicide rate.

I did not mention armor-piercing bullets in the first draft. They have been mentioned in discussion as being a more logical candidate for restricted sales than hollow points.

colt six shooter You may have watched a Bond or Diehard or Arnie movie and said to yourself (suspension of disbelief on hold), “He should have reloaded by now.” Those of us of a certain age grew up with six-shooters. But today’s magazines can hold far more than six bullets. The Glock 17 … holds 17 rounds. The Aurora CO shooting? A 100 round magazine capable of firing 50 to 60 rounds a minute. (His gun jammed or the carnage could have been much greater than it was.)

Here’s Taylor on the 10 round limit (a feature of the 1994 law):

[A] ten round magazine is plenty for any defensive scenario, provided you can shoot – which, if you own a weapon for self defense and don’t know how to shoot it, you are the apostate – and also would have little impact on tactical shooting competitions.


Changing magazines under pressure is not as easy as it sounds. Forcing some psycho to do that in order to continue killing provides an edge. Provides time for others to react. Provides a gap when he or she is essentially as defenseless as the victims on the other end of the barrel. Provides a host of things that can short-circuit a mass slaughter. According to the Sandy Hook medical examiner, each victim was shot multiple times by a rifle at close range. The fact that it was a “black rifle” is irrelevant. It could have been any number of rifles that will pass any “ban” instituted, but given the rifle at hand, with close to thirty casualties, and assuming a thirty round magazine from news reports, he would have had to reload a minimum of once. That changes to five with a ten round magazine. Five different gaps in time for someone to escape.

Limiting magazine size and banning hollow points (that means cops and the Federal Government, too) makes sense to me as one part of a strategy to curtail gun violence across the board, not just when a young white guy decides to shoot up the suburbs. This has to be across the board; no grandfathering.

At the moment, I believe that we can’t write a law that defines military-type guns (rifles and pistols) effectively, other than calling them out by name. Appearance isn’t what is important, performance is. Look, THIS is an air rifle (aka a BB gun). Looks scary as hell, doesn’t it?

air rifle

There’s already at least one White House petition to ban high capacity magazines. It’s certainly not enough, but it seems like a reasonable first step in a long journey — and conversation — to curtail all gun violence. It’s a conversation that I hope can be sustained without having a mass murder on average every other month like we have had this year.

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