Guns and Mutters
Many thanks to William R. Tonso for finally documenting the public's ignorance of so-called assault weapons, as fueled by the media and the anti-gun lobby ("Shooting Blind," November). I would like to add a few points.
First, the term "assault weapon" itself is an invented
propaganda term. What the military developed is an assault
rifle, a weapon designed to gain advantage in armed combat
through "firepower," i.e., spraying a large number of smaller, less
lethal bullets. While the military and
police later borrowed this concept and procured large-magazine 9mm pistols
for self-defense, these weapons are poor choices for an "assault" and were never labeled as such, except by propagandists.
Second, because these weapons were designed as a deliberate trade-off of lethality and accuracy for firepower, they are not particularly deadly weapons, compared to revolvers, hunting rifles, or shotguns. For criminal purposes, they are an advantage only against armed adversaries, such as rival gang members or the police. When used in ordinary armed crime, they actually create an advantage to the victim, who is more likely to survive.
Third, though the media often imply these are fully automatic weapons, they actually argue against themselves; fully automatic fire is less, not more, deadly, because of the resulting loss in accuracy.
Ironically, we should be encouraging people to own these weapons, not banning them. While they are excellent for (perfectly legal) self-defense and Second Amendment purposes, they are less hazardous in the spontaneous crimes that legal gun owners commit, and the professional criminals who can use them to advantage will always get them anyway.
Kevin J. Gately
Glen Rock, NJ
I agree with your reasoning on every issue except the matter of guns and their control.
Let's face the facts. In 1994, the Census Bureau reported that between 1974 and 1994, deaths by firearms rose from 33,056 to 40,230 while deaths by car accidents declined from 46,402 to 40,880. Data from Handgun Control of Washington for 1990 (the latest available) show that handguns were used to murder 13 people in Sweden, 91 in Switzerland, 87 in Japan, 68 in Canada, 10 in Great Britain, and 10,567 in the United States.
Those figures speak for themselves. The use of handguns in the United States is completely out of control. Reason dictates that we should follow the action of our brother democracies and control handguns. Don't you agree?
Robert F. Bigham
William R. Tonso replies : Even if for brevity's sake we take Robert F. Bigham's figures at face value, they hardly speak for themselves.
1. It is meaningless to compare the annual number of gun-related murders in a small country like Switzerland (7 million) to the number in a much larger country like the United States (250 million), or to compare the number of gun-related deaths in the United States in 1994 to the number in 1974 when we had 45 million fewer people. Only rates (so many per 100,000) can be meaningfully compared.
2. Gun-related-death numbers include homicides (even justifiable ones), suicides, and accidents, while car-related deaths are almost all accidental, though some so classified may actually be suicides or homicides.
3. U.S. non-gun-related homicide and armed-robbery rates are still five or six times higher than those of England and Wales, guns included. Though still much lower than ours, Britain's homicide rate is considerably higher now than it was before strict gun controls in the 1920s.
4. Handgun control in Switzerland is minimal, and 11 out of the country's 26 cantons don't even require carry permits.
5. Since practically every Swiss male between the ages of 20 and 50 (55 for officers) is a militiaman, he keeps a government-issued fully automatic assault rifle (or if he is an officer, a semi-automatic pistol) in his home.