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Boulder Legislators Spray-Fire From the Hip at 'Assault Weapons'

The city council's unanimous support for the new ban does not make up for its lack of logic and legality.

RugerRugerThe "assault weapon" ban that was unanimously approved by the Boulder City Council this week is a model of simplicity compared to other legislative offerings of this genre. The federal ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for example, lists six forbidden rifle features, "157 dangerous military-style assault weapons," and "2,258 legitimate hunting and sporting rifles." Boulder's ordinance does away with the bewildering gun catalogs and focuses on three rifle features:

1. a pistol grip or thumbhole stock

2. a folding or telescoping stock

3. any protruding grip or other device to allow the weapon to be stabilized with the non-trigger hand

The ban covers semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines and have one or more of those features. Anyone who already possesses a newly prohibited firearm has until the end of the year to register it, surrender it, destroy it, or move it outside the city limits.

The rationale for banning folding or telescoping stocks is, as usual, rather mysterious. But the city council argues that the other targeted features "allow for greater control of the weapon," so that it can be "kept pointed at a target while being fired." The city official explanation of the ordinance says the guns it covers have "military features" that "allow rapid spray firing for the quick and efficient killing of humans." It adds that "a rifle fired from the shoulder recoils and must be brought down and onto a target before another round can be fired." The law's authors seem to be imagining a situation in which a mass shooter is "'spray firing' from the hip," as a New York judge described it in a 2013 decision upholding that state's "assault weapon" ban.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh took a skeptical view of that scenario in a widely read 2014 post. "There's a reason that the expression 'shoot from the hip' tends to refer to actions that are less effective because they are less deliberate," he noted. "Because you're not actually sighting down the barrel of the gun, you're going to be extremely inaccurate...And while such lack of accuracy may matter less if you're shooting a fully automatic (not that I recommend shooting this way even with a fully automatic), it will make your shooting much less effective if you're shooting a semi-automatic. People 'spray firing' a semi-automatic from the hip are thus making themselves less dangerous to the people they're shooting at (compared to normal firing when one is actually sighting down the barrel). Nor are they making it easier to fire a lot of rounds quickly; one can fire just as quickly in the normal shooting position as when firing from the hip."

The Boulder City Council acknowledges the importance of accuracy when it argues that semi-automatic rifles can be just as lethal as machine guns. "The automatic firing mechanism does not present a significant increase in the lethality of the M-16 when compared to the AR-15," it says. "The military trains its personnel to use repeated single shots, which are more accurate. Military training is for personnel to shoot at 12 to 15 rounds per minute or one round every four to five seconds."

By comparison, "a New York Times analysis of the Parkland, Florida, shooting estimated that Nikolas Cruz fired as quickly as one and a half rounds per second." The implication—that Cruz could have killed more people if he had fired more slowly and carefully—seems somewhat at odds with the notion that "rapid spray firing" from the hip is the way to go if you want to maximize casualties. The city council also overlooks the importance of accuracy in explaining the need to ban bump stocks and other "multi-burst trigger activators," which are notoriously inaccurate and unreliable. Bump stocks are an intolerable threat to public safety, the city council says, because they "increase a weapon's rate of fire."

In short, Boulder's legislators argue that accuracy is more important than speed when comparing semi-automatic rifles to machine guns but speed is more important than accuracy when deciding whether to fire from the hip or the shoulder and when deciding whether to use an accessory that makes your rifle fire more like a machine gun. Those positions are convenient for people determined to justify this ordinance, but they do not seem logically consistent.

"'Spray fire' is a phrase used only by gun control advocates to scare people who do not know better," says Michael Bazinet, director of public affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group. "You do not need 'a protruding grip or other device to allow the weapon to be stabilized with the non-trigger hand' to keep a semiautomatic rifle on target. That is a patently ridiculous statement."

Laws like this one are always more about scapegoating and virtue signaling than protecting public safety. The gesture in this case is especially empty, not only because the ordinance does not extend beyond Boulder's borders but because it probably will never take effect. Under Colorado law, "A local government may not enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law that prohibits the sale, purchase, or possession of a firearm that a person may lawfully sell, purchase, or possess under state or federal law."

On Wednesday the Mountain States Legal Foundation filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ordinance on behalf of several gun-owning Boulder residents. "This ban is tantamount to Boulder attempting to stop drunk driving by banning Subarus," said Cody Wisniewski, the attorney representing the plaintiffs. "It accomplishes nothing other than making criminals of law-abiding citizens." The lawsuit argues that the gun law, which also bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and raises the minimum age for possessing a firearm to 21, violates the Colorado and U.S. constitutions as well as state law.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    State of Colorado should just preempt Boulder local law, if the state Legislature is not over-run with treasonous scumbags.

    The 2nd Amendment is clear- all background checks, limits on weapons and ammo, and weapon and accessory bans are unconstitutional violations of the Bill of Rights.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Are you paraphrasing the next to last paragraph or did you just not read that far?

    The gesture in this case is especially empty, not only because the ordinance does not extend beyond Boulder's borders but because it probably will never take effect. Under Colorado law, "A local government may not enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law that prohibits the sale, purchase, or possession of a firearm that a person may lawfully sell, purchase, or possess under state or federal law."

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The Colorado State legislature members should actively push the local politicians to repeal their ordinance.

    Every time and inferior local government enacts unconstitutional ordinances it should dealt with swiftly rather than waiting for lawsuits to be propped up by bad judges.

    Which is why I said "should preempt" rather than "have preempted".

    Thanks Mr. helper.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Mr. Helper was his nickname in kindergarten.

  • albo||

    PA has state pre-emption but that didn't stop Philly from enacting gun ordinances.

    It's a pure political move. It gives Ds several months of virtue-signaling while the inevitable lawsuit striking it down makes its way through the court.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Dodge City, KS and Tombstone, AZ banned carrying guns in their cities. Anybody who has ever watched a western movie knows how effective that was.

  • IceTrey||

    Well in Tombstone the violators wound up dead.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    But the city council argues that the other targeted features "allow for greater control of the weapon," so that it can be "kept pointed at a target while being fired."

    So, in other words, a gun that's well designed is an evil gun. What's next, banning guns equipped with gun-sights?

  • Rich||

    No. Guns equipped with barrels.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Or triggers. Or firing pins.

  • Bubba Jones||

    The intention of this law is to make firearms less safe? Well done.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    The intention of this law is to virtue signal and #DoSomething

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Protruding Grip was my nickname in college.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Nickname or sexual preference?

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Also, Spray-fire from the Hip was mine.

  • albo||

    My band name is Folding Stock.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Ahh lovely Boulder :) It really is a great place, just very yuppie.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nano nano.

  • TxJack 112||

    When I hear the phrase "spray fire" I think of a flamethrower, not an AR. My rifle does not Spray fire. What is really hilarious about this law it is says a rifle must have three of these features to be banned. Clearly these idiots have no clue how easy it is to change parts on an AR. Put on a fixed stock, remove any bipod or forward grip and suddenly your rifle is legal. This is another example of anti gun zealots writing a law yet have no concept of what they are attempting to accomplish. I have an adjustable stock on my rifle for one reason, I have very long arms. A standard fixed stock is too short and holding the rifle is uncomfortable. That is the only reason. I love how they think the stock is some special military feature. This ordinance will be struck down because there is a state constitutional amendment that prohibits any local or county government making a law contrary to state law which this one clearly does.

  • Longtobefree||

    Not to mention banning adjustable stocks is sexist as all get out. Lots of women need shorter stocks.

  • Naaman Brown||

    If you have people in your family of different sizes, an adjustable length stock is a great idea.

    I shoot in the winter wearing parka over flannel shirt over thermal underwear. I shoot in the summer in a tee shirt. An adjustable stock accommodates the diff in the seasons.

    How it makes a gun more likely to be used by a criminal killer is hard to understand.

  • IceTrey||

    It has to have ONE of the three.

  • Naaman Brown||

    Do you have a heat shield (that shoulder thing that goes up?)

  • TxJack 112||

    Sorry but there is so much about this law that is incorrect but nothing more than the claims made by the city council. First the military teaches soldiers to fire three round bursts. It is called selective fire. The reason is so they are able to keep the weapon on target. Automatic fire causes muzzle rise and inaccuracy. Second every rifle recoils. The idea of anyone firing an AR "from the hip" is pure Hollywood. How do you aim shooting from your hip? Dunno about you but my eyes are in my head (the one above my shoulders). Lastly, the true intent is very clear. Residents have one year to register, surrender, destroy or move the rifle out of the city. If I can register it why would I destroy, move or surrender it? They are attempting to build a database of gun owners for the future. I am sure they think that in the future guns will be banned or restricted and this will tell them where to go first. More important, if I refuse to comply, how will they know? Unless, I decide to walk down the street carrying my AR the police and government have no idea what I have. If I am carrying a rifle case they cannot randomly search me without probable cause and an AR is impossible to identify when in a case.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "The idea of anyone firing an AR "from the hip" is pure Hollywood. How do you aim shooting from your hip?"

    You don't aim in anything more than a very general sense firing any gun, rifle or pistol from the hip. However, in a target rich environment, like a crowded indoor space, this may not matter so much.

    "Automatic fire causes muzzle rise and inaccuracy."

    Turn the weapon on it's side and the recoil will fan the bullets out horizontally rather than driving your aim up. This could be effective in a target rich environment that would be attractive to a mass shooter, but would be very unlikely on a modern military battlefield.

    That said, I wouldn't recommend it with anything bigger than a sub-machine gun. It' would probably be a good way to break your wrists.

  • ||

    That said, I wouldn't recommend it with anything bigger than a sub-machine gun. It' would probably be a good way to break your wrists.

    Do you have osteoporosis you limp-wristed ninny?

  • ||

    First the military teaches soldiers to fire three round bursts. It is called selective fire. The reason is so they are able to keep the weapon on target.

    The military doesn't teach it, it's built into the rifle. The sear disengages/resets after the third round (depending on the mechanism) and the trigger must be pulled again to activate it. The military teaches you to pull the trigger.

    Automatic fire causes muzzle rise and inaccuracy. Second every rifle recoils. The idea of anyone firing an AR "from the hip" is pure Hollywood. How do you aim shooting from your hip? Dunno about you but my eyes are in my head (the one above my shoulders).

    Your eyes are only a small part of the whole shooting/defense platform. Pretty much anybody capable of shooting clay pigeons competently can be taught to shoot clay pigeons from the hip (without breaking their wrists). If you're shooting at night (unlit or in the dark) and without hearing protection, after the first muzzle flash, your eyes are of significantly less importance when it comes to aiming. I'm not saying eyes are always useless, just that there are a myriad of shooting paradigms, precision shooting like your describing being only one, and none exactly more universally effective across all conditions than the others.

  • Bubba Jones||

    "Although effective, the federal assault weapons ban ..."

    Citation needed.

  • Naaman Brown||

    Just before the 2004 sunset of the Federal 1994 Assault Weapon Ban, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Research Council did reviews of peer-reviewed academic research into the effectiveness of the 1994 AWB. In looking at studies that would be accepted at a session of the American Society of Criminology or pass review at a law journal under subject code K42 (impact of law on illegal behavior), they found no evidence that the 1994 AWB impacted criminal behavior. The 1994 AWB was effective only in op-eds by true believers in gun control.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "While such lack of accuracy may matter less if you're shooting a fully automatic"

    I would imagine that, aside from the issues with accuracy, shooting full auto from the hip with anything heavier than a sub-machine gun (by definition fires ammo designed for pistols) would be a good way to injure your wrists.

  • Rich||

    The rationale for banning folding or telescoping stocks is, as usual, rather mysterious.

    "Trenchcoat Mafia", DUH!

  • ||

    "allow rapid spray firing for the quick and efficient killing of humans."

    First I can't have my shotgun cut down shorter than 18" to spray lead for the quick and efficient killing of humans. Now my AR can't have a vertical foregrip to allow for rapid spray firing for the quick and efficient killing of humans. Before you know it, they'll be banning quick and efficient killing of humans outright.

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    Do you eve wonder why your local police department has AR type rifles? Is the "quick and efficient killing of humans" part of their mission? Do you ever wonder why proposed 'assault weapon' bans generally exempt police departments? Do you ever wonder if the whole 'assault weapons' controversy is really about saving (non-governmental) lives?

  • ||

    Do you ever wonder if the whole 'assault weapons' controversy is really about saving (non-governmental) lives?

    Gulags are terribly slow and only kill a fraction of the people who enter them so... legal. 5 year plans are a good thing.

  • Maven Houlihan||

    "kept pointed at a target while being fired."

    They prefer you don't keep your rifle pointed at the target?

  • blameline||

    I'd bet that immediately after this ordinance was passed, one of the legislators went on the record saying "This will, once and for all, end the problem of mass murder by firearm."

  • Alcibiades||

    OT::

    Jesus Christ, school shooting in NM being reported

    https://www.wcnc.com/article/news/local/
    watch-live-multiple-students-killed-in-
    shooting-at-santa-fe-hs-federal-official-says/
    285-553331098

  • Alcibiades||

    Sorry in TX

  • Rich||

    The situation is active, but has been contained.

    Gotta love LEOese!

  • Longtobefree||

    Next up; a ban on bolt action rifles. It turns out that in the hands of a trained shooter, those damn things can shoot 36 accurate at 300 yards rounds in a minute. Google 'mad minute'

    For the lazy: The first Mad Minute record was set by Sergeant Major Jesse Wallingford in 1908, scoring 36 hits on a 48 inch target at 300 yards (4.5 mils/ 15.3 moa).

  • Rich||

    And, speaking of "spraying", don't forget revolvers.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • BYODB||

    I don't think anyone cares about how effective these pieces of legislation are, they're only supported by the emotive 'guns are bad and scary' premise so arguing their merits is basically a pointless enterprise.

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