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Forget figuring out who should have an assault weapon. No civilian should.

REUTERS/George Frey
Assault-style weapons don't belong in the hands of civilians.

In Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” U.S. troops in Vietnam were portrayed as practicing a form of mental gymnastics whereby they eased their consciences after shooting someone in half by giving them a Band-Aid. As I watch my country process the latest mass shooting, it occurs to me that in a very real sense Americans brought the mental gymnastics and massacres of Vietnam home in the form of the M-16 assault rifle.

The “civilian” version of the M-16 (AR-15) has become “America’s Rifle,” according the NRA, and there are more of these rifles in the hands of American civilians now than were in the hands of U.S. military personnel in during the Vietnam War. The killers of Columbine, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, and Orlando used AR-15s or other assault-style weapons, and these are our My Lai massacres. (The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the weapon used in Orlando and initially described by Orlando police as an “AR-15-type assault rifle” was a Sig Sauer MCX, originally designed for the U.S. Special Operations forces.)

As we prepare to bury another 49 victims of yet another massacre, we’re also busy performing mental gymnastics. Our 24-hour news cycle is busy recycling the same shallow “analysis,” and viewers nationwide are responding with the same “heartfelt” sorrow. But nobody anywhere is or has actually done anything that could realistically prevent such massacres from happening — so they keep happening.

Once again a crazy person got hold of an assault weapon and used it to commit mass murder. By “crazy” I don’t just mean someone with mental illness; I think politically or religiously motivated terror attacks are their own kind of crazy, whether the attacker is diagnosable or not.

Once again, talking heads are all over the media talking about crazy people: Who are they? Where do they come from? How did they get their guns? How do they choose their targets? Were they acting alone? As if asking these questions can or will prevent future massacres, as if we can convert psychobabble into bulletproof vests.

No process would be reliable

Listen: Crazy people just are, and they always will be. There is no study or screening process, or background check, or database that can or will reliably identify all crazy people. Furthermore a plethora of seriously legitimate problems with any scientific attempt to identify crazy people, not to mention human rights and privacy problems associated with such attempts, make any such project an exercise in futility. The truth is a person can be perfectly sane one year and mad as a hatter the next for a variety of reasons ranging from drug abuse to PTSD, and every “radicalized” person was once … not radical.

Paul Udstrand
Paul Udstrand

When are you going to do your screening and studying and understanding and whom are you going to choose to screen, and study, and understand? What are we going to do, screen everyone over the age of 10 every six months for their entire lives? Screen them with what? Screen them FOR what? And then what are you going do? You’re going to create a big national data base of crazy people and put them on exclusion lists of some kind? We can’t even manage our TSA No-Fly lists and you think this is how we’re going to stop massacres? Need I remind you that in several of the last mass shootings the murderers either did or would have passed background checks and FBI investigations?

Hey, several science-fiction writers just called and they want their plots back.

U.S. vs. England

Studying these attackers and their attacks might have some intellectual value, but as far as preventing further attacks is concerned I can tell you what we need to know right now: These people should never get their hands on assault weapons. The difference between England and the U.S. isn’t that we have more crazy people. The difference is that crazy people in England don’t have assault weapons.

The solution isn’t some kind of magic “profile” that we can use to keep assault weapons out of the hands of crazy people. Whack-A-Mole may be a fun arcade game, but it’s a poor excuse for security. The solution is keeping assault weapons out of anyone’s hands. The truth is, no one actually needs these weapons outside of the military — so trying to discern who should or shouldn’t have them is a fool’s errand. No one should have them. We simply need to ban the sale of these weapons and create a program to buy them back from civilians who realize they don’t need or want them anymore.

The problem isn’t making a sales ban (We had a sales ban, we can make another one), the problem is deciding to make one. All these big crocodile tears, and flags at half mast, and vigils, and moments of silence are just Band-Aids assuaging our collective conscience. The truth is we’ve decided that having assault weapons is more important than the lives of children, dancers, co-workers, clinic workers, and even loved ones. We’ve witnessed one massacre after another and have done nothing to stop them; we just apply Band-Aids afterwards. The choice we’ve made?: Sure massacres are awful, but I guess we can live with them as long as we get to keep our AR-15s and Glocks.

Accept the choice or make a new one

So I have to say I’m no longer impressed with the tears and prayers and other Band-Aids we offer up after every massacre. Hey, you made your choice, so now either make yourself comfortable with that choice — or make a different choice!

If you’re interested in what the nuts and bolts of a workable assault-weapon ban might look like, I’ve outlined an example here.

Paul Udstrand is a photographer and writer who lives in Minneapolis. A version of this article appeared in his blog, Thoughtful Bastards.


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Comments (70)

  1. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/15/2016 - 03:00 pm.

    Good, well written and well reasoned

    article, Paul. Thank you posting this.

  2. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/15/2016 - 07:44 pm.

    And who really needs

    A car that goes 200 mph (or 100 mph)? A Samurai sword? Lethal drugs? Dynamite?

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/15/2016 - 08:44 pm.

    An assault weapon

    is anything that’s been used to assault someone, baseball bats being the most common.

    Assuming what you’re really trying to say is that the AR-15 shouldn’t be sold to the public, you’re about 10 million rifles too late, as it’s the most popular rifle sold in America.

  4. Submitted by Kevin Vick on 06/15/2016 - 09:53 pm.

    Inconvenient Truth

    So, if eliminating mass shootings is just as simple as banning so called “assault weapons”, a politically conjured term by the way, how do you explain San Bernardino let alone the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks?

    Furthermore, we banned so called “assault weapons” for 10 years and the FBI and others determined it had no measurable effect on gun crime. You know the definition of insanity, right? It’s doing the same thing over again expecting a different result.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2016 - 08:54 am.

      Hillary Clinton has changed that

      Now she’s using “weapons of war” to describe the .223 semi-automatic rifles. It’s quite obvious she’s never used one in war or anywhere else.

  5. Submitted by Andrew Sherman on 06/16/2016 - 01:32 am.

    Ignorance is not an excuse to write false information.

    The ignorance of weapons systems is astounding in this article. Please do some research, to equate an AR15 to an M16A1( I assume the A1 part, since you were talking about Vietnam), is ignoring the fact that automatic weapons have been banned in the US since the late 80’s. I even agree with some points in this article, but your credibility is severely damaged when you write about stuff you clearly didn’t research or have experiences with.

  6. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/16/2016 - 06:48 am.

    Gun lovers always have an excuse

    Whether it is baseball bats or knives, they always want to justify the proliferation of weapons designed solely to kill people as just another God-given tool. And like spoiled teenagers crying for more, more , more they invert the truth and complain that the government is taking away their rights to an unprecedented degree. The truth is that for 200 years gun ownership court cases were decided on the principle of the first part of the second amendment concerning a well-regulated militia. Then 30 or 40 years ago the NRA and their friends found a way to separate and ignore the first part of the second amendment.

    My definition of insanity: flooding the country with weapons used to kill and then saying that we need more weapons, not less, in order to be safe.

    • Submitted by Rod Loper on 06/16/2016 - 07:21 am.

      Good article.

      These military style weapons are marketed to appeal to those for whom one bullet is never enough and
      enrich ammunition makers as well as the gun manufacturers. Millions of civilian customers plus international arms dealing makes for hefty profits. Calling it a deer or target rifle is a joke.

  7. Submitted by joe smith on 06/16/2016 - 07:49 am.

    I have 3 AR’s and they have managed not to shoot anyone.

    If you ban “assault rifles” disturbed folks will just get clips that hold more bullets/shells and turn a semi automatic 30.06 or a 12 gauge auto loader into their gun of choice. Only people who don’t understand guns think that banning a certain gun will make a difference. Unfortunately, innocent folks will be just as dead if the Orlando shooter walked in with a 12 gauge and started shooting, probably more injured and dead if he decided that was his gun of choice.

    It appears many folks are more upset with guns than with the ISIS inspired radicalized shooter. The Boston bombers showed the ideology kills not guns, they used pressure cookers to kill innocent Americans.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 06/16/2016 - 09:58 am.

      I have 0 AR’s and no one has shot me

      If I need someone with an AR, or a pistol for that matter, I will call the cops I pay property taxes to protect me. IIRC the death toll from pressure cookers was 3. No one is claiming banning ARs will prevent all deaths. I’m with the author, do something or stop pretending to mourn.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/17/2016 - 08:44 am.

        How did that strategy work for the patrons of Pulse?

        When seconds count, the police will be there in minutes; or in this case, three hours. In a case like this or in a home invasion, the police will rarely arrive in time to save you. They can take a report, chalk your outline, number the perpetrator’s brass, and take some gruesome photographs. However you choose to do it, you should prepare to defend yourself.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2016 - 08:46 am.

    Two notes from the author: Part One

    I’m not going to engage in debate in the comments, frankly I don’t think honest debate is actually possible and I’d like to see a readers discussion.

    I just have THIS to say about the arguments: Arguments involving baseball bats, the futility of laws, and the “safety” of guns are obviously and ridiculously specious. Nobody ever said: “Hey, there’s no point in passing child abuse laws because we already have millions of children and we can’t prevent ALL child abuse”. I’m sure there are still a lot of lawn darts sitting in garages and attics around the country that have never managed to penetrate anyone’s skull… yet they’ve still been outlawed.

    Such arguments are almost too ridiculous for response so the arguments and counter arguments are frequently little more than a debate game. What is interesting and important to note, is that as ridiculous as these arguments about baseball bats and gun safety are, they are IN FACT the arguments that typically win the day. These ARE the arguments that gun enthusiasts and manufacturers have used for decades to successfully stall effective gun control attempts. These are the rationals for doing nothing.

    So we’re back to the premise of my article, if these facile arguments for doing nothing have persuaded you that nothing should be done, than make yourself comfortable with that choice and stop pretending to lament the massacres you’ve decided to live with.

    On the other hand, if you recognize the stupidity of doing nothing and the arguments that support that choice, then make a choice to do something and recognize the fact that stupidity only wins the day if allow it to do so.

    • Submitted by Kevin Vick on 06/17/2016 - 07:54 am.

      False Premise

      The author puts forth yet another false premise. The only alternative to his proposal is to do nothing. Sorry, not true. If he’s going to be morally consistent, why not ban handguns? Handguns are overwhelmingly responsible for gun homicide in this country, 2/3 of which are suicide.

      Rifles of any type are responsible for less than 2% of all gun homicide in this country. Claiming that banning the tool that gets the most headlines is myopic and/or uninformed.

    • Submitted by Ben Guptill on 06/17/2016 - 09:52 am.

      Before Orlando, those big, bad scarry semi-automatic AR-15 rifles accounted for about 40 deaths (not all homicide) per year. To put that in perspective, hands and feet were responsible for twice as many… hammers and clubs for 4 times as many… and knives were responsible for 800 homicides per year. Handguns are responsible for 8,000 per year. In other words, you could completely eliminate all deaths caused by AR-15, and it would have no effect on the homicide rate in this country because it doesn’t comprise any significant portion of homicides.

      By the way, there are 250 million automobiles on the roads, and accidents account for 35,000 deaths per year. There are 350 million guns and gun accidents account for 800 deaths per year. Meanwhile we have about 1 million doctors and 200,000 people per year die from medical malpractice, medical mistakes, and mis-diagnosis.

      Quite literally, driving a car or going to doctor are both more dangerous than AR-15’s.

  9. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2016 - 10:19 am.

    Here’s your serious discussion

    All of the mass murders, especially the ones committed by the Jihadists, have been committed on soft targets. Targets made “soft” by their designation as a Gun Free Zone.

    In fact, it’s now known that Jihadists have been told to specifically hit these “soft targets” because there is little or no chance of meeting armed resistance. I say “little” chance because truth be told I still conceal carry in those so-called soft targets.

    You want to “do something?” Do this: we need to harden those soft targets. The dozens of young people who played dead on the floor of the club restrooms for three hours until the police rescued them were praying that someone, anyone, among them had a gun.

    Florida does issue conceal carry permits to applicants and the word today is that the gay community there has begun to arm themselves like never before so incidents like what happened at The Pulse never happen to them again. That’s the solution. Arm yourselves. Be trained, be prepared and be aware of your surroundings. We are at war whether you want to admit it or not.

    That also means removing the so-called Gun Free Zone designation so the Jihadists or mass murderers with other motives won’t be so sure that they won’t be stopped by a citizen before they can murder 50 and wound 50 more over the course of three hours. Three hours. The off-duty cop who encountered the shooter at the door ran away after firing one round from her weapon, so we can’t depend on the cops.

    Regarding what type of weaponry the citizens should be allowed to own? Given the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment, to defend against tyrannical government, the people should be able to own the same weaponry that’s used by the law enforcement community. Which is the way it is now. The police in Orlando rescued the hostages using AR-15s. The citizens should be able to have the same weapon.

    There’s a reason AR-15s are sold out at Gander Mountain this morning.

    When the citizenry realizes that their government is not interested in protecting them, they will protect themselves. It’s called human nature.

    • Submitted by Anthony Walsh on 06/16/2016 - 02:14 pm.

      Just say it

      “There’s a reason AR-15s are sold out at Gander Mountain this morning.”

      Just say it: Fear. Fear of formerly responsible gun owners who also have them.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2016 - 10:50 am.

    Author’s note: Part Two

    Space is a limiting factor in most publications so while I advocate a ban on sales I was not able to discuss the actual proposal in any depth. Of course I don’t have the space here to provide an in depth proposal but I can provide a relatively brief outline because my proposal is actually quite simpl, and I think that simplicity is the key to its appeal and effectiveness. The proposal itself was part of a 6 part series on the Second Amendment and gun violence so if your interested in a much more thorough discussion you can find that here:

    A proposal for an assault weapons ban:

    “The sale or purchase of assault weapons by anyone not legally authorized to take part in such transactions in the United States of America is hereby prohibited.”

    Who is “authorized” to buy or sell assault weapons? 1) The US government and State and Local law enforcement agencies. 2) Gun collectors who are licensed yearly, register their complete collections, and limited to no more than two identical examples of the same weapon. Collections need to be securely stored and cannot be transported without permit. 3) Registered gun clubs. The primary appeal of these guns is that they’re fun to shoot, there’s no denying that, so let people shoot in relatively safe and secure environments under some semblance of supervision. Any gun club with assault weapons would need to secure those weapons, keep them onsite at all times, and obtain an annual permit.

    What is an assault weapon?

    “For the purposes of this ban an assault weapon is any firearm resembling a weapon designed for military combat after the year 1890”

    Why 1890? Prior to 1890 even military weapons were lever or bolt action rifles, and pistols were revolvers with six to eight round chambers. The features that would evolve into the modern assault weapons started to appear in after 1890 in the form of larger capacity magazines and automatic chambering of fresh rounds, mostly facilitated by capturing the energy from recoil. This definition would could not classify bolt action hunting rifles, revolvers, pump action or double barrel shotguns, or muzzle loaded rifles as “assault weapons”.

    There would be plenty of guns available for hunting and self defense. Those who enjoy shooting assault weapons would still be able to do so at gun clubs (if they hadn’t purchased a gun prior to the sales ban).

    The ban itself would be administered by a commission similar to the FCC, FDA, or FAA. This commission would determine the classification of guns as assault or not assault weapons by simple visual comparison. This is a Phenetic form of taxonomy that compares similarities rather than differences or specifications. Phenetic taxonomy is absolutely sufficient for distinguishing between assault and not-assault firearms. For the same reason you don’t need a DNA kit to distinguish a cat from a dog you don’t a magnifying glass or list of specifications to distinguish an AK-47 from a double barreled shotgun or a bolt action hunting rifle. There’s no need to distinguish between an AK-47 and a gun that looks like an AK-47 so those differences, whatever they may be, are irrelevant.

    It’s important to avoid debate and arguments centered around minutia or cosmetic differences. It doesn’t matter whether or not the AR-15 a civilian can buy today is identical to the M-16 (A1 or A2) deployed in Viet Nam. We know that even without full automatic selectors and flash suppressors the civilian versions of these weapons provide a lethal capacity unequaled by any other type of firearm, which is why these firearms are the weapons of choice for mass shooters. The civilian version of an M-4 may not be ideal for a SEAL team engaging ISIS in Iraq, but it’s plenty good enough for a mass shooter walking into a school or a night club, that’s all we concerned with.

    Note that this is a ban on sales, not ownership. This ban does not mandate any attempts to confiscate any privately owned weapons but it does create a mechanism for buying weapons from civilians who no longer want their weapons. I would finance the buy back mechanism drawing from the defense budget but that’s just me.

    There’s nothing magical about this ban, it would likely not completely eliminate mass shootings however it could reduce them more dramatically than you might suppose. Most of the assault weapons used in mass shootings were purchased relatively shortly before the attacks. While it’s true that millions of these weapon are already owned by by millions of Americans, THOSE weapons are typically not the ones used in mass shootings. As gun enthusiasts are wont to point out, most gun owners are law abiding, so if we pass a law prohibiting sales, most gun owners would actually abide by the law. This would in fact make obtaining an assault weapon far more difficult that it is today. Had such a ban been in effect ten years ago Adam Lanza’s mother for instance would not have been able to buy the AR-15 he used to murder school children, and its unlikely she would have tried to obtain one illegally.

    One quick word about the Second Amendment: This sales ban actually stands a good chance of passing a Constitutional sniff test. Since it doesn’t establish any kind of registration or confiscation regime for ordinary citizens it would not run afoul of privacy concerns. It doesn’t get bogged down in attempts to grant rights to some people and deny them to others (it bans nearly any sale to anyone). And believe it or not the notion of a ban like this has already been tacitly endorsed by no less a gun nut than the late Antonin Scalia in: “Columbia vs. Heller”

    “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons”

    The argument is clear and convincing. Assault weapons are dangerous and unusual weapons, much like machine guns, sawed off shot guns, and switch blades that are already banned. These weapons can and should be prohibited. The commercial availability of these weapons presents a clear and present danger to the American people, and their sales can be prohibited without significantly interfering with citizens ability to hunt, or defend themselves. This ban leaves the right to buy and sell every other kind of gun intact.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2016 - 12:02 pm.

      Here’s an idea:

      Since states control the issuance of handgun permits, based on the agreed upon notion that a rancher in Montana or a rural resident of Alaska routinely and OPENLY carry .357s or .44s to protect against bears, cougars and such, whereas residents of New York City don’t have such issues. Even democrats have been heard to say that makes perfect sense.

      The same principle should apply here. Ranchers in Wyoming (or Minnesota) regularly use AR-15s to manage the coyote populations that threaten their livestock. Farmers in Texas use AR-15s to shoot feral hogs by the dozen as the hogs are ruining their farm land. But folks in Rhode Island? Not so much.

      Perhaps a workable compromise would be to allow STATES to make the determination about what is legal for whom, the same way they do it with handguns and we’ll keep the feds out of fit.

    • Submitted by Erik Petersen on 06/16/2016 - 12:12 pm.

      your idea is actually at odds with 2A, by a lot

      You’ve got a lot riding on Scalia’s acknowledgment that 2A is subject to reasoned limitations. The Scalia acknowledgement is no doubt true, and it’s accepted just about everywhere, even among the gun people.

      Same Scalia quote articulates the ‘common use’ Miller analysis that basically determined DC couldn’t ban handguns in Heller. IE, handguns are in common use, they are small arms that can be ‘beared’ and are thus protected by 2A. A law that bans handguns is then unconstitutional….

      A law that has the effect of banning the semi-automatic form, which is what you are trying to do with your 1890 standard, is afoul of the ‘common use’ analysis. Semi-automatic is a typical mechanical form, in common use. Banning semi-automatics would then be unconstitutional if you assume the current precedent is respected. And there’s great reason to believe it will be respected for a long time even if say a 5th liberal SCOTUS judge is seated. Just seems a stretch, what with you seeking to ban the 1911 as well as probably tube magazine .22s that auto-feed. A fanciful stretch.

      BTW… you touch on a collectors license… it’s not something no one’s ever thought of, we have those now, the BATF C&R FFL. A fellow with one gets some mail and transaction privileges regular people do not have. BATF has inspection privileges of your stuff, can look at your record book. With the motivation to conduct your collecting say outside of ‘retail’ and not get your license yanked, the whole thing is a testament to voluntary compliance, works very well. Add to that, the ‘collector’ milieu brings along certain laudable demographic and operational attributes. I’d say you’d want and desire as positive good that the nations inventory of semi-automatics migrate from the general population into the hands of collectors rather than limit collectors to ‘one’.

      You renew the C&R FFL every three years. If BATF were renewing licenses every year they’d be doing nothing else.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2016 - 11:38 am.

    Authors last note: Really

    This idea that the “real” purpose of the Second Amendment is to “defend” against tyrannical government is a complete fiction and always has been. There is absolutely no wording in the Amendment itself or any subsequent court ruling (Even in Scalia led Roberts’s SCOTUS rulings) to support this fantasy. On the contrary the Constitution itself and a whole host of subsequent rulings have established that armed rebellion is treason.

    The Constitution defends us against tyranny by establishing a liberal democracy that simply cannot be tyrannical. The whole point of the constitution, elections, checks and balances, civilian control of the military, independent judiciary etc. etc. was to guarantee that armed rebellion will never be necessary. The idea that framers would build armed rebellion into the constitution as some kind of safety valve is simply bizarre. The idea that these civilians with the assault weapons are guarantors of our liberty is simply fantasy pretending to be patriotism.

    As far as “hardening” targets and good guys with guns are concerned one has to keep in mind that assault weapons are specifically designed to attack and defeat defended positions and engage and defeat other well armed soldiers. Defenses are never impenetrable. If you think we can “harden” our way out this I think I hear the phone ringing and it’s Maginot demanding his big idea back. Lanza shot his way past a locked bullet proof door and an armed police officer could not prevent the deaths of 49 people in Orlando. Whack-A-Mole is never a solid security regime.

    • Submitted by Erik Petersen on 06/16/2016 - 12:52 pm.

      You’re over thinking it…

      …Making it a more elaborate question than it is. Making it a straw man argument basically.

      As a state agent was Custer being tyrannical to the Lakota and Cheyenne? Extreme example, but a real one. That’s what the right to bear arms makes possible: surviving relatively banal ambient violence by the state against the people.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2016 - 03:31 pm.

        Look, you guys…

        When was the last time you bought a box of hand grenades, rocket launchers, and mortars at your local gun shop? How many state of the art of Tanks, attack choppers, stealth fighters, and attack drones you got on hand? Not to mention tactical nuclear weapons. I hate to tell you this but the Army the tyrannical government possess has all this stuff in amazing quantities and if you think your going to confront all that with your civilian AR-15s you’re not only confused about the constitution, you’re a little delusional. And I hate to be blunt but the Indians lost the Indian wars and the Whisky Rebellion and the Civil War didn’t pan out as planned.

        If you think the Second Amendment gives you the right to buy nuclear weapons so you can possess and equivalent armory on the off chance you might have to fight off the government some day YOUR the one with the bizarre constitutional theory.

        These are simply fantastic hero fantasies, pretending to be Constitutional theory.

        • Submitted by Ben Guptill on 06/17/2016 - 10:11 am.

          I don’t think the second amendment gives right to nuclear weapons, but I do think the “target” of the individual in the second amendment is the “standing army of the federal government” as James Madison, the man who wrote the 2nd amendment explained.

          As such, individual citizens should be equally armed as individual soldiers. If state-run military forces (National Guard, etc) want to have tanks and artillery and those bigger weapons, they should, as state government is responsible for repelling the federal government’s military and organizing the people should the federal government ever ambitiously try to force it’s will using the US military. (again — according to the founders who wrote the constitution).

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/17/2016 - 10:55 am.

            Tell me

            I’ve had this very argument with a friend of mine, one of your mindset. When I point out that folks with rifles (automatic or not) haven’t a chance in hell against the full force of the US military, he responds with “that doesn’t matter, troops would never attack our own citizens”. I assume that to be a common trope in these circles. If that is the case, then who exactly do you expect to be fighting that you’ll need all of these weapons of war? Fellow citizens of a different political persuasion? Aliens? Zombies? Would it not make sense then to ensure your opposition not have access to these same weapons? I really fail to follow the line of reasoning here, beyond its simple paranoia and glory seeking delusion. That, and of course the implication that it seems the gun advocacy crowd has so little regard for, and trust in their fellow citizens, and really civilization itself, that they must be equipped to deal out lethal force to all others, at all times, at a moment’s notice.

            • Submitted by Ben Guptill on 06/17/2016 - 11:23 am.

              The point is that the second amendment is supposed to create a 4 to 1 armed citizen to armed military personnel ratio so that even with less training the armed citizenry creates deterrent or disincentive to the Federal government imposing tyrannical rule over the citizens.

              James Madison (the guy who wrote the second amendment) said (Federalist Papers, No. 46, January 29, 1788), “Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

              • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/17/2016 - 11:57 am.

                So in other words

                You’d be A OK with say a 70% reduction in the size of the US military, given after all it’s potential as a tyrannical force. I don’t imagine you’ll find much support for such a plan with your fellows.

              • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/17/2016 - 09:34 pm.

                I will admit though

                I do find it amusing to see the argument of the writer of the 2nd amendment, framed as a response to the tyranny of feudal monarchy, used as justification for an ideological system that inevitably leads directly to such a system (assuming you check the box as Libertarian, which I suspect you do)

    • Submitted by Ben Guptill on 06/17/2016 - 10:06 am.

      Look at the comments of the founders themselves on the topics of guns. Go read the Federalist Papers from that time period. It shows their reasoning was clearly that guns in the hands of ordinary citizens stand as a check and balance against tyrannical government.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/17/2016 - 01:01 pm.

        Which paper(s) please ?

        Lots of work on External/foreign.

        • Submitted by Ben Guptill on 06/17/2016 - 01:29 pm.

          start with Federalist Papers, No. 46, January 29, 1788

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/20/2016 - 05:59 pm.


          That’s quite a reach from: ” must appear to everyone more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism” Apparently Madison did have this well thought out, but wouldn’t we agree thoughts should be taken in the entire context?

  12. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/16/2016 - 01:45 pm.


    So, if I take an AR15 and put a nice walnut stock on it, and get a beautiful engraving of a deer jumping a fence we’re OK?

    There is little difference from one semi automatic rifle to another: one discrete bullet for each discrete trigger pull. The suggestion of what constitutes an assault weapon by Mr. Udstrand would result in every semi automatic shotgun and rifle being confiscated by the government. A totally unworkable solution: It is the government taking away most everyone’s hunting shotguns and rifles. It is proposals like this that that give ammunition (!!!) to the gun lobby’s fear mongering: “they are coming after your guns”. Again: the majority of hunting rifles and shotguns owned by law abiding sports people are semi-automatic and banning semi automatic weapons will simply never happen.

    We can argue about the merits of a minimum lengths for the rifle and/or barrel; but, the single most important change that could possibly be implemented is to return to the 10 bullet magazine rules in effect from 1993 to 2004. Allowing this law to sunset in 2004 was the single biggest blow to common sense gun laws ever. The Aurora theater shooter had a 100 round magazine on his Glock semi automatic pistol. Imaging hanging a five pound sack of potatoes on your ball point pen and say: “start signing”. Magazines like this are the problem: they are too heavy and unwieldly for any practical hunting or target shooting purpose and only have value to mass murders and target spraying folks who want 100 bang bangs in a row rather than 10 bang bangs in a row: not a life altering limitation.

    Unraveling the proliferation of high capacity magazines sold in the past 10 years will be nearly impossible; but, returning to a ban probably would have stopped the Sandy Hook killer and his mom on their gun shopping adventures.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2016 - 03:26 pm.

      Simply wrong

      “… The suggestion of what constitutes an assault weapon by Mr. Udstrand would result in every semi automatic shotgun and rifle being confiscated by the government”

      My proposal bans sales, it makes no effort whatsoever to confiscates anyone’s guns. It creates a buy-back mechanism so people who want to get rid of their assault weapons can do so legally. If someone doesn’t want to get rid of their assault weapons they can keep them, not one going to try take them away.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/16/2016 - 10:23 pm.


        I did not read closely enough: I agree, no confiscation.

        But; you are still proposing to make it very difficult for a duck hunter to buy and own the gun that is by far their most popular choice: a semi automatic shot gun. By messing with almost every hunter and sport shooter’s gun choices a coalition for change cannot be built.Telling them they must get and renew a yearly federal license or store their guns at a club they must join is a non-starter. Millions of people have a gun or two handed down that they do not shoot or even handle each year: why punish them?

        I offer again: reduce clip sizes to 5 or 10 maximums. Ban their sales. Put a buyback in place with a sunset where ownership is illegal. For many, guns in their collections are special, personal, artifacts: sometimes handed down for generations. It is easy to visualize a Dad handing his son a shotgun and telling him how special it was to his grandfather. People do not turn these things in for a government bounty. You won’t find that emotional attachment to a clip/magazine.

        Aurora, Sandy Hook, Gabby Giffords, all would have been substantially different without large magazine weapons.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/17/2016 - 08:43 am.

          STILL simply wrong

          “But; you are still proposing to make it very difficult for a duck hunter to buy and own the gun that is by far their most popular choice: a semi automatic shot gun.”

          The semi automatic shotguns you’re talking about would not be affected by this ban because they do not resemble any weapons specifically designed for military combat after 1890. Again, the phenetic taxonomies this definition relies on are notconcerned with individual features like automatic reloading. Again, look at the definition:

          “For the purposes of this ban an assault weapon is any firearm resembling a weapon designed for military combat after the year 1890”

          What weapon designed for military combat do you think the semi automatic shotguns your talking about resemble? I can’t think of one.

          Furthermore remember the scheme for enforcing this sales ban, it relies on a commission that essentially functions like a jury, it’s not a pedantic application of text, it can’t be. This classification scheme requires that someone actually look at the guns and make a decision.

          The purpose of the ban is to keep crazy people from buying assault weapons. If there are a few guns or types of guns that technically fit the description but don’t make sense to ban, we can exclude them. For instance the WWII M1 Garand technically fits the definition, but it may not make sense to ban it from a mass shooting/public safety perspective because no one’s manufactured one in decades, no one would manufacture a gun that resembles one, and at any rate no one interested in a mass shooting would choose that gun for the attack. You’d be better of with a 1911 Colt 45 than you would an 1945 M1 Garand if you wanted to walk into a place and shoot a bunch of people.

          As for your large capacity magazine ban, I’m not apposed to it but it would less effective than a outright ban on the weapons themselves. Large capacity magazine bans are more complex and an assault weapon with a 6 round magazine is still effective weapon for mass shootings because you can change clips very quickly, you just have to carry more clips.

          What does your large capacity ban actually look like? Are we banning just the sale and manufacture of new LC magazines and are are we also banning guns that can accept LC magazines? Are we making it illegal to own LC magazines? And of course what is a large capacity magazine?

          I think we need stop playing whack-a-mole and think bigger if we’re going to actually do something effective. A ban on the weapons that accept large capacity magazines is more effective and accomplishes the same end. It doesn’t matter how large a magazine is if you can’t buy a gun to put it into.

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/17/2016 - 12:41 pm.

            Not in your tree stand I guess…

            A Remington 750 is a fine and well accepted hunting rifle.

            Like an AR15, it is a semi automatic.

            Like an AR15, it offers multiple ammunition caliber choices

            Like an AR15, it use a gas exchange system to enable semi automatic reloading

            Like an AR15, it uses a detachable magazines to hold bullets

            Like an AR15, an active aftermarket offers many magazine capacity and gun personalization choices.

            Hide the gun and the shooter and only here the noise and see the destruction and one cannot be distinguished from the other.

            But the Remington is beautiful: a fine walnut stock, options for engraving, almost a work of art. I guess it does not look like “a weapon designed for military combat after the year 1890”.

            Sorry, things should be judged by their objective functionality, not their subjective appearance.

            If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/17/2016 - 04:04 pm.

              I’ll explain this one last time

              Here’s the proposed definition of an Assault weapon:

              “For the purposes of this ban an assault weapon is any firearm resembling a weapon designed for military combat after the year 1890”

              Features like “semi automatic” are irrelevant. Does a AR-15 LOOK like a Remington 150? No. That’s it, we’re done, a Remington 750 is not an assault weapon. Doesn’t matter if it shares some features, like gas exchange, multiple calibers etc. Phenetic taxonomies are not about lists of features, they are literally about appearance.

              Nor does the Remington look like any other military weapon designed for combat after the year 1890.

              Again, we don’t let a bunch who can’t tell the difference between an M-16 and a shotgun tell us what assault weapons are or what they look like whether they claim to have some kind of expertise or not.

              • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/20/2016 - 10:37 pm.


                You are not a big form follows function guy.

                From the standpoint of firepower, the ability to inflict maximum harm, your proposal accomplishes nothing. You are entirely hanging your hat on:

                “When guns no look less nasty, less nasty things will be done with them”.


                Maybe not.

                The only certain thing is that it falls right into the NRA’s wheel house that most new gun legislation is for cosmetic vote getting only: chasing form while ignoring function.

                The alternative I described, limiting magazine sizes to 10, as we did for ten years ending in 2004 gets right to function: reducing destructive firepower while not favoring one gun over another wholly on appearance.

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/21/2016 - 08:37 am.


                  The reason assault weapons look the way they do is because THAT form is required to deliver THOSE functions. You can’t make an M-16 look like a banjo. This is why a phenetic categorization scheme is so effective and airtight. People buy AR-15 precisely because they want a gun that LOOKS like an M-4. You can’t make a AK-74 that looks like a double barreled shotgun or a bolt action rifle, and even if you could, no one would want to buy it.

                  • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/21/2016 - 01:26 pm.

                    You can make an M16 look like a banjo: Meet…

                    Q, James Bond’s quartermaster, who could make a fountain pen function like an AK47…

                    Just kidding, we can agree on your statement:

                    “People buy AR-15 precisely because they want a gun that LOOKS like an M-4”

                    And removing that allure is practical. Given yesterday’s Senate dysfunction, we are a long way off from our legislators representing the will of the people on this issue in any way, shape or “form”.

                    Thanks for the exchange: Taking the time to argue your points enhances the discussion.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2016 - 03:30 pm.

    O.K. I guess I was it was silly to think I’d stay out this


    The sales ban has to be a federal if it’s be effective. The fact is no civilian needs an assault weapon regardless of what state they live in or what they currently do with their assault weapons. Everyone who has them now would be able to keep them, but if for some reason they had to, ranchers and Alaskans could go back to shooting stuff with lever action 30-30s .357 revolvers they used to shoot stuff with looooooong before they got their hands on AR-15s.

    Eric and Edward,

    Please read the definition of an assault weapon, it does not stipulate anything about such weapons being “semi-automatic”. The very concept of phenetic taxonomy rules out the possibility of camouflaging an M-16 with a wooden stock, the method relies on recognizing similarities, not ruling out based on dissimilarities. That’s what makes it so effective and airtight. Would YOU look at an M-16 with a wooden stock and say to yourself: “What is that? Some kind of banjo?” I would look at it and say:”Hmmm, that’s an M-16 with a wooden stock.”

    It’s always funny when the gun “experts” show up claiming they wouldn’t recognize an M-16 if someone painted it orange. You end up with bizarre situation where everyone on the planet except the gun experts can recognize an assault weapon when they see it… which is why we can’t rely on gun experts to tell us what assault weapons are or what they look like.

    Again, the recognition of an assault weapon is NOT based on a specific features, it’s a basic visual comparison. Since a .22 tube fed long rifle doesn’t look like any military firearm produced after 1890, it’s not an assault weapon even though it has a semi-automatic firing mechanism. Pump action shotguns while they have been used by the military, were not designed primarily for military use, so they’re not assault weapons. This idea that an AK-74 could be confused with or made to look like a double barrel shotgun or a revolver is ridiculous and frankly embarrassing when self declared gun experts try to make such claims.


    They call it: “Murky Miller” for a reason (US v. Miller, 1939). That “commonly used” standard has never been coherent for obvious reasons. We outlaw “common” stuff all the time, from smoking in restaurants to segregation. Whatever.

    Not to speak ill of the dead but Scalia was an intellectual fraud in many ways and folks like me are hoping that now he’s gone some integrity will start creeping back into SCOTUS rulings.

    On the Second Amendment itself this ban is on solid ground because: A) The Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual right to buy and own military weapons or approximations of military weapons. and B) The assault weapons we’re discussing do in fact present an unacceptable hazard to the public regardless of how common they may or may not be.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with some of these rulings such as U.S. v. Miller or District of Columbia v. Heller I’ve discussed them at length here: and here:

  14. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/16/2016 - 04:20 pm.

    Psychology.There is no


    There is no functional difference between a semi-automatic rifle that looks like a military weapon (“assault weapon”) and a conventional wood stock long gun (“deer rifle”).

    However, in virtually all cases, the attacks are done using the military style weapon.



    The shooter pictures themselves as a macho warrior, avenging the wrongs of the world–Sylvester Stallone rising out of the swamp.

    So, a modest proposal.

    Don’t ban “assault weapons”. Just mandate that they be made with the stocks made of the same material as the glitter bowling balls, with an emphasis on glitter. The barrels would come color treated in a rainbow of colors. Embedded rhinestones would glitter along the weapon. Keeping the weapon clean, as you should, would ensure that their brightness would remain. Any such weapon in public should be maintained in a decorated condition. Now, how many killers would find them suitable weapons for their war on the world ? People who enjoy the functionality of the “assault rifle” would continue to enjoy their use. They would provide the same defensive firepower for all of these people who feel they need the protection. And if you end up fighting the US government in a struggle to retain you freedom, you could feel free to blacken the barrel (the government that regulated the glitter laws would be gone then).

    Win, Win, Win

    Problems greatly diminished.

  15. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/16/2016 - 04:46 pm.

    Disagree with dismissing pathology.

    You note, correctly, that gun mayhem requires a gun plus pathology, but then you say there’s nothing to be done about the latter so we must focus on the former.

    We’re pretty good, as a society, at creating pathology, both domestically and abroad. Though it’s not that hard to observe and diagnose, correcting it would be a long-term project and a bit beyond the level of aspiration with which your comment is working. But specifically, it ought to be made a matter of common observation that the electoral strategy of one of our major parties, for the past 50 years, has been to cultivate pathology in those who are susceptible to it. By focusing solely on gun control and not on the modes by which irrational hate and anger develop, we implicitly say that as a society, we reject any moral standards as to methods of public persuasion. We normalize irrational appeals to hate and anger as a route to power and we don’t count the civic destruction that follows or the pathology that, once cultivated, remains and festers and then seeks its outlet.

  16. Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/16/2016 - 09:17 pm.

    Mr Udstrand ….

    You are making an excellent effort. I appreciate your attempt at pointing us to the direction that this should not be a debate. I have always felt and now more so then ever that something is “not right” with those who argue for no control on some of the weaponry a person can legally purchase in this country. These very people seems to lack any kind of compassion except for their own point of view. With each and every massacre the arguments for weaponry of mass death becomes more entrenched. More guns are sold and the country rots further at the hands of those who say they are defending it. They could begin by acknowledging their tyrannical application of thought. Get off the I and start thinking about the we.

  17. Submitted by Manuel Jaramillo on 06/17/2016 - 07:08 am.


    You want to ban them? I say no.

  18. Submitted by Ben Guptill on 06/17/2016 - 09:42 am.

    This is one of the most ignorant articles I’ve ever read. First, the AR-15 only “looks” like an M16, but it does not operate like one. With an AR15 you fire one bullet every time you pull the trigger (semi-automatic), whereas with an M16 (fully automatic) you hold the trigger and it will fire until you are out of ammunition. The M16 can fire 950 rounds per minute in full-auto mode. However, put the M16 in semi-auto mode and you will get a practical rate of fire of 45 rounds per minute. This is similar to the AR-15 which is semi-auto only and about 45 rounds per minute. This is the same rate of fire of any wood-stock semi-automatic shot-gun or huting rifle as well.

    One of the biggest mistakes you make is that you haven’t logically considered the purpose of the second amendment or why Americans have the right to keep and bear (own and carry) firearms. The purpose of the second amendment is so that US citizens have the ability to repel the United States Military should that Military ever attempt to carry out the tyrannical dictates of the President.

    Thomas Jefferson said, “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

    Alexander Hamilton said, “But if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights.”

    Noah Webster said “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”

    The man who wrote the second amendment — James Madison — wrote: “Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”

    The clear purpose of the second amendment is that it is to stand as a check and balance against tyranny in the United States government, and that people be allowed to secure their individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness against such tyranny. Why does anyone need an AR-15? Because it is the best tool for this job. Fully automatic weapons are illegal for The People to own.

    Furthermore, if you logically consider that in the United States, individuals have rights, while the constitution constrains government. The Bill of Rights is a litany of rights the individual has, giving it an advantage over, and limiting the government. The purpose for this is clear; we live in a world with evil. Evil people will seek to abuse the system and the rule of law. If you give individuals the benefit of the doubt, and they abuse that advantage, you will have tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Orlando from time to time. However, this is miles better than the alternative. When you give the government the benefit of the doubt, and it abuses its advantage, you have Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Mussolini. In the case of the evil individual 50 people may die. In the case of the evil government, 50 million people may die. Our system of checks and balances (of which the 2nd amendment is a significant part) prevents the most evil force the world has ever known — tyrannical government. As such, I believe that individual Americans should be equally armed as any individual US Soldier. We should have the freedom to have M16, M4, M249 (fully automatic weapons). I am not opposed to background checks on all firearm sales from licensed dealers (this is currently the law). However, if I want to sell a gun to a friend or family member, I shouldn’t be considered a dealer. Additionally, the Federal Government should make the background check process freely (and electronically) available to people who wish to do private sales.

    Consider the right to bear arms is a more broad right than the right to vote. Afterall, the constitution does not say the right to vote “shall not be infringed.” It does go to great lengths to protect gun rights, though. Whenever you are considering regulating gun rights, a good rule of thumb should be: would we stand for it if voting were regulated in this manner? Would we stand for it if speech were regulated in this manner?

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/17/2016 - 11:53 am.

      Tell us…

      You do not see a conflict between:

      Your words:

      “The purpose of the second amendment is so that US citizens have the ability to repel the United States Military should that Military ever attempt to carry out the tyrannical dictates of the President”

      And the Second Amendment:

      “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

      You have bent the intent of the framers by 180 degrees to fit your view of what you want it to say. The well regulated militia of revolutionary war times (and the logic and basis of experience for the creation of the Second Amendment) reported through the chain of command of the US military with one G. Washington as Commander in Chief.

      Again: tell us your rationale equating:

      “The purpose of the second amendment is so that US citizens have the ability to repel the United States Military should that Military ever attempt to carry out the tyrannical dictates of the President”


      “Well regulated”

      Who is the “Regulator”?

      • Submitted by Ben Guptill on 06/17/2016 - 01:35 pm.

        The founders had that discussion as well. Alexander Hamilton said (The Federalist No 29), “”If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens.”

        Richard H. Lee (Federal Farmer 53, 1788) said, “A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves . . . and include all men capable of bearing arms. . . To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms… The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle.” —

        “… whereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…”

        GEORGE WASHINGTON (First President) said in his address to the first session of congress: “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the people’s liberty teeth keystone… the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable… more than 99% of them by their silence indicate that they are in safe and sane hands. The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference. When firearms go, all goes, we need them every hour.”

        “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” (Thomas Jefferson Papers p. 334, 1950)

        “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms. . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” — Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764 — Thomas Jefferson

        • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/17/2016 - 02:01 pm.

          I’m not a Second Amendment scholar

          But I note that none of the quotes you’ve offered in your two lengthy comments (except the last Jefferson quote, which appears to be a private opinion unrelated to Second Amendment intent) distinguishes the right to carry in one’s private capacity from the right to participate in a well regulated militia.

          More interestingly, I presume it has been well-noted by judges and commentators that the word “own” nowhere appears in the Second Amendment (or in your quotes). “Keep and bear” arms in the Amendment, “possess” and “carry” arms in your quotes. All terms that connote a vouchsafing for a public purpose – i.e., a militia – not private dominion over weaponry for private uses. What is made of the Framers’ careful choice of words here?

  19. Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/17/2016 - 09:44 am.

    Quite simply put

    The argument from the gun advocates is that their right to what amounts to entertainment (the best case) or paranoia treatment (the worst) is more important than the lives of other citizens, period. It’s a shameful position to hold, but then they have moved beyond shame as a controlling factor.

  20. Submitted by Tom Regnier on 06/17/2016 - 11:35 am.

    It’s too late

    I think it’s too late to do anything about assault rifles. There are millions in circulation. We can never be another Great Britain or other western country where such weapons aren’t readily available. It’s just too late. Our opportunity evaporated after WWII. Our pursuit of individual liberties has unintended consequences that have led to the current horrible situation. There is no recovery under our current system. It is such a sad situation. We should be prepared for similar mass shootings to occur on a regular basis. There are no present circumstances that will curtail them. The constitutional arguments are too late. The gate is open, and the horse has run.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/17/2016 - 05:10 pm.

      It’s not too late

      It will take a while but an effective ban on the sale of assault weapons would eventual reduce the number of mass shootings. You have to those millions of assault weapons out there now are not actually the problem because the vast majority of them will never be used in a mass shooting. If can keep new AW’s out of the hands of new shooters, it will significant difference.

  21. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 06/17/2016 - 12:48 pm.

    I happen to be one of the apparently few readers of the new MinnPost article on banning assault weapons by Paul Udstrand who took the time to go the link he provides to another part of his series on how to solve our gun problem in the United States. I recommend reading him.

    Mr. Udstrand is very thoughtful. He defines what is an assault weapon without going into the detail-blather that confuses the issue (weapon made for the battlefield); he proposes controlling the SALE of such weapons (no ban), and discusses quite carefully the nature of various killing weapons that can legitimately be used for hunting and recreation. He does know guns, guys (try reading him). He rightly asserts that having guns at home or at the restaurant won’t protect us (there were at least two armed security guards at the Pulse in Orlando and they opened fire at the perp, to no avail) and that they are, in fact, a grave danger in the home. Call the cops. (They didn’t take three hours to get to the Pulse; they spent several hours trying to talk the guy out of his craze.)

    Unlike most of the commenters here who promote gun ownership, especially of the fast-kill, multiple-kill weapons meant for war, not squirrels, Paul Udstrand is trying to solve a uniquely American problem: mass shootings, which are more and more frequent and using assault weapons.

    You can’t filter us all for who’s crazy, but you CAN control the sale of assault weapons. Logic. Fewer people will die (the crazy in England yesterday only managed to shoot and stab one female, not all the bystanders.) Logic. We’re not talking about pressure-cooker bombs or hijackers flying jets into buildings, we talking ONE ELEMENT of our uniquely American problem: military weapons in civilian hands., Logic.

    There are some readers out here who appreciate the care with which he is making his argument, and the calm. Udstrand persuades.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/17/2016 - 03:42 pm.

      Were you pursuaded?

      Or were you already in the same camp?

      He wrote the link he provided; it is his blog. He is driving traffic to his own blog, hoping to gain exposure and advertising revenue. Just say no.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/17/2016 - 07:37 pm.

        I don’t have any advertisors

        I’m not trying to drive traffic to my blog, I’m just writing stuff because I think it’s important. It’s there, read or not it’s up to you.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/17/2016 - 04:16 pm.

    The Problem with the Federalist Papers is quite simple, they have absolutely no force of law because they are not part of the United States Constitution. No where in the US Constitution does it say: i.e see the Federalist Papers”.

    It doesn’t matter what the author of the Federalist papers “thought” because our Constitution and the our democracy is the product of consensus and compromise among dozens framers and everyone who voted for ratification, so you can’t settle these issues by references one guy anyways. We have ONE US Constitution and the Federalist Papers aren’t it.

    So you can read the Federalist papers all you want but they don’t tell you what the Second Amendment means. The Second Amendment itself was written by Madison, NOT Hamilton anyways so I don’t why you’d read Hamilton in order to interpret Madison in the first place.

  23. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 06/17/2016 - 07:03 pm.

    Just a sidebar…

    The sad irony of any overt publicity that we offer to understand what can not be understood when dealing with a sick individual, dead or alive. is that we pave the way for what he wanted to achieve so desperately in the first place; to be recognized for his violent act so all the world should know him as’somebody.’..that is the madness here too…achieving his sense of public notoriety so violently that all would know who he is and the news would give all he wanted and we have helped him achieve it I suppose as the airwaves, stories explore the past and present acts of a sick, sick fellow.

    The one smiling now are the ‘elite’ gun manufacturers – and U.S. of A are top producers on that list I assume,..and they are surely
    hoping for a run on assault rifle sales.?

    This is some fine discussion in many ways…better than the national media peeling away facts that border on titillation in the process trying to give the people some understanding for what can never be understood… except the hate factor and violence and we seem to breed a lot of that today?

    Winner over loser sets some mad men off track I suppose…and we are giving the air time….that’s what they wanted maybe, to be remembered for anything when they are nothing?

    The weapon could be anything in the hands of the killer…so what will be the next assault instrument…drones deviously pursued by some crafty guy so desperately trying to achieve his evil acts…who knows?

    Thanks for the input here…little else to add, so another day another good sunrise for you….think of the pheasant season and a simple gun of your grandfather’s you carry so gently through the fall leaves to scare up a pheasant for dinner. Watch the the sun set over the coulee with its brown you head home and a deer rises ahead of you but you both survive because it’s after sundown…..those were the days when you embraced a gun as a companion not a threat to another human being, human beings…off center here does remind me what we have lost…our innocence and hunter and gun isanother story?

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/18/2016 - 09:54 am.

    We begin by realizing it’s possible

    If I can do anything, the most important thing I can try to accomplish here is to simply make people aware of the possibility of effective action as apposed to inaction. We’ve been stuck in a cycle of inaction for decades simply because intellectually fraudulent reasoning has dominated our national dialogue regarding guns and gun control.

    You see this fraud on display any time anyone raises the issue of gun control. Arguments against gun control based on the fact that more people are killed by something else, or people COULD be killed with something else like a pencil or a baseball bat are not just specious, they OBVIOUSLY specious. If you step back and look at such arguments it’s actually amazing that any adult takes them seriously to begin with. How and why this fraudulent thinking has gained so much traction is a wholenuther discussion; but thankfully we don’t need to have that discussion in order to realize that we can as a nation take concrete and effective measure to protect ourselves from assault weapons.

    There is no rational, legal, or constitutional barrier to effective action. We CAN act if we decide to do so and I think my proposal and it’s supporting arguments actually make that perfectly clear. I want to thank Minnpost for publishing it because this makes the discussion available to a much wider audience than I can reach on my blog alone.

    Anyone can see that my definition of “assault weapon” accomplishes the goal of effectively identifying assault weapons AND frustrates any attempt to defeat that definition with arguments about individual features. The presence or absence of individual features is irrelevant in phenetic taxonomies so you can’t defeat such classifications by pointing to individual features. In this comment thread we’ve seen arguments that a beloved duck hunting gun would be banned because it shares too many features with an M-16 while on the other hand someone argued that AR-15 isn’t an assault weapon because it doesn’t share enough features with the M-16. Both arguments fail to disqualify this classification system. The beloved duck hunting gun isn’t an assault weapon because it doesn’t look like one, and the AR-15 IS an assault weapon precisely because it does look like one. The whole point of phenetic classification is that a gun doesn’t have to BE an M-16 or an AK-47 it just has to look like one. It’s a “reasonable person” standard that doesn’t rely on gun nerds who would argue that the absence of a selector switch or a flash suppressor makes an AR-15 a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT gun. We’re not trying to identify individual weapons we’re identifying a CLASS of weapons. You can no more argue that an AR-15 isn’t an assault weapon because it’s missing certain features than you could argue that a poodle isn’t a dog because it doesn’t look a German Shepard. The standard arguments gun control opponents typically use to defeat ban proposals simply fail here. This ban doesn’t depend on lists of features written into the law. The enforcement mechanism is very much like a commission similar to the FCC. The FCC just decided that internet infrastructure is a public utility because they’re empowered to make decisions like that. It doesn’t matter that the internet didn’t exist when the FCC was created, the enforcement mechanism is robust enough to handle disparities and new or even unforeseen developments, and as the courts recently decided, it’s perfectly legal and constitutional. An Assault Weapons Commission would function the same way.

    Fraudulent arguments regarding the Second Amendment fail once we simply point out the fact that they’re fraudulent. Even reactionary SCOTUS judges like Antonin Scalia never argued that the Second Amendment grants access to military weapons or even close approximations to military weapons (which is what assault weapons are). This is why Scalia never argued that the Second Amendment grants access to machine guns, Howitzers, or hand grenades. The idea that the founding fathers would expect any force so inadequately prepared or armed to act as a fail-safe for democracy is simply and insult to the founding fathers intelligence. Remember those guys had just fought and won a war after realizing that a bunch guys with guns can’t defeat an actually army.

    Finally, you don’t have read the Federalist Papers or anything else, you just have to know that Franz Kafka didn’t write the US Constitution. The idea that armed rebellion is legitimatized by by a Constitution that would no longer be in effect after the emergence of a dictator is an absurdity worthy of Camus. Imagine our fearless AR-15 toting freedom fighters poised to engage an army: “The Second Amendment gives us this right!” say the freedom fighters. “Yeah but I just tore up the constitution so your Second Amendment is dust in the wind” says the dictator. “Oh, well, in that case I guess we’ll just go home… no point in defending liberty if it’s not in the Constitution anymore” say the freedom fighters? Do you seriously think the Framers were stupid enough to even try to build a scenario like this into the Constitution? Seriously?

    Look: Those arguing against assault weapons sales bans simply want to keep buying assault weapons, that’s consumerism pretending to be patriotism. Those arguing that such bans are unconstitutional are consumers or frauds pretending to be Constitutional Scholars. The fact is we can do this, it’s as simple as that. We just have to decide whether or not we want to do this… I know I do.

  25. Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/18/2016 - 04:26 pm.

    Are you concerned with lives or with rifles?

    According to FBI crimes statistics (link below), of 8454 total firearm homicides in 2013, 285 were perpetrated with rifles; that is about 3%. Some of those rifles would meet your definition of assault rifles, and others would not. Rifle homicides in 2013 were down with respect to 2012, which was down with respect to 2011, which was down with respect to 2010.

    So, why the great interest in black rifles?

    If concerned with the loss of life, why not shine light on a daily source of large scale death and suffering, traffic fatalities and injuries? ‘Last year, the U.S. had the highest one-year percentage increase in traffic deaths in half a century.”

    38,300 highway deaths (+4.4 million injuries) is over 100 deaths on average every day; over 500 deaths just since the terrorist attack in Orlando. What can be done? A 25 MPH national speed limit would save a majority of these lives; as we know, speed kills. Of course that would be terribly inconvenient; we want to be able to move about at high speeds. The blood on the road is the price that we the people have collectively agreed to pay, and to pay without outrage. It is so commonplace that it really isn’t news; it certainly doesn’t sell like a terrorist with a rifle and a handgun. Are you concerned about lives or are you concerned about rifles?

    I reject your notion that technology designed for military use has no place in civilian. The first example that comes to mind is the internet, known in the early 1980s as the DARPANET. GPS was developed for military use, and was later made available for civilian use. It is still a critical military tool, but it can and has been used against our military forces. Infrared night vision technology, which I worked on the development of for eight years for the Army, was a critical tool used to rescue Chilean miners in 2010. Defense spending pays dividends in civilian life. Each of these examples can be used for good and for evil, just like a rifle.

  26. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/19/2016 - 09:14 pm.

    Once you write the article

    Please stay out of the comment section and face the music. Mr. Black does a good job of this, as do other MinnPost writers. Let the discussion (that the author started) proceed and evolve. Perhaps in the future the author could cover the possible responses or complaints in the original article.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/20/2016 - 10:49 am.

      My thought is exactly the opposite

      I view every piece as the author’s initiation of a colloquy. If a commenter engages a point in good faith or if the piece simply prompts a question, it seems to me the author ought to remain in the conversation, at least until the comments devolve into autonomous sub-threads. It disappoints me that the author rarely reengages though, as Paul notes below, it may be the result of MinnPost editorial policy.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/20/2016 - 11:46 am.

        Editorial Policy?

        I don’t think that authors don’t comment due to editorial policy. They do comment, though it is rare. I have had both Brian Lambert and David Brauer respond to comments that I have made following their columns.

        These are professional writers. When one gets paid to write, why would one write for free?

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/20/2016 - 08:31 am.

    Face the music?


    I considered your suggestion, and actually intended to follow that course, but my attempt failed for one basic reason. I make a specific proposal and as the author of that proposal I’m the only one who can offer further clarification. I’ve given more thought to my proposal than any one else so I’m in a unique position to explain the rationale behind it.

    Mr. Black an I are different authors writing for different sections of Minnpost. Mr. Black is actually a employee of Minnpost and may subject to certain editorial policies or expectations that he refrain from comments . I’m a free lance writer and Community Voices authors are not paid for their submissions or subject to any clear expectation regarding comments. Some “voices” authors comment and other don’t.

    My proposal to ban assault weapon sales and my definition of assault weapons are a serious but somewhat novel proposals. The idea of using a phenetic classification scheme is unfamiliar to many readers, and in fact several readers immediately responded with false claims and conclusions i.e. shotguns used for duck hunting would be banned while M-16s with wooden stocks would escape the ban etc. Likewise the notion that bans or control measures like this are unconstitutional is a popular misconception shared by supporters and detractors alike for a variety of reasons. It’s important to expose that misconception so we can move forward and break free from the paralysis that’s gripped our imaginations regarding gun violence.

    One of the rationals for making this proposal was not simply to make a proposal, but to demonstrate that such proposals are possible, rational, and durable in the face of typical ant-gun control attacks. As the actual author of the proposal I decided it made sense to be part of that demonstration and not merely a catalyst for it.

    The great thing about Minnpost is that it provides a space for such conversations and proposals.

  28. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 06/20/2016 - 01:33 pm.

    Just a spare thought…

    However, for the few who ‘feel’ the author here should not respond, don’t they just a wee bit, sit waiting for some response?

    Doesn’t silence itself .take issue with the idea of debate? Or maybe that is not the intent here, who knows?

    Could say participants are experimenting to some degree (not all certainty I hope?) with temporary truths, personal experience that creep in too often and end any debate on the issue…my own being. subliminally or consciously activated by subjective thought and uncertain ‘destiny’ at that?

    And doesn’t the lack of debate trash that wee bit of pleasure out of give-and=take? I for one am a listener but enjoy the debate concept by others.

    But then, here again I change perception a bit, yes…. when the issue is so intense that once one brings their position into focus, is not the overt respect for Logic 101 pretty much begging the question? Logic is only a tool?

    I may be wrong but most responses, pro or con come, from some inner voice too often ignored or denied or whatever… that point-of-view expressed is Subjective initially…reaches into something deeper that the mere ‘objective’?

    How can you apply a logical response when one’s position is based on a personal belief almost?

    The idea, any idea needs to recognize where it comes from, possibly more in the subjective ‘realm’ and go from there?

    I myself am a listener and constant learner…and too often disagree with myself before the day is done,ho…logic is a tool of the mind that too often is motivated by the subjective…could be, eh?

    Time to get out of here but so-it=goes as one good man used to say…

  29. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 06/21/2016 - 05:43 pm.

    Again, Mr. Udstrand is one of the sane people who has focused his mind to finding solutions to a problem we have in this country today–not in 1789.

    He has presented a way to get beyond the “oh, they’re crazies!” line that tries to divert our attention from the fact that guns let crazies kill more people than they could with other devices. Assault weapons kill lots of live bodies, fast. Ban their sales, as Udstrand proposes, and eventually the crazies with assault weapons will be fewer and fewer.

    It’s a star,. At least he’s trying, and I don’t see that gun “enthusiasts” are in anything but denial. No solutions to gun violence from their corner, and I’m American enough to believe that, in our country, what we DO is come up with solutions to problems. First, though, you have to admit the problem. And this list of comments is replete with gun-fan denial.

  30. Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/22/2016 - 02:11 pm.

    Phenetic Taxonomies

    I see what you are doing there; phenetic taxonomies are used to classify organisms. But, guns are not living things; they don’t do anything of their own accord. The term “assault” insinuates an intent a purpose, an orientation. The arms with which we equip our military are part of our defense budget, not our assault budget. Long ago, the standard issue revolver was the Colt Single Action Army; it was commonly referred to as the Peacekeeper. It was also popular with lawmen and outlaws; it didn’t have a preference for how it was used. Yet another example of military materiel in civilian life, used for good and for evil.

  31. Submitted by Dan Berg on 06/22/2016 - 05:07 pm.

    Such a divide

    I have never purchased a gun. I have hunted and shot them but only infrequently. The ones I own are those passed down through family and the most powerful among them is a small caliber lever action Winchester. I know, I am sure most people do, a number of people with a range of interest in guns from casual hunters to those very interested in war history or tactical gear. Only point there is to make it a bit clearer what my own personal bias might be.

    Beyond the arguments around the intent of the 2nd amendment might be my impression of the suggested change in the law is that is is only one of aesthetics and not one of function which suggests that the problem is an aesthetic one as well. While I agree with the sentiments conveyed earlier that often the people who perpetrate these mass murders prefer the weapons that share a military aesthetic there is no reason to think they wouldn’t still complete their acts if they had to use a weapon that had a different aesthetic but shared the same functional capability. The number of casualties a weapon can cause in a given time is not in any way tied to the aesthetic characteristics Mr. Udstrand uses to define the weapons which should be restricted.

    The only effective laws around gun control have been based on the functional aspects of the machines and not the aesthetic ones. The laws restricting fully automatic weapons is the best example. The problem with advocating for laws which focus on aesthetics is they expend large amounts of political capital on the appearance of change while not actually make anyone safer.

    Another twist is a lot of the guns typically referred to as assault rifles are modular in nature which of the pieces would be made illegal? The same barrel could be used on an “assault rifle” that is used in a “hunting rifle”. Same with the receiver, sites, trigger and a lot of other parts. The compact stock, forearm or grip which are the aesthetic elements most often associated with military style weapons could all be sold separately and be hard to regulate because they are simply ineffectual pieces of plastic that have no real bearing on the function of the weapon.

    We could restrict the ammunition capacity of newly sold weapons which would only have an effect over a fairly long period of time. There are already a lot of large capacity magazines in circulation and since they are really just small long boxes with a spring it is hard to keep them from circulating or people getting the illegally. They would be easy to produce on a 3D printer. We could do what Connecticut did after the Sandy Hook and make them illegal not just to purchase but to own and require those in possession to register with the state. There are a couple practice issues with forcing registration of weapons already owned. The first is that most people won’t do it which is what has happened in Connecticut. The other is that registration doesn’t really do anything to improve safety. The shooter in Orlando was on the no fly list and law enforcement had been informed he might be a threat and they still did nothing. What mechanism could be put in place that would allow registration to stop any of these shootings.

    Since the mid 1970s homicides by guns other than hand guns looks to have decreased slightly, even during the drug war period of the late 80s to mid 90s it didn’t go up appreciably. The statistics on hand gun homicides when up a huge amount during that time but haven come down to about what they were before hand. All of this despite an increasing population. So during the period of time that contains the advent and proliferation of the stylistic and technical characteristics associated with “assault rifles” there has actually been a decrease in the overall homicide rate, especially that caused by rifles.

    Together this means that there is no reason to think the laws which are currently being advocated for will have any real effect. They seem to be proposed by people who don’t have the knowledge of the topic needed to create a coherent and effective policy on the subject and are really meant as a cultural/political statement. The steps that actually might have an effect on overall rates of gun violence won’t be really suggested by even those who claim to be the strongest advocates for gun control. That is confiscation of almost all firearms along with strict controls on who may own them, how many they can own and when they can be used. Also very strict restrictions on the sale of ammunition including limits on quantities sold.

  32. Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/23/2016 - 10:48 am.

    Homicides 2010 -2014

    This whole conversation was launched in response to the act of one individual. However evil and unthinkable his actions were, the sky is not falling.

    The FBI homicides statistics for the five year period 2010-2014 (linked below) show that homicides and gun homicides continue to trend downward. Gun homicides in 2014 were down 4% with respect to 2013 and down 8% with respect to 2010. Comparing 2014 to 2013, murders only increased in the following categories: knives, blunt objects, explosives, narcotics, drowning, strangulation, and asphyxiation.

  33. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/28/2016 - 12:19 pm.

    Phenetic taxonomy and murder rates.

    Phenetics are not the equivalent of aesthetics, and since form follows function (i.e. you can’t make an AK-47 look like a banjo) phenetics is probably the most airtight categorization scheme for assault weapons. Assault weapons are designed to be practical combat weapons, not aesthetically pleasing. Aesthetics may be part of the civilian marketing strategy but we’re not evaluating marketing strategies.

    As for murder rates etc. the idea that we should do nothing about mass murders committed with assault weapons because some other kind of murder has decreased in incoherent at best and immoral at worse. There is no “acceptable” murder rate or mass murder rate that one can calculate with comparative observations.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/28/2016 - 01:14 pm.


      Homicides and gun homicides have been declining for years, according to the FBI. Like it or not, that context is unavoidable in this conversation. I agree that there is no acceptable homicide rate, but I think that we both agree that declining is good and zero is not achievable. Excerpt from Washington Post link below, “People killed in mass shootings make up less than half of 1 percent of the people shot to death in the United States.”

      The Washington Post provides a lot of information and links to information in one place:

      Excerpt from link above, “People killed in mass shootings make up less than half of 1 percent of the people shot to death in the United States.”

      Excerpt from the President Obama Executive Order CDC Gun Study following the Sandy Hook shooting:

      “The number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths. Since 1983 there have been 78 events in which 4 or more individuals were killed by a single perpetrator in 1 day in the United States, resulting in 547 victims and 476 injured persons.”

      If all homicides are the problem, why is the greatest attention focused on the smallest subset of the problem? Because the media is locked on that target. Killers lust for the stage the media provides and the media lusts for the stories the killers provide; it is a sick and symbiotic relationship.

      “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel

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