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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

What's Missing In The Gun Debate

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Three things, really.

First, where is the debate over toughening the penalties for using guns during the commission of a crime? NY's former top cop, William Bratton is one of the few voices saying that there needs to be more certainty that gun crimes will result in serious jail time.

"People are out on the streets who should be in jail. Jail is appropriate for anyone who uses a gun in the commission of an act of violence. Some cities have a deplorable lack of attention to this issue," he says, citing Philadelphia.

In Chicago, where the murder rate rose 16% last year, "to try to put someone in jail for gun-related activity you really have to go the extra mile," he says. "If there's one crime for which there has to be a certainty of punishment, it is gun violence." He ticks off other places where help is needed: "Oakland, Chicago, D.C., Baltimore—all have gangs whose members have no capacity for caring about life and respect for life. Someone like that? Put 'em in jail. Get 'em off the streets. Keep people safe."

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Second, it's time to recognize that, despite the push to ban them, politicians really have no clue what the words "assault weapon" really mean.

The second correct definition of an assault rifle is based on cosmetic features set by politicians. These rifles are all semi-automatic, or self-loading in old school firearm terms. Every time you press the trigger, one round is fired, and one round only. The action cycles, replacing the now expended case with a fresh round from the magazine. While this can be accomplished very rapidly, it is still one shot per trigger press.

What makes one rifle an assault weapon, and a rifle that works exactly the same way and looks very much the same not an assault weapon? The politicians that set the cosmetic features of a rifle they deem to be an assault weapon. So this second definition is slippery and can be very broad, but boils down to some group of politicians decided that the rifles with X features are “scary”, and thus “assault weapons”. This also means that it varies by state. California has a very wide definition of what an assault rifle is with a list of specific firearms for good measure. Free markets being what they are, there have been many creative ways found to manufacture rifles that work exactly like, or very close to, the CA definition, without crossing those legal lines.

But what does this mean to the current hue and cry spewing forth from the likes of Piers Morgan and Senator Diane Feinstein? It means that through ignorance or malice, they are lying. The CT school massacre was an act of pure evil, and a Bushmaster rifle may have been used. It was NOT however, an “assault rifle” either in true (military) terms, nor in the made up terms of the CT assault weapons ban. (Sec. 53-202a. Assault weapons: Definition) The rifle was semi automatic, but lacked some cosmetic features deemed “scary” or “evil” by some know nothing politicians and wasn’t included in the specifically named list of weapons.

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Third, how about some perspective?

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