Liddick: The truth about assault weapons bans
It started as the sort of inside-baseball thing that Politifact and other “fact-checking” websites try to avoid: a complicated question based on the definition of what “is” is. It ended as an exposure of the web of untruth the left has woven around the anodyne term “commonsense gun control.” Which in Florida, site of the mass school shooting progressives hope to ride to final victory over the Second Amendment, took the form of a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning “military style assault weapons” and other semi-automatic rifles that could “accept magazines of more than 10 rounds capacity.”
Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody immediately noted that, as written, the draft would ban most firearms sold and in use in the state. She was immediately attacked as a scaremonger and worse by the coterie of people dedicated to the proposition that firearms are bad and only the state should possess them. Which, to remind, is what St. George Tucker, an 18th century professor of law at Virginia’s College of William and Mary, denounced, saying, “Wherever … the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”
Moody was excoriated by the anti-gun crowd for telling the truth. She was called a tool of the National Rifle Association and a liar. Online, where censorship and self-control have both taken a holiday, it was worse. But this only shows those arguing for the amendment are:
- Or both
In question is subsection a of the proposal’s “definitions” paragraph, which reads in part: “Assault Weapons – For purposes of this subsection, any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device …”
Proponents of the ban argue that Moody was trying to mislead, since “can accept” more than 10 shot magazines “does not mean ‘can be modified in the future to accept’” such magazines. The Tampa Bay Times quotes an NRA member who consulted for authors of the ban as saying “The fact that a gun could be re-engineered to accept a loading device that holds more than 10 rounds doesn’t mean that such guns would be banned.” Which causes one to question his credentials or at least the criteria of the NRA’s membership committee.
Almost all the semi-automatic rifles and pistols now made do not have to be “reengineered” or modified to accept a magazine larger than the standard five- or eight- or 10-shot models, and the higher-capacity magazines are widely available. So in concentrating on the arm instead of the magazine, the intention of the authors becomes quite clear: to make a wide variety of firearms disappear.
Moody was, in large degree, correct.
Politifact, which describes its business as “fact checking U.S. politics,” has a real problem with the Moody’s truth telling. In a story about Moody’s statement and the howls it raised among those whose intentions it exposed, the organization hemmed and hawed about technical details and the vagaries of a potential court decision getting in the way of the facts, then declined to render judgement on what everyone familiar with firearms already knew to be true.
What happened in Florida is illuminating, not just because it reveals the all-too-familiar animus on the left toward inanimate objects that, if used with malice, will slay. It is illuminating because it shows those wishing to take firearms from public hands will allow nothing to dissuade them. Consider that from a technical viewpoint, the proposed Constitutional amendment was drafted by people who were either utterly unfamiliar with firearms or who simply didn’t care what was practical or even made sense so long as it made them look good and offered the prospect of cheap political points.
Doubtless Florida’s effort is only a foretaste of what’s coming, as the push for high capacity magazine bans, “assault weapon” bans, “military style” firearms bans and the like proliferate across the country, all paired with some form of, “We just have to, to save lives.”
Which calls to mind the words of William Pitt the Younger in a November 1783 speech to the House of Commons: Necessity is “the plea for every infringement of human freedom,” he said. “It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
Words to live by in our tumultuous times.
Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015 and currently lives in Virginia. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.