Quinn: Semi-automatic rifles have legitimate protective uses (column)
April 10, 2018
There have been several recent submissions about "Assault Rifles." The inaccuracy of this term when applied to weapons like the AR-15 has been covered so many times that one can assume that those who still use it in the present discussion are either intentionally deceptive or suffer from willful ignorance. I'll use a more accurate term: semi-automatic rifles, or SARs.
The question remains — Why would anyone want to have one? There are several reasons, but the main one is … protection. There are millions of SARs out there, which means that a substantial number of people have concerns about safety from aggression, especially by a number of assailants. Is this concern valid?
It's not just firearms. What is the reason for the increased popularity of dog breeds like pit bulls and rottweilers? If you go to low-income urban neighborhoods, then there are bars on the windows and doors of houses and folding metal gates on storefronts. There are ads on TV for home security systems that show multiple intruders. Gated communities and post-apocalypse hideaways are popular with those who can afford them. Big shots in government, entertainment and business have armed security guards.
It isn't enough to point out that we have police to deal with such threats. As we know, law enforcement is not always available when trouble happens. Parkland, Florida, is not the first time.
When the Rodney King riots happened in Los Angeles, police were overwhelmed and withdrew from some neighborhoods, like Koreatown. The residents and merchants there got out their guns to hold off the riotous multitude. These guns included SARs, like the Ruger Mini-14. For a review, Google Rodney King Riots Koreatown. Film clips are featured.
California, of all places, continues to make it hard for people to have SARs. What happens when the big quake comes? Or Kim Jong Un lobs a nuke at Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay area? Or some grievance causes urban mobs to run amok? Or the national debt finally catches up with us, and there is a major collapse of the economy? Lower and middle class residents will be left to their own resources for protection.
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And then there are cases where law enforcement is not available for other reasons. Such as at Parkland. It still isn't clear why those deputies stayed outside; were they ordered to by superiors?
You saw on TV how demonstrators were throwing metal barriers through glass walls at the University of California Berkeley when Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak. Police were present, but did not intervene. Is it true that only one demonstrator was arrested?
One of the reasons given for not taking action was that they didn't want to aggravate the situation. It looked pretty aggravated to me already. To refresh your memory, Google something such as 2017 Berkeley protests, or Milo UCal Berkeley.
So political considerations can also mean that the community is left unprotected. Such as when those who control law enforcement sympathize with groups like Antifa.
SAR opponents point out that muskets were the weapon of choice back when the Second Amendment was enacted; so that must define the kind of weapon that should now be permissible.
Well, back then, when the First Amendment was passed, there weren't phones, emails, twitter, texts, radios and TVs, either. Are these covered by "freedom of speech"? Does protection of "the press" cover electronic media and other non-paper communicators?
And the Fourth Amendment, which protects "persons, houses, papers and effects" from unreasonable searches and seizures — does that cover businesses, electronic records, the cloud, emails, texts and phone conversations?
SARs are used in a minor amount of criminal activity. They are a reasonable means for people to protect themselves from likely hazards.
Terry Quinn is lawyer who lives and works in Eagle.
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