"End of quote. Repeat the line."
--Joe Biden, reading from a teleprompter earlier this year
We've heard this line of argument before, but not usually from somebody in the president's position. It goes like this: We don't want to take away anybody's hunting gun. We just want to get rid of semi-automatic weapons.
At that point, many in the pro-Second Amendment crowd stop listening. Because the speaker has just proven himself ignorant. Not stupid, just ignorant of the mechanics of most hunting guns.
Which is what President Biden proved the other day:
"The idea [that] we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick. Just sick. It has no, no social redeeming value. Zero. None. Not a single solitary rationale for it except profit for the gun manufacturers."
To sum up: Automatic weapons are the ones in which you pull the trigger once, and hold, and the blasted thing fires every shell it can hold. And they are so completely regulated that we don't know a soul who owns one. Or who will admit it to us.
But semi-automatic weapons are the ones that load a shell after each shot, and the user must pull the trigger each time he wants to fire a bullet from the thing. These machines are used in deer hunting, turkey hunting, duck hunting, dove hunting, pig hunting, squirrel hunting, and maybe snipe hunting for all we know.
It's not "just sick" to own one. Most folks we know don't go duck hunting with a single-shot .410.
These guns have no social redeeming value, zero, none? Except for those who hunt regularly.
But we'll do something rare for this column, and assume that the president of the United States misspoke. Again. Or was confused. Again. Or went off-script, again, and his people will have to walk it back, again. (But it's hard to do that, considering this is the man who once advised somebody fearful for her safety to walk outside her front door and shoot a 12-gauge blast into the sky.)
Maybe the president meant to say "automatic" weapons. But those things aren't the preferred weapons of choice for most mass shooters--because they are so hard to come by.
Maybe the president meant to say "AR-15s," in which case he'd have more support for his position. Except that those things do have redeeming value to certain hunters. From what we're told, they come in handy in shooting feral pigs, which gather in groups of a dozen or more, and wipe out acres of rural Arkansas each night.
We will stipulate that not all owners of these M-16 lookalikes hunt feral hogs. (Rural homeowners wish they would!) Many of these gun owners, perhaps most of them, like the AR-15 molds because they "look cool." But why call these target-shooters sick?
Questioned again by the press, the president said he would take steps in the coming congressional session to ban certain guns. From the White House's official transcript:
Q: Can you do anything about gun laws during the lame duck, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to try.
Q: What will you try and do?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to try to get rid of assault weapons.
Q: During the lame duck?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to do it whenever I--I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes.
Once again, from the top, for the president's benefit, if everybody reading already knows this: An assault weapons ban passed in the 1990s. But the ban was allowed to lapse because it wasn't effective. Because the only real difference between an "assault rifle" and your pawpaw's deer gun is appearance. And magazine size, but magazines aren't weapons. (If you want a debate on ridding the country of magazines that hold dozens of shells or more, you might be surprised to know how many pro-gun people would agree with you, even here.)
The things that are categorized as "assault weapons" shoot not a bit faster than a deer rifle. In fact, most deer rifles are much more powerful. Another ban on these "assault weapons" wouldn't work a bit better than a ban did in the 1990s. Especially since there are so many on the streets today, which legislation is sure to grandfather as legal. All previous legislation has.
None of this is to say that nothing can be done. Red-flag laws should be universal, in every American jurisdiction. With protections for due process.
All loopholes to background checks should be closed. Many guns go and come across the southern border, so improving that would help matters. Bump stocks are just a way to get around laws against machine guns, and should be outlawed in every precinct.
And as Dr. Charles Krauthammer once noted, he was allowed to admit patients with mental conditions to hospitals without their signatures in the 1970s, but now too many with those problems are allowed to die with their rights on. And, we'd add, kill.
We can also debate magazine size, gun shows, and other arguments.
But if we're going to have this debate--and we'd damn sure better--everybody needs to understand the definitions.
cc: The White House