Unless this is the very fist word of mine that you’ve ever read, you certainly know by now that I like guns. I like old guns and new, big guns and small, cheap guns and costly. I make no bones about it; I think guns are cool. I have a WWII era Russian Model 91/30 that was first handed to a Red Army soldier, while Nikita Khrushchev was trying to push the Germans out of Stalingrad. It’s old, and heavy, and bears the scars of war. You can tell by it’s wear that many rounds were fired through it before it came to me, and given it’s origins; one would have to assume that some of them were fired at Germans. On days when my eyes and the wind cooperate, it can still put 5 shots coffee can at 100 yards.
I also have a Benelli semi automatic 12-gauge shotgun, which in my opinion, is a triumph of modern firearms design. It’s every angle and surface on every internal part, carries some small mark of the designers wisdom, hewn from decades of knowledge solving the problems of engineering. It’s unfailingly reliable, fast, and has unbelievably few moving parts. Many people I know with similar guns never clean them because it isn’t really necessary. But I could never forgive myself a sin like that, especially since it’s design makes it such an easy thing to do.
I have a bunch of other guns too, not the least notable of which is a Romanian semi-automatic WASR; a “look-alike” of an AK47. It’s not nearly as accurate as some of my other guns, but what it may lack in down range precision, it more than makes up for in reliability. It is the ultimate survival tool, and I’ve written about it at some length here. Not only is it the firearm I’d most want to have with me if civilization comes crumbling down, but as a father of a seven year old girl, I can imagine several other much more likely scenarios involving teen age boys, where I think it will come in handy as well. Nothing in the firearms world looks as scary as an AK47.
And that’s the particular thing about an AK. It’s so scary looking that many people in government think I shouldn’t be allowed to have one at all. In fact, New Jersey is one of those states that have what’s called an “assault weapons ban”. These were a set of laws passed by those jurisdictions that were less respectful of the rights of their citizens, and tried to eliminate those guns that were somehow more dangerous than others. But since the people writing the laws didn’t actually know anything about firearms, the results of their efforts were easily wiggled around by firearms manufacturers, and the legislation was the source of endless jokes at the firing range.
In the firearms world, an “assault weapon” has a very specific meaning. It means a firearm which fires more than one bullet each time you pull the trigger. But the “assault weapons bans” don’t actually say anything about those weapons; they’re restricted by other laws which were already on the books. What they do ban is “semi-automatic” firearms, which look similar to an assault weapon. These only fire 1 bullet for each pull of the trigger and in that way, were functionally the same as guns used for hunting and target shooting.
Anyway, like I said, New Jersey has an “assault weapons” ban, which doesn’t ban actual assault weapons but does ban weapons that look like them, so how is it that I have one (and it’s perfectly legal mind you)?
Well the NJ law prohibits firearms that have too many things in common with an assault weapon, and since the people writing the law didn’t know how firearms work, they based their law on cosmetic features. These have laughingly come to be known in the gun community as the “evil features” that make a good gun into a bad one, even though they don’t actually change anything about how the firearm works. In New Jersey, if a gun has more than any 2 of the following, then it’s considered too “evil”: a pistol grip, an adjustable stock, a flash supressor, a bayonet lug, a threaded barrel, and a removable magazine.
The internal workings of my rifle are completely different from a fully automatic AK47, and there is no way for anyone to modify it to make it work that way. Not only would many new pieces need to be added, but the pieces that are there would need to be moved around. In short, it can’t be done effectively. It would probably be easier, and less dangerous to build a fully automatic gun from scratch. And since my gun has only a removable magazine and a pistol grip, it’s considered legal. Its bayonet lug has been filed off, and its threaded barrel has a nut welded on the end. It has the classic wooden “fixed stock” recognizable from the cold war era, and that, according to the law, changes it from a bad gun to a good one.
Functionally though, it fires the same medium powered bullet that the original AK does, the highly respected 7.62x39mm. And it looks exactly the same at a distance, or to the untrained close up. It can kill things every bit as effectively as an actual “assault weapon” provided the latter was set to fire in semi-automatic, and yet it’s still in compliance with the NJ law. So if all that is true then the law doesn’t actually do anything at all… why have it? Why pass a law that everyone who wants to can fairly easily get around it?
The truth is, the people in government do it because they are afraid. And at the end of the day, I think they should be. In other words… I think that means our system is working as it’s designed to.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads:
“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.
That’s it… that’s the whole thing. But the intent of the people who wrote it was made abundantly clear in their other writing. In the system of checks and balances, the armed populace is the last check against government tyranny. The designers of our system set forces in opposition to each other inside the government, but if it ever gets to a point where those forces begin to collude with one another to the detriment of the people, we are fully armed, and are therefore able to do something about it. We’re able to push back against a government that’s gotten out of control.
Some people will say, “Well with the advent of modern artillery and tanks, and nuclear weapons, what are a bunch of guys with their grandfathers duck hunting guns going to do?” But I think those people miss the point.
The US civilian population doesn’t have to be able to defeat the 3rd marine division, we never did. The third marine division isn’t the problem; it’s the people issuing the orders who are. One careful and discreet civilian, who was willing to die to make his point, could be armed with nothing but an average deer rifle and still do all the damage that needs to be done. And since our politicians know this, the existence of 90 million of those deer rifles in civilian hands is a profound restraint on their behavior. They treat us with the respect that comes from knowing that if they don’t, it only takes one gun nut to cut all their ambition short.
That’s why guns matter. Not because they’ll allow the civilian population to fight back against the Second Armored Cavalry, but because it provides a credible “threat of force” against the people who are the real problem, our politicians. It gives we civilians power over our elected officials that they can’t really throw off in a direct way. And that’s why some portions of the government are always so anxious to eliminate guns when they can, because they would rather not have to deal with us on any terms but their own.
But thankfully, the people who designed our system were a lot smarter than the people who run it. So all we need to do is keep the current batch of scoundrels from taking away our guns, and inevitably, it’s going to remain our country, and not theirs.