The Right Opinion

Flash Suppressors Do Not Kill People

By Jacob Sullum · Dec. 19, 2012

“These tragedies must end,” says President Obama, referring to Adam Lanza's horrifying assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last Friday. Although it is hard to disagree with that sentiment, the measures Obama favors cannot reasonably be expected to prevent such thankfully rare but nevertheless appalling outbursts of senseless violence.

After the massacre, press secretary Jay Carney reiterated Obama's support for reinstating the federal “assault weapon” ban that expired in 2004, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., promised to introduce a bill aimed at doing so next month. But we know for sure that an “assault weapon” ban would not have stopped Lanza or made his attack less deadly, because it didn't.

The rifle that Lanza used, a .223-caliber Bushmaster M4 carbine, is legal under Connecticut's “assault weapon” ban, and the federal law used the same criteria. Except for specifically listed models, both laws cover semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines that have at least two of these five features: 1) a folding or telescoping stock, 2) a pistol grip, 3) a bayonet mount, 4) a grenade launcher and 5) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel.

The fact that such features have little or no functional significance in the context of violent crime reveals the folly of trying to distinguish between “good” and “bad” guns. Any gun that can be used for self-defense or other legitimate purposes also can be used to murder people.

Guns like Lanza's, modeled after the Colt AR-15, are among the most popular rifles in America, with an estimated 3.5 million sold since 1986. Only a tiny fraction of them are ever used in crimes.

Prior to the federal “assault weapon” ban, firearms covered by the law were used in something like 2 percent of gun crimes, and these were mostly pistols, according to a 2004 study sponsored by the National Institute of Justice. FBI numbers indicate that rifles of any kind (not just “assault weapons”) are used in less than 3 percent of murders. Even killers with multiple victims are much more likely to use ordinary handguns than “assault weapons.”

I use those scare quotes because the very term “assault weapon” was invented by the anti-gun lobby as a way of blurring the distinction between semi-automatic firearms, which fire once per trigger pull, and machine guns such as the selective-fire assault rifles carried by soldiers. The president himself either does not understand the difference or deliberately obscures it, calling upon Congress to ban “AK-47s” and “automatic weapons.”

Given the fraudulent rationale for the “assault weapon” ban, it's not surprising that the NIJ study found little evidence the law had reduced gun violence. “Should it be renewed,” University of Pennsylvania criminologist Christopher Koper and his co-authors concluded, “the ban's effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

That was so even when taking into account another aspect of the law that Obama wants to restore: its ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. While it is debatable whether the few seconds it takes to switch magazines or guns makes an important difference in attacks on moviegoers in a darkened theater or on first-graders in an elementary school, Lanza did use 30-round magazines, and this restriction at least looks like a relevant response to mass shootings.

So many large-capacity magazines are already in circulation, however, that it's hard to see how reinstating this ban would stop a determined killer from obtaining them. Even when the ban was in force, Koper found, there was “an immense stock” of about 30 million such magazines, and the number surely has risen since then.

Likewise, with around 300 million guns in circulation, there is not much that new laws can do to prevent a man bent on slaughtering innocents from obtaining one. The understandable grief and anger provoked by the Sandy Hook massacre does not change that unavoidable reality.

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13 Comments

wjm in Colorado said:

It is not the gun, never has, and never will be. It is, however, liberal policy that treats mental deficiency by allowing the crazy (Nancy Pelosi) to walk among us, then they are shocked when the unhinged go off. Now Obamao has his champion, the poster boy of mental deficiency, Joe Biden, to address the guns. If we do exactly the opposite of anything Joe supports, we should do just fine. In the Marxist takover, they have to disarm the people. This is not about children or assault weapons, but a transformation and destruction of the Constitution, and a ruling elite hell bent on a marxist statist utopia. At some point, these traitors will push too hard, and reap their just rewards.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 9:30 AM

tdrag in South Carolina replied:

They are pushing too hard right now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 8:25 PM

sfj in Alabama said:

Why not ban cars, airplanes, school buses, etc they cause a lot more deaths than firearms. Idiots! I guess you have to be a first class moron to be a lib/progressive.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11:03 AM

shoot in Michigan City In. replied:

sfj I am on my soap box again the biggest killer of children is ovomit and his dimowits that refujse to defund planned parenthood or ovomits use of predator drones killing foriegn leaders and civillians, children also, so until p/p is defunded and taking away the authority to use predators ovomit will continue to be the biggest child killer of all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

If they are so concerned about deaths of children why not ban abortion? Abortions kill more children every year than guns. Why not ban anything that could be used to kill someone? Banning guns will not solve the problem. Why doesn't lamestream media get all up in arms about the deaths of children from gun violence in places like Chicago, Detroit, D.C, and most major cities? Because it doesn't fit their agenda is the only reason I can think of.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11:54 AM

David Thompson in Bellville, TX said:

"The StG 44 (Sturmgewehr 44, literally "storm (or assault) rifle (model of 19)44") was an assault rifle developed in Nazi Germany during World War II that was the first of its kind to see major deployment and is considered by many historians to be the first modern assault rifle." [Wikipedia]
Calling a rifle (or pistol) a "weapon" has long been the military's way of impressing on the soldier the deadliness of his issued rifle.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 1:09 PM

ArmyofOne in MN replied:

The military did not call a rifle or a pistol a 'weapon' to impress upon the soldier the 'weapons' deadliness....they already knew it was their best friend, and it was supposed to become part of them! What the military had to learn was the deadliness of the enemy! All enemies...foreign and domestic!

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 4:53 PM

Anton D Rehling in Olympia, WA said:

Am I missing something here, wasn't the Bushmaster left on the back seat of the car and the assailant ar Sandy used a Glock and SIG pistol? Maybe we can stick to the facts, not one child was shot with a .223/5.56.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 3:20 PM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio replied:

I'm not sure, Anton, but I think I heard that some coroner made a "declaration" that he thought the killer was using the "assault weapon" and was firing on "full automatic", like a "machine gun". I mean, there had to be some kook standing just off camera with a script in 6 inch tall letters for this guy to read. So, maybe it was the Bushmaster (an AR-15 look-a-like) after all, but I sure do not know how a coroner could determine the rate of fire difference between a rapid fire semi-auto and full-auto. If was a legal (not expertly tampered with) Bushmaster, it would not fire in full auto.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 4:50 PM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio replied:

A New Declaration of Independence

PATRIOTS who have taken Murray T. Bass' challenge, here is a link (below) to a page on one of my blogs. It is just for a few charter patriot's who want to help get this idea off the ground.

You folks do a great job with comments and replies here at the PP. We will just use comments on my blog page as a place to start. But, Like Murray said, we probably want to work closely with the Patriot Post, if we can. I am willing to host the site, even through development of the document. Maybe the Patriot Post would comp us a little ad space with a link?

http://myfreeblogs.us/proudandpug/?cat=1

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 4:54 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

Thanks for the info, George.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Sam in Spokane WA said:

Bushmaster M4 is an assault weapon as defined by the 1994 law.
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-103hr3355enr/pdf/BILLS-103hr3355enr.pdf
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushmaster_M4_Type_Carbine

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 5:50 PM

BJ in St. Cloud, MN said:

Bushmasters, like most AR look a likes will usually be in .223 caliber. .223 is how much bigger than a .22 rabbit gun? Our military uses this round because it's lightweight, easy to carry lots of, and wounding an enemy is better than killing him because it takes lots of hands to take care of a wounded man but none for a dead one.
In my state it was and may still be illegal to use firearms of such small caliber to hunt whitetail deer. Mostly the little .223 is used for varmints and prairie dogs. When we want to actually put a game animal down most of us shoot .30 calibers like;30.30's, .308's, 30.06's, or .300's.
What's going to happen when a madman walks into a school with a 12 gauge shotgun and a pocket full of 3.5" 00 buck? Each shell has 18 .31 caliber lead balls in it and at 65 yards will mow down 8 foot wide groups of people. Notice how this mass shooting was in a "gun free zone". Even crazy dickwads don't go to police stations, nat guard armory's, or gun stores to start shooting because someone will shoot back.
Bottom line is when the liberals have destroyed our moral fiber in America with divorce, abortion, homosexual marriage, attacks on religion and religious holidays, and increased dependence on big govt-they will need to take away our means of resistance(guns) so our will to resist evaporates.

America is lost, God Help Us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 9:00 PM