Feinstein’s Folly

It makes no sense to ban guns based on how they look –

I own two rifles.  The first is a British Lee-Enfield, manufactured in Australia in 1943.  I bought it over thirty years ago in an antique shop.  The second is a Ruger Mini-14 ranch rifle.  I bought it new from a gun dealer a year and a half ago.

The Lee-Enfield is a bolt action rifle in .303 caliber with a ten round capacity magazine.  Known also as the SMLE, for ”short magazine” Lee-Enfield, it was the standard issue rifle of the British army from 1907 to 1957.  Lee-Enfields were used to assault the Kaiser’s soldiers in Belgium in 1916, Hitler’s Wehrmacht  in Normandy in 1944 and Mao’s People’s Liberation Army on Korea’s Imjim river in 1951.   In the hands of an expert, the Lee Enfield can put ten well aimed rounds a couple hundred yards down range in about fifteen seconds.  But despite the fact that the Lee-Enfield participated in nearly every major military assault of the twentieth century, it was not considered an assault weapon in the 1994 ban, nor would it be considered an assault weapon in Senator Feinstein’s proposal.

The Ruger Mini 14 is a semi-automatic rifle in .223 caliber, the same caliber used by our combat soldiers today.  Equipped with magazines holding anywhere from five to thirty rounds, it’s called a “ranch rifle” because of its popularity with ranchers for controlling coyotes and prairie dogs.  I found the thirty round magazine with which mine was equipped to be cumbersome for target shooting, so I am replacing it with a five round magazine.  Being semi-automatic, the rifle’s rate of fire is higher than the Lee-Enfield, but if you’re shooting for accuracy it’s not that much different.  Although it is similar to the M-1 carbine carried by our Marines during World War II, the Mini-14 has never been used by the military.  And despite the fact that it is functionally equivalent to the Ruger Mini-14 tactical rifle that is included in Senator Feinstein’s proposed list of banned weapons, the Mini-14 ranch rifle is not included.

So why wouldn’t the Mini-14 ranch rifle be in Feinstein’s crosshairs? The answer is simple.  Because its stock is made of wood and not plastic, and it lacks a pistol grip, it doesn’t look like what she thinks an assault rifle should look like.   And for those unfamiliar with firearms, the proposed ban is about how a weapon looks, not how it functions.

In his recent address, President Obama said that “weapons made for the theater of war, do not belong in a movie theater”.  That’s great rhetoric, but it is based on a false premise.  Modern weapons manufactured for the theater of war are not the sporting arms enjoyed by the shooting public that have been branded “assault weapons”.  They are weapons with fully automatic capability.  In other words, they are machine guns.  They are, for all practical purposes, already banned from private citizens, and have been since 1934.

There is no question the country needs to have a conversation about curbing gun violence.  We need to talk about solutions to gang involvement. We need to talk about economic opportunity for disaffected youth who see drugs and crime as their only opportunity.  We need to talk about improved background checks on firearm sales, enforcing the gun laws already on the books, and addressing the deplorable state of our mental health services. We need to talk about the culture of violence that is rampant in our entertainment industry.  All these things should be part of the conversation.  But banning sporting arms enjoyed by law abiding citizens simply based on how they look should not be part of the conversation.

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