Sunday, April 6, 2008

Machine guns and all that.

It's been an interesting (lunar) month for me, in that I've had my mind changed about two matters of policy by some method other than study. First Joe Cobb has me thinking that free banking is sensible even most of its advocates like it for merely ideological reasons, now today, after having, thanks to a very classy RKBA enthusiast at the Tucson Rifle Club who hosted a group from the University, fired a full automatic, I have changed my mind in a sense, having formed opinions about the matter.

  1. Federal regulation of full automatics is working, but needs some liberalization.

    Opponents of the right to keep and bear arms love to point out when a pro-RKBA line of thought would allow for ownership of "machine guns", or even to ask RKBA proponents if people should be allowed to own full automatics. People already own full automatics, and it hasn't been a problem. The answer should not be "no", the answer should be "yes, they already do, and it hasn't been a problem." Why ban something that hasn't been a problem. That was my position already, but I add to it a corollary: firearms regulation is largely about matters of degree, but the amount of mischief one could carry out with a submachine gun like the MP5 is not so much greater than that of an ordinary pistol to justify moving to an outright ban. Likewise the switch from AR-15 to M-16 gives but a marginal advantage. Keep pulling that trigger, and one can empty a clip quite quickly.

    What sort of liberalization do I have in mind? Allowing the three-shot burst version of the M-16 (currently in use by the military, as leadership found full auto to be troublesome!) would make sense; from one shot to three, as opposed to the spraying that keeps hoplophobes up at night, is a matter of nearly infinitesimal degree, yet it restores the civilian parity with the military that is such an important part of American tradition. More importantly, lower the cost of all full autos by allowing some new ones on the market. The high cost of a full auto resulting from the ban on sale of any manufactured after 1986 is almost surely one of the reasons legally owned machine guns are just about the least likely firearms to be used in crime. People who own full autos tend to be characterized by affluence, not anomie. But the cost is also surely keeping most responsible shooters out of the market unnecessarily, threatening the very concept of a well regulated militia and perhaps making the notion that there is no legitimate civilian use of a fully automatic weapon a self-fulfilling claim. $2000 is a good enough barrier to entry; $12000 is excessive.

  2. The police should not have fully automatic weapons, or at the very least should be prohibited from using them except when engaging criminals with fully automatic weapons.

    The difference between a fully automatic and a semiautomatic weapon is largely a matter of degree, yes, but the difference is important in some situations. Favored by the militaristic SWAT teams which have become common without enough citizen protest or discussion, submachine guns like the MP5, especially when equipped with high-tech "red dot sights", are so comfortable and easy to use that they make killing the target like playing a videogame. To a maniac hell-bent on murder, it doesn't make a difference, but the delay, the necessity to pull a semi-automatic weapon's trigger once per shot, may very well keep testosterone-pumped, three-quarter-witted "peace officers" from making deadly mistakes, especially during the no-knock, military-style raids which should be illegal in the first place.