Okay, I am going to wade into this cesspool of misinformation.
First and foremost: Gun deaths have not skyrocketed. Yes, the raw numbers have gone up, but so has the population. Over the past ten years, the average annual violent crime rate has been the lowest since the 1970s; the average homicide rate has been the lowest since the late 1950s, and the average gun homicide rate reported by the CDC has been the lowest of of any preceding ten-year period dating back to 1981, the earliest year for which the CDC has publicly available data.
The use of guns in suicides has declined; the increase in the suicide rate is primarily due to a significant increase in the number of people ending their lives by suffocation, usually by hanging. Out of more than 47,000 suicides the difference in the number committed using a gun and the number accomplished by other means was 535.
Deaths due to accidental firearm discharges are way down from where they were even 25 years ago. In 2017, there were 486 accidental deaths out of a population of 325 million with 80 million or more gun owners.
Mr. Weber can’t understand why people would need anything more lethal than a rifle or shotgun. To be honest, neither can I. Certainly a firearm that can drop a raging rhinoceros or bull elephant would seem to be sufficient for anything else. A gun that can kill a person more than two miles away with a single shot sounds pretty deadly to me.
But Mr. Weber has a real problem with semi-automatic firearms. The fact his imagination is so crippled that he can’t understand why people would need them is his own problem. I first became a gun owner nearly 50 years ago. I have owned more than 100 guns and I have even been in the gun business. I have hunted. I have more than two million views on Quora, where I write about guns, and I have a space with more than 9,000 members. Yet with all that, I wouldn’t presume to tell a person what they might or might not need. That’s because only the individual can determine their own needs.
Semi-automatic firearms were first developed in Europe with an eye toward military sales. The first American semi-automatic rifle, the Winchester Model of 1903 appeared in (surprise!) 1903 and were marketed to hunters. The 1903 was followed by another Winchester and the first Remington auto-loader in 1905. In 1911, the Remington Model 8 appeared. What set the Model 8 apart was the fact it had a detachable box magazine. Standard magazine capacities were five, ten, and fifteen rounds. A 20-round magazine appeared later as a special-order item for police. Apparently the hunters of a century ago understood the need for extra ammo. From 1911 to 1936, Remington sold about 80,000 Model 8 rifles. That was in addition to all of the Winchester rifles, including the Model 1907, which could accept magazines with the same capacities as the Remington rifle.
Now why is it that the American hunters of 100 years ago, who were likely as good marksmen as modern hunters, if not better, could understand the need for a decent supply of ammunition and people of today can’t? I have a hunch that the answer lies in the fact we now have too many people who don’t know anything about hunting and too many people who don’t realize that hunting isn’t just about deer. However, their ignorance does not prevent them from telling people who do know something about the subject what they might need in terms of a hunting firearm.
High-capacity magazines didn’t end at 20 rounds. By the early 1920s, one could order a Thompson submachine gun with 50- or 100-round drums. Yes, anyone with the money could walk into one a a variety of stores, plunk down $200, and walk out with a Tommy Gun. No background check, no paperwork, no registration.
Pistols with magazines that held more than ten rounds appeared in 1935.
The Army got its first standard-issue, semi-automatic rifle in 1936 with the M1 Garand. In 1942, the Army adopted the M1 carbine. Here’s where things get interesting. The M1 carbine came in two main variants: the semi-automatic M1 and the selective-fire M2. The M1 carbine could accept magazines with capacities of 10, 20, or 30 rounds. It had a bayonet lug, some versions had folding stocks and pistol grips, and a flash hider could be attached.
Why is this interesting? After World War II and Korea, the Army dumped hundreds of thousands of these rifles into the civilian market as surplus. You could mail-order them; Woolworth’s stores sold them; Western Auto stores sold them. Prices were as low as $25.
And do you know how many of these rifles they sold? All of them. How many are still around? Most of them.
The boogeyman that has been created with the AR-15, the AK-47, the SKS, the Tavor, and similar rifles has no real basis in fact.
How many of these rifles have been used in mass shootings since the Colt AR-14 Sporter was introduced in 1963? A total of 71, including the 22 that were in the killer’s hotel room in Las Vegas and two incidents where one of these rifles was present but not used. To give you an idea of how tiny that number actually is, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is the gun industry’s trade and lobbying group (no, it’s not the NRA) estimated that about 17 million are owned by American private citizens.
According to the FBI, rifles are used in homicides less than half as often as bare hands.
Incidentally, before anyone says I care more about my guns than I do about the victims of murder, allow me to remind them that I am not the one using those deaths to advance laws that would not have saved a single one of those lives. In fact, according to the list maintained by Mother Jones, at least 567 people have been killed and another 1,115 have been wounded in mass shootings by killers who passed background checks.
So why are Americans “crazy” about guns? Perhaps a better question would be why are so many Americans crazy about the fact their fellow citizens have guns? Because that’s where the real craziness lies.
Blaming the NRA is stupid. But then running around like Chicken Little is stupid, too.
To start with, the National Rifle Association is still the leading source for safety and marksmanship training in the United States. In fact, this training is one of the main revenue sources for the NRA. The NRA has done, and still does, more for gun safety than all of the gun control groups combined. Of course that’s not saying much; none of the gun control groups has done anything meaningful about actual gun safety. Everyone makes fun of the Eddie Eagle program but I haven’t seen anybody come out with something better.
The National Rifle Association counts only a fraction of gun owners among its members. What everyone perceives as the NRA’s influence is actually the tens of millions of gun owners, who also can vote.
The NRA is hardly the only gun-rights organization. Gun Owners of America has well over a million members and it’s far more hard-core than the NRA.
The fact that Mr. Weber hasn’t figured all of this out simply shows more ignorance.
By the way, the U.S. Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment protects and individual right since the 19th Century. In fact, the court has said it is an individual right that exists without the Second Amendment. Don’t presume to judge what the late Antonin Scalia said if you haven’t read what he wrote in the Heller case.