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Response to ellisonz (Reply #146)

Wed Jan 11, 2012, 11:25 PM

166. Thoughts, at some length...

You're right, it's not that widespread in the United States yet...

Yet? The rifle crime rate is going *down*, not up, and the overall violence rate is going down and has been for quite some time.

The shift toward smaller-caliber, higher-capacity civilian rifles has been going on for decades; my local Walmart sold Colt AR-15's and Norinco AK's circa 1988, and the AR first hit the market circa 1961 (JFK owned one). But the greatest increases in AR/AK ownership occurred 1994 to the present, and have coincided with a long decline in rifle crime and of gun violence in general.

I'm certainly not going to argue post hoc ergo prompter hoc here---I think it was other social factors at work---but more widespread "assault weapon" ownership has certainly not been associated with an increase in violence. Quite the contrary, actually.

...but in other countries and especially those less developed they are the weapon of choice.

Anywhere concealability (and to a lesser extent, portability) are irrelevant, rifles do make more sense as both offensive and defensive weapons than handguns do. That condition may be found across large parts of Africa, parts of Mexico, etc. The fact that the Warsaw Pact flooded large portions of the Third World with mass produced AK's (real ones, not civilian lookalikes) during the Cold War certainly didn't hurt the rifle/handgun balance, either.

The more developed and organized a region becomes, though, the more things shift from rifles toward handguns when out-and-about, as people trade range and capacity for concealability, portability, and convenience. I'd point out that rifles were once the personal weapon of choice in *this* country, too, back when it was almost exclusively rural.

I think that as more enter the market, and more are diverted to criminal use, you'll see the number of incidents in rise.

Why would they? Rifle availability on the criminal market has not increased in the last 50 years and isn't increasing now. Any criminal who wanted a box-magazine-fed semiauto rifle or carbine in 1910, or 1940, or 1970, or 1990, or 2000 could get one. Thing is, they don't often choose them, for the reasons I've described at length in this thread.

But don't just take my word for it; look at period of sharpest increase in AK/AR sales, e.g. beginning in 1994 and continuing to the present day, and plot it against rifle homicide and overall homicide rates. Violence rates peaked well before the sales surge began and have been declining steadily since.

You're actually making a really good case for hand gun control.

Well, by any objective standard, handguns in criminal hands *are* more of an issue than rifles and shotguns are. That, historically, is why handguns are more tightly controlled by Federal and most state law than rifles and shotguns.

You do need to distinguish between handguns in criminal and noncriminal hands, though; failure to do that was one of the gun control lobby's big strategic mistakes.

I again go back to this weapon, which since the expiration of the assault ban is now legal.

Umm, civilian AK's were legal 1994-2004; the Feinstein law banned no guns. AK's and 20/30-round magazines were just as legal in 1997 or 2002 as they are now.

The catch was that after 1994, *new* guns with folding stocks had to have the stocks pinned or tack-welded in the open position, the muzzle brake (if present) had to be pinned on rather than screwed on, the little protrusion on the bottom of the gas block couldn't be finish-machined, etc. But civilian AK's weren't banned, and neither were folding stocks; it's just that if you put a folder on a post-1994 AK, you could have theoretically gotten into trouble if someone noticed that the gun was post-'94.

My own AK and magazines are ban-era; here's how to tell by looking.



What is the purpose of its design?

What aspect? The square-ish receiver? Curved magazines? Handgrip placement? Folding stock?

To understand what drove the actual military AK, you have to look at what it was designed to replace, namely the PPSh submachinegun and the Mosin-Nagant rifle. The AK-47 was designed to exactly split the difference between the two guns, allowing both of them to be phased out in favor of a single compromise design. At the flick of a switch, it could either spray bullets at 10 rounds per second, or fire one aimed shot at a time, therefore fulfilling the submachinegun and rifle roles passably well.

Civilian AK derivatives have only the one-shot-at-a-time mode, like other civilian rifles, and lose the rapid-fire capability. They retain the original's legendary reliability, durability, looks, and ergonomics. The intermediate cartridge gives it less recoil and higher capacity than larger caliber rifles and makes it cheaper to shoot, and the basic construction makes it affordable on a working-class paycheck.

From a civilian standpoint, you can think of it as a ruggedized Winchester Model 94 in .30-30 feeding from 20- or 30-round detachable magazines, and capable of similar accuracy and terminal ballistics. Excellent reliability, good capacity, decent performance, excellent price (mine was $379 in 2003). A Ruger Mini Thirty (same capabilities) was going for $600-$700 at the time.

Simplified sociological arguments do not always trump questions of public safety. Why do you need to be able to outgun the police?

An AK or AR doesn't "outgun the police." Police officers have access to Title 2 restricted machineguns and submachineguns, Title 2 restricted assault rifles (including actual M16s and M4s), restricted armor piercing ammunition, grenades, armored vehicles, body armor, yadda yadda yadda. A medium-caliber Title 1 civilian rifle doesn't "outgun the police" just because it looks like a police/government Title 2 automatic weapon.

Having said that, if a police officer shows up to a dwelling with only a pistol and the occupant has a shotgun or centerfire rifle of any sort, then yes, the officer could be considered "outgunned" until he/she goes back to the cruiser and breaks out the long gun. But the police can have rifles and shotguns that you get you or me 10 years in Federal prison for simply possessing.

But here's the crux of the matter---rifles are the least threatening to public safety of all U.S. firearms, as demonstrated by the firearm assault and firearm homicide data. Call it simplistic if you want, but when all styles of rifles combined account for only 3 murders out of 100, then anyone claiming rifles are a menace is simply selling fear.

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