Should semi-automatics be banned because they make revolvers and pistols useless?

Here’s a question for you and one as to which I’m too ignorant to have an answer.  In response to my last newsletter regarding fallacies driving the gun control crowd (and you can sign up for newsletters here), I got the following email:

The average citizen only carries a handgun. They have now been rendered useless despite our right to carry as no handgun can go up against an assault weapon firing 100 rounds in seconds. The NRA’s insistence on arming criminals with assault weapons in the name of money has ruined any chances of my handgun being effective. The ban on assault weapons needs to be put back in place in spite of the fact that gun manufacturers will lose money. Make my handgun effective again! Eliminate Assault Weapons!!!!!

My instinct is that there’s a problem with the above logic, but it’s eluding me.  Or maybe the person is absolutely right, and I just don’t want to admit it.

As politely as possible, please address the truth or falsity of the above statement.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    People have been led to believe that assault weapons are “machine guns”. They aren’t. They fire one bullet per trigger pull, just like a standard ACP 1911 handgun. 

    “Assault” weapons just look like fully automatic M-16s or M-4s or AK-47s, but they aren’t. Actually, a 30.06 deer rifle is probably more dangerous than an assault rifle.

    But, it makes great copy headlines, which is what this is all about. 

  • Danny Lemieux

    BTW, Book…that Glock you were shooting a little while back IS a semi-automatic.

  • ami

    It only takes one well-placed shot to render an assailant useless.

  • JKB

    Well, first off, banning “assault weapons”, which are simply semi-automatic rifles with certain “scary” cosmetic features is different than banning semi-automatic firearms.  The exact same rifle can be outfitted in the “assault rifle” format or in the traditional rifle format.  The big feature the Left latches on to is the pistol grip on the stock.  However, similar utility can be achieved by cutting a thumb hole through the stock.  
    Revolvers are as they indicate but pistol is normally used for semi-automatic handguns.  
    But to point.  Rifles are more accurate at a distance and rifle ammunition delivers more energy upon impact thus causes more tissue damage because it is heavier and has a larger charge behind it.  But a semi-automatic rifle is otherwise no more effective than a hand gun in terms of firing speed capability.  
    Most self defense discharges happen very close to the target.  In such situations, the long barrel of the rifle is a distinct disadvantage.  A fact often cited when the AR-15 variant is discussed as a home defense weapon.  Consider someone who enters a normal sized room, in such a situation, I don’t see much advantage for an “assault rifle” over a handgun.
    In fact, a .223 caliber rifle round is a slender round, only slightly larger than a .22 although longer, whereas a .40 S&W pistol round carries a larger punch and makes bigger holes.  The .223 round is designed to tumble causing a larger wound cavity.

  • Doug

    Let’s just pretend the author said “Rifles” instead of “Assault Weapon” which doesn’t really mean anything as noted above.  In a sense it’s true.  If you get into a gunfight and you have a handgun and they have a rifle it’s a bad situation.  But rifles are rarely used in crimes, presumably because they’re difficult to conceal and if you do manage to hide them, you can’t get at them quickly.  So if you’re talking about rifles versus handguns it’s some weird situation – a mass shooting, not a liquor store robbery or mugging or whatever.
    And even in a mass shooting, OK, he’s got a rifle, but assuming I survive the first few seconds now I have the element of surprise.  I can’t hit him hundreds of yards away, but he’s probably indoors and I can get shots at least plausibly on target with a handgun 50 yards out.  He can either stand there figuring out where I am while shots crash around him (which means he’s not shooting anybody else for a bit) or he can run for cover (which means he’s not shooting anybody else for a bit).
    All that being said – all this talk of banning just one class of weapon only makes sense if you don’t know anything about guns, which is basically what they’re counting on. Pretty much any general-purpose handgun made in the last hundred years is either “semi-automatic” or a double action revolver. 

  • jj

    You really can’t go to a gun store and buy anything capable of a hundred rounds in “seconds.”  Guns that do that are full automatics, and you can’t have one.  Not many of them have clips with hundreds of rounds, either.  So, lowering the temperature on the hyperbole a bit, what most of what Americans routinely – and incorrectly – refer to as “assault weapons” are in fact semi-automatic. Variants of the AR-15 have become the most popular hunting guns in the country, or so I read in a variety of sources.  (Not myself a hunter.)  These guys who use them are not blowing deer – or anything else – into non-fish sushi.  (You don’t hunt with machine guns.)  The gun fires one at a time.  Like the pistol you shot a couple of weeks ago, it’ll have the next one ready pretty quick, but it’s far from seamless.  What makes it semi-automatic is that the next one’s there, you don’t have to pump it up or cock it.  But it still fires one at a time, you have to squeeze every shot; you don’t just hold it down and the thing pees.  It will take more than “seconds” and more than one clip to get a hundred rounds on their way.
    Your email interlocutor is correct in one respect, though: the average citizen does not generally carry such weapons.  Walking along the Embarcadero with a Bushmaster slung over your shoulder or carried at port is a touch conspicuous: you will not pass unremarked.  Whether that renders handguns “useless” or not I don’t know.  I suspect, like most things in life, that would be situational.  I do know the Army still issues handguns, and still trains in their use, so I’m compelled to assume that if they can find a use for them they must still have some value.
    The term “assault weapon” is a very popular and routinely absurd misnomer.  If someone assaults you with a broken beer bottle, is that not an “assault weapon?”  You were assaulted with it, is there another qualification?  One is free to wonder just what the hell constitutes an “assault weapon.”  (I mean really, as opposed to in the popular imagination.)  It’s a term of art, so routinely misused it’s useless.  As previously noted, you can’t buy what everybody seems to think is an assault weapon, so since they don’t really exist for public consumption, the definition becomes slippery.  Janet Napolitano is on record as defining it to be anything that looks like a military weapon and scares people, which strikes me as perhaps a bit broad.  “Assault weapons,” if you mean real ones, the ones the SEALs took along to get bin Laden, have already been banned, and very effectively: there are damned few machine guns out there on the streets. Neither the NRA nor anyone else of whom I’ve heard is in favor of the idea that there should be.
    This kid had his mother’s M-16 variant.  Not an “assault weapon.”  Not any more fully auto than the pistol you shot.  223mm, standard NATO load.  His mother used it for target shooting, something she apparently did pretty often.  An enthusiast.  It would also be an okay hunting rifle.  As accuracy is – mechanically – in good part a function of barrel length, it will be a hell of a lot more accurate over greater distances than any handgun will.  Your correspondent didn’t mention that longer barrels are more accurate than short ones, but that’s really his/her biggest issue with them.  He/she may not be fully conscious of it, but that’s really what makes it tough for handguns.  It won’t be any faster than the Glock was, but it’ll be dangerous from farther away, and in that sense renders the handgun not perhaps exactly “useless,” but certainly compromised.
    Lots of overheated – but in the circumstances entirely expected and inevitable – rhetoric.  The usual disconnect from the facts.

  • Indigo Red

    If it’s one trigger pull, one shot, then there’s not much difference between a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver. Revolvers hold a maximum number of bullets (5-8) while semi-autos hols twice as many in a standard clip or as many as the magazine will hold.
    In exceptionally practiced hands, a revolver can fire upwards of 240 rounds per minute as demonstrated here:

  • cerumendoc

    To further comment on the above is the issue of magazine capacity.  Generally, rifle capacities top out at 20 or 30 rounds.  Reasons are weight, the additional ammunition directly attached to the rifle will begin to impair the ability to effectively wield that rifle.  Further, magazine capacities  larger than 20 or 30 rounds have a greater propensity to jam.

  • NancyB

    The NRA does not insist on arming criminals with assault weapons.  The NRA advocates for us lawful gun owners – for US to be armed with “assault weapons” so we can protect ourselves from those criminals.

  • MacG

    This is perhaps what you missed: The writer did not throw their ‘ineffective’ gun away, sell it or turn it in for destruction but in essence complained that the other kid has much better toys.  They keep it because they know it is effective ‘in most cases’.
    “make my hand gun effective again”
    What makes a hand gun effective is one’s ability to aim…get to the range :)
    It is coming out now that when the shooter saw the police arrive he scurried off and left he rest of the kids alone. It seems that even armed insane killers know to stand down when other guns are trained on them.
    I wonder if the writer’s hand gun is legal.  Perhaps they just forgot their gun safety training where they explain the differences between the guns that the writer describes versus the nouns they use.

  • weathtd

    Correction to several previous posts.  It IS legal to own fully automatic weapons, machine guns.  You just have to be willing to pay the large prices, undergo a strict background check, security and storage check, obtain the Class III license and pay the transfer tax.  Most people assume machine guns are completely banned because you seldom hear any mention of fully auto weapons used in crime.  According to report from ATF several years ago, there has never been a confirmed use of a legally owned Class III weapon in a crime since inplementation of NFA in the late 1920s.  Class III holders have too much invested to use one in crime.  And no, “assualt weapons” do not make the handgun ineffective.  Not being able to hit your target or not having one makes them ineffective.

  • Spartacus

    This is frustrating.
    Our esteemed friends on the Statist side of things just love to jump straight into legislative questions (“Should we ban such-and-such?”) while blissfully skipping straight over constitutional questions (“Can we ban such-and-such?”).  Really, that costitutional bit is kind of important.
    Trivia question: In United States v. Miller (1939), why did the Supremes uphold Miller’s conviction of the National Firearms Act?  Because the weapon in question, they said, was insufficiently military in nature to enjoy protection under the Second Amendment.  Get that?  Had he been carrying an old surplus Army rifle from WWI, they would have let him off, but he was carrying something they thought was too civilian.  And so once again, the Dems, being careful students of the law and of guns, want to ban guns that are too military-looking.  I’m having flashbacks of Nancy Pelosi exclaiming, “The Constitution?  Are you serious?  Are you serious?”
    Oh, and something else that’s frustrating?  That Glock 10mm pistol the killer was carrying?  Typically takes a bullet around 180 grains, as opposed to 55 grains for the AR-15; 3.3 times heavier and 3.2 times the cross-sectional area.  Slower muzzle velocity, but from five feet away, that hardly matters.  To fire the same number of rounds, you have to change magazines more often, but you can fit a lot more pistol mags into a knapsack than rifle mags.  Besides, when the cops don’t show up for ten long minutes, it really doesn’t matter which you choose.
    The national conversation that we really need to be having right now needs to be about  1) mental illness, as several folks have astutely pointed out; and  2) school security, from the point of view of, “OK, a heavily-armed and suicidal sociopath is walking through the front door of your school.  What is your plan?”

  • David Foster

    A couple of practical issue:
    1)Weapons can be smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico as easily as people can be (and as easily as the Obama-administration-facilitated smuggling of illegal weapons in the other direction.) Absent a far more stringent approach to border control than anything that is politically likely, you aren’t going to avoid inbound weapons smuggling…although a ban on any class of weapon *would* tend to increase the street price on it and hence have some effect on reducing ownership…though by no means eliminating it.
    2)Any competent machine shop…and there are thousands of machine shops in the U.S….can make a functional gun. With adequate drawings or CAD/CAM files, many of them would surely be able to make a semiautomatic or even a fully-automatic weapon.
    Most machinists would want nothing to do with illegal manufacturing, but there will always be exceptions.
    So what would the next step be…registration and background check for all milling machine owners?

  • lee

    I am not sure which is more dangerous coming out of lawmaker’s mouth: “I’m from the government and I am here to help” or “There ought to be a LAW!”
    Legislation, it seems to me, is frequently written by twenty-something poli-sci majors fresh out of college, the offspring of a campaign donor, who knows virtually nothing about the subject about which they are writing. They tap one, maybe two sources for information. (The internet has both helped and harmed the process.) They turn it over to the legislator for whom they slave, who gives it a cursory review, and who then submits it to committee. Where it gets taken and given to the same sort who wrote it, to review and make recommendations on it.
    So basically, our laws come from Junior…

  • JKB

    “There ought to be a law” coming out of anyone’s mouth is dangerous.  And those on the right, especially libertarians should be especially skeptical about using the phrase.
    What makes you think the laws are written by junior know-nothings steeped in useless poli-sci studies?  BTW, most of those poli-sci majors go on to get law degrees with surprising little understanding of the law before writing such legislation.  
    I know why I think the law is written by junior know-nothings.  One specific is that for the lack of remembering the term buoyancy compensator from their trip to Aruba, some junior regulatory genius made it a crime, according to US export regulations, to give a Cuban national a life jacket or show them how to use it.

  • Spartacus

    Excellent points, Mr. Foster.  And as there are only very minor differences in the mechanisms in the lower receiver — “the thing that blocks the other thing and keeps it from going full-auto, or the thing with a notch cut out, to allow it to go full-auto” is my very rough understanding — if I had a machine shop, and if I were breaking the law anyway, I can’t imagine *not* making a third notch on the selector switch to have a full-auto mode.
    “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

  • beefrank

    The question itself is contradictory because the questioner does not understand the terms used.  Regardless of the shooting tool being used, the objective of combat shooting is rounds downrange.  A major factor that is ignored by the liberal media outlets and liberals in general is the fact that all these shooting incidents ceased once the perpetrators see shooting weapons opposing them or shots directed their way.  Mostly it is the arriving police presence or in the Oregon mall shooting, a armed citizen who had a CCW licensed weapon pointed at them.   In every case, the presence of an armed opposing force stops criminals whether it is shots downrange or in most situations simply potential shooting weapons pointed at them. 

  • lee

    Why I think the law is written by Junior Know-Nothings:
    1) Eons ago, as an undergraduate, I had a couple of friends (whose parents were big campaign donors back in the home district) who went off on the Big Adventure to Washington, as “legislative interns.” (SNORT.)
    2) I actually READ (eventually) the ENTIRE “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.” Oh. My. God. It was so incredibly badly written (and I am not refering to lack of familarity with Strunk and White or the MLA Handbook!) The idiots responsible for it knew very little about the subject. The irony is that there is ALREADY an “energy law” in place, and all that would have need to have been done (for the Gang Green) is to have updated the references of the existing energy law! Admittedly the Energy Policy Act of 1992 is problematic on oh-so-many levels, BUT, it already addressed energy standards by referencing ASHRAE 90.1. Not too mention, the wacky-wacky-wacky USGBC has already given us, ta-da-da, the LEED standards. They could’ve reference THAT. Some Junior Know-Nothing had come across Energy Star, so that was plopped in there… but the law is a @#$^ mess. It is baaaaaaad legislation. Even if you buy into the Gang Green Kool-Aid, it is baaaaaad legislation. If you don’t, it’s super-baaaaaaaad!
    And just a side note on that topic: residential lighting in the US is less than 1% of the country’s Energy Consumption Pie. Reducing energy consumption used for residential lighting accomplishes not much.

  • Wolf Howling

    A lot of what I am about to write has been covered above.  Your instincts are correct, Book.  Virtually everything about that newsletter is problematic at best, ridiculous at worst.
    They have now been rendered useless despite our right to carry as no handgun can go up against an assault weapon firing 100 rounds in seconds. 
    Leaving aside for the moment the lack of any standard definition of an “assault weapon,” it has been illegal to sell or own fully automatic weapons in the U.S. since about 1934 or so.  Semi-automatic rifles and pistols fire at the same speed – 1 trigger pull = 1 round down range.  The only difference between the two in terms of putting rounds down range is that you have to change the magazine about twice is often on a semi-automaic pistol – which takes all of a second or two.   This was written by someone who has probably only seen a gun in a movie or video game.
    The NRA’s insistence on arming criminals with assault weapons in the name of money has ruined any chances of my handgun being effective. 
    The NRA does not, as I recall, insist on arming anyone other than those who have a legal right to “bear arms.”  Moreover, someone should ask the author why our military still issues semi-automatic pistols to many of its troops if they are now ineffective.  Actually, its because some troops are tasked with killing at range, while others have the pistols for self defense at close range.  Put another way, rifles are most effective at reaching out and touching someone at range.  Pistols are only short range weapons (zero to 40 or so yards), but because of their small size and manuverability, are slightly superior for short range work, all other things being equal.
    Hi-power rifles will generally do more damage than pistols simply because, for example, the AR15 fires hypersonic rounds that will cause cavitatation inside the body.  But if all the shooting is up close, the damage done by a 9 mm or .45 will do is not so different.   
    As to “assault rifles,” virtually every rifle is an “assault rifle.”  This call by the left to ban assault rifles is two parts pure ignorance, one part the desire to keep hands out of a civilian population they simply do not trust.   

  • weathtd

    There is alot of misinformation being posted so I’ll say it again: it IS NOT illegal to own or sell fully automatic weapons.  NFA has a license for machine guns and destructive devices.  Google Class 3 weapons.  I know several individuals who own multiple machine guns.  One of my fellow Army marksmanship team members privately owned a 20mm Bushmaster anti-tank cannon that we fired on several occasions. And none of those people has ever murdered anyone.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Gun prosecutions are waaay down under the Obama Administration. Hmmm…perhaps because they want to create crises to exploit?

    These people are such hypocrites! My advice to anyone looking to possess fully automatic weapons, legal or not, is to simply to submit a “Fast and Furious” request to the Holder Administration. 

  • Danny1045

    “Handguns can’t go up against assault weapons.” Not so.  This statement presumes the same skill level between those with concealed carry and the criminals we have seen in the past kill with a rifle. (I will not give the victim disarmament movement the courtesy of calling a rifle an assault weapon.) Handguns still have usefulness for many reasons.  Primarily, they are small enough to carry everywhere—that’s their purpose, providing handy, easily carried defense.   If I knew I was going to a rifle fight, I would carry one in.   Handguns provide the edge one needs to survive. The writer of the question discounts the skill level of the average concealed carry permit holder.    As we have seen criminals who have been confronted, even when carrying a rifle, have given up or committed suicide—denoting their lack of skill. Training,   strategy, and tactics go into who wins.  It goes back to what I read years ago: I would rather face a 45 in the hands of the untrained versus a 22 in the hands of the trained.   Criminals that have resorted to school shooting since the federal government outlawed guns on school campuses have been quite untrained.   Compare that with an avid hunter with a handgun or a person who takes the responsibility of carrying one seriously.    When I received my ccp I made it my business to shoot 500 rounds per week for three years, take lessons from a accomplished shooter, and to educate myself about the skill.    And to participate in any and all handgun competitions.  At age 54 with waning eyesight and shaking hands can still put 8 rounds in a target as fast as I can pull the trigger that can be covered by a playing card. Mindset is another facet overlooked in this comparison between a rifle and a handgun.  A person with a warrior mindset and a handgun is far more dangerous than a full auto assault rifle and a novice.   A warrior mentality that will not quit wins hands down.   Add to that mindset just a little knowledge in strategy and tactics and it’s a win over the rifle every time. Cover, concealment, and flanking maneuvers make the difference.  A little known fact is that a shooter usually undergoes tunnel vision and tunnel hearing—making the aware handgunner even more deadly.  While the rifle shooter is paying attention to what’s in front the handgunner can easily get behind and bring the attack to a halt.   I say shoot the bastard in the back all you got in the gun.  If a gun is not handy, use a baseball bat….If that’s not handy, use a knife and cut the spinal cord.   If a knife is not handy, use your hands, but FIGHT!  As Lt. Col Dave Grossman says, there are three types of people; wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs.   Sheep are overtaking these days, so it’s incumbent upon us sheepdogs to protect those who won’t protect themselves.  The weapon is only dangerous as the man or woman holding it.  Sheep are killed everyday pointing a gun at a wolf.   The wolf usually takes the gun and does what he will.

  • Wolf Howling

    weathd:  Technically, you are correct – but as a practical matter, the restrictions of the National Firearms Act of 1934 and its many amendments, plus restrictions on the movement across state lines of such weapons, mean that the market very limited and very tightly regulated.  The average person cannot access such weapons, and indeed, they are so tightly regulated that you virtually never hear of one being used in crime.

  • Mike W

    I haven’t read ALL of the posts but no one seems to be focusing on the actual ammunition the “assault” rifles fire.  First off, ANY round can kill you – even a .22 caliber bullet.  Having said that, I would much rather be shot by a .223 caliber bullet that the AR-15 type gun fires than a 9mm hollow point round that is found in many of the ACP type handguns.  The main reason for this is that the .223 round is far more likely to pass right through you and not kill you whereas the 9mm JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) round is made to expand on impact and tear up your insides.  As has been noted in many of the posts, your semi-automatic pistol shoots just as fast as the AR-15 (as fast as you can pull the trigger).  True – the AR-15 is better at a longer range. As for magazine capacity, the standard AR-15 clip holds 30 rounds while semi-automatic pistols can range from as little as 7 rounds (smaller conceal carry style) up to as many as 30 rounds for the larger pistols so there may or may not be any advantage there. 

  • Ron19

    Danny Lemieux #21:

    “Gun prosecutions are waaay down under the Obama Administration. Hmmm…perhaps because they want to create crises to exploit?”

    Remember what was said about the Panthers intimidating voters in Philadelphia a few years ago?  That this administration would not prosecute Blacks?

    A few days ago there was a link here (or was it the Rush website or Mark Steyn?) that showed that in Baltimore and Chicago the vast majority of gun homicides were Black-on-Black in Black neighborhoods.

    Prosecuting those at the federal level would most likely mean prosecuting Blacks, which is a non-starter, or reducing funding to local governments.             

  • Ymarsakar

    The Left knows how to fix the problem with guns. You see, because they are the primary cause of the gun violence and deaths.
    See, not that hard to figure out, when you think about it.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Ron19 – a very good point!

    I tend to be pretty cynical about inner city shootings. A Christian ministry outreach person who worked in the inner city explained to me that city/state/federal officials are pretty happy with the state of affairs, as the inner city drug trade is a de-facto transfer of wealth from wealthy suburbs to the inner city. The drug money, in turn, goes into the pockets of local businesses, politicians, churches, etc. So, the politicians wave their hands in horror, make speeches, attend funerals…and then let things get back to business. 

    Incidentally, a “semi-automatic” refers to one trigger pull, one shot and an automatic reload. This designation applies to virtually all handguns, including 1911 ACPs and revolvers. 

  • Ymarsakar

    The very term “guns” and “gun violence” is a neat EngSoc trick to make people think the problem is the tool itself, and not that the tool requires a user to do evil. Perhaps because if they can deem guns evil, they can say that because the Democrats are “good” and “pure”, that they need “guns” to protect themselves, like a certain San Fran mayor now Defense Committee Senator.
    Expose the hypocrisy. Don’t let them take a breather. Expose the corruption and the “rich” privileges these bastos have.