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Must Read: A Conservative Case for the Ban on Assault Weapons

Op-ed - A conservative case for an assault weapons ban.

With the tragedy of Newton Connecticut fresh in our minds I was moved by this recent article submitted to the Los Angeles Times by Judge Larry Alan Burns from Arizona.  Mr. Burns is the federal district judge that just recently sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison for his shooting ramage last year in Tuscon Arizona.  Mr. Burns is a long time gun owner and NRA member has written a moving op-ed column that is a must read for all Wisconsin citizens who are concerned that the proliferation of assault weapons that now number over 3 million in circulation in the US.  Meaningful gun safety and limits on assault weapons must be on the agenda in the next sessions of Congress and the Wisconsin legislature. 

Dale Dulberger-Wauwatosa

By Larry Alan Burns - Los Angles Times Newspaper

December 20, 2012

Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in Tucson. That tragedy left six people dead, more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core.

Loughner deserved his punishment. But during the sentencing, I also questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The ban wasn't all that stringent — if you already owned a banned gun or high-capacity magazine you could keep it, and you could sell it to someone else — but at least it was something.

And it says something that half of the nation's deadliest shootings occurred after the ban expired, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. It also says something that it has not even been two years since Loughner's rampage, and already six mass shootings have been deadlier.

I am not a social scientist, and I know that very smart ones are divided on what to do about gun violence. But reasonable, good-faith debates have boundaries, and in the debate about guns, a high-capacity magazine has always seemed to me beyond them.

Bystanders got to Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 31-round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose as his primary weapon a semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don't even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater a magazine — it is a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire?

I get it. Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the "mass" out of "mass shooting," or at least make the perpetrator's job a bit harder.

To guarantee that there would never be another Tucson or Sandy Hook, we would probably have to make it a capital offense to so much as look at a gun. And that would create serious 2nd Amendment, 8th Amendment and logistical problems.

So what's the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don't let people who already have them keep them. Don't let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don't care whether it's called gun control or a gun ban. I'm for it.

I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That's why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state.

I even say it as someone whose feelings about the NRA mirror the left's feelings about Planned Parenthood: It has a useful advocacy function in our deliberative democracy, and much of what it does should not be controversial at all.

And I say it, finally, mindful of the arguments on the other side, at least as I understand them: that a high-capacity magazine is not that different from multiple smaller-capacity magazines; and that if we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines one day, there's a danger we would ban guns altogether the next, and your life might depend on you having one.

But if we can't find a way to draw sensible lines with guns that balance individual rights and the public interest, we may as well call the American experiment in democracy a failure.

There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

It speaks horribly of the public discourse in this country that talking about gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting is regarded as inappropriate or as politicizing the tragedy. But such a conversation is political only to those who are ideologically predisposed to see regulation of any kind as the creep of tyranny. And it is inappropriate only to those delusional enough to believe it would disrespect the victims of gun violence to do anything other than sit around and mourn their passing. Mourning is important, but so is decisive action.

Congress must reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Larry Alan Burns is a federal district judge in San Diego.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Denton December 30, 2012 at 04:53 PM
This amounts to nothing more than addressing a tool a tool instead of addressing the problem. Of course, those who are interested in dismantling the 2nd Amendment have no interest in the problem. Why did the founding fathers make it clear that the right to keep and bear arms would not be infringed? So that, if need be, we would be able to take back the nation from tyranny and arbitrary rule. Period. It had nothing to do with hunting, sport or personal defense. It cannot be taken away because of isolated incidents that were not caused by the weapons or the capacity of the magazines. Whatever reasoning one uses for compromise, it is still compromise. Compromise your right away, or draw a line in the sand and dare tyranny to advance beyond it.
David Tatarowicz December 30, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@Terry Of course there are always anecdotal cases that can be referred to when discussing any topic. However our National Gun policy should not be built on very isolated occurences. And on the other side of the coin, how many innocent civilians have been killed by police using handguns that are designed for military purposes of putting as much lead downfield as possible, with accurate shots not required ?? I have thought again about how police officers should be equipped, and although I still propose that patrol officers be equipped with magnum revolvers, that encourage actual aiming, and that have more power than the military type semi auto's, and fewer rounds to send off to whom it may concern ---- I do agree that police officers should have immediate access to weapons more suited to an active shooter incident. I still don't think a 30 magazine .223 is the answer --- the incident you recalled in California was actually resolved by officers getting hunting rifles from a sporting goods store. I think an appropriate weapon would be more in line with a 30-06 Springfield, which is what the BAR uses and which has the knock down power to incapacitate an active shooter. And I would think that such heavy weapons which would take the place of the traditional 12 gauge shotgun in patrol cars, would be more than adequate with 8 round magazines, and encourage more accurate shooting. Officers could also be trained for longer range fire with a mounted scope.
David Tatarowicz December 30, 2012 at 07:10 PM
@Denton Great passion for protecting our rights --- do you have the same passion for all our rights that have been taken away by the Patriot Act and other legislation in the War on Terrorism?
Jack December 31, 2012 at 09:21 AM
this guys a conservative ? i call leftist mole sorry I'm Australian i've heard all the gun grabbers lies and seen the result , criminals run the streets in sydney with shootings a daily event while they have rights , we the citizens beg and plead for the government to make laws to stop home invasion but the government says it cant defind what a home invasion is , so gangs who break into your home and rob and rape your family get charged with criminal trespass and get off with a fine , but if you dare defend yourself with a stick or a knife your locked up with the criminals suing you.. and this is the facts . anything else is a leftist gun grabbing lie seen your friends gunned down by cops ? wait til they start the gun grab , you'll see lots , but none of it will make the media , know why ? ask your self this , how did two tin pot news papers in Australia take over the media world ?? they played along with the UN gun grab and the UN waltzed them right up to the front nice pay off for lying to the people , and now i see they do it just as effectively to the US citizenry . how its feel to be lied to folks ? ask this guy who wrote this he's lying to you too keep your guns and your freedom they take one they others gone .. no matter what they say cheers to you all and good luck to us all , with BS like this spouting as conservative , we;ll bloody well need all the luck we can garner
Born Free January 16, 2013 at 05:36 AM
Facts be damned, however,... Anyone ever party too much and use their gun as the designated driver? Anyone one ever put a leash on their gun and take it for a walk? Anyone ever see a gun eating a happy meal? Anyone ever see a gun pick it's nose or scratch it's arse? Was Santa's sleigh pulled by reindeer or ar-15's? How many Saturday Night Specials does it take to screw in a light bulb? Do pigs and guns fly? How many guns have made personal appearences on the Jerry Springer show? How many guns masturbate? Anyone ever give birth to a gun? How many guns get abortions? Ever see any guns smoking cigars, drinking and playing poker? Any gun ever win the Miss America pagent? How many guns own smart phones? How many guns are eligible for Obamacare? How many guns got Obama phones? How many guns have credit rartings? How many guns shot themselves? How many guns vote? How many guns have addiction issues? Ever read a crappy news article written by a gun? Lastly: What kind of mind over matter hocus pocus did poo-liticaly correct Democrats do to make a bunch of guns, high cap mags and bullets plan a trip to Mexico and get themselves there without maps and without GPS's? Now that my friends is GUN CONTROL.

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