Surviving restrictive firearms legislation
For those of you who don’t remember the Clinton-era “assault weapons ban” or weren’t part of the shooting community at that time, this article is for your benefit. Let’s turn back the clock a few years… 1993 sees Arkansas democrat Bill Clinton elected to the presidency of the USA, he quickly appoints staunchly anti-Second Amendment Janet Reno as the first female Attorney General. Thus began one of the bleakest periods in US history for firearms enthusiasts.
Soon after being appointed, Attorney General Reno initiated a reign of terror on firearms dealers, gun-show promoters, gun collectors and anyone else the government considered “undesirables.” Keep in mind, several Federal Law Enforcement agencies were already heading down this road, after all, they had just made an example of Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge, Idaho for being an accused “white separatist.” Federal agents entrapped Weaver by coercing him into making a sawed-off shotgun for them. Illegal? Absolutely… but having your son and wife executed in your own back yard without a trial for not paying a $200 tax…? Not long after this tragedy, Attorney General Reno gave the order for Federal agents to storm the Branch Davidian compound resulting in a 51-day siege standoff and eventually 76 deaths, including women and children. The Branch Davidians were accused of keeping children in the compound against their will and supposedly molesting them, but as the accused never had a trial before they were incinerated, I suppose we’ll never know the whole truth.
Harry Lamplugh was a gun-show promoter who found his life turned upside down on the morning of May 25, 1994. 15-to-20 federal agents burst into his rural Pennsylvania home. They did not announce who they were or why they were there, and no search warrants were displayed. When Mr. Lamplugh asked if they had a search warrant, their first reply was “shut the f___ up mother f___er; do you want more trouble than you already have?” In spite of their compliance, however, Harry and his wife Theresa were treated with abuse and contempt. Throughout the ordeal, an agent repeatedly pointed a submachinegun at both their faces. The Lamplughs watched helplessly as the agents literally trashed their home. The agents opened 20 bottles of Mr. Lamplugh’s prescription cancer medications and scattered the contents all over the floor. Consequently, two of the Lamplugh’s pet cats got into the medication and died horrible deaths. 61 legally-possessed firearms were seized in the raid, valued at over $15,000. The agents took about 70,000 names and addresses of exhibitors and also gun show contracts. A stack of mail was opened, read and also confiscated. Finally, after 6-hours of being held prisoner in their own home, the wrecking crew finished their destruction. In one final unconscionable act, female agent Donna Slusser deliberately stomped to death a cherished Manx kitten, and kicked its body under a tree.
After a string of similar abuses, Wayne LaPierre, then Vice President of the NRA finally called them out, making the following statement in April of 1995: “If you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens, …Not too long ago, it was unthinkable for federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens. Not today…” He went on to accuse federal agents of being “jack-booted government thugs [who have] more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.” The famous “Jack Booted Thugs” speech was, by the way, when Former President George Bush dropped his NRA Lifetime Membership.
Capitalizing on the Waco siege and a few other high-profile cases, The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, became law in 1994. It was the largest crime bill in the history of the US at 356 pages. The bill was originally written by then Senator Joe Biden, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. One of the most noted sections was the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
At the time, I was just “coming of age” in the shooting sports. I had spent a few years as a smallbore rifle competitor and had made a few trips to the Camp Perry National Highpower Rifle matches when suddenly the shooting world became a chilly, scary, unpopular place to be. The “assault weapons ban” basically banned the manufacture of detachable magazines with a capacity greater than 10-rounds and outlawed firearms with 2 or more “ugly gun” characteristics such as folding or collapsible stocks, flash hiders, barrel shrouds, pistol grips, bayonet lugs, etc… You could still get your AK-47’s and AR-15’s, you just couldn’t call them that anymore. You also got them with plain crowned muzzles and fixed stocks. These features did nothing to reduce the firepower of these arms, it only harassed the law-abiding collector and raised the prices of “pre-ban” firearms to astronomical levels. Incidentally, the DC beltway sniper used a “post ban” AR-15 style rifle assembled illegally into “pre-ban” configuration… demonstrating yet again that we call them “criminals” because they have no respect whatsoever for the law.
There was a darker side to this as well, the unintended consequences of stiffer gun control laws were an increase in the popularity of the “militia” movement and of course, the Oklahoma City bombing was ostensibly motivated by this perceived attack on liberty and as revenge for the raids on Ruby Ridge and Waco. Don’t say I didn’t warn you… there are nut cases out there just waiting for an excuse, something to support their delusional craving for a violent revolution in the US. Pray they don’t get their way.
So… now we have lawmakers and the media again rallying, in the wake of a tragedy, behind the traitorous banner of gun control with the same stupid, deliberately ignorant and factually inaccurate rhetoric. At least back in ’93 it was still technically illegal for the government to detain you indefinitely without trial, it was illegal for the president to order the assassination of US citizens, we weren’t spied on through our mobile devices, and we didn’t have aerial drones patrolling our own skies.
What can we expect from a new Assault Weapons Ban? During the first ban, a quality pre-ban AR-15 went from being about $750 to about $1750. AR-15 lower receivers with pre-ban serial numbers were in high demand, normally a $100 part, these jumped up to $500+ High capacity magazines, once so plentiful, also became scarce. Since the ban expired, a lot of shooters have been stocking up on receivers and magazines in preparations for AWB II. Because of this, the sheer quantity of pre-ban serial numbered lower receivers, plus plentiful “80%” lower receivers, lawfully finished and assembled into working rifles without serial numbers, will make it absolutely impossible to determine which rifles are “pre-ban” and which ones aren’t. Thanks to AWB 1 and our friends at Magpul and CAA, standard and high-capacity magazines are absolutely prolific. There will be no controlling these. I hope I’m wrong, but I would look for the next ban to add some ill-advised scheme to add all semi-auto’s to the NFA registry and treat them the same way short barreled rifles and machine guns are currently regulated. If this happens, there will be an “amnesty period” when owners can register what they have.
More troublesome from the perspective of Liberty is the discussion of prohibiting persons under investigation by the FBI or on the “No Fly List” from owning or purchasing firearms. This is denial of rights without due process and is absolutely contrary to the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The problem with such secret lists is that being under suspicion or investigation for a crime is not the same as being found guilty of a crime. No one knows how people get on such lists, since one need not have committed a crime to be added to the list. Since there is no way to prove oneself “not guilty” of a crime you haven’t been accused of or tried for, how does one get off such a list? This is a very slippery slope! What happens when other rights are denied because you are “under suspicion” or on a “no fly list?” I don’t know, such as the right to a speedy trial, the right to have legal counsel, the right not to self-incriminate, or not be subjected to excessive fines and cruel or unusual punishments? Members of our law-enforcement and military quite often state that they will not obey orders to disarm American citizens. Maybe so… but if we can create a special status, a Schrödinger’s Cat-like superposed meta-state of being simultaneously criminal and non-criminal, then how easy would it be to convince the enforcers that they are doing a public service by disarming “potential terrorists?” Peer pressure would do the rest, and if you are familiar with the “Milgram Experiment” you know how inclined people are to follow orders when they don’t feel personally responsible for the outcomes. The Department of Homeland Security’s 2009 report on “Rightwing Extremism,” is very illuminating in just who might be targeted for such special status, you remember… it was the document that basically said all military veterans, firearms enthusiasts, Libertarians, Republicans, Christians, and white people, had violent, anti-government tendencies.
So… that’s the bad news… actually quite bad. So, what can you do about it? Well, I guess I’ve been fairly politically biased in this note already, so what the hell… call and write your representatives and senators and you know what to do the next time you stand before the ballot box. In the meantime, buy your guns and ammo now. I realize that these are not inexpensive investments and usually people want to do their homework, but, don’t dilly dally. If you’re looking for my advice, here’s what I recommend:
1. Buy a good rifle with at least 10 high-capacity magazines and 1000 (preferably more like 3-5000) rounds of quality ammunition.
First choice: AR-15 with collapsible stock, 16-inch barrel in government or medium contour, preferably with a mid-length gas system and flat-top upper receiver. Avoid the 14.5″ barrels with permanently attached muzzle brakes or flash hiders, it hinders the adaptability and modularity of the rifle. A good red dot optic like an Aimpoint or variable power low magnification optic like a Vortex Strikefire is probably a good idea. A basic rifle of this type with quality components and optic would probably run you about $1500 new, depending on manufacturer, options and accessories.
Second Choice: Kalashnikov of some description. I am not super knowledgeable on the AK platform, but expect to pay top dollar for Russian or Chinese models (during the first ban, MAK 90’s – a chinese copy of the AK, were selling for about $129 each, now a new in box MAK 90 may fetch over $1000) Bulgarian and Yugoslavian models are reputed to be good, with Romanian and Polish manufactured AK’s being more plentiful but of less quality. A decent specimen should be obtainable for roughly $600.
Third choices: any one of the following in this approximate order: M-1A/M-14, FN FAL, Sig 556, Ruger Mini-14 or Mini-30, M-1 carbine, CETME, HK-91 or 93…there are others as well.
2. Polymer-framed, traditional double-action or double-action-only Semi-automatic handgun in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP with at least 5-magazines in the 15+ round capacity range.
My Preferred Choices: Glock 19, Smith and Wesson M&P, or Walther PPQ.
3. Pump Action 12-guage shotgun
Best Choices: Remington 870, Mossberg 590 or 500
Now, those are my recommendations based on effective defensive firearms that we might see affected by upcoming legislation. Bolt action rifles and revolvers are not on the list, but that shouldn’t give you the idea that I think these aren’t worth having. On the contrary, they are both very important components of a well-rounded “collection” (arsenal is such an inflammatory word…). That said, the previous crime bill did not include revolvers, bolt actions or lever action rifles. IF upcoming legislation is similar to the first AWB, these firearms will still be available and their prices will remain relatively stable. The semi-auto’s however, will skyrocket in price. These represent not only a sound financial investment, but an investment in the future of this country. The very presence of firearms in civilian hands is sometimes enough to keep evil and tyranny at bay. There is also an old saying that it is more difficult to take 1 gun away from 20 people than it is to take 20 guns from 1 person. The more legally owned firearms in the hands of RESPONSIBLE owners out there, the less likely we will be put to the test to keep them.
But… that’s all just my opinion.