Patrick Richardson

Managing Editor

A couple of months back a story broke that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had been allowing so-called “straw buyers” to purchase weapons in Arizona which they then resold across the Mexican border into the hands of the drug cartels. The theory was they’d track the guns up the chain and catch the big fish.

This, of course, didn’t happen. All they caught were minnows, two American law enforcement agents got killed and more than 150 Mexican citizens were murdered with weapons which have since been identified as belonging to the group of more than 2,500 firearms the feds allowed to walk.

This has since been used to try to justify a new “Assault Weapons Ban” — which may have been the point all along — although I’m reluctant to attribute to malice that which can as easily be explained by incompetence.

What’s sad is any event like this is always used as an excuse for more gun control, when what’s really needed is idiot control.

The so-called assault weapons ban enacted in 1994 was particularly dumb.

A little background is perhaps in order. In 1994, in the name of making us all safer, Congress enacted legislation to ban so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazines. The law they passed actually did neither.

An assault rifle is a military weapon. It is usually what is called an intermediate caliber, meaning the cartridge is in between a pistol and a full-powered rifle cartridge like .30-06. Assault rifles are also selective fire — they can be fired either semi-automatically or on full-auto.

These were actually already fairly difficult to obtain in the U.S., requiring a special license to own. What Congress did is make up a list of purely cosmetic features they thought looked scary and say if a rifle had two or more of them it was banned.

Manufacturers promptly removed such things as pistol grips, flash suppressors and bayonet lugs and went back to selling the same rifles the next day. The features the Congress critters didn’t like had nothing to with function. Moreover semi-auto and bolt action hunting rifles were, and remain far more powerful than military-style rifles firing the same rounds the military uses.

For instance, the AR-15 which is the civilian version of the M-16, and fires what is basically a .223 varmint hunting cartridge, has a maximum effective range of about 500 yards. The maximum effective range for the .30-06 cartridge, which is common for deer hunting, is twice that.

The only thing the “assault weapons ban” did, was drive up the price of military-style rifles and make gun shop owners a pretty penny. Same thing with the magazine ban. That simply banned the manufacture or importation of ammunition magazine which held more than 10 rounds. That there were huge stocks of “pre-ban” magazines already in stock didn’t seem to matter. The unintended consequence of the magazine ban was that manufactures created a new class of smaller pistols which fired higher-powered ammunition than the pistols which had the high-capacity magazines.

Moreover, the price on “pre-ban” magazines went up and gun shop owners made a pretty penny.

So basically, in the name of getting rid of a class of “ugly” weapons all the ban did was help small business, and inconvenience law abiding gun owners — and that’s the rub. What the gun banners never seem to get is new laws do not inconvenience criminals, just law abiding citizens.

The logic would seem to be inescapable — criminals do not, by definition, care about the law. Therefore, logically, restrictive laws — of whatever kind — are no deterrent to crooks, only to those already inclined to obey the law.

Logically, then, wouldn’t it make more sense to increase penalties for using a firearm in a crime, while reducing restrictions on those who are using them legally?

You would then have a double benefit. Those who commit a crime are removed from society, and the law abiding have more freedom. Isn’t more freedom always a thing to be desired?

All IMHO, of course.

(Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Columbus Advocate and the Baxter Springs News. He can be emailed at