Since the recent school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, writers have been voicing their opinions, both for and against stricter gun control measures. Most, however, are basing their statements on myths and inaccuracies rather than actual facts. In order to help provide facts for honest debate, I offer the following. These facts will withstand scrutiny.
• Automatic weapons continue to fire as long as the trigger is held depressed. The sale to and possession by the general public was banned under the 1934 National Firearms Act.
• Semi-automatic weapons fire one, and only one round, per pull of the trigger.
• There is no consistent specifications for what constitutes an "assault weapon." Legal status of that term depends on an individual state's definition. Sometimes specific weapons may be listed and other times the status is a matter of a firearm having certain features, such as a bayonet lug or plastic parts. Much of the time the media simply uses the term for any gun that looks "scary."
• Guns in and of themselves are neither "high powered" nor "low powered." The so-called "power" comes from the caliber (size) of the bullet and the amount of powder in the shell.
• The .223 caliber round (5.56 mm NATO with minor differences), for which most AR type rifles are chambered, is a small caliber, medium velocity round and is used in a wide variety of firearms, both semi-automatic and single shot, for hunting (mostly varmints), target shooting and both personal and national defense.
• Around the time of the Vietnam War, the US military settled on the 5.56 NATO round as its standard round. One, it's smaller size and lighter weight allowed soldiers to carry more of it to the battlefield. Two, being a small caliber round, it is more likely to wound rather than kill. Caring for a wounded solider requires more of the enemy's resources than killing one does. The lack of killing power from the round continues to fuel controversy in the military, with equal sides finding favor and disfavor for it.
• After being adopted by the military, the .223 became popular with civilian users due to the easy availability of brass for reloading and the large number of firearms manufacturers who began offering "varmint hunting" and "service target" firearms chambered for the .223 round.
• Because of its small size and tendency to wound rather than kill, many states do not allow the .223 round to be used for hunting anything other than "varmints" (small game such as rabbits, groundhogs, coyotes, etc.).
• To legally purchases a firearm in the US, a citizen is required to undergo a National Instant Criminel Background Check System (NICS) and complete a Federal Firearms Transaction Record, ATF F 4473, which includes statements as to their criminal history and mental competency. Listing false or inaccurate information on the FFTR is "a crime punishable as a felony."
• In any given year over 200,000 persons make inaccurate statements on the FFTR, uncovered by the NICS background check and are denied purchase of a firearm. However, few are charged with the felony as listed plainly on the FFTR.
• In most states, the purchase of a handgun (pistol) requires additional paperwork including a "pistol permit" from their county sheriff's department. A background check is performed by the sheriff's department and a subsequent background check is performed by the firearms dealer after the FFTR has been filled out. Many states also require a waiting period of several days to several weeks prior to issuing the permit.
• The supposed "gun show loophole" is a myth. Federal and state firearm transaction laws remain in effect regardless of location. There is no exemption in the law for gun shows. The same paperwork and background checks are required.
• The Second Amendment was never about hunting or target shooting. It refers to the need for a "well regulated militia." In the vernacular of the time, "regulated" meant "armed" and "militia" referred to a non-government-affiliated people's army intended to protect the nation from both without and within. Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
• The greatest school massacre in history occurred in 1927 in Bath, Michigan. The school board treasurer used a bomb made of dynamite and incendiary to kill 38 children and six adults. Another 14 persons were injured.
• According to the National School Safety Center, the number of school shootings has been in continuous decline since record keeping began, with the number between 1992 and 2010 decreasing by almost one-half.
Tom Kirkman III
January 03, 2013