6 Common Misconceptions in the Gun Control Debate

Inevitably, the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando has turned into a political football between gun control advocates and gun rights proponents. I don’t believe their passion for these issues diminishes the heart brokenness they experience for the victims and their families. But if things are going to get heated, best to be on the same page regarding terminology and common misconceptions in this recurring debate.

Assault Weapon
“Assault weapon” is not a technical term and is overly vague. It addresses mostly cosmetic features on a rifle like the AR-15. Biggest misconception is that the AR-15 and other “assault weapons” are automatic. It is not. Like the majority of modern firearms (late 1800s — present) it is semi-automatic, meaning it shoots one bullet each time the trigger is pulled. Assault rifles like the AR-15 are popular because they’re comfortable to shoot, look cool, and allow for a number of cosmetic modifications, none of which make the rifle particularly any more lethal. Modifications are purely stylistic.

Assault Weapons Ban
A common refrain by gun control advocates goes something like this: “We don’t want to take away all of your guns, just the especially deadly ones that are able to kill large numbers of people.” We’ve learned above that the “assault rifle” is a vague term that encompasses a lot of modern, semi-automatic firearms. Any assault weapons ban would be overly inclusive, or completely ineffective, given the types of weapons it seeks to ban are for purely cosmetic reasons. Anyone intending to harm a person or group of people would need only to pickup any other number of semi-automatic firearms at his disposal, thus rendering useless what the ban set out to accomplish in the first place

Most Homicides Are Committed With Handguns
While a mass shooting — especially a shooting involving a firearm like an AR-15 — might dominate headlines, the outrage over them is disproportionate to the scale of gun homicide overall, of which an overwhelming number are committed with handguns. In 2011, 323 homicides were committed with a rifle compared to 6,000 homicides committed with a handgun.

Semi-Automatic Firearm
Shoots one bullet for each time the trigger is pulled. This is an all-encompassing term that includes handguns carried by the police, to a more menacing looking firearm like the AR-15.

FBI Watch Lists
“How could someone who was under investigation by the FBI be allowed to purchase a firearm?” Gun advocates, civil rights activists and others point to the 5th Amendment: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Because the Orlando shooter was never charged with or convicted of a crime, the government is unable to deprive him of liberty or property without due process, including fair treatment and a trial by a jury of his peers.

Ban All Guns
If both sides are being honest, the most effective way to greatly reduce gun violence is to ban all firearms. Many international examples are usually cited by proponents of such a ban, including in Australia whose gun violence rate plummeted after it banned guns. But such a ban would encounter logistical problems, mostly related to the difference in population size and the fact that America has some 400 million guns purportedly in circulation. Those who would seek a ban would also encounter ethical/moral quandaries raised by those who value the liberty to defend oneself with a firearm.