Enemy at the Gate: Fewer Guns To Fight Terrorism

In response to several recent high-profile attacks by Islamic terrorists in France, the French government has announced plans to dramatically increase both the number of police officers in service and the amount of firepower available to each officer.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve stated that officers will now carry select-fire Heckler & Koch G36 rifles. Chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO round, when fired in fully automatic mode, the rifles have a cyclic rate of fire of 750 rounds per minute from standard-issue 30-round magazines or 100-round drums.

Here in the U.S., gun-ban zealots would refer to even a strictly semiautomatic version of such a rifle as a “weapon of war” with “no place on our streets.” They want such rifles banned, they want the magazines banned, and many even describe the ammunition (which, at .223 caliber, is considered fairly marginal for deer hunting) as being “too powerful” for use by private citizens.

The California state legislature is now considering a bill that would ban private ownership of all semiautomatic, detachable magazine-fed rifles. Supporters of such measures are directly contradicting the earlier argument (in some cases made by the very people now contradicting it) that it’s the “assault features” (adjustable or folding stocks, flash suppressors, bayonet mounts, barrel shrouds) that make so-called “assault weapons” too dangerous for ownership by private citizens.

The now-expired federal “assault weapon” ban outlawed newly manufactured or imported semiautomatic, detachable magazine-fed rifles with two or more such features. Gun prohibitionists soon found this to be unacceptably generous, and demanded a law banning such rifles with only one “assault feature.” In 2000, California passed such a law, which anti-gunners praised as a model for the rest of the country. But now those features apparently mean nothing—exactly what we have been arguing all along—and even rifles without any of those features are to be banned.

A very similar bill passed in 2013, but Governor Jerry Brown, as enthusiastically in favor of forcible citizen disarmament as he is, vetoed it as going too far. After the December 2015 Islamic terrorist attack in San Bernardino, in which AR-15 rifles were used, anti-gunners now have high hopes that Brown’s veto pen will stay in the Governor’s office desk drawer this time, and that is probably a quite plausible hope on their part.

In France, where the up-gunning of the police is underway, there’s enough of a history of militarized police that the public seems relatively unconcerned. In fact, France has long had the Gendarmerie, an army unit that does police work. If the people tolerate the “policification” of the military, why should they object to the militarization of the police?

What? You mean the danger isn’t in the weapons themselves, but what the people who possess them do with them? What a novel concept!

By the way, the French police will be upgrading their defense as well. They are to be outfitted with thicker body armor, ballistic shields, and “bulletproof” helmets. One could be forgiven for assuming that such equipment would be utterly uncontroversial, but here in the States, it would not be—not for private citizens, anyway.

The “thicker body armor” to be issued to French cops sounds much like the “enhanced” body armor (with “enhanced” defined as armor offering protection equivalent to what the National Institute of Justice calls “Type III” body armor, which can generally be counted on to stop most rifle rounds). U.S. Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) wants private citizens to be denied the right to buy such armor, and has repeatedly introduced legislation to impose such a ban. From his press release:

    “There is no reason this type of armor, which is designed for warfare, should be available in our communities except for those who need it, like law enforcement,” Congressman Honda said. “There’s nothing more dangerous than what a well-armored, unstoppable active shooter can do. This bill is common-sense and long overdue.”

And actually, Honda doesn’t take it as far as some, who want all body armor (whether “enhanced” or not) banned for the lowly private citizen. The U.S. News and World Report has gone so far as to describe private citizens’ ability to legally buy body armor as “the other loophole.” Yep. There are people, including lawmakers and those who purport to deliver “news” to the American people, who believe that private citizens have a duty to be penetrated by any bullet that comes their way.

The term “terrorism” is an apt one, because the intent of those who engage in it is to terrorize the people. Terrorists are generally unequal to the task of defeating government forces in open battle. If they could do that, they wouldn’t need to find soft targets and butcher the innocent in order to advance their agenda.

There is nothing wrong with strengthening the government’s means of fighting terrorism, but the government is generally only an indirect target. It’s the lowly private citizen who bears the brunt of the terrorist’s malignancy. And anyone who wishes to reduce the people’s ability to effectively fight back is fighting on the wrong side of the “War on Terror.”

A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denied that right. This inspired him to become active in gun rights advocacy.

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