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For people like me, who have been handling guns for decades, the terminology, function and safety rules of firearms are second nature. That’s why it is so astounding when we hear politicians or pundits – who obviously know nothing about guns – offering the public instruction on firearms safety, tactics and design, and presuming to legislate such things. It is obvious these people haven’t got a clue, but we often forget that there are others out there who are just as clueless about firearms, and who don’t realize that these people are idiots.

Case in point: Vice President Joe Biden’s recent advice to women to “buy a shotgun” for home defense rather than an AR-type rifle. He went on to suggest that shotguns are easier to aim and shoot than an AR, and that a good strategy when you “hear something” is to take the shotgun out on the back deck and fire both barrels into the air to scare away any lurking bad guys.

The gun community had a field day with the ignorance of the vice president’s remarks, but non-gun owners might not have realized just how stupid his suggestions were. Without going into too much detail about firearm characteristics, loads and home defense tactics, let me explain why this was bad advice all the way around. First, while shotguns and rifles come in many different configurations, shotguns are typically longer and heavier than AR-style rifles. They are not easier to aim. They aren’t “harder to miss with,” and, when loaded with good defensive rounds, they recoil much, much harder. And correct shotgun ammo for home defense is also much more likely to penetrate multiple walls than correct home defense ammo for an AR is (even many “gun guys” don’t know that). Finally, the best tactic for dealing with a home intruder, or suspicion of a home intruder, is to retreat to a locked room, call 911 and take up a defensive position until police arrive. The only reason to ever move about the house with a loaded gun is to retrieve other family members and take them with you to your “safe room.” The only things worth killing or dying for in your home are the people, not the stuff.

Unlocking a door and going outside when you think someone has or is breaking into your home is just plain stupid. Firing in the air – especially firing both barrels – is also stupid because now, the bad guys know where you are and your gun is empty. Until you reload, your shotgun is nothing more than an unwieldy club. Even reloading a double-barreled shotgun is more difficult than reloading an AR. Finally, it should be mentioned that firing in the air is illegal in most places.

As ignorant as Vice President Biden demonstrated himself to be, he is a firearms expert in comparison to Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who has been representing the Denver area in Congress since 1996. In her years in the House, Ms. DeGrette has been an outspoken and passionate advocate for “reducing gun violence,” which always seems to entail placing harsh restrictions on lawful gun owners and never involves restricting people who commit violent crimes. As part of her quest for restrictive gun control laws, Rep. DeGette has, for several years, been sponsoring a bill to ban “high capacity assault magazines” (a term she and her friends just made up recently).

Even with years to study up on the topic, it became apparent recently that Ms. DeGette doesn’t have the foggiest idea how guns work or what exactly it is she wants to ban:

“These are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now, they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available,” DeGette told a Denver audience.

The next day, an aid to the congresswoman delivered a statement explaining that DeGette had simply misspoken; “The congresswoman has been working on a high-capacity assault magazine ban for years and has been deeply involved in the issue; she simply misspoke in referring to ‘magazines’ when she should have referred to ‘clips,’ which cannot be reused because they don’t have a feeding mechanism.”

Just in case anyone else has never seen a spy, cop, or war movie, a magazine (sometimes called a clip) is a box with a spring in the bottom (like a PEZ dispenser). You fill it with cartridges and stick it in the gun. Each time the gun is fired, another round is taken from the magazine until it is empty. Magazines are normally made of steel and can be reloaded and fired an unlimited number of times.

A clip, on the other hand, along with being another name for a magazine (though not technically accurate) is an even simpler metal cartridge holder that is usually used to load a magazine. Clips have generally been considered “disposable” by the military, but they are readily reusable and almost never break or wear out. I have both magazines and clips that were manufactured in the 1940s or ’50s, and I still use them with no problems. I have also expanded the capacity of a magazine from five rounds to 20 rounds using nothing more than cardboard, rubber bands, paper clips and tape.

It has been definitively proven that gun control doesn’t reduce crime or prevent atrocities like Sandy Hook, yet ignorant politicians like Diana DeGette, Joe Biden and Rep. Caroline McCarthy, D-N.Y., continue to push restrictive legislation that they don’t understand and which only affects responsible gun owners. Ignorance might be bliss, but it’s no way to run a country.

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