Gun control activists and members of both major political parties are rolling out legislation to tighten gun laws, but gun rights groups say those proposals would do nothing but open the door to more gun control efforts.
House Democrats are pushing the most aggressive proposal, calling for a ban on most semi-automatic weapons, specifically if they have detachable magazines or can hold more than 10 rounds.
Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott is asking state lawmakers to raise the minimum age for buying a rifle to 21 years old. There is a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate that would do the same. Senate Republicans are also advocating for expanded background checks.
President Trump has, at times, embraced both increasing the minimum age to buy rifles and universal background checks.
But Gun Owners of America Legislative Director Mike Hammond says all of these ideas would fail to address the reasons for mass shootings and only serve to restrict the freedoms of law-abiding Americans.
While Democrats and the media often portray semi-automatic weapons as the reason for the high casualty counts at many shootings, Hammond says they are also the weapon of choice for many millions of gun owners.
He says semi-automatics make up a bigger percentage of the 300 million guns in this country than most people realize.
“Of those, there are probably 10 million AR-15s. They’re the most popular gun in the country. I would guess that if you added other semi-automatic rifles like AK-47’s, you’d probably have 20 million of the households. And if you start adding semi-automatic handguns, who knows where you are? Fifty million or a hundred million,” said Hammond.
“Basically you’re taking off the market a substantial portion of the guns which are in private hands in the United States,” said Hammond.
Hammond says gun control advocates target semi-automatic weapons because of how they look.
“They are demonized because of cosmetic features that make them look like something else. Also, they’re demonized by this false narrative that they’re somehow a military rifle.
“I was in the military. I was issued a fully automatic M-16. I wouldn’t go into battle with a semi-automatic firearm. So the exercise is to use fraud in order to ban the most popular gun in America,” said Hammond.
Hammond and his allies are frequently confronted with the question of why anyone would need a semi-automatic firearm. He says history provides examples, including Korean grocers who protected their stores and their homes above those stores during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
“They stood on the roofs of their grocery stores, showing their nasty semi-automatic firearms so anyone who wanted to burn down their store and their home could see it. As a result of that, they saved their lives, they saved the lives of their families, they saved their homes, they saved their stores,” said Hammond.
As for the bipartisan push for raise the minimum age for buying any firearm to the age of 21, Hammond says it’s just a slick move to advance more gun control legislation. He says the law, 18 USC 922 (b) (1), only refers to buying guns from a dealer.
“It wouldn’t solve a single thing. The next day the gun controllers would be back to us, saying, ‘Well, sure they can’t buy semi-autos from dealers, but now we need to ban their purchase from gun shows. Now we need to ban their purchase on the internet. Now we need to enact the sort of universal background checks which Congress considered and rejected in 2013 after Newtown,'” said Hammond.
“What it would do is just open up a whole bunch of trap doors for the gun controllers to come and make a series of successive demands, claiming that what we did accomplished nothing,” said Hammond.
As for universal background checks, Hammond says those are just a way for the government to barge into every gun owner’s life.
“They mean that you can’t buy a gun anywhere in America unless the government approves the sale,” said Hammond.
He says this can take various forms, using the example of rural neighbors. Under universal background checks, he says those neighbors might have to drive hours to find a gun dealer who can do the background check and charge whatever he wants for performing the service.
In the bigger picture, Hammond fears the government would use that information to build a national gun registry.
“Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is going around in connection with its annual inspections and photographing gun records. We suspect its making those photographs into the beginnings of a national gun registry.
“If everyone has to sell their guns through a dealer, that means every transaction has one of those gun records. And that means that everyone is going to be in that universal gun registry,” said Hammond.