Access to excess: Assault rifles

I am a gun owner.

I own a 20-gauge Browning Auto-5 shotgun, a Ruger 10/22 rifle and a Makarov service pistol, and I enjoy hunting and shooting.

However, I’ve always found the idea of civilians owning military-grade rifles absurd.

Sophomore sports management major Stephen Wetherill spent six years in the military and trained with a wide array of weapons. In light of his training, Wetherill agreed with me.

“The want for these weapons obviously is high, but I don’t find any feasible evidence for somebody who doesn’t have some sort of military or law enforcement background to own them,” Wetherill said.

Plenty of gun owners counter this opinion. Some use these tactical weapons for hunting, some for home defense, and some just own them. Their justifications do not sway my belief.

First, let’s discuss hunting. I can’t understand why you’d need 30, 20, or any more than 10 bullets in your rifle if you’re riding around your ranch taking pot shots at coyotes and deer. You can’t shoot twenty deer at a time, let alone two.

I understand the .223 Remington — the caliber of the AR15 and other assault rifles — is a popular cartridge for small- and medium-game hunting, but I don’t see the logic in allowing hunters to own a gun with a magazine that holds 10-plus rounds at once.

Likewise, there’s no point in your hunting rifle having a folding stock, flash suppressor or bayonet. None at all.

Still, some gun-rights activists maintain that an assault rifle equipped with such tactical attachments is the best choice for home defense. But I cannot accept that a firearm designed to hit targets at 100 yards is a practical weapon in the confines of a home.

“A handgun provides you with enough firepower in a 10-round magazine,” Wetherill said. “You don’t need any more.

“If you need 10 rounds to engage an intruder in your home, you shouldn’t own a weapon in the first place … You need to reconsider how to defend your home.”

Some people own assault rifles simply because they’re fun to shoot. I bet they are.

But Wetherill believes that these weapons are popular due to a romantic fascination with the military.

“It’s more of an ego boost, a testosterone boost,” Wetherill said. “They want to feel like they’re a part (of the military) and can defend themselves. But it requires a certain style of training from certified instructors to operate weapons at the level that the military operates.

“It turns into a mockery.”

An AR15 with a Parkerized finish, pistol grip and picatinny rail allows the user to fantasize on the target range that they’re a soldier firing an M16 — which they are, when you get down to it: the AR15 was the basis for the M16.

But an assault rifle’s allure boils down to machismo. If you want a plinking rifle, I say get a .22.

Gun-rights activists present further counterpoints. For example, they claim these firearms aren’t true assault weapons because they lack a fully automatic firing mode. But Wetherill stated soldiers often prefer semi-automatic to fully automatic fire.

“Semi-automatic … provides a level of accuracy and quick re-engagement on a target, and that’s the reason we enjoy it,” Wetherill said.

Also, some entertain the notion that people with sufficient military or law enforcement training should be able to own these firearms. To me, access to these weapons by anyone poses a potential threat.

“What keeps (a veteran) from waking up one morning and having some sort of imbalance or switch flip and think, ‘Know what, it’s time to wreak havoc somewhere?’” said Wetherill.

“It’s a matter of someone owning that deadly of a weapon.”

Indeed; a law-abiding citizen abides the law until they don’t. That’s why something as dangerous as assault rifles cannot be in civilian hands. No practical need exists for them, so direct action must be taken to eliminate them from the civilian market.

“We should’ve cracked down after Columbine,” said Wetherill. “Then Virginia Tech happened. Sandy Hook happened.

“The line’s drawn, man. We have to take responsibility for our actions.”