Must Read: A Conservative Case for the Ban on Assault Weapons

Op-ed - A conservative case for an assault weapons ban.

With the tragedy of Newton Connecticut fresh in our minds I was moved by this recent article submitted to the Los Angeles Times by Judge Larry Alan Burns from Arizona.  Mr. Burns is the federal district judge that just recently sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison for his shooting ramage last year in Tuscon Arizona.  Mr. Burns is a long time gun owner and NRA member has written a moving op-ed column that is a must read for all Wisconsin citizens who are concerned that the proliferation of assault weapons that now number over 3 million in circulation in the US.  Meaningful gun safety and limits on assault weapons must be on the agenda in the next sessions of Congress and the Wisconsin legislature. 

Dale Dulberger-Wauwatosa

By Larry Alan Burns - Los Angles Times Newspaper

December 20, 2012

Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in Tucson. That tragedy left six people dead, more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core.

Loughner deserved his punishment. But during the sentencing, I also questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The ban wasn't all that stringent — if you already owned a banned gun or high-capacity magazine you could keep it, and you could sell it to someone else — but at least it was something.

And it says something that half of the nation's deadliest shootings occurred after the ban expired, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. It also says something that it has not even been two years since Loughner's rampage, and already six mass shootings have been deadlier.

I am not a social scientist, and I know that very smart ones are divided on what to do about gun violence. But reasonable, good-faith debates have boundaries, and in the debate about guns, a high-capacity magazine has always seemed to me beyond them.

Bystanders got to Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 31-round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose as his primary weapon a semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don't even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater a magazine — it is a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire?

I get it. Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the "mass" out of "mass shooting," or at least make the perpetrator's job a bit harder.

To guarantee that there would never be another Tucson or Sandy Hook, we would probably have to make it a capital offense to so much as look at a gun. And that would create serious 2nd Amendment, 8th Amendment and logistical problems.

So what's the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don't let people who already have them keep them. Don't let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don't care whether it's called gun control or a gun ban. I'm for it.

I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That's why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state.

I even say it as someone whose feelings about the NRA mirror the left's feelings about Planned Parenthood: It has a useful advocacy function in our deliberative democracy, and much of what it does should not be controversial at all.

And I say it, finally, mindful of the arguments on the other side, at least as I understand them: that a high-capacity magazine is not that different from multiple smaller-capacity magazines; and that if we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines one day, there's a danger we would ban guns altogether the next, and your life might depend on you having one.

But if we can't find a way to draw sensible lines with guns that balance individual rights and the public interest, we may as well call the American experiment in democracy a failure.

There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

It speaks horribly of the public discourse in this country that talking about gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting is regarded as inappropriate or as politicizing the tragedy. But such a conversation is political only to those who are ideologically predisposed to see regulation of any kind as the creep of tyranny. And it is inappropriate only to those delusional enough to believe it would disrespect the victims of gun violence to do anything other than sit around and mourn their passing. Mourning is important, but so is decisive action.

Congress must reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Larry Alan Burns is a federal district judge in San Diego.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Terry December 28, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I agree that we do not do a good enough job with our background checks in this country. Most legitimate gun owners do not want to see guns in the hands of criminals or dangerously unstable people any more than you do. I believe that we have done ourselves no favors opposing reasonable administrative processes for gun ownership, such as background checks, waiting periods, training, and registration. But frankly, the argument that someone might break in and steal my firearms is a rational distraction as well. Someone could just as easily break in, raid my liquor cabinet, and take out a family in their car after a all night drinking binge. I have some narcotic pain medications in my house due to an old surgery (stuff I really need to get rid of). Someone could break in, steal it, and sell it to someone who dies of an overdose. So, should I not be allowed to own anything in my house that could be taken and used, or misused, with evil intent? Keith ended one of his posts above with the phrase "price of living in society". I agree with the phrase, but he missed a word. It should be "price of living in a FREE society".
Luke December 28, 2012 at 02:32 AM
@Keith Oh? So guards are putting kids at risk?
Taoist Crocodile December 28, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Okay, Terry. Let's look at your example: So, you're saying that, as with Katrina, you've remained behind in a natural disaster area, while all of your smarter neighbors have evacuated. So, your premise involves you being a huge dope in the first place. Then, you see a gang of eight looters headed toward your house, presumably armed. Again, instead of doing the smart thing and getting yourself and your family out of there, you opt instead to grab your trusty firearm and your thirty round magazine, and.... what, exactly? Just mow them down? Or do you wait for them to get close enough to fire back? Either way, by sticking around, you've pretty much guaranteed that you're going to wind up in a prison cell or a grave. So, to recap, you've just described yourself as someone who's so eager to put bullet holes in human beings that you ignore every better option for your and your family's preservation. That's what I meant by "sounding like a complete lunatic." Thanks for the illustration.
Steve ® December 28, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Cool, a Low informed California "conservative" calling a semi-automatic rifle an assault weapon. I think I just saw a unicorn eating skittles with a leprechaun skipping to la la land.
Steve ® December 28, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Spending $900 billion passing and maybe enforcing and taxing and promoting and expanding government over new gun laws. Or spend $2 billon actually protecting the kids. Liberals are so funny on what they spend only on. Maybe we can protect the kids with another recall election. Why are we wasting money protecting Obama's kids with guns? Lets really save and get rids of the police arsenal.
Steve ® December 28, 2012 at 03:58 AM
I would bet the military greatly disagrees with you Dale. You know, the ones that actually own and use real assault weapons for offense and personal protection. Please try and use terms correctly as well. The general public without proper licensing is not able to obtain assault weapons.
Terry December 28, 2012 at 10:32 AM
I have been nothing but respectful and courteous to you in this Taoist, I would expect the same in return. I understand that the language of the left is the language of hate right now, but it gets in the way of reasoned discourse. My example of the greater Katrina issue was more so to show how easy it is for society to break down. Of course I would not still be there. But, there are many sorts of natural and artificial disasters that are not as predictable. Should Californians move away today to avoid getting trapped. And if I was trapped in a Katrina scale disaster, where would you have me flee to as the looters approach? Dive into the middle of a city overrun by chaos and violence. Even our own government recommends shelter in place as a preferable option in many disasters. You can ascribe all the motives you wish to this, but it doesn't change the fact that there are plausible situations, where this sort of equipment could be useful. Can we try to keep this discussion rational please, because in all honesty, I am not the one coming across as the lunatic right now.
Taoist Crocodile December 28, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Terry, maybe you should re-read my post; what you are construing as insults are actually accurate assessments of the hypothetical person who would find himself in the hypothetical situation that you're claiming supports your point. As I pointed out, not only doesn't it support your point, but it actually undermines your suggestion that you're just a stable guy who likes target shooting. And yes, what you're suggesting is the definition of prepping- collecting equipment that is only useful in an "end of the world" scenario. You could be using the same argument to defend your wish to own any type of weapon or barter currency imaginable. That's why it's so absurd, and irrelevant to a good faith discussion of these issues.
cud1555 December 28, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Taoist, I fear that you are trying to change the argument after realizing that you made the same point that the gun advocates make which is that three 10 round magazines are not really that different than one 30 round magazine. Unless we are talking about the societal breakdowns of poverty or drug use causing someone to burglarize a home your example of a single armed assailant is not what you described. In fact further down in response to Terry you describe the type of societal breakdown that would cause 8 looters to be trying to accost Terry where a larger capacity magazine would potentially be useful. In your own words, a larger capacity magazine makes it easier to attack multiple targets in this situation. While I personally don't think that there is much likelihood of this scenario happening, I do support Terry being able to have a weapon with which he can target shoot as well as feel better able to defend himself. You apparently do as well since in your own words you don't see much difference between three 10 round magazines and one 30 round but you do concede that a 30 round magazine would be better suited to defending multiple targets. Also for the record, I would argue that sound of a chambering shell in a pump action shotgun is a great deterrent to most single armed assailants
David Tatarowicz December 28, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I have been a gun owner since about the age of 16 and believe in the 2nd Amendment ..... but not with unlimited rights or license. These discussions always seem to focus upon "how" a gun looks --- ie. the Assault Rifle ban included features such as pistol grips, folding stocks and bayonet mounts. I particularly fail to see how a bayonet mount is relevant to the kinds of mass killings we are concerned with -- or even to the street level violence some areas of our city are plagued with. Just how many "drive by" bayonettings have we had. Keeping in mind that I do believe in a citizens right to own firearms --- there have to be limitations that do not diminish that Right in a meaningful way, but still allow access to arms that are meaningful in their capabilities. Lots of history about guns that there is not room enough here to go into in detail. But high magazine capacity and small caliber rounds with powerful cartridges are military evolutions from finding soldiers do not necessary aim at a target, and that in a combat situation, most bullets are addressed to whom it may concern. The US military actually backed off that total spray the area mentality when they saw how many rounds were fired per kill in Vietnam (controversey ranging from 5000 to 50000 per kill) -- so they put the M16 into a "burst of three shots per trigger pull.
David Tatarowicz December 28, 2012 at 04:25 PM
And although there is that legitimate need for an infantryman to have that kind of indiscriminate firepower (the smaller caliber also enables a soldier to carry more ammunition) -- there are also military snipers --- One Shot One Kill. In this country Glock saw a good money making opportunity by selling high capacity, although lower power, guns to police forces -- and now most cops are carrying 9's or 40's with 15 round magazines --- Glock virtually gave them the guns free by taking their 357's in trade, and made huge profits on selling those 357's to civilians. Arguably this was a very bad move by police forces --- high capacity mags encourage the firing of "to whom it may concern" rounds --- instead of focused rounds at the target. Cases like Diallo who NYC Cops shot at about 48 times, as he was holding a cell phone, are a case in point --- especially considering he was trapped in a closed apt bldg lobby --- and the cops MISSED more than half the shots. Prior to cops with 16 round shot capacity (15 in the mag and one in the chamber) -- they would have had 357's --- with 6 shot capacity, and the mentality of actually aiming to make each shot count !! Right here in Milwaukee when we have cops who have fired double digit rounds --- why? We do not need fields of fire on our streets --- aimed shots with higher powered rounds, such as the 357, are much better suited to the police work of the average patrol cop.
David Tatarowicz December 28, 2012 at 04:40 PM
There is precedence for limiting the number of rounds a gun can hold --- but ironically, it is "For the Birds" !!! When hunting Waterfowl, your shotgun must have a plug in the magazine that limits the number of round to three. If you get caught without the plug, you could be fined or even loose your shotgun. So let's not allow a field of fire out at the birds, but make it OK for on the streets or in the temple or the school ???? As a gun owner all my life, and cognizant of the capabilities of various firearms, and as a grandparent, father, brother, etc......... I would propose the following limits on Rounds a gun can hold in its magazine --- regardless of the shape or form of the weapon itself. 1) Long arms with detachable magazines --- limit of 4 rounds per magazine. 2) Long arms with built in magazines -- limit of 6 rounds. 3) Exception --- 22 caliber long arms with regular 22 loads (not 22 magnums) limit of 30 hot clips or magazines 4) All handguns 8 round maximum capacity, except 22 caliber limit 20 rounds By limiting the number of rounds that can be fired without the need to reload, we will severely limit the kind of carnage we saw with 20 dead children in Newtown, yet every gun owner will have more than enough capability to protect themselves and others, to be a deterrent to a tyrannical government, and to enjoy any configuration he or she prefers in the weapon's apperance.
David Tatarowicz December 28, 2012 at 04:42 PM
These limits on shot capacity that I am proposing would also apply to regular patrol officers weaponry. Limited exceptions can be made for trained and certified SWAT team members, limited to a percentage of a one force's sworn officers. If heavier weaponry is needed, that is the time to call out the National Guard.
Luke December 28, 2012 at 06:38 PM
I propose a limit on engine size to prevent speeding. Cars like Corvettes and Porches will be prohibited, because there is no need for any vehicles to reach those speeds that quickly. In fact, all cars will be limited to maximum 4-cylinder 2.0 liter engine, including those used by law enforcement, because no engines bigger than that are needed. Exceptions will be made for certain vehicles that are used to haul heavy loads. Now our roads will be safe from speeders, and we will all be driving the posted speed and will live happily ever after, safe from those damn sports cars that are doing all that horrible speeding. Thank you all for endorsing my ingenious plan.
Terry December 28, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Again Taoist, you base your argument on assumptions. I am not stockpiling anything to prepare for the end of civilization (the basic definition of a prepper). I was quite clear as to why I am a collector. I also quite clearly described Katrina as a temporary breakdown. I do believe that eventually our government will get things under control, they just aren't very efficient or quick about it, as recent events have shown. But you don't need to be a prepper to have basic equipment, supplies, and a plan in place. This is something that the very government that you put so much faith in recommends. You keep wanting to take my words out to the extreme ends, and ascribe motives to me that just aren't there. This is why we can't have reasoned discourse in this country about such issues, and why this one too will likely fall by the wayside before anything possible useful gets accomplished. This is your opportunity to get some of those reasonable restrictions passed that even gun owners (for the most part, but not all of course) agree with, such as better background checks, closing the private sale loophole in background checks, training requirements, and registration. But when you shoot for the moon right away, and do so in a confrontational manner, people dig in and get stubborn. The result is the gridlock we see today.
Luke December 28, 2012 at 06:55 PM
There is also a problem with obesity in America; therefore I propose that all grocery bags be limited 1/4 the standard size, and be of limited strength so that they are not capable of carrying more than a pound of sugar, half a pound of lard, and a single can of soda that is 12 ounces. Stop obesity.
Terry December 28, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Two fairly recent, and high profile cases determined the equipment and caliber we equip our law enforcement officers with. The first, and the one that had national impact on upgrading many departments to higher caliber and larger magazine sizes was the tragic death of Captain James Lutz in Waukesha. The after action case studies demonstrated clearly that the firearms that local departments equipped at the time were clearly insufficient to deal with the threat and equipment. The second one, the North Hollywood shootout, where again the officers were vastly outmatched. Part of the "program" that gun control advocates have used for years, is that there is no need for us to possess equipment such as this. We are told that it holds no useful purpose for defense, and serves in no other role as value. Part of that mythology has included us being told that we can count on law enforcement to deal with any threats to us that would require that level of force. Now we have here a plan that would place the same restrictions on those same law enforcement officers that are supposed to fill that role. In the past I have been dismissive of the "slippery slope" argument to gun control, that being that if we give an inch on reasonable legislation, it will only lead to stricter and more draconian measures. While again, I am hesitant to do that, this is the exact kind of posturing that seems to give credibility to those fears.
Terry December 28, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Unfortunately Luke, while you are attempting to be dismissively sarcastic, there have been similar proposals to both of those ideas you presented. You have to go a lot farther with your sarcastic examples before you run into something absurd enough that those who want to protect us from ourselves will be tweaked by.
Greg December 28, 2012 at 07:22 PM
One question. Do you know the difference between a duck hunter and a mass murderer?
Terry December 28, 2012 at 09:47 PM
One additional point here. A number of people in this and other blogs have stated or asked what is the difference between a thirty round magazine and three ten round magazines. The difference is the reload itself. Speak with anyone you know that you know with military or law enforcement experience. They will tell you that the reload is the most dangerous part of any engagement. There is a period of time involved in the reload, and it divides your attention from your environment. Also, in a stress situation, it leads to weapon malfunctions and dropped magazines, sometimes even taking the weapon out of action. If you do find yourself in a situation where you will need more than 10 rounds, most professionals will assure you that it is far preferable to have one magazine with more than multiple with less.
FreeThought Troy December 28, 2012 at 10:13 PM
No one here - no one wants to ban all weapons. We just want some common sence regulations to these very dangerous tools. We do regulate food, cars, etc. We have not turned into Socialist/Communist/Facist/What ever else -ist country. Yes we still have problems. There is no one regulation or law we can pass that will solve everything. No one is saying this. What we are saying is the levels of tragedies are mounting. There must be something we can do. There needs to be comprehensive work - not JUST or not ONLY gun control. Common sence regulation; however, doesn need to be in the conversation
Terry December 29, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Indeed Troy, common sense regulation does need to be part of the conversation. The problem is who's definition of common sense. Do we take Taoist's version, up above, who would label anyone who even talks about allowing possession to be a dangerous extremist, or AWD who has talked about preparing for the coming civil war? I have mentioned several times above, what I would consider reasonable controls. No one seems particularly interested, but here we go. 1. Licensing requirements. We register cars. We register to vote. There should be a requirement to register firearms, at minimum the military grade ones. Some will say that it would violate the second amendment. Prohibitions violate the second amendment, reasonable administrative process does not. 2. Strengthen background checks, for all sales including private sales (yes even gun shows). This could be farmed out to a new cottage industry, paid for by fees to the prospective owners. It needs to include the mental health aspect, and for this some changes to the medical health privacy act would be required. 3. Strengthen laws and penalties for allowing firearms to fall in the wrong hands. This should include straw buyers, violations of background check requirements, and failing to properly secure the firearms. 4. Waiting periods. Why not? Undoubtedly this will make neither side happy, and perhaps as such in today's charged atmosphere, it shows it to be the correct approach.
Taoist Crocodile December 29, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Terry, I would hardly call banning large capacity magazines "shooting for the moon." In fact, there seems to be a growing consensus that that would be an acceptable step. You're right - I think that people who respond to the obscene number of mass shootings that we've had lately, by "digging in," as you put it, are just gross. And take the example of the fine ex-Marine who shot his wife seven times in the head - he was one of you stable, law-abiding citizens - until he wasn't. Seriously, you're defending the ability of everyone, including people like him, to possess enough firepower to shoot up an entire school, movie theater, etc. What is wrong with you?
Greg December 29, 2012 at 04:43 AM
FTT, Does mounting equate to increasing? All of the studies that I have found show a decline of tragedies. Common sense regulation should be based on facts, not emotion.
john mac December 30, 2012 at 03:36 AM
john mac 9:34 pm on Saturday, December 29, 2012 Μολὼν λάβε There are 200 million of us. We will gladly turn them in. Μολὼν λάβε
Denton December 30, 2012 at 04:53 PM
This amounts to nothing more than addressing a tool a tool instead of addressing the problem. Of course, those who are interested in dismantling the 2nd Amendment have no interest in the problem. Why did the founding fathers make it clear that the right to keep and bear arms would not be infringed? So that, if need be, we would be able to take back the nation from tyranny and arbitrary rule. Period. It had nothing to do with hunting, sport or personal defense. It cannot be taken away because of isolated incidents that were not caused by the weapons or the capacity of the magazines. Whatever reasoning one uses for compromise, it is still compromise. Compromise your right away, or draw a line in the sand and dare tyranny to advance beyond it.
David Tatarowicz December 30, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@Terry Of course there are always anecdotal cases that can be referred to when discussing any topic. However our National Gun policy should not be built on very isolated occurences. And on the other side of the coin, how many innocent civilians have been killed by police using handguns that are designed for military purposes of putting as much lead downfield as possible, with accurate shots not required ?? I have thought again about how police officers should be equipped, and although I still propose that patrol officers be equipped with magnum revolvers, that encourage actual aiming, and that have more power than the military type semi auto's, and fewer rounds to send off to whom it may concern ---- I do agree that police officers should have immediate access to weapons more suited to an active shooter incident. I still don't think a 30 magazine .223 is the answer --- the incident you recalled in California was actually resolved by officers getting hunting rifles from a sporting goods store. I think an appropriate weapon would be more in line with a 30-06 Springfield, which is what the BAR uses and which has the knock down power to incapacitate an active shooter. And I would think that such heavy weapons which would take the place of the traditional 12 gauge shotgun in patrol cars, would be more than adequate with 8 round magazines, and encourage more accurate shooting. Officers could also be trained for longer range fire with a mounted scope.
David Tatarowicz December 30, 2012 at 07:10 PM
@Denton Great passion for protecting our rights --- do you have the same passion for all our rights that have been taken away by the Patriot Act and other legislation in the War on Terrorism?
Jack December 31, 2012 at 09:21 AM
this guys a conservative ? i call leftist mole sorry I'm Australian i've heard all the gun grabbers lies and seen the result , criminals run the streets in sydney with shootings a daily event while they have rights , we the citizens beg and plead for the government to make laws to stop home invasion but the government says it cant defind what a home invasion is , so gangs who break into your home and rob and rape your family get charged with criminal trespass and get off with a fine , but if you dare defend yourself with a stick or a knife your locked up with the criminals suing you.. and this is the facts . anything else is a leftist gun grabbing lie seen your friends gunned down by cops ? wait til they start the gun grab , you'll see lots , but none of it will make the media , know why ? ask your self this , how did two tin pot news papers in Australia take over the media world ?? they played along with the UN gun grab and the UN waltzed them right up to the front nice pay off for lying to the people , and now i see they do it just as effectively to the US citizenry . how its feel to be lied to folks ? ask this guy who wrote this he's lying to you too keep your guns and your freedom they take one they others gone .. no matter what they say cheers to you all and good luck to us all , with BS like this spouting as conservative , we;ll bloody well need all the luck we can garner
Born Free January 16, 2013 at 05:36 AM
Facts be damned, however,... Anyone ever party too much and use their gun as the designated driver? Anyone one ever put a leash on their gun and take it for a walk? Anyone ever see a gun eating a happy meal? Anyone ever see a gun pick it's nose or scratch it's arse? Was Santa's sleigh pulled by reindeer or ar-15's? How many Saturday Night Specials does it take to screw in a light bulb? Do pigs and guns fly? How many guns have made personal appearences on the Jerry Springer show? How many guns masturbate? Anyone ever give birth to a gun? How many guns get abortions? Ever see any guns smoking cigars, drinking and playing poker? Any gun ever win the Miss America pagent? How many guns own smart phones? How many guns are eligible for Obamacare? How many guns got Obama phones? How many guns have credit rartings? How many guns shot themselves? How many guns vote? How many guns have addiction issues? Ever read a crappy news article written by a gun? Lastly: What kind of mind over matter hocus pocus did poo-liticaly correct Democrats do to make a bunch of guns, high cap mags and bullets plan a trip to Mexico and get themselves there without maps and without GPS's? Now that my friends is GUN CONTROL.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »