A Well Regulated Militia?

New York, Maryland and some other states (all governed by Presidential aspirants, by the way) have gotten a lot of attention for their newly passed or proposed gun regulations, but how do the other laboratories of democracy regulate guns?  The Guardian has a great graphic detailing everything from the stand-your-ground laws to the gun-show loophole, by state:

Gun Regulations by StateCheck out the full feature.  They’ve got a lot more information than you can see just in my snippet.  In terms of graphic design, let me just say how refreshing it is to see state-level data presented in some way other than the tired old map: instead of distorting everything by land area, their graphic scales by population.  It’s clever.

Of course, nothing is getting as much attention as the new proposals from the President.  The New York Times has illustrated several of the key proposals requiring Congressional action.  Here’s one, for example:

Assault Weapons Ban

They also illustrate the ammunition magazine limits under discussion, and diagram the issue of background checks.

In an accompanying article, the Times points to the obvious difficulty of legally defining an assault weapon.  As the Guardian and  the Times illustrate, the proposals tend to focus on the size of magazines and various military characteristics.

Here’s my question: if we’re going to ban the manufacture and sale of certain weapons on the grounds that their capacity is too dangerous, why not focus the definition directly on their capacity? Trying to itemize certain features will only invite clever work-arounds.  A more direct definition might prohibit any weapon that meets one of the following criteria:

  • capable of discharging more than X bullets in one second
  • capable of discharging more than 20X bullets in one minute
  • capable of exerting more than Y newtons in a single discharge
  • capable of penetrating more than Z cm of a defined material from a certain distance

Is there some reason that I’m not seeing why it’s preferable to itemize a list of features?


2 thoughts on “A Well Regulated Militia?

  1. I can help answer some of your questions. You are asking good questions.

    Because the limit on power (“Y Newtons”) assumes that what oyu want to ban (AR-15s) are more powerful than a regular hunting rifle. To make the power low enough for the AR, you would have to ban all hunting rifles as well. The you also have to look at it the AR is set up for .22 or .223 or 9mm and that determines the (“Y Newtons”) not the gun. Hunting rifles are not as flexible on what ammo they take, but they are for big game and this is for small game and target practice.

    Because “capable of discharging more than X bullets in one second” is really based on how fast someone actually pulls a trigger. You get 1 bullet for each trigger pull. So technically your finger might be faster than mine, so that factor depends on the person behind it. These are semiautomatic. There is no spray of bullets like an automatic,

    Because “capable of penetrating more than Z cm of a defined material from a certain distance” depends on the ammo, not the gun. I have 5.56 that penetrates a small depth of steel, and I also have 5.56 that does not penetrate any steel. It is the material properties of the ammo.

    Remember that crimes in the news recently like Newtown, the movie theater, Virginia Tech, Columbine, all happened in “gun free zones” where the criminal knew very well that no one would shoot back. They had all the time in the world and were safe from the victims because they could not fight back.

    Thank you for that excellent diagram. I hope people will start to realize that the features that define an “assault weapon” are superficial cosmetic items that are prohibited in combination. Bayonet lug? Ooooo. Scary.

    Great work!

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