Reasonable Gun Laws
In this article, I’m going to just explain what it takes to be compliant with a few gun laws (Federal and California), so that readers can decide how reasonable these laws are. These are just a small sampling of the 20,000 local, state and national gun control laws that every owner must know and comply with, under the legal concept of Ignorantia juris non excusat (Ignorance of the law is no excuse). So this context will help you understand why gun-advocates mock and resist “reasonable gun control”. And believe me, these are not the most absurd, these are just the basic ones that gun owners run into.
- These will all refer to the exact same gun (identical in caliber, firepower, and capacity), unless otherwise called out.
- We’re discussing making the most popular hunting rifle, sporting rifle and pistol platform: the AR
- AR stands for Armalite Rifle (not Assault Rifle), of which the dreaded AR-15 is one. There is the AR-10, and others in different calibers, and many other guns that are not AR’s use interchangeable parts with them. Read this if you have questions on: What is an assault rifle?.
- Another key to understanding is that AR’s (as most guns) comes as two major parts the upper and lower receivers. The upper receiver usually has the barrel, bolt and sighting systems. The lower has the frame, stock, pistol grip, and trigger assembly (also called firing group). This is fairly common
- They two halves go together with 2 locking pins: it takes about 10 seconds to take these guns apart, and put them together. And many parts and accessories are interchangeable, that’s why people like them — they’re modular — you can tweak and tune for what you want. The AR isn't a weapon as much as an open source platform for accessories to build a weapon with.
Imagine you’re building or customizing a gun from parts, you need to be aware of at least this subset of rules/laws.
- A rifle that is 26” long (or longer), is a legal long rifle
- If the rifle’s total length is less than 26”, it’s a felony (ATF classified SBR / Short Barreled Rifle, there’s also SBS for Short Barreled Shotgun, and AOW for “any other weapon” that blurs lines between categories like a shotgun pistol. There are some nuances, but I’ll refer to them all as SBR’s for simplicity)
- You can have a collapsable or folding stock, but only if folded it is longer than 26”
- If a long rifle that’s longer than 26”, has a barrel that’s shorter than 16”, then it’s also a felony (SBR as well)
- If the barrel that’s shorter than 16”, but has a permanently attached (pinned and welded) flash hider or silencer (Suppressor) that increases the combined length of the barrel beyond 16” (and the total length of the weapon is greater than 26”) then it’s legal again (no longer an SBR) — but other regulations (and taxes) come into effect when you have a suppressor.
- Yet, if the same exact same gun above is called a “pistol" (same parts, caliber, firepower), it’s legal — barrel length and total length, no longer matter.
- What changes the qualification is that a pistol can NOT have a buttstock (stock). If you add a buttstock to the pistol, that’s a felony SBR (collapsable or not).
- The pistol can have a buffer tube (a spring and weight to absorb recoil), and/or brace (that looks like a buttstock), or not. And you can fire it by using that brace against your arm or cheek to stabilize the gun.
- But if you hold that brace to your shoulder, you committed a felony by using the pistol like it’s a rifle, turning it into a SBR
- If you put a vertical front-grip on a pistol, that’s a felony (legal on a rifle or SBR) — but you can put a slanted front grip on the pistol (as long as the slant isn’t more than 45°).
- You can not put an adjustable front grip on a pistol, because even if it is set to 45° and legal, it could be changed too easily to vertical, and make it illegal. You can use those on a rifle or SBR.
So far, not to bad. Except there are exceptions to all those rules that you also need to know:
- If you pay $200, for a "tax stamp", then an SBR is magically legal again — so SBR’s are only illegal for those not paying for permission to have one. Why does an SBR cost $200 and special permission? Who knows.
- Unless you’re in one of the following states where the Constitution (2nd Amendment) rulings don’t apply, and then they’re illegal anyways: Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Washington.
- And to a lesser extent, some states have theoretical legality but functional criminality. When the Democrats are in control, the State’s DOJ just won’t issue permits to anyone other than politically connected or law enforcement in a few states, and thus the ATF won’t sign off on an SBR, unless they get the State DOJ’s permission. So in California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, they completely violate the spirit of federal and state law by saying, “you can have it with a permit", they just won’t issue you a permit.
- All those states have exceptions for guns that were owned before they passed their law (you can’t retroactively outlaw someone else’s property). And they have exceptions, especially for family members (trusts). So you can often get guns that you want, if you go through gymnastics, like an out of state parent or child buys one for you, and gifts it. To do otherwise would be to interfere with other people’s property/inheritance rights.
- Another exception is if the gun is a “curio” — which can mean it was manufactured either before the 1934, 1946 or 1968 federal gun laws (depending), or is 50 years old or older, and is on a list of approved guns — then there were some pistol shotguns, or pistols that had buttstocks, or Rifles with pistol length barrels. Then you can get a curio license and federal law mostly supersedes state law. (The same with gifting those, or modifying them).
- Cops are usually exempted from restrictions on owning these. While many of these guns are too dangerous for civilians because too short a barrel makes them “assault rifles” meant for mass murder and the military — for some reason, the state legislature thinks cops having weapons of mass murder and military weaponry is OK? But cops are supposed to be protecting civilians, not mass killing them or even criminals. Shouldn’t they be limited to the same firepower and restrictions as the public?
That makes no sense
There’s no logical consistency that applies:
- Assume, “short guns are more dangerous”, well why are pistols legal? (a pistol is shorter than a rifle)
- And why is a short barreled rifle more dangerous than a rifle or pistol? (it’s shorter than one, and longer than the other)
- And if it is that dangerous, why would a $200 tax stamp would make it less so? (And you must always carry that stamp with you, in case the cops harass you at the range)
- Why does a vertical fore-grip make a pistol more dangerous than a 45° one?
- All the parts come from the same parts bin — so there’s no way to stop criminals from any of this. If you allow vertical fore-grips for Rifles, any criminal can put one on a pistol in about 30 seconds. The same with adding a stock to a pistol. So these laws can't even slow down criminals, they can ONLY be used to harass non-criminals.
NOTE: The argument against these SBR’s (carbines) is that shorter barrels than rifles is good for close quarters, and longer barrel than pistol (+stock) makes it better at medium range than a pistol. Thus, they’re not as concealable as a pistol, not as accurate as a rifle, but a compromise/hybrid. This makes them a desired choice for walking gun ranges (where you have to move around and shoot at different targets at different ranges): a fun sport (basically live-fire video games), that’s harder to do because of these dumb laws.
And then it gets nasty
- Let’s say you own an AR built as a rifle. And you start buying the parts to build an AR-Pistol, and you buy the pistol upper (upper receiver). You’re now guilty of a felony. Even though you don’t own an SBR, you have the parts to make one (and you don’t have the parts to make a legal pistol), so they call this intent to build an SBR, and can go after you for a crime. This is like the cops arresting your daughter for being a prostitute, because she has all the necessary equipment to become one.
- You must buy the pistol lower before the pistol upper, and make sure the pistol upper is attached to the pistol lower, or you’re guilty of intent to build an SBR.
- Never clean both guns at the same time, because if both uppers are off, then you might assemble them wrong and make an SBR — so just having them both apart, means they can accuse you under intent.
- Now you can put a rifle upper on a pistol lower (as long as it doesn’t have a vertical fore-grip, of course). And at that point, you can put a buttstock on the pistol frame, because it will be a legal long-rifle. But if you do that in the wrong order, and put the buttstock on first, then it’s a felony.
- There’s also complete ambiguity in the law as to whether you can convert that Long Rifle back to a pistol. (Some claim once it was ever a rifle, it can never be converted back, but pistols can be converted to rifles).
Then add states
California and NY and some other Democrat states always adds a side of stupid on top. They have multiple other rules to make it messier:
- Magazines can only be 10 rounds or less, unless you owned them before the law was passed (2000), then you can have high capacity magazines.
- Assault style guns (basically guns with accessory rails or one of a few features like a flash suppressor or pistol grip), can’t have detachable magazines (you need a tool to remove the magazine). So this creates a choice between either (a) bullet buttons (b) deactivate the magazine ejector (c) featureless build
- (b) An ejector button defeat is basically a set screw that won’t allow the button to be depressed, which makes it useless. California tried to claim this was illegal, because a couple twists of the screw makes the button work again. But they got overruled — it complies with the law. But they’ve still persecuted people for having these on their guns, and not being “good enough”.
- California also has different rules on whether the magazine goes in the pistol grip or in front of it. The latter looks more like an assault weapon, so they try to punish it.
- One irony was that California doesn’t like removable flash hiders or compensators (a little thing on the tip of the barrel that does almost nothing). Their argument that was since they’re threaded, you could more easily put a silencer on the gun. So they outlawed them… on pistols with removable magazine. But later they passed the bullet button law, which made them legal again. Guns that have the bullet buttons don’t have “removable magazines” (at least not without tools) — so those can now have removable flash hiders. My gun store didn’t even know this one and was making pain until I showed them the flowchart of laws.
- And for what it’s worth, criminals make silencers by duct-taping a 2L plastic coke bottle to the end of a gun, giving you 1-3 shots silenced. So the whole idea that a threaded barrel makes it easier to assassinate people is moronic. If you want to kill people silently, there are better methods than a gun.
If you’re trying to get more reasonable gun laws, that presumably makes us safer and still let shooters enjoy their sport and history of guns, then explain how these laws do anything useful to stop accidents or mass shootings or how any of them are “reasonable”.
None of these laws do anything to stop or slow criminals or mass shooters from getting SBR's. A thug can buy the pistol upper and slap it on a rifle lower in 10 seconds, or takes about 5 minutes with a hacksaw to cut a barrel down. And it’s already illegal for convicted felons to buy guns at all. So these laws do nothing to stop or slow criminals who want short barreled rifles, and they haven’t outlawed them. You can get just about anything, if you know which hoops to jump through and what forms to fill out. Thus, none of these laws are “reasonable”, as they've done nothing to stop any criminal from doing any of this, you’re just punishing law abiding folks for doing what cops and criminals already can. It’s not reasonable to punish the innocent, and do nothing to stop criminals.
So what you should be noticing is that these laws are moronic: they’re designed by mental midgets, for people that don’t know the basics of what they’re talking about. They can’t slow criminals, they can only annoy legal gun owners, or turn otherwise law abiding gun owners into criminals. Which they do all the time. “We don’t want your guns", we just want to make you a criminal for owning them. Even 300 year old antiques.
Which does what? Beyond teaching the informed to have contempt for our laws and gun-controllers for passing them, it does nothing. Then when the gun-advocates dig in on future “reasonable” gun controls (because the last batches were so stupid), the gun controllers have tizzy-fits thinking that it was the gun-advocates that were unreasonable, and not realizing it was backlash against their own stupidity that has hampered progress.
Licensing is where the government takes away your rights and leases them back to you for a free. That’s what these laws do. Along with persecute some legal gun owners (collectors and sport shooters), and turns them into felons for doing something as evil as not knowing that you can’t put a vertical brace on a pistol, or hold it to your shoulder, and you must learn to take your guns apart (or order parts) in the correct order.
Other things that aren’t reasonable
If folks can't be reasonable in how they deal with gun owners before they write the laws, then who can trust what they're trying to pass? The first step to passing a "reasonable" gun law, would be to NOT to misrepresent the other side, before asking them to agree to the laws. Like stopping the following:
- Every time there is a mass shooting (like San Bernardino), the anti-gunners post OpEd’s that get the event, law, history, technicalities wrong, then they want to be trusted that they wouldn't get anything wrong in a law?
- Most gun control advocates don’t understand what a gun is, or the effectiveness of gun control, and thus they want to ban guns completely. Yet, they will deny it, until cornered. But if you probe long enough, you find they don't like guns, or trust their neighbors with them. If you don't question someone, you're being naive. If you question them and find they're being dishonest, you'd have to be stupid to trust them.
- Many think an “assault rifle” is something the military uses, instead of a media invented term for a weak hunting rifle with black plastic parts and accessories. Before we talk laws, they need to know the basics of what they're talking about.
- Gun controllers don’t know history and think the 2nd Amendment only applied to the militia or the 2nd Amendment was for muskets and don’t know anything about what the founding fathers really believed
- Many read the latest fallacy laden articles written in the NYT or their favorite blog, etc., like these (1, 2, 3), or worse, they listen to the President, or other Politicians, who usually know less about guns than the average midwestern middle-schooler
- Those politicians and activist propose really dumb ideas (that sound good to the unformed), like banning people on “no fly lists” from buying guns, or mandating smart guns, or a variety of bad ideas put together (like California Gunpocolypse) which causes political backlash, and retaliation among the informed
- Ignorance, combined with arrogance is what divides us (between the well meaning and uninformed, against those that know better) — and too many discussions get sidetracked into correcting the many errors or technicalities that the gun controllers don’t know or care about — but that context sets the tone for these discussions
If you want to be reasonable, you first need to be informed, and get the basics right. How can you reason with an ignoramus (well meaning or not)? So the first step to reasonable gun laws, is educating the gun controlled, on what guns are, how they work, and how bad the current laws are.
I saw this graphic, and modified it into one above (that I included), and added a lot more detail in the article explaining the nuances that people should know about how reasonable gun laws are. I can’t attribute the author/source, because I don’t know from whence it came.