Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and The Very Willful Ignorance

Ref: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/appeals-court-says-ar-15s-are-not-constitutionally-protected-w468223  (February, 2017)

We are supposed to be able to trust judges and the court system to evaluate issues objectively. That means a reliance on fact and not personal opinion. Unfortunately, the Circuit Court appears to be just another party-bought crowd that doesn’t even appear to attempt logical connections, even within a single sentence. Witness:

“Although an M16 rifle is capable of fully automatic fire and the AR-15 is limited to semiautomatic fire, their rates of fire (two seconds and as little as five seconds, respectively, to empty a thirty round magazine) are nearly identical. Moreover, in many situations, the semiautomatic fire of an AR-15 is more accurate and lethal than the automatic fire of an M16.”

http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/141945A.P.pdf  (Page 48)

This paragraph starts by diminishing the importance of the difference between automatic and semi-automatic fire. This is actually crucial, and a defining distinction between unregulated and regulated firearms. The 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act specifically gives the ATF regulatory authority to manage the sale of automatic weapons, and prohibited newly manufactured automatic weapons from being sold to unlicensed civilians. The precise boundary is automatic fire, and the roots of this amendment go back to the 1934 National Firearms Act, where machine guns were first restricted and subject to a transfer tax. Trying to sweep this aside is intellectual dishonesty at its finest.

Next is a comparison of the limiting rates of fire, and they choose an average time of five seconds to discharge 30 rounds with a semi-automatic. Here, they again say the distinction is moot, because an automatic M16 can clear the same magazine in two seconds. In fact, they use the term “nearly identical”. Well, no. Five seconds is more than double two seconds. Unless you have a bounding metric, you can not in any logical way make the claim these two time values are “nearly identical”. There is a 250% difference. If you’re talking about a base scale of say ten minutes, I might be inclined to agree.

How would you set that base scale? By how long it takes any other firearm to discharge 30 rounds, that’s how. Let’s start with a standard 6-shot revolver, which would require reloading five times. Each round of 6 shots takes about 1.5 seconds if you’re not aiming, and other 3 seconds to reload with a speed loader, or 4.5 seconds. Multiply that by five to get 30 rounds, and you’re looking at a total of 22.5 seconds. Well under the ten minute baseline, and only four times slower than the reported AR value.

How about a semi-automatic handgun? A 9mm typically has a 15-rd magazine, so one reload required. About 2.5 seconds to empty the magazine, about 1.5 seconds to swap, and another 2.5 seconds. That’s 6.5 seconds. Now we’re within reach of the AR, right? And only three times slower than the M16. Before you start thinking these are meaningful distinctions, you should be aware that the average time between shots at a mass shooting is on the order of 4 seconds. Remember it’s about 4.5 seconds to empty and reload a revolver. Only one shooting attack has taken advantage of an involuntary pause in the rate of fire – the one against Giffords, when the shooter had a jam he couldn’t clear. Otherwise, exactly zero mass shooters have been stopped by taking advantage of the reload time. As it turns out, most mass shooters don’t even empty the magazine before reloading; they reload as opportunity presents itself.

But also remember that mass shootings do not unleash a continuous spray of lead from start to finish: they often fire in bursts, move, reload, fire again. So individual magazine capacity is absolutely moot. Again, Virginia Tech saw a man with more than 400 rounds loaded into legal magazines. He chose to stop and commit suicide; he had not been confronted, but fired over 150 rounds, killing 32 people.

Oh, and I need to point out the hypocrisy here: we are told that the key argument in favor of restricting magazine size is in order to force reloads more frequently, thus gaining precious seconds to enable escape or to attack the shooter. How long does a reload take for an AR? About 2-3 seconds. So which is it? Does 3 seconds matter or not?

Finally, we have this treat: “Moreover, in many situations, the semiautomatic fire of an AR-15 is more accurate and lethal than the automatic fire of an M16.” This is absolutely, 100% true. But it presumes that an M16 is always firing in automatic mode. The M16 is just as accurate in semiautomatic mode, and is actually slightly more powerful due to a larger powder load and higher barrel pressure because the M16 uses a 5.56 NATO round, while the AR fires a .223 civilian round. Then there’s the little matter of M16s almost never being fired in auto mode except as emergency suppressive fire – you just run out of ammo too quickly.

But I’d like the court to describe the effect increased accuracy has on mass shootings. If the AR-15 is indeed more accurate, and accuracy leads to lethality, why are we not banning scopes and holographic sights? Why are hunting rifles still allowed, that are demonstrably far more accurate than AR-15s? Has the court witness mass shootings where accuracy has some minimum threshold? Has anyone seen video of mass shootings where the shooter is carefully lining up each and every shot?

The judge is literally advocating that machine guns are less lethal than ARs, so why not trade? If there’s a compromise, you take the ARs and give us machine guns. I mean, that’s exactly what she’s arguing.

Don’t forget that handguns are less accurate at distance than rifles. So if AR-15s are more accurate, does distance play a factor? Are those firing ARs standing further away from their targets? No. It turns out they get up close and personal, often within 10 feet of their victims. How do I know this? Because most mass shootings occur in close spaces, even down to class rooms. Accuracy has no bearing on the discussion. Even in the Las Vegas shooting, the critical thing was simulating automatic weapons fire, not accuracy.

In other words, this is pure sophistry. The court absolutely intends to mislead others.

I could forgive ignorance of technical issues, but these arguments are clearly placed to deceive, if not outright lie. The conclusions are based on personal bias and a hope that listeners are not able to think critically for themselves.

So what are we to make of a body of judges that can not extract themselves from their own biases enough to protect the rights of the people they are supposed to serve? And what of using simple facts that easily refute the assertions presented by the court? If the court can not be trusted to discover these facts, or worse – ignore the facts provided to them, then how can we trust them on other issues? It works great so long as we agree with their politics. Just hope you always get judges you agree with.

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