On handguns, tradition and radicalism

Gun show in Houston, Texas. Image from Wikipedia

I write a lot about the clash between traditional American culture — which tends to be conservative –  and the rapid societal changes that have triggered deep anxiety and bitterness, particularly in rural white communities.

In broad terms, this axis defines the country’s culture war, far more than any red vs. blue or North vs. South paradigm.

The truth, which I think is irrefutable, is that our nation is changing with stunning speed in ways that have sparked a sometimes understandable backlash.

In a mere handful of decades, our concept “family” has been reinvented.  Homosexuality has evolved from a recognized mental illness into a widely accepted version of “normal.”

The role of women in society has changed in radical ways, one of the largest shifts in the human paradigm in recorded history.  Soon, the white community will be only one of many minorities in a truly diverse ethnic landscape.

Active Christians make up a smaller and smaller portion of citizens and the fastest growing “faith” group is made up of people with no religious convictions at all.

That’s a lot to take on board, especially since it’s hitting the “real” America all at once.

When my urban, progressive friends wring their hands about the conservative uproard against these changes, I remind them that America’s traditional culture is merely holding on to  and defending values that were entirely mainstream just a few years ago.

But when it comes to guns, I don’t think this argument holds true.

When it comes to firearms, it is traditional America that’s changing, profoundly and perhaps even radically, in ways that are finally sparking real debate.

I grew up in rural America, and have always been a proud, unambiguous part of the gun-owning culture.  I’ve owned firearms my entire life.  My father and I were members of a shooting club at a range in my home town.  We hunted whitetail deer.

While courting my wife — herself a holder of NRA merit badges for marksmanship — I hunted turkey and deer with my future father-in law.

One of my wife’s proudest gifts to our son (he was 13 years old at the time) was his first .22 rifle.

My brother Allen and I have hunted together since childhood, and he writes one of the best hunting and fishing blogs in the Midwest.

What we didn’t do?  We didn’t own military-style weaponry.

In all my childhood and young adulthood, I don’t remember anyone owning assault rifles or high-capacity banana clips, or talking about the need for such weapons.

Guys owned shotguns for hunting fowl.  We owned hunting rifles.  Some men — not, by a long-shot, all — owned a pistol for home security, to protect their businesses, or for protection against grizzly bears, or for sport.

Through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, when I was a kid and a young man, the loggers and fishermen and outdoorsmen I grew up around would have been baffled by anyone packing a military-style heat.

I remember in particular one of my friends bragging that his dad still had an old German Luger military pistol locked away in a drawer, a legacy of his grandfather’s service in World War II.

The idea was kind of shocking and exciting.

But if you asked me whether any of our dads would have advocated legalizing teflon coated “copkiller” bullets or fought for the right to use high capacity magazines, I’d say no way.

I’m not sure when the gun culture changed.

What I can tell you is that in the part of America where I grew up — Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and later Alaska — it didn’t look much like the gun culture that exists today.

Guys didn’t talk about the need to arm themselves so that they could someday resist their own despotic government.  There wasn’t survivalist talk or talk of “2nd amendment” solutions to democratic debates.

I suspect the change came from the narrowing agenda of the NRA, which shifted from a mom-and-pop style hunter and gun-safety organization to a sleek, powerful culture war advocacy group that sees no room for compromise or nuance.

In their worldview, there are gun lovers and believers in the Constitution, and there are those who would confiscate every single firearm.

It’s a gun culture that leaves no room for people like me, who value sporting guns and believe in protecting gun ownership, but have serious moral and practical questions about the need for high-efficiency military-style pistols and assault rifles.

I suspect that at least some of the change also came from a growing population of American gun enthusiasts who don’t have strong ties to rural life.

There are a lot of suburbanites and urban folks who embraced the gun-show bang-bang culture that gets a rush out of hard-core hardware, without having been introduced to firearms through the common sense values of their fathers and mothers.

Finally, I suspect that a lot of the change in America’s gun culture came through the commercialization of firearms, as manufacturers — who now clear $12 billion a year — worked to sell more and more high-end “cool” weapons.

The kind of guns that ravaged Aurora and Newtown and Columbine have much higher profit margins — and fanboy appeal — than you see for a serious hunting rifle or a practical shotgun.

So while on many issues, it is urban, progressive Americans who have moved into new, experimental, and sometimes nervous territory, when it comes to guns I think it’s fair to argue that conservatives are the ones who have changed.

While talking about the long-standing tradition of gun ownership and flying the banner of the 2nd amendment, they’re drawing lines in the sand that I’m guessing would have made little sense to the guys in the coffee shop in my hometown.

So here’s my question to those of you who see yourselves as gun rights advocates.  When was the first time you saw people in your community owning (or desiring) these kinds of weapons?

When did you or your friends begin to see military-style pistols and assault rifles and banana clip-type accessories as part of America’s gun culture?

304 Responses to “On handguns, tradition and radicalism”

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  1. The Original Larry says:

    “No law can turn you into a criminal if you chose not to violate it.”

    If only it were that simple. Aren’t we constantly told that one of the primary reasons for abortion rights laws is to prevent women from being forced into illegal situations to obtain abortions? How come gun owners don’t get the same protection, even though they are exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right?

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  2. Paul says:

    Walker, I actually think that a good point was made with that quote. It is true. If they switch the speed limit to 55 when you are driving 65 it can be a problem.

    This provision of allowing one year for selling things OUT OF STATE that are now illegal here is pathetically stupid if you ask me.

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  3. Walker says:

    “…it always starts like this. Always. By the time it gets to something you care about it will be too late. It will get there; it always does.”

    Gee, Larry, it started 79 years ago with the National Firearms Act which outlawed not only machine guns, but also silencers, sawed-off shotguns, grenades, bombs, explosive missiles, poison gas weapons, and “1) Smooth-bore pistols 2) Pen guns and cane guns 3) A firearm with combinations smooth bore and rifle barrels 12 inches or more but less than 18 inches in length from which only a single shot can be made from either barrel. 4) Disguised firearms 5) Firearms that can be fired from within a wallet holster or a briefcase 6) A short-barreled shotgun which came from the factory with a pistol grip and no buttstock is categorized as an AOW (smooth-bore pistol) rather than a Short Barrel Shotgun (SBS), because the Gun Control Act describes a shotgun as, “…designed or redesigned to be fired from the shoulder…” 7) Handguns with a forward vertical grip.”

    So you lost your freedom before you were born! Terrible! And now, it’s going to get a tiny bit worse! At this rate, they should be confiscating all firearms along about 2300.

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  4. The Original Larry says:

    It wasn’t clear to me whether “crazy” referred to some, all or NYS shows. That’s why I qualified my comments as I did. Like many aspects of this issue, people think they know all about things they haven’t got a clue about. I think BG checks for gun sales are a good thing for gun shows and, in fact, for gun sales of all kinds. The idea that gun shows (at least here in NY) are free-for-all “black market” operations is untrue, as anyone who has attended one knows. In fact, some shows are downright boring, featuring over-priced garbage, much of which has nothing to do with guns.

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  5. The Original Larry says:

    Walker,
    Don’t pretend to be stupid. You know my comment was in response to your mocking reference to Martin Niemöller and, as such, was about the need to protect everyone’s rights lest your own eventually get restricted. On the other hand, I may be giving you too much credit.

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  6. mervel says:

    No the gun show’s that I have been to have not been in NYS. One was in Texas and another in SD. I am sure the regulatory structures are a little different. However that is the other issue; I don’t think these guys were following the law as written even in these states. I mean there were guys in the PARKING LOT, selling guns out of there car. There was no enforcement to be seen of any current laws. It was really wild. I don’t mean to spread misinformation and I am sure NYS is better run and regulated.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  7. mervel says:

    At some point from a moral perspective we have to consider our actions with these guns and what we are a part of or not. This is the point I make with people (who I know and are friends with) who at our age still smoke pot, they are taking part in a business that is hurting people that is causing death (even if it is not hurting them too much). I think the same would hold for us as honest gun owners, what are we taking part in?

    Yes the majority of gun owners are honest, law abiding people who would never turn a gun on another human, but lets face it, there is a subculture that is violent that is taking part in this gun trade.

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  8. mervel says:

    I don’t like registration for most guns, however I do think we need to restrict the flow through these black market exchanges.

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  9. The Original Larry says:

    Clarification noted, Mervel, thanks. Not misinformation at all.

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  10. Walker says:

    “Don’t pretend to be stupid… On the other hand, I may be giving you too much credit.”

    That’s right, Larry. When all else fails, resort to name calling.

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  11. Walker says:

    “I am sure NYS is better run and regulated.”

    Not that it matters. We might just as well have no more regulation that Pennsylvania or Virginia, because the guns are going to be bought there and brought here. We need good, sound, rational, national gun policies and enforcement.

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  12. myown says:

    The Albany Times Union tries to answer some questions about the new gun law:

    http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/176083/faq-what-does-new-yorks-new-law-do-to-my-guns/

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  13. The Original Larry says:

    Walker,
    You pretend you don’t understand what I’m talking about so that you can write some rant that you think supports your position but has nothing to do with what I said. That’s the problem; you only want to talk, not listen. On the other hand, maybe you weren’t aware you were quoting Martin Niemoller.

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  14. Walker says:

    Of course I was referring to that quote, though I couldn’t readily have come up with the author. But the point is that just because something frequently leads to something else, doesn’t mean that it always does. Life is never that easy.

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  15. dave says:

    A well crafted bi-partisan law that addresses most of the issues that needed to be addressed.

    I am not entirely sure why gun owners are all up in arms over this given that no guns will be taken away from anyone who can pass a background check, and you are only being asked to register your weapon twice a decade. Wish I could do that with my car, or my dog. Other than that, there is very little that will affect any of the gun owners I know. Getting all bent out of shape over this strikes me as nothing more than complaining for the sake of complaining.

    All that said, in my opinion this bill has the same glaring flaw the old federal law had. It lacks a buyback and therefore doesn’t have the teeth to make an immediate impact on the problem because so many of these weapons are already out on the street. It, like the old federal assault ban, is designed to make an impact at some later date in the future.

    A lot of people will be killed by guns between now and then.

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  16. Paul says:

    Dave I am not up in arms, and I support reasonable regulations but let me help with a few things you have here:

    “no guns will be taken away from anyone who can pass a background check”

    I don’t think this is accurate. Any gun that falls under the definition of an “assault weapon” is banned and you have one year from last night to sell it out of state (isn’t that pretty insane, sell it out of state “well crafted”, sounds dangerous to me?!) In NYS an “assault weapon” is one that has ONE “military style” feature, not sure exactly what that means but one example is a long gun with a pistol grip. I don’t own anything like this but as I understand these are very common on shotguns used for personal protection at home. You can pass all the background checks you like you can’t have one of these guns in NYS. Unless you are a criminal of course.

    “you are only being asked to register your weapon twice a decade”

    Again, I don’t think this is accurate. You are only required to re-register handguns every five years. You do not have to “register” long guns, only handguns. I suspect this will make a lot of older guys that have their service revolvers around from WWII criminals in 5 years when the forget to do this.

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  17. Walker says:

    “In NYS an “assault weapon” is one that has ONE “military style” feature”

    No, that’s ONE “military style” feature” in addition to being semiautomatic with a detachable magazine.

    The link above seems to explain it pretty well.

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  18. Walker says:

    And you don’t have to dispose of it, if you register it.

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  19. Paul says:

    Thanks. I should have looked at that first. So the shotgun I described if it was an auto loading shotgun it would be banned under this legislation. It looks like a shotgun does not have to have a detachable clip (since that is pretty rare anyway). Getting a new one is not legal and to keep the one you might already have requires registration of some kind. I get it. Sorry.

    “A semiautomatic shotgun with any one of these attributes, a fixed capacity of over seven rounds or a shroud that lets the shooter grab the barrel also qualifies.”

    Basically the rule is stricter on shotguns. That is interesting.

    Sorry I thought that the re-registration only applied for hand guns. So the second point I made about handguns is true but it also applies to these “registered”-banned-guns moving forward guns.

    Weird.

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  20. dave says:

    “Any gun that falls under the definition of an “assault weapon” is banned and you have one year from last night to sell it out of state”

    Nope. This bill, like the old federal bill, bans the sale/purchase of these weapons going forward, it does not ban current ownership.

    If you currently own an assault weapon, you can keep it as long as you pass a background check and register it.

    The only thing that current gun owners are not allowed to own is a magazine clip that holds more than 10 bullets. This has ALWAYS been illegal in NY. If you own one of these, you have 30 days to get rid of it.

    If you own a magazine that holds 10 bullets, you can keep it, but are just not allowed to ever have more than 7 bullets in it.

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  21. Paul says:

    It is going to be next to impossible to sell a gun in a private sale in NYS. It looks like you need to have a federally registered gun dealer do the BG check for you and they cannot charge for it. Why would they bother to do something that just cuts into their business and probably open themselves up to liability if something goes wrong. They are going to have to come up with something else to cover this.

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  22. Paul says:

    “The only thing that current gun owners are not allowed to own is a magazine clip that holds more than 10 bullets. This has ALWAYS been illegal in NY. If you own one of these, you have 30 days to get rid of it.”

    Nope don’t think this is true. Like I said above this new law is an extension of the older NYS law that allows you to own a gun that holds more than 10 rounds as long as the clip is a tubular magazine and is not detachable. Many popular small game hunting 22s are designed this way. I think that exception still stands with the passing of this new law. But it would be good to get clarification on this. My guess is that even law enforcement are kind of confused today.

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  23. Walker says:

    You’d think you could come up with something that would take up the extra space in those tubular magazines so you wouldn’t have to worry about overloading them.

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  24. dave says:

    Q: What about ammunition magazines?

    A: Before the law’s passage, a magazine capable of holding 10 or more rounds was unlawful, but any magazine manufactured before 1994 was exempt. Law enforcement officials said this grandfathering provision made the ban difficult to enforce, and it was eliminated in the current law. Now those magazines are banned, but anyone who has one with a “reasonable belief” that it was lawful and disposes of it within 30 days of being notified by a law enforcement official that it is now illegal won’t be guilty of violating the law. Otherwise, it is a Class A misdemeanor charge.

    If you already have a magazine that holds up to 10 rounds, you can lawfully keep it, but you can’t load it with more than seven rounds. If you’re caught with a magazine containing more than seven rounds in your home, you’ll get a ticket for your first offense, then be subject to a misdemeanor charge. If you’re caught with a magazine outside your house, you’re subject to a misdemeanor charge.

    This part of the law takes effect in two months.

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  25. dave says:

    It really isn’t that complicated.

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  26. Walker says:

    “This new law isn’t going to affect your chances of being shot much, if at all.”

    It doesn’t have to affect those chances much– just enough.

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  27. Paul says:

    “If you own one of these, you have 30 days to get rid of it.” Are you sure? Why would you be given 30 days to get rid of it if it has ALWAYS been illegal. Is this some kind of amnesty provision? That seems nutty also.

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  28. Paul says:

    Dave never mind, I think you answered my question above.

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  29. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Once again Dave is lying. Magazines holding more than 10 rounds have most certainly NOT “always been illegal”. That came with the NYS AWB that followed the Clinton AWB. Maybe you aren’t lying Dave, maybe you’re just ignorant. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and leave at you being ignorant of pretty much everything about guns. That puts you on par with most of our politicians.

    There is an immense amount of disinformation being spread around. For instance, there are several 22 target rifles and hunting rifles that became assault weapons overnight. Same for shotguns and handguns. I’ve looked at the law text and this appears to even affect some revolvers. This is insane. You WILL be forced to give up your guns because the law clearly states you cannot sell it after a certain date or transfer it to another out of family party. What choice is left? The ONLY choice will be to turn in the gun for destruction. If you don’t register your guns the gov’t WILL eventually go through all those 4473 forms that you filled out when you bought the gun and come and search for your guns and take them. If you are caught with a 10 round mag that someone doesn’t think is properly altered to 7 rounds you will be arrested and they WILL take your guns. If you are convicted of this crime you WILL lose ALL your guns. That law already exists.

    My biggest laugh comes from the pure LIE that’s being told, that there will be no charge for registration or getting permits for these guns. Bull. My best guess is that when we have to renew our pistol permits there will be an increasing cost, first $250.00, then $500.00, then $1000.00, whatever they can get away with. Who can afford that? And this “background check” idea, it’s going to turn into another Pistol Permit thing with long waits and large costs.

    Walker,, Cuomo turned me into a criminal overnight. I did nothing different, he changed the law. His choice, not mine.

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  30. Two Cents says:

    “You’d think you could come up with something that would take up the extra space in those tubular magazines so you wouldn’t have to worry about overloading them.”

    similar to the plug in shotguns. which by the way, is removable

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  31. Two Cents says:

    just keep this all in mind when cuomo runs for potus.

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  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Crabtree, you’re such a sweet-talker!

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  33. Walker says:

    Rancid, you’re so hungry to make yourself into a victim, it’s pathetic.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  34. Paul says:

    The way the tubular magazine works you can’t have a plug. The bullets have to go from one end to the other. Why not have a law that doesn’t restrict a gun that has never been implicated in any kind of shooting that this is supposed to prevent? People here have said they don’t want those kinds of guns restricted than they say they support a law that restricts them? Which is it?

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  35. Walker says:

    “The way the tubular magazine works you can’t have a plug.”

    That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, Paul. At the very least you could have dummy shells take up the extra space.

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  36. dave says:

    “Once again Dave is lying. Magazines holding more than 10 rounds have most certainly NOT “always been illegal”. That came with the NYS AWB that followed the Clinton AWB.”

    Hey RC, the point I was making was that 10+ clips are already illegal and have been for quite some time (almost 2 decades!)… so the only thing that is now illegal to own under these new laws, was already illegal to own.

    When I used the word “always”, I did not mean “since the beginning of time”. I can see how you could misinterpret that, but angrily jumping on me over a fairly peripheral detail of the conversation seems a bit… oh I don’t know what the right word is… desperate?

    “You WILL be forced to give up your guns because the law clearly states you cannot sell it after a certain date or transfer it to another out of family party. What choice is left?”

    Now THAT. THAT is a misinformed lie.

    You are correct that you have 1 year to sell your weapon. What choice is left after that, you ask?

    Keep it.

    You will not be forced to give up your gun. No one is coming for your gun. You do not have to sell it. You do not have to give it away. You can keep it. I repeat. You will not be forced to give up your gun.

    All you have to do is register it and pass a background check.

    So, good luck with your background checks RC! I wonder if being prone to angry outbursts on the internet is one of the things they check for…

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  37. Paul says:

    Walker, sure you could have some blanks in there but of course that is rediculous in a hunting situation. What are you talking about? Should these guns be restricted or not? Why should they be? If there is a good reason lay it out. If I should be a criminal for having one, fine, just tell me why. Everyone Keeps saying don’t restrict guns that are not an issue. Do you think that is true or not?

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  38. Paul says:

    “Hey RC, the point I was making was that 10+ clips are already illegal and have been for quite some time (almost 2 decades!)… so the only thing that is now illegal to own under these new laws, was already illegal to own.”. Again Dave I think this is incorrect. The gun I described was purchased in NYS a few years ago. It is semi-automatic and holds 17 rounds??????? Was a large retail sporting goods store selling illegal guns? I don’t think so????

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  39. Marlo Stanfield says:

    Paul, from what I read in the Times Union the law doesn’t address one way or the other whether a firearms dealer can charge or not for a background check for a private sale. Since there’s nothing saying they can’t, I guess that means they can.

    Working out some kind of system for how those checks would work (maybe a standardized fee or something) should have been one of the many details they addressed before passing the law.

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  40. Rancid Crabtree says:

    ” Walker says:
    January 16, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    “The way the tubular magazine works you can’t have a plug.”

    That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, Paul. At the very least you could have dummy shells take up the extra space.”

    Here we go again with people offering up suggestions without any knowledge of the workings of the mechanism, or without reading the law either apparently. The law clearly states that it’s illegal if it’s capable of holding more than 8 rounds. Putting dummies into the mix doesn’t meet the requirement at all. It’s going to require the manufacturer to design a new magazine tube, which of course the law abiding owner will be forced to purchase IF the gun maker decides to produce the tube. Otherwise the gun will be unable to legally be possessed or used.

    So a stupid, ineffective law will create another criminal with no intent on the part of the gun owner.

    Dave, if you can’t sell or give away a gun after a certain point should you decide to, you have to turn it in for destruction. That already happens with other guns in NY. This background check is yet to be developed, and I’m betting it will be just like the pistol permit system, which means whether or not you get a permit is up to some bureaucrat. There are counties where the permits are simply not issued. So you try to follow the law, get denied and the cops kick in your door and take your guns. You have no choice but to give it up or go to prison. Angry outbursts on internet sites might well be a reason to deny the owner a permit! I’m sure that is being thought of. Another right gone!

    Walker, whats pathetic is fools like you thinking a criminal will obey a law, that you can bargain away your rights for a promise of safety.

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  41. Kathy says:

    The federal government is micro managing. That’s what people who know what’s best for all of us do.

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  42. Two Cents says:

    i wasn’t asked to vote on any of this.. !!?!

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  43. Walker says:

    “Walker, sure you could have some blanks in there but of course that is rediculous in a hunting situation.”

    No, not blanks, but dummy cartridges– the idea being to avoid having to keep track of how many cartridges are in the weapon.

    “The law clearly states that it’s illegal if it’s capable of holding more than 8 rounds.”

    Actually if it holds fewer than 10 rounds, you’re fine as long as you have no more than seven rounds in it. But yes, I was misreading the TU summary– if it holds more than 10 rounds, it was already illegal unless it was manufactured before 1994. That grandfather clause is now gone, and you’re supposed to dispose of the weapon. However, I can’t believe that you couldn’t legally keep the weapon by modifying the magazine so that it could no longer hold more than seven rounds. But I guess it would have to be a permanent mod.

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  44. mervel says:

    You will likely generate a cottage business for gun modifications.

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  45. Paul says:

    “But yes, I was misreading the TU summary– if it holds more than 10 rounds, it was already illegal unless it was manufactured before 1994.”

    Walker I told you that I purchased this gun from a dealer here in NYS several years ago. There must be an exception in the earlier law (that may or may not carry into this law) that made the tubular magazine legal.

    Otherwise how could they sell it here in NYS?

    Look here is the gun it holds 15 bullets. Do you seriously think that we should be restricting a gun like this? If you do I think that all this talk about focusing on assault style guns and not affecting hunters is a bunch of hooey. A gun like this is specifically from the “traditional American gun culture” that Brian Mann talked about earlier. So now we don’t support that either?

    http://www.marlinfirearms.com/firearms/selfloading/60.asp

    Just be more honest. The hope for many folks is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Or can you say with a straight face that this is it? If you can’t that folks like RC are probably right.

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  46. Walker says:

    “Do you seriously think that we should be restricting a gun like this?”

    No, I don’t. I had something similar back in the early ’70s, a great little plinker. Though I have to say that it’s ability to hold 15 rounds had little to do with it being a nice gun. I’m guessing if you could find a cheap way to modify it to make it legal, you’d do it without much regret?

    Anyway, I didn’t write the law. I’m sorry they didn’t write it smarter. My guess is that they knew that if they didn’t ram it through, the NRA would have had it in shreds before it could pass. Stuff happens.

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  47. Two Cents says:

    if we can’t expect “them” to “write it smarter”, then who can we rely on?

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  48. Walker says:

    What’s your point?

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  49. Two Cent says:

    walker is that Q at me?

    i expect the top of any field should show great work not something that resembles an eighth grade book report. i see many holes and what ifs in this law (that had to be passed so fast0 its embarrassing.

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  50. Two Cent says:

    0* close parenthesis

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