My Turn: Defining assault weapons, and the real reasons some oppose new gun range

I have just read Jerry Smetzer’s My Turn (Empire, April 8, 2013) on the gun range appeal and quite frankly, don’t know where to begin. There are so many inaccuracies. He postulates at great lengths on the Planning Commission’s duties and scope, then sums up with restating the Planning Commission’s stated position at the April 1 hearing. “Whether any CUP request is ultimately granted, or not, is a matter for the Assembly and Law, not the Planning Commission.” He is right. The new range does not contravene any state, local or federal laws, therefore the Planning Commission was absolutely correct in issuing the Conditional Use Permit.


We then get to the real point: He doesn’t like the idea of people punching holes in paper with machine guns. He alleges that these weapons are available “over the counter” They are not. Let me repeat that. They are not available over the counter. A months-long application process, and a pages-long application process are required to purchase a machine gun. This includes finger prints, photographs, and one’s complete history from the time one was born. It also includes the signature of the chief law enforcement officer in the place one resides. It also requires a fee, $200. All this is submitted to the ATF and the FBI. If you get the permit, which by the way, is only good for a specific firearm, by make model and serial number, you may purchase the firearm. It must remain under your sole control while you own it. You cannot lend it to others, and when not in use, it must be secured.

Assault weapons, used by the military and selected police officers are machine guns. It is common these days to refer to semi-auto firearms (one bullet each trigger pull) with cosmetically similar features, as assault weapons. They are no more assault weapons than those without pistol grips and nylon stocks. Abraham Lincoln had a saying that goes something like this; If you call a dog’s leg a tail, how many legs does a dog have? The answer would come back “three.” “No,” Abe would say, “the dog still has four legs, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s still a leg.” The fact that certain politicians paint with a broad brush when it comes to assault weapons doesn’t make them assault weapons.

I thank Mr. Smetzer’s son for his service on the police force. “We sleep easy at night knowing that men such as these, stand guard over us,” Winston Churchill once said. However, I think Mr. Smetzer is confused as to the pictures his son showed him. I believe they were probably semi-auto look-alikes. There has not been a legally owned machine gun used in any crime since 1939. That’s a pretty amazing fact. It demonstrates that real assault rifles are well controlled and regulated. Think of it: No legally owned machine gun (read assault weapons if you want) has been used in any crime since 1939.

Now, Newtown. The crazy kid who committed this horrific act actually used handguns. No “assault rifle” or any long guns were used in this tragedy. Mr. Smetzer states “Leaving aside the shooters mental state ….”

How can you “leave aside” his mental state? His mental state is key to the slaughter. If sane people were using their guns in this way, it would be a daily occurrence. I think we should protect our children with the same diligence and safeguards that are used to protect our politicians, armored cars, sports figures and movie stars. Mr. Smetzer also mentions the Zimmerman case in Florida. Also a pistol was used, and to my knowledge nobody’s been convicted in that shooting.

I can understand the frustration involved here. I feel it too. In my opinion the current “assault” weapon and “high capacity magazine” ban being proposed is politically expedient and will do nothing to solve the problem of mentally deranged shooters in Newtown, or Aurora or anyplace else. These shooters are crazy, and until we can solve that mental health problem these tragic occurrences will persist. To limit “high capacity magazines” and “assault rifles” in hope of solving or even diminishing these events is like limiting the sale of alcohol to pint-size containers in the hope of curing drunk driving. I am a veteran (Vietnam) and I am for peace. I fail to see how any of Mr. Smetzer’s hyperbole is related to a new shooting range in Juneau.

• Swanson has lived in Juneau since 1969. Have served on the Airport Board for many years, he was a military helicopter pilot since 1965, is retired and lives in Juneau.


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