Conservative judge calls for ban on assault weapons

Larry Alan Burns  (above) is no bleeding-heart liberal. He’s a gun-owning, Republican-appointed, Fox News-watching, conservative federal district judge in San Diego, and he’s got SOMETHING URGENT TO SAY about assault weapons:

I am not a social scientist, and I know that very smart ones are divided on what to do about gun violence. But reasonable, good-faith debates have boundaries, and in the debate about guns, a high-capacity magazine has always seemed to me beyond them…

Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose as his primary weapon a semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don’t even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmesis accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater a magazine — it is a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire?

I get it. Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the “mass” out of “mass shooting,” or at least make the perpetrator’s job a bit harder.

To guarantee that there would never be another Tucson or Sandy Hook, we would probably have to make it a capital offense to so much as look at a gun. And that would create serious 2nd Amendment, 8th Amendment and logistical problems.

So what’s the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don’t let people who already have them keep them. Don’t let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don’t care whether it’s called gun control or a gun ban. I’m for it.

I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That’s why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state.

I even say it as someone whose feelings about the NRA mirror the left’s feelings about Planned Parenthood: It has a useful advocacy function in our deliberative democracy, and much of what it does should not be controversial at all.

And I say it, finally, mindful of the arguments on the other side, at least as I understand them: that a high-capacity magazine is not that different from multiple smaller-capacity magazines; and that if we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines one day, there’s a danger we would ban guns altogether the next, and your life might depend on you having one.

But if we can’t find a way to draw sensible lines with guns that balance individual rights and the public interest, we may as well call the American experiment in democracy a failure.

There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

It speaks horribly of the public discourse in this country that talking about gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting is regarded as inappropriate or as politicizing the tragedy. But such a conversation is political only to those who are ideologically predisposed to see regulation of any kind as the creep of tyranny. And it is inappropriate only to those delusional enough to believe it would disrespect the victims of gun violence to do anything other than sit around and mourn their passing. Mourning is important, but so is decisive action.



  1. As I have said, even the new weak ban proposed by the Democrats will not work. If you want gun control to impact events such as these you will have to confiscate millions of guns.

  2. Krauthammer nails it.


    If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, commitment, culture — must be on the table. It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the NRA. But will he call out the ACLU? And will he call out his Hollywood friends?

    The irony is that over the last 30 years, the U.S. homicide rate has declined by 50 percent. Gun murders as well. We’re living not through an epidemic of gun violence but through a historic decline.

    Except for these unfathomable mass murders. But these are infinitely more difficult to prevent. While law deters the rational, it has far less effect on the psychotic. The best we can do is to try to detain them, disarm them and discourage “entertainment” that can intensify already murderous impulses.

    But there’s a cost. Gun control impinges upon the Second Amendment; involuntary commitment impinges upon the liberty clause of the Fifth Amendment; curbing “entertainment” violence impinges upon First Amendment free speech.

    That’s a lot of impingement, a lot of amendments. But there’s no free lunch. Increasing public safety almost always means restricting liberties.

    We made that trade after 9/11. We make it every time the Transportation Security Administrationinvades your body at an airport. How much are we prepared to trade away after Newtown?

  3. doc: As Judge Burns says:

    There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

  4. I agree.

    Except, just the other day, when I opined that the only way any ban was going to work was to also confiscate all assault weapons in the country, I was attacked by lefties saying that no such thing was being proposed and that I was just spouting NRA talking points.

    Well, now you post a comment from a conservative who supports such confiscation and you blandly agree.

    It hurts so much when I am right doesn’t it?

    Now I wonder if the same lefties will take Krauthammer’s challenge and also attack the ACLU and their Hollywood buddies for also being part of the problem?

  5. Craig Knauss

    Peewee LaPierre of the NRA is calling for an armed police officer in every single school in America. Probably not a bad idea, but how does Peewee plan on paying for it? A moderate sized district with 50 schools would have to dish out approximately $2.5 million more each year for the officers (assuming a very conservative estimate of $50K for salary and benefits). Not easy for cash strapped districts. And LaPierre ignores how a single officer would be able to monitor a moderately sized school. I’ve worked in elementary schools with about 20+ classrooms and there is no way of being at one end of the building and knowing what’s going on at the other end. If gunshots are going off in a closed classroom it will not be heard at the other end of the building. So there will also have to be a system of door (and window?) alarms installed to signal an entry and panic buttons located throughout the building. There’s another large expense. And the officers will need there own assault-style weapons, Kevlar vests, radios, etc.

    I hope LaPierre is planning on having the NRA pay for all of this. Or is he proposing more government spending?

  6. Luke Fredrickson

    The NRA solution will always be more guns. And why only focus on school shootings?Perhaps their underlying goal is to have well-armed cops at every theater, church, sporting event, or other public gathering…

    So to review the NRA premise:

    1. Owning guns is my American right, and any attempt to limit that right is a sign our government is oppressing us terribly. In fact, we need the freedom to stockpile guns in case that government needs to be violently overthrown.

    2. Let’s arm a lot more cops (the government) and have them watch over our public gatherings.

  7. doc: Wake the hell up! Assault weapons serve only one purpose — killing people. They’re not used for hunting or target practice or competitive sport. They’re used to kill human beings.

    No, wait! They serve one other purpose: Feeding the fantasies of nut cases. You know, guys who are perhaps…how should I say this?….underendowed.

  8. Craig Knauss

    Actually, I would have expected Peewee LaPierre to advocate arming the students. In nut-case land, if the students had been “packing heat” they’d be alive today. Right, Peewwee?

    I bet LaPierre also wants anti-personnel mines planted in the school yards as well. And razor wire. We might as well make our schools look like a high security prison.

  9. What are you yelling at me for?

    You keep avoiding my questions, even though I am absolutely correct. I have never said I was against an assault rifle ban, I have said IT WILL NOT WORK unless you also confiscate ALL such weapons that are currently legally owned.

    You also have not answered Krauthammer’s column above. In the spirit of Christmas goodness I will give you another try:

    “If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, commitment, culture — must be on the table. It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the NRA. But will he call out the ACLU? And will he call out his Hollywood friends?”

  10. doc: Another point: Your reference to Krauthammer’s so-called challenge regarding Hollywood and the ACLU is a lot of hooey. It’s false equivalency.

    Hollywood movies don’t kill people. Yes, they contribute to a culture of violence, and lots of liberals, including me, have faulted filmmakers for the garbage they produce. But TV and movies don’t pose the immediate threat that assault weapons do. A DVD in the home poses little risk to a family. An assault weapon in the home poses considerably more risk.

    As for the ACLU, it pursues court challenges in cases where it sees civil liberties being violated. If any new restrictions on assault weapons are enacted, there will be legal challenges and the Supreme Court will decide whether Second Amendment rights have been violated — just as the court decides whether First Amendment rights are violated in cases where laws curb certain forms of artistic or political expression.

  11. Brian Opsahl

    Wasn’t there an armed guard at Columbine ,and didn’t that guard get caught running away from the scene,intsead of doing what they paid him to do with his training and weapon…just sayin….cowards can’t be known until the shooting begins and at that point it’s to late to find somebody else so your right back to where you started….
    We need a comon sence idea that doesn’t take law abiding citizens guns away yet adresses these Massacres that keep happening…?

  12. Craig Knauss , We could pay for the armed school officers with the money that Team O made from their sales to the cartels.

  13. Brian Opsahl

    Oh you want to go that way…so you want to bring up the Bush idea that O inherited and then stopped when it was discovered…Danimal..?

  14. Brian Opsahl

    Do you re-call an opreation called Wide Reciever….SIR..!! that morphed into fast and furious..? and who started that danny boy..?

  15. Let’s get something straight, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon”, period. It’s a term made up by the media and congress to sensationalize “scary” guns. There ARE Assault Rifles, such as the military’s M-16 or M-4, but an AR-15 is not an Assault Rifle. There was even some dope who claimed that there is such a thing as an “Assault Glock”. Sensationalized stupidity. The “Assault Weapons Ban of 1994” attempted to make illegal the sale of certain weapons because they LOOK scary, not because they are any more or less dangerous than any other firearm. It’s the individual using the weapon that is dangerous, not the weapon. The weapon only makes the individual more lethal, just as a hammer would, or a baseball bat, or a chainsaw. More gun laws will make no difference in this, they will only criminalize otherwise upstanding law abiding citizens, because the criminals will continue to ignore the laws. Gee, that’s why we call them criminals. If we are going to have the conversation then let’s have it, but to do so both sides need to understand the basics and one side obviously does not.

  16. But with Wide receiver they knew where the guns went, and no agents were killed.
    Wide receiver was shutdown in 2007 and deemed a failure. Two later years fast and furious came into existence.
    Fast and furious resulted in hundreds of deaths, most recently a Mexican beauty queen and was shut down in 2010 and the guns were not tracked.

    Yea lots of similarities.

    Then there are the progressives like Pat who are silent as kids in Chicago get murdered by thugs. if I recall 62 so far this year and lib’s are silent until well we all know what they are all about.

  17. It isn’t a false equivalency. This is a problem that will require a multipronged approach if we are going to really try to prevent future incidents.

    If you actually read the Krauthammer article the ACLU reference is in regards to making it easier to hold, treat and even institutionalize people exhibiting psychotic or other dangerous behavior. See below for another excerpt.

    “Monsters shall always be with us, but in earlier days they did not roam free. As a psychiatrist in Massachusetts in the 1970s, I committed people — often right out of the emergency room — as a danger to themselves or to others. I never did so lightly, but I labored under none of the crushing bureaucratic and legal constraints that make involuntary commitment infinitely more difficult today.

    Why do you think we have so many homeless? Destitution? Poverty has declined since the 1950s. The majority of those sleeping on grates are mentally ill. In the name of civil liberties, we let them die with their rights on.

    A tiny percentage of the mentally ill become mass killers. Just about everyone around Tucson shooter Jared Loughner sensed he was mentally ill and dangerous. But in effect, he had to kill before he could be put away — and (forcibly) treated.

    Random mass killings were three times more common in the 2000s than in the 1980s, when gun laws were actually weaker. Yet a 2011 University of California at Berkeley study found that states with strong civil commitment laws have about a one-third lower homicide rate.”

  18. Craig Knauss


    Tell us how many real, not fictional, massacres have been committed with “just as a hammer …, or a baseball bat, or a chainsaw”. We want to see a list.

    And, RonV, tell us how many massacres in the U.S. have been committed by actual criminals. We want to see a list. I don’t recall any of these killers having ever been convicted of any felony whatsoever. Or being judged criminally insane.

    And while you’re at it, tell us how many of these massacres was committed with an illegal weapon.

    In reality, every one of these massacres was committed by a formerly “law abiding” citizen with a legal high powered firearm.

  19. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2012/11/the_supreme_court_shouldn_t_allow_idaho_to_have_no_insanity_defense.html

    It took months of medication and treatment for Loughner to understand the charges against him. That comes as no surprise, given the disturbed-looking photos of him after the crime. And the country got a similar view of violence and untreated mental illness in James Holmes, the 24-year-old who shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July. Both Loughner and Holmes spiraled out of control while enrolled at a university yet fell through the holes of the health care net that should have caught them. This is a story we’ve been hearing since at least the 2007 mass killing by a student at Virginia Tech.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *