MIT Prof: Ban Semi-Automatic Firearms

Professor Christopher R. Knittel (courtesy

“An assault weapon ban is purely window dressing,” MIT applied economics professor Christopher Knittel asserts at “An assault weapon is merely a semi-automatic rifle that carries its bullets in a magazine and looks vicious. There is nothing, other than its looks, that necessarily differentiates an assault weapon from a semi-automatic rifle that also carries its bullets in a magazine but has a traditional looking stock and is used for big-game hunting.” Unfortunately, that’s Professor Knittel’s jumping off point for his editorial Time for Real Gun Control, Not Just Window Dressing . . .

The general thrust of the piece is a HuffPo talking point we’ve seen before: the second amendment protects Americans right to hunt and punch paper, rather than keep and bear arms for self-defense and defense against government tyranny.

Knittel wonders “how best to balance the enjoyment citizens get from owning and operating certain types of guns with the obvious real danger such weapons present.” And then answers the question:

Meaningful gun control starts with banning semi-automatic weapons that carry their ammunition in magazines. Such a ban would limit the speed in which prospective mass murderers could kill by: (a) requiring an additional action to be made before he or she shoots again, and (b) increasing the amount of time required to reload his or her killing device.

But, what about the legitimate uses for guns? Such a ban would still allow hunters to use bolt-action rifles and pump-action shotguns for hunting mammals and birds. These are the same weapons I used in the past to hunt deer, pheasants, ducks, doves, and more. A pump-action shotgun or a single-action revolver are also quite effective home-defense weapons.

Perhaps the professor  has spent a little too much time on YouTube watching Bob Munden demonstrations. Most people, would prefer other guns for self defense. As a former gun owner (a shotgun, a rifle, and a semi-automatic 9mm pistol), Knittel readily admits that his plan is no fun.

Such a ban, while reducing the ability for people to kill other people, does not come without costs. Millions of law-abiding citizens get more enjoyment out of carrying and shooting semi-automatic weapons than they do from their close cousins. Many also get enjoyment from of carrying vicious looking “assault weapons.” Again, this is the fundamental trade-off: lowering the enjoyment law-abiding citizens get from shooting semi-automatic weapons, while reducing the number of Newtown-like events.

Yada yada yada gun buyback funded by a tax on guns ‘n ammo. Clever readers will see right through the Prof’s polemic. In fact, the tenured killjoy’s rant is nothing more than a job application:

But, what about the semi-automatic weapons that currently exist? I do not, necessarily, propose to make owning such weapons illegal. Instead, I propose we adopt an aggressive buy-back program that is funded through a tax on gun and ammunition sales. While the level of taxes required would need to be worked out, policymakers could phase in such a program to minimize expenditures. For example, the first year of the program could pay $200 for such weapons. The next year could pay $300. And so on. While there is an incentive to wait for the higher levels, those that can use the money will choose to turn in their weapons sooner. I would be happy to volunteer my services to estimate how consumers would respond to such a buy-back program and the exact parameters that would be most cost-effective.

And I would be happy if Professor Knittel would go back to analyzing the risk to advertisers who hire sex-crazed celebrities to endorse their products. [h/t James]