Despite the presumption underlying chicagotribune.com‘s commentary on “assault rifles,” sales of modern sporting rifles (MSRs) aren’t really “booming.” They’re healthy enough, to be sure. But as we revealed in a previous post, the big companies who produced a plethora of ARs after the Newtown massacre are experiencing an enormous “assault rifle” hangover. The sales channels are stuffed with MSRs. Prices are dropping. Anyway, writer Robert J. Spitzer offers this analysis of the MSRs’ popularity . . .
First, assault weapons acquisition has become a form of political expression. Many have noted increases in firearms sales keyed both to the election cycle, notably Barack Obama’s elections in 2008 and 2012, and to mass shootings. The very purchase of guns, and especially assault weapons, is a statement that they should remain legal and unregulated, that guns themselves are not the problem. It’s also a way to express opposition to Obama. Within the gun industry, this pattern is called “political sales.”
Second, some buy these weapons because of their enticement as “forbidden fruit.” After all, they were restricted nationwide for 10 years, and even today seven states plus the District of Columbia limit access to these weapons.
Imagine if the government announced that the speed limit on interstate highways would be raised temporarily from 65 to 120 miles per hour. Undoubtedly, some drivers would jump to test out the new law, for the sheer sake of the experience, and the thrill of doing something that is normally illegal. Although such driving would be, at the least, less than prudent, the very fact of a brief window of opportunity would attract many . . .
Even though the prospect of significant new regulation is nil for the foreseeable future, gun consumers fed a steady diet of political paranoia about our impending tyrannical government are quick to envision a time when all firearms will be illegal (even though the Supreme Court and our own history say otherwise).
The third reason appears everywhere, yet hides in plain sight. To some, assault weapons, especially with larger-capacity magazines, are fun to shoot — a fact hardly lost on gun advocates.
It’s this last feature – not a bug – that really grabs Spitzer’s attention. He cites the pleasure of shooting “assault rifles” – “even” among anti-gun writers – as THE reason MSRs are A-OK with the American public. Attributed, in part, to the “AR hard-on effect.”
As “Gun Guys” author Dan Baum has argued, much of what’s “fun” about shooting an assault weapon is that it feels masculine; it’s an implicit expression of male sexuality. Some gun enthusiasts even refer to assault weapons, and especially the ARs, as “Barbie dolls for men” because of their connection to sexuality and because they have interchangeable parts that can be added and removed, like Barbie accessories.
And then Spitzer strips off his semi-objective mantle and reveals himself to be the anti-gun dick that he is, that the Chicago Tribune need him to be.
Although pleasure is a perfectly legitimate reason to own an AR-15, dramatic invocations of constitutional rights, American heritage or direly expressed needs related to self-defense have more gravitas in the national gun debate. That is why gun-rights spokespeople, when asked to comment after the latest mass shooting committed with an assault weapon, will never say that such firearms should remain legal because they’re so much fun to shoot.
Expressing Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms is a bit “dramatic.” I wonder why that is . . .