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What exactly is an assault weapon?

August 5, 2012
By BILL HARDING - Outdoor Columnist , Morning Journal News

The Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre is particularly shocking to people of my generation, especially those of us who grew up in small towns and rural areas. Most of us were raised in homes with guns and we never thought of committing a shooting crime. We used our guns for hunting, plinking and home protection. I can remember no time when home protection was needed. Our East Palestine door was never locked, even at night.

What has happened with the world? Is it just that people have been desensitized by violent media presentations? Or, is it really the proliferation of firearms, especially the so called assault rifles? If it is the latter, then what constitutes an assault rifle? Is it the caliber? Is it the fact that those legal to citizens are semi-automatic? Can it just be their appearance?

When it comes to caliber the 30-06 is arguably the most popular and best large game caliber ever developed. I believe it was developed as a military round in 1903 and received official designation in 1906. Hence the name: 30-06. Not only was this caliber used in the Springfield rifle during WW I, but what is arguable the best ever military rifle, the M-1 Garand in 30-06 was used by our troops during WW II and Korea.

As with many military rifles, the 30-06 was adopted by hunters and competition target shooters. I own an ought six and it can be hand loaded to take any game on our continent. One friend took his to Africa and made 10 one shot kills on large plains animals. If I were to be stranded somewhere and could have only one caliber for protection and taking my food supply it would be the 30-06.

The .308 caliber is also an excellent hunting rifle. The military M-14 is a .308 caliber. So is the infamous AK-47, but it carries a European designation of 7.62.

The military M-16 is 5.56 caliber, which is actually a .223. My coyote and groundhog rifle is a .223. Therefore it seems that caliber is not what makes a rifle an assault rifle.

Does it all boil down to looks, action and magazine capacity? While I prefer an old fashioned rifle with a lustrous wood stock, there is a lot to be said for a composite stock that will not warp and is lighter than wood. The civilian AR-15 style rifles have the same profile as the military M-16 and many shooters love them. Many coyote hunters use them. These rifles are semi-automatic and I read one dictionary description that an assault rifle should be fully automatic. Fully automatic firearms have been banned by federal law since the late 1930s. Owning one requires an expensive and very restrictive license.

While I strongly support the Second Amendment, I can easily live without a high capacity magazine. I strive to make my first shot count while hunting and do not need the extra weight of 100 rounds in a can magazine. Still, some people like them for target shooting and that is their right. Being frugal (some might say cheap) I shudder at the cost of blasting ammo 100 rounds at a time. Have you priced that stuff recently?

As I read what I have just written I realize I have not been able to describe an assault rifle even to myself. Perhaps an assault rifle, or assault weapon can be anything in the hands some someone with evil intent. It could be a gun, a knife, an explosive, or even a baseball bat. Until we solve what sets these people off there is no way to stop these atrocities.

Sporting clays

If you enjoy shooting, mark your calendar for next Sunday, the 12th. That is the day there will be a Sporting Clays shoot to raise money to help the young competitors of the Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC). The event will be held at the Leetonia Sportsman's Association. The shoot will begin at 9 a.m. and end with the last shooter out a 3 p.m. Lunch will be available.

The cost to shoot at 100 clay birds is just $35 with a special youth price of $25. You do not need a special sporting clays shotgun to have a great time at this event. You can do like me and use whatever shotgun you use for hunting. In fact, that is a good way to prepare for hunting season. Either bring your own shells or buy some at the event.

All proceeds go to YHEC so you will be helping a good cause while having fun. For more information call Jerry Smith at 330-843-8448, after 5 p.m.



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