Do Americans let plumbers set car safety standards? Do we consult doctors on monetary policy? Do we let men set standards for women’s health care? (Wait- don’t answer that one.)

Generally, the people writing legislation are expected to be knowledgeable about the issue they are addressing, but I get the increasing impression that many anti-gun folks don’t know the first thing about firearms. Perhaps it’s because they live in countries where they are not afforded any legal opportunity to familiarize themselves with the function of a firearm. Perhaps it’s because even though they live in the U.S. they have never actually taken the time to exercise their Second Amendment right and learn to use a weapon for sport or defense. In either case, when these people set out to discuss gun control their ignorance becomes manifest. What’s especially disconcerting is that many of these people are in charge of setting firearms policy for the rest of us:

The only thing more dangerous than a gun in trained hands is a gun in untrained hands. (Photo courtesy of NAGR)

In a recent exchange on social media I was asked this question by a gun control supporter:

How would you feel about a law that protected hand guns (for self defense) and rifles (for hunting) but not semi-automatic guns?

The author of this question had a reasonable thought: “Are there certain types of weapons we could allow people to own which would serve the purpose of defense and hunting for food without the capacity for mass murder?” However, the author does not understand the distinctions between classes of firearm, so the question must be corrected (these days most handguns and rifles are semi-automatic).

If we are to have a productive dialog regarding gun control, we all need to know something about guns first. If we are going to proscribe certain classes of or uses for firearms, we must first understand implicitly the features of different firearms and their proper and safe usage.

A rifle can be placed into one of three categories:

A bolt-action rifle fires one round per trigger pull. Each round must be chambered manually by cycling the bolt. They generally hold five to ten rounds in a magazine.

A semi-automatic rifle fires one round per trigger pull. Each trigger pull fires a round and loads the next round. They generally hold twenty to thirty rounds in a magazine.

A fully-automatic rifle or machine gun fires rounds continuously while the trigger is held down. Rounds continue to cycle until the trigger is released or the ammunition runs out. Hence it holds a high number of rounds in a large magazine. These weapons are designated for military use only.

handgun can be placed into two main categories:

A revolver, or “wheel gun”, fires one round per trigger pull. Each trigger pull loads the next round and fires it. It holds generally five to eight shots in a cylinder, depending on the size of the ammunition.

A semi-automatic handgun fires one round per trigger pull. Each trigger pull fires a round and loads the next round. It holds generally eight to fifteen rounds of ammunition in a magazine.

Fully-automatic handguns exist, but are rare and are designated for military use only.

A shotgun can be placed into one of two main categories:

A pump shotgun fires one round per trigger pull. Each round must be chambered manually by cycling the bump handle. It holds generally five to ten rounds in the shot tube beneath the barrel.

A semi-automatic shotgun fires one round per trigger pull. Each trigger pull fires the current round and loads the next round. It holds generally  five to ten rounds in the shot tube. Its function is similar to that of a semi-automatic rifle except it shoots shot shells.

Fully-automatic shotguns exist, but are rare and are designated for military use only.

The reader should also take some time to review information on gun safety. I hope this information is useful to firearms novices who want to have an informed discussion about firearms policy- because an uninformed opinion not a valuable one. If you want to advocate “gun control”, know something about controlling a gun.

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