Assault Weapons Ban Could Hurt Military, Police

Experts say lack of civilian market would stifle innovation, make soldiers and police less safe

By David Reeder

March 1, 2013 RSS Feed Print

 

A SWAT team member walks away from the entrance of Sandy Hook Elementary School, the scene of a shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire leaving 26 people dead on Dec. 14, 2012.

As the Obama administration lobbies for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, some industry analysts worry that any new ban on weapons or accessories could put U.S. law enforcement and military units at greater risk.

Firearms technology experts argue that the majority of safety and other innovations incorporated into the weapons used by soldiers, police and federal agents to defend themselves were developed for the civilian market first, and point to the 10-year assault weapons ban as a “dark time” for the safety of U.S. troops in the field.

“What the administration has embarked on here is wholly damaging to the security of the United States,” says Paul Leitner-Wise, a Virginia-based gun maker who designs weapons components used by elite military units.

“Are we going to have a brain drain or a talent walk-out? Who will build the guns when you need them—and you will need them,” he adds.

The Brady Campaign declined to comment on the issue, but Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center—a Washington, D.C.-based anti-gun group—rejected the idea that gun restrictions would hurt innovation.

“That’s one of the most screwball arguments I’ve ever heard,” he says. “The fact is that it works in the exact opposite way. Military innovation for military use is what gun manufacturers use to market to the civilian market.”

For example, the military first developed the Internet, global positioning system satellites, and even duct tape.

But firearms experts contend the development of the M-16 and M-4 rifles—the military version of an AR-15 which was banned under the Clinton-era gun laws—stagnated in the 1990s, resulting in weapons and accessories that jammed during combat conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“A high-tech, strong, viable firearms industry means a high-tech, strong, viable small arms capability for the U.S. military and law enforcement,” says Eric Graves, a former equipment buyer for military special operations units and a firearms industry analyst. “Innovation happens in industry not government.”

Graves points to problems the Army had with the 30-round magazines it issued to troops fighting in the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The magazines were found to have a design flaw that caused the weapon to jam during combat.

It wasn’t until 2009 that the service adopted a new magazine design similar to one developed for use by civilian shooters. Current gun-control efforts are attempting to ban 30-round magazines for civilians.

“The original Magpul polymer magazine was developed to provide a solution to a specific problem,” says Duane Liptak of the Colorado-based Magpul Industries, which supplies U.S. military and law enforcement units with assault rifle accessories. The company designed an ammunition magazine widely adopted by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that solved the problem with frequent jams in military M-4 and M-16 assault rifles.

“Without the civilian market, military equipment will not improve.”

And the advances in military and law-enforcement weaponry didn’t stop with just the magazines. More reliable rifle parts, more accurate sights and the ability to tailor the rifle to an individual shooter’s abilities–things that help a soldier or FBI officer be more effective and safer on the job–all stemmed from the demands of a civilian market.

“If it wasn’t for commercial firearms development, the U.S. military would not have been able to field any of the new capabilities that it has over the past few years,” Graves says. “The Army’s current rifle improvement program … relies completely on technologies developed for the civilian market.”

In the end, most weapon manufacturers—especially those who build rifles—say they’ll keep up gun making until it becomes illegal either through federal law, or local ones. And some argue they will move out of states that ban the kinds of weapons the companies build.

“I’m going to keep designing and keep developing,” Leitner-Wise says. “People say my view is biased, because it’s my bread and butter, but it’s not that. It’s what I am passionate about. I will keep designing and manufacturing.”

“There is nothing like adversity to breed creativity.”

 

Colorado Governor Plans to Sign Gun Control Bills, Magpul Packs its Bags

By Leah Barkoukis

3/19/2013

After the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the state’s Governor John Hickenlooper questioned whether more gun laws would really have stopped the shooter, James Holmes.

“This person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something, right?” he asked. “If it was not one weapon, it would have been another.”

But in an interview with the Associated Press in December, his tone changed. He said he needed a few months after the shooting to “let people process and grieve and get a little space” but that the “time is right” to discuss gun control.

“When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15,” he said in the interview, questioning where this is appropriate.

Now, after months of heated debate, the governor plans to sign new gun legislation on Wednesday that bans ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds, requires that background checks be expanded to include sales and transfers between private parties and online purchases, and forces gun purchasers to pay for their own background checks, according to Fox News.

“I think it will make it more difficult for people to get guns who shouldn’t have them, and that’s really the goal,” said Democratic Rep. Beth McCann on the expanded background checks.

Magazine limits would reduce gun violence and have an impact during mass shootings, because they would force gunmen to reload more times, she said. “It’s an interruption in the spraying of bullets.”

As a result, Colorado-based Magpul Industries is moving its operations elsewhere, taking hundreds of jobs from the state. Magpul released the following statement:

Apparently Gov Hickenlooper has announced that he will sign HB 1224 on Wednesday. We were asked for our reaction, and here is what we said:

We have said all along that based on the legal problems and uncertainties in the bill, as well as general principle, we will have no choice but to leave if the Governor signs this into law. We will start our transition out of the state almost immediately, and we will prioritize moving magazine manufacturing operations first. We expect the first PMAGs to be made outside CO within 30 days of the signing, with the rest to follow in phases. We will likely become a multi-state operation as a result of this move, and not all locations have been selected. We have made some initial contacts and evaluated a list of new potential locations for additional manufacturing and the new company headquarters, and we will begin talks with various state representatives in earnest if the Governor indeed signs this legislation. Although we are agile for a company of our size, it is still a significant footprint, and we will perform this move in a manner that is best for the company and our employees.

It is disappointing to us that money and a social agenda from outside the state have apparently penetrated the American West to control our legislature and Governor, but we feel confident that Colorado residents can still take the state back through recalls, ballot initiatives, and the 2014 election to undo these wrongs against responsible Citizens.

Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Townhall.com web editor.