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Duck and Cover

09.15.2004 | POLITICS

Our long national nightmare is over. With the 10-year federal ban on 19 types of assault weapons expiring, happy days are here again. Finally, we can get back to hunting squirrels with an AK-47. To scaring away salespeople with a Colt AR-15 Sporter equipped with barrel extender. To showing our children how to reload a MAK90 with a 30-round clip. We can return to the kind of America our forefathers envisioned when they wrote the Constitution--an America where you can walk into a Wal-Mart, purchase a Streetsweeper, modify the trigger, and make the girls in the typing pool back at the office pay for not going out with you.

The ban expired not a day too soon. Truth be told, our police forces were getting a little soft there for a while. Knocking down the door of a crack den knowing you'll be facing two-dozen rounds in four seconds tends to keep you on your toes. Misleading statistics drive me ballistic. For every grade school student who is perhaps alive today because of the ban, there are a hundred more who will one day find themselves clueless in Fallujah. Anyway, guns don't kill, people do. And now, once more, they'll be killing at six rounds a second, the way the good Lord intended.

As someone born in the free fire zone called the United States, I possess certain inalienable rights. To me, the Second Amendment is sacred, even if most of the others are a bunch of crap. Renewing the ban would be the beginning of a long, slippery slope ending in the settling of personal disputes by hand-to-hand combat or--worse still--calm, sober discussion. Having to protect my family from an intruder or in-law with a Smith and Wesson .38 Special is a scary thought. Self-defense in the home should consist of dozens of bullets sprayed haphazardly throughout the bedroom, preferably in near complete darkness.

Liberal critics argue that video games like Grand Theft Auto are unrealistic. Fortunately, the end of the assault weapons ban has rendered them quite realistic, killing two birds with one round. While loaded opinion polls may show that 68 of 100 people favor renewing the ban, you can bet an Uzi those are 68 people who have never experienced the pure exhilaration of firing a Kalashnikov with grenade launcher at a Planned Parenthood clinic. When you take a long-range view of it, a Columbine here and there is a small price to pay for a joy ride with the sunroof down and a fully loaded TEC-9 pointed at a newspaper box. And while some argue that the DC snipers used a Bushmaster assault rifle, who has had the courage to ask why no one was firing back?

The spineless enemies of freedom have taken aim and tried to make this into a safety issue. But as any serious student of economics knows, the free market will take care of the whole thing. The reintroduction of hundreds of thousands of assault weapons to our streets, playgrounds, and malls will foster healthy competition from other hungry, innovative gun manufacturers. Gun owners choosing to fire modified Beretta AR-70s irresponsibly will be countered with friendly-priced laser-sighted shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, in essence establishing a balance of power and ushering in a new golden age of national security. An armed society is a polite society, and assault weapons are the walking stick.

It's been a good week so far. But a legal semi-automatic weapon is a shell casing half full. We don't settle for semi-automatic washers, dryers, motion detectors, or central air conditioners. And of course, every silver bullet lining has a touch of gray. Like many patriotic, enterprising Americans, I'll miss the thriving black market. I'll miss the camaraderie among seekers of MAC-10s with folding telescopic shafts at illegal gun shows across this great land. I'll miss the stockpiles of silencers, flash suppressors, and bayonet mountings in basements and tool sheds from sea to shining sea. But freedom has always had a high price.

Alas, the year 1994 was a simpler time. We knew what the meaning of the word "is" was. OJ was presumed guilty. Grandparents didn't surf the net. One could spot countless drivers and pedestrians in busy intersections not using a cellular phone. Attacks on the World Trade Center were modest. Conservatives talked about balanced budgets. You had more teeth than cable channels.

So right now, I have a lot of catching up to do. Ten years underground is a long time, and if you think keeping up with the Joneses is hard, try keeping up with the bin Ladens. Sure, I'll be a bit rusty, but they say shooting up a post office with a TEC-22 is like riding a bike. More importantly, as always during trying times, we must look beyond our own immediate needs. We must remember our unique position and duty as a nation. By refusing to renew the ban, we can make a statement to the rest of the world, which is, essentially--duck.

About the Author
Rich Herschlag is the author of a new book, Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don't Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).

Also an engineer, he runs a consulting business, Turnkey Structural, that specializes in the rehabilitation of residential and commercial buildings. Also a radio commentator, he can be visited at

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