Defense & National Security

Obama and the AK-47

Obama and the AK-47

It looks like Team Obama has finished crunching the poll numbers and concluded that a bit of gun-control rhetoric could be politically advantageous, provided it’s not taken too far.  In a speech to the National Urban League convention in New Orleans, almost a week after the Colorado shooting rampage, the President spoke in favor of more background checks for gun purchases, and alluded to an assault-weapons ban.

Obama’s choice of words for trotting out the assault weapons ban raised many eyebrows: “I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms.  But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals… that they belong on the battlefields of war and not on the streets of our cities.”

The AK-47 is the weapon of choice for America’s enemies.  American troops don’t commonly use them, but the Kalashnikov AK-47, originally designed by the Soviets but widely imitated, has been a symbol of violent revolution for decades.  The Third World is lousy with them – it’s thought that over 150 million units of the weapon and its variants have been produced.  It’s very popular with the Taliban.

There is a good deal of appreciation for the AK-47 among American gun owners, and there have been accounts of individual American soldiers using captured enemy weapons as far back as Vietnam.  The Kalashnikov design has long been admired for its low cost, reliability, and power.  Some people think the U.S. military should adopt an AK-47 variant, or at least a rifle that uses the same 7.62mm ammunition.  But outside of the odd special unit, it’s not a standard issue weapon.

When the President says AK-47s “belong on the battlefields of war,” he’s talking about the guns pouring fire at American soldiers on those battlefields – the weapons that have written the history of countless totalitarian revolutions in blood.  This is not a minor point, familiar only to military veterans and the most knowledgeable gun enthusiasts.  The practical and symbolic importance of the Kalashnikov is a big part of the Twentieth Century’s brutal history.

It’s a stunningly ignorant thing for Obama to say, and a completely unnecessary rhetorical flourish.  He could have just said “I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s don’t belong in the hands of criminals,” or perhaps avoided mentioning the Kalashnikov and simply spoken of “assault rifles” (a term gun-control enthusiasts almost never use properly anyway.)  But apparently the President, or his speechwriters, thought that his gun-control trial balloon would fly higher if it was filled with a puff of Commander-in-Chief authority.

And at any rate, the question on the table, not easily answered by invoking the support of hypothetical gun owners, is not a binary choice between arming only active-duty military forces, or endorsing the use of automatic weapons by street gangs.  The gun control debate is filled with such inaccuracies and lazy rhetoric.  “But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” President Obama courageously declared.  Can someone find me a law-abiding gun owner who thinks AK-47s belong in the hands of criminals?

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