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When an AK47 Is Not an AK47

Rudy Giuliani causes gun controllers to shoot themselves in the foot.

By 10.17.06

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The self-righteous ignorance that drives so much gun control advocacy never ceases to amuse. Josh Feit's latest column for the Seattle alternative weekly the Stranger is a classic of the genre.

It seems that as he stumps for fellow Republicans and paves the way for a potential presidential run, Rudy Giuliani is prudently backing off from his history of anti-gun demagoguery. Feit is hopping mad:

The availability of assault weapons like AK-47s at gun shows and gun shops has emerged as a major concern for U.S. law enforcement grappling with terrorism in the post-9/11 era. Giuliani's commitment to limiting access to assault weapons, however, apparently evaporated this week when he came to Seattle to stump for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick....

What's most galling about Giuliani's flip-flop on assault weapons is that his pro-McGavick stump speech was squarely focused on homeland security. "We need senators who understand that we have to be on offense against terrorism," he said. "Cantwell's ambiguous support for the effort against terrorism probably concerns me more than anything else."

For someone who claims to be so vigilant, Giuliani's shirking of his commitment to regulating AK-47s (which you can currently buy in about 15 minutes at Butch's Gun Shop on Aurora Avenue North, according to a salesperson there) is laughable.

An al Qaeda manual entitled How Can I Train Myself for Jihad, found by United States Special Forces in the ruins of a training camp in Afghanistan (and posted on a suspected terrorist's website in 2004), tellingly singles out the United States for its easy availability of firearms, and stipulates that al Qaeda members living in the U.S. "obtain an assault weapon legally, preferably an AK-47 or variations."


The existence of this manual may be a sign that there are some unexpected strategic benefits to American journalists' chronically deficient grasp of the basic issues they're supposed to be covering. The AK-47s that you see Third World soldiers brandishing and the AK-47s you can buy in Seattle are completely different weapons. The former are fully automatic weapons, which have been tightly regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934. The Gun Control of 1968 outlawed importation of foreign-made fully automatic weapons for sale to civilians, and a 1986 amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act banned the domestic manufacture of fully automatic weapons for civilians. It is possible for a civilian to legally obtain a fully automatic AK-47, but it is extremely difficult: Before you can even begin to navigate your way through a maze of state and federal regulations, you've got to find someone with a weapon either made in the U.S. before 1986 or imported before 1968.

The AK-47s that you can buy at the average gun store are semiautomatic rifles; you only get one shot per trigger-pull. How did the assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 affect the availability of these? It didn't, in any meaningful sense. The differences between the rifles that were legal before the ban, during the ban, and now are entirely cosmetic.

FEIT'S SILLY COLUMN WOULDN'T BE quite so remarkable if not for how it came to my attention, through an approving link from Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan is ubiquitous these days, promoting a book entitled The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back. His comment on Feit's column: "As Jon Stewart said of John McCain, Giuliani has turned his straight talk express into a bus to bulls**t-town."

That's rather more vicious than a little light ribbing over a flip-flop -- particularly striking given that Sullivan endorsed John Kerry for President. But if we're to heap scorn on a politician who shifts his emphasis on guns to appeal to conservative voters, what are we to make of someone who calls himself a conservative, and even poses as a savior of the conservative soul -- while aligning himself with a guy like Feit on an issue so central to both the libertarian and traditionalist strains of American conservatism?

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About the Author

John Tabin is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator online.