The assault weapons ban issue is difficult to deal with for several reasons:
First, from just a knee-jerk perspective, the ban seems like a good thing. Most people don't own assault weapons and can't instantly think of why anyone would need to. From a simple reaction/consensus standpoint, it's like asking most people if child abuse should be outlawed.
Secondly, sloppy argumentation has gained the status of axiomatic truth.
Put these things together, and one standing on the other side faces formidable resistance. But truth and logic have to count for something.
In the last few days, John Kerry has made an argument that I would just dismiss as irrelevant--if the argument hadn't already gained the status of axiomatic truth and been parroted by liberals and conservatives alike all over the broadcasting spectrum in recent days.
This is the argument in a nutshell: "Nobody needs an AK-47 to go hunting with."
As a statement it's true enough, but it has nothing to do with the actual question at hand, which is whether or not such weapons should be banned.
As even John Kerry admits, there is a constitutional issue involved here regarding the Second Amendment and gun ownership. He fully acknowledges that there is an important connection between the two, and he cites the Bill of Rights in defense of his own gun ownership. In Kerry's own words on Monday, "Let me be very clear. I support the Second Amendment. I've been a hunter all my life."
The thing that Kerry and those parroting the same line don't seem to understand is that the Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting. One does not need to prove that a weapon is suitable for hunting in order to claim constitutional protection for it, as even a cursory reading of the amendment itself shows.
Why did the Founders include the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights? (Hint: It wasn't because they were avid duck hunters.) The reason the amendment was included was because America had just freed herself from an oppressive government, and the Founders recognized that an armed citizenry was a major protection against tyranny.
Let me put it more bluntly (though you won't hear it put this way on any of the chat shows; merely uttering the truth on this would marginalize you in this day and age): the purposes of the Second Amendment are:
1). for people to be able to defend themselves and
2). to be able to overthrow the government by violence if the government should become tyrannical.
The Second Amendment says: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Some have argued that this means only regulated militias (like state National Guards) should have weapons under the Constitution. You can't get that from the text as it's written, but even if we were to accept that dubious premise (and it's worth pointing out that Kerry does not; he cites the Constitution in his personal ownership of hunting rifles), note that the Second Amendment says nothing about hunting.
It's simply undeniable that, regardless of whom may bear the arms, when the Second Amendment talks about arms, it's talking about arms used for security--for killing attackers in self-defense. Weapons for killing other people. The framers of the Constitution were not talking about defending our security against bears or ducks, they were talking about defending ourselves against human enemies--and an examination of their writings and history shows that they believed these enemies could be foreign or domestic.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "...[W]hat country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms..." Though Jefferson did not take part in the formulation of the Bill of Rights, his statement reflects the view of the times. Anyone can disagree with him, but what they can't do is claim that the Second Amendment only (or even primarily) protects the right to bear hunting weapons. It doesn't. Any recourse to "usefulness for hunting" in this debate is simply a red herring to be discarded.
If John Kerry accepts that the Second Amendment protects personal, individual gun ownership, he has no grounds on which to argue (or even imply) that it only applies to hunting weapons.