Going for gun control’s ‘brass ring’

John Browning’s Model 1911 pistol, an engineering wonder for its day, still serves as a design platform for much modern pistolsmithing. Old examples, especially with military markings, are now highly valued on the collector market, where they can bring hundreds or even thousands of dollars each.

Yet 16 years ago, early in the Clinton administration, the politicians declared our government would no longer sell into the civilian after-market pistols being retired from military armories.

Instead, “Guns & Ammo” magazine reported in 1996 that since Bill Clinton took office in 1992 the government had resumed for the first time in 15 years the destruction by shredding of “obsolete” firearms including 110,000 .45-caliber pistols and 30,000 M-1 Garands — the magnificent semi-auto battle rifle that defeated Adolf Hitler.

Destruction of the weapons — some valued by collectors at up to $6,000 apiece — “continues at a rate of about 3,000 guns per day,” the magazine reported. “Even assuming an unrealistically low value of $200 per gun, more than $60 million of historic collectibles has been reduced to worthless scrap.”

Despite ongoing federal deficits, the Clintons and their cronies decided to turn irreplaceable pieces of historic American engineering into a couple of bucks worth of crushed or melted steel, useful only for manhole covers.

Now it’s 2009. A new Democratic administration is finally back in power. And guess what? This time they tried for the brass ring.

On March 16 — less than 60 days into the Obama Era — Jim Shepherd at www.shootingwire.com/archives/2009-03-16 reported “The Department of Defense has issued a directive that bans the sale of military brass to ammunition re-manufacturers. Without that brass, a very large dent is put into civilian ammunition supplies.

“New Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) requirements call for the ‘mutilation of shell casings.’ Mutilation, incidentally, is the destruction of the property ‘to the extent that prevents its reuse or reconstruction,’” Mr. Shepherd noted.

“The first word of this latest decision came over the weekend when Georgia Arms’ Larry Haynie released a letter notifying him of the new requirement. … Georgia Arms was remanufacturing more than one million rounds of .223 ammunition monthly; selling that ammo on the civilian market to resellers and to government agencies all over the country.

“Tomorrow, Georgia Arms will start sending cancellation notices for .223 ammunition to law enforcement agencies across the United States,” Mr. Shepherd reported on March 16. “Haynie says he may have to lay off half of his sixty-person workforce. The message is simple. The implication is chilling. …”

Much squawking ensued. And for now, at least, it appears those who believe “Only federal agents should have ammo” have backed down.

“Responding to two Democratic senators representing outraged private gun owners, the Department of Defense announced last night it has scrapped a new policy that would deplete the supply of ammunition by requiring destruction of fired military cartridge brass,” World Net Daily reported on March 31.

“The policy already had taken a bite out of the nation’s stressed ammunition supply, leaving arms dealers scrambling to find ammo for private gun owners.

“Mark Cunningham, a legislative affairs representative with the Defense Logistics Agency, explained in an e-mail last night to the office of Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., that the Department of Defense had placed small arms cartridge cases on its list of sensitive munitions items as part of an overall effort to ensure national security is not jeopardized in the sale of any Defense property.

“The small arms cases were identified as a sensitive item and were held pending review of policy, he said.

“‘Upon review, the Defense Logistics Agency has determined the cartridge cases could be appropriately placed in a category of government property allowing for their release for sale,’ Cunningham wrote.”

The turnaround followed a protest from Sen. Tester and fellow Montana Democrat Sen. Max Baucus. The senators argued “prohibiting the sale of fired military brass would reduce the supply of ammunition — preventing individual gun owners from fully exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. We urge you to address this situation promptly.”

“‘They just reclassified brass to allow destruction of it, based on what?’ Georgia Arms owner Larry Haynie asked WND. ‘We’ve been “going green” for the last dozen years, and brass is one of the most recyclable materials out there. A cartridge case can be used over and over again. And now we’re going to destroy it based on what? We don’t want the civilian public to have it? …’

“It’s an end-run around Congress,” wrote firearm instructor and author Gordon Hutchinson on his The Shootist blog. “They don’t need to try to ban guns — they don’t need to fight a massive battle to attempt gun registration, or limit ‘assault’ weapon sales. Nope. All they have to do is limit the amount of ammunition available to the civilian market, and when bullets dry up, guns will be useless.”

What did the two actions have in common — scrapping the wonderful 1911 Colt .45s, and the (apparently reversed, for now) decision to crush, shred, and/or melt all that once-used military brass, mostly in .223 and .308, to keep civilians from buying and reloading it?

First, since crushed or shredded brass is worth only 20 percent the value of reloadable spent cases, both moves violate the federal government’s fiduciary duty as a steward of the nation’s resources, the duty to get as good a return as possible on surplus stuff already paid for with hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

But in addition to that, in each of these two examples those in power in Washington — of both parties, though non-Montana Democrats often display the worst cases of the disease — proved willing and eager to abandon that fiduciary responsibility because of what they see as a more important goal.

It’s tempting to identify that goal as “getting rid of all the guns.” But that would not be accurate. Just ask one of our big-government friends whether they believe DEA agents, BATF agents, even your local cop on the beat should be disarmed.

“What?!” they’ll shriek. “The bad guys have them outgunned already!”

Only because of unconstitutional, unenforceable prohibitions, of course. Those who distribute Budweiser and Miller Lite don’t have to wield assault rifles, because their trade was re-legalized in 1933. Re-legalizing the trades in all firearms and in all plant extracts would have the same violence-reducing impact, though that’s a topic for another day.

What the Washington weasels actually favor — and are willing to throw away millions in potential new government revenue to achieve — is a government MONOPOLY on armed might. They hate the idea of “common citizens” having access to effective firearms — even spent military brass and 60-year-old collector pistols that are far too valuable ever to be re-sold to street gangs or stickup artists.

Meantime, as evidence that this campaign proceeds on several parallel tracks, Mr. Shepherd reports the administration recently proposed a ban on rifle-caliber ammo exports to Canada, and that “Last Friday, anglers and hunters were notified that the National Park Service planned to make all lands under their control totally lead-free by 2010. No lead in ammo or fishing tackle.”

Predictably, given this full-court press, my sources report ammo demand at U.S. gun shows has not flagged. Rings of customers surround the ammo dealers from the opening bell, buying up and hauling off truckloads of .223, especially.

The consensus, it would appear, is “They may have gotten caught red-handed this time, but the sneaky Petes will surely try again.”

I heartily approve — except that I still believe .30 caliber does a better job.

# # #

The color photo, published on page A-10 of the March 18 Wall Street Journal, focuses over the shoulders of two camouflage-attired African troopers in red berets, watching as two corn-shuck stacks of perhaps 200 rifles each go up in roaring orange flame.

“Kenyan police watch a pyre of confiscated weapons in Nairobi on Tuesday,” reads the Journal editors’ caption. “Thousands of weapons that were used in criminal activities across the country have been rounded up and burned by the police since 2007.”

Not “alleged by the corrupt and tyrannical government of election-rigging President-for-Life Mwai Kibaki to have been used in criminal activities,” mind you.

The weapons being burned in the photo are rifles, not handguns. Do most “criminals” of your acquaintance use long arms? Who says those weapons weren’t “seized from freedom fighters”? If someone were to submit to the Wall Street Journal an old photo of Nazi storm troopers, back in 1936, identified by the source as showing “German police burning confiscated weapons that were used by Jews and Gypsies in criminal activities across the country,” do you suppose that photo and caption would be published verbatim, without any editorial attention?

How about if the caption-writer celebrated a “bonfire of dangerous and subversive books and newspapers”? Also no problem?

Or is someone’s hoplophobia showing?

2 Comments to “Going for gun control’s ‘brass ring’”

  1. Eric C. Sanders Says:

    I seem to recall a court case – possibly a SCOTUS case – that involved a finding (at least) that any law that made the exercise of a right impossible – even though no direct prohibition was involved – was unconstitutional on its face. Anyone remember this better than I do? If a precedent was set, any regulation of ammunition that rendered firearms useless would seem to fit this pattern – not an actual prohibition, but still an effective infringement….

  2. H.J. Halterman Says:

    Mr. Sanders likely refers to the Marbury V. Madison decision of 1803, now a bit over 200 years old, but which has been considereda “foundational” decision by the Court, and one with certain lasting impact.

    With the words “A Law repugnant to the Constitution is void,” Chief Justice Marshall declared unconstitutional a law passed by Congress and signed by the President- though nothing in the Constitution itself gave the Supreme Court the authority to do so.

    Mr. Sanders may also find the following section of the U.S. Criminal Code to be of interest: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/242.html

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