With gun control at a fever pitch in the halls of government, another ban of so-called "assault weapons" is on its way, for the second time. Tried once in this country, it accomplished nothing. No reduction in violent crime, no elimination of bad guys getting guns of any kind. But if politicians, with the help of the media, can convince you that semi-automatic AR rifles with big magazines and black paint, are the chief cause of violent crime in America then a nationwide ban of these guns will likely find popular support.
Many sportsmen say to me, "Heck I like guns and hunting, but I have no need for an assault gun with a big magazine. Why not ban them?"
James Collins is the founder and CEO of Trident Armory in Bangor, which is one of two firms in Maine that manufacture modern, semi-automatic AR rifles similar to the well-known Bushmaster. Collins is concerned about the anti-gun legislation pending in Washington. "The Feinstein bill, if it becomes law, will put me out of business," says Collins.
Collins points out that, while an increasing number of recreational hunters are buying and using a variety of speciality AR rifles for hunting varmints, coyotes and deer, too many sportsmen don't know this and aren't concerned about the impending ban of AR rifles. "As long as they can keep their .30-.30 or their 20 gauge bird gun, they accept the slippery slope with a shrug."
"A gun is a gun is a gun," says Collins. He is convinced that there is, in the White House and Congress, an incremental plan to take America's guns from law-abiding citizens. "What we are seeing right now is just the tip of the iceberg," says Collins.
The frog analogy applies here,"he says. "If you plunk a frog into a pan of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you place the frog in cold water and bring it to a slow boil the frog will stay in the pan until it's dead in the water."
Collins believes that if sportsmen in Maine, and elsewhere, let their guard down, they will one day lose their guns and it will be too late — the proverbial frog will be boiled. Although Collins has no problem with the requirement today of background checks prior to gun purchases, he sees this as a likely precursor to national gun registration and eventual confiscation.
Jon Clark, who is a knowledgeable spokesman for Maine's other AR rifle maker, Windham Weaponry, shares Collin's concerns about misinformation in the mainstream press about "assault rifles."
Windham Weaponry, as a Maine company and employer is in itself quite a success story. The gun manufacturer began from the ground up in 2006. It was founded by Richard Dyke, who had earlier sold out his Bushmaster name and Maine company to a national investor. Dyke's company is today not only making quality AR rifles, but it is employing many of the same staff people that lost their jobs when Bushmaster was sold out to a conglomerate. Windham Weaponry represents over 300 jobs in Maine, and spent over $60,000,000 in Maine in parts from machine shops, wages, and income taxes in 2012.
While Jon Clark shares many of Collins concerns about Second Amendment infringements and all that is brewing in Washington, he is convinced that Windham Weaponry can survive. "We are encouraged that Washington seems to understand that the semi-automatic rifle we make is not an assault weapon and will not be included in any ban when the bill comes to the floor of the Senate," said Clark. Many of Windham Weaponry's products are purchased by both law enforcement and the military.
As was evident from discussions with both Collins and Clark, there is great irony afoot. The more the White House and liberal politicians jawbone about gun control and banning the AR rifles, the greater the demand for these high visibility rifles by the American consumer. "We are a full year behind in our orders for our guns," says Collins, "never seen anything like it!"
Windham Weaponry is also experiencing unprecedented demand for their AR rifles.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He isalso a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his new book is "A Maine Deer Hunter's Logbook," which is available through www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.