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State Department Squirms On Garand And Carbine Imports

Friday, September 3, 2010

A lot of things have changed in the federal government since President Harry S. Truman put his famous "the buck stops here" sign on his desk. This week, Fox News reported that it couldn't get a straight answer from the State Department about its decision in March to disapprove the importation of more than 800,000 M1 Garand rifles and M1 carbines from South Korea.

According to Fox, the State Department claimed that the rifles might be used "for illicit purposes." But when asked to explain, State passed the buck to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which passed it to the Department of Justice, which passed it back to State.

The anti-gun Brady Campaign didn't hesitate to give Fox an answer, however. "Guns that can take high-capacity magazines are a threat to public safety," the group's Dennis Henigan told reporter Maxim Lott.

Of course, Henigan's response was factually flawed. The M1 Garand does not "take" a "high-capacity" magazine; its magazine is built in, and holds only eight rounds.  That's three fewer than the 11 rounds necessary for a magazine to be restricted as a "large capacity" magazine under California's law, which the Brady Campaign calls a "model for the nation," or the federal ban of 1994-2004 (which the group still advocates as a fall-back position in the event that Congress doesn't impose something more severe).

Since sales of imported firearms are subject to the national instant background check, Henigan's position was also hypocritical. To justify not letting the M1s and carbines into the U.S., Henigan essentially took the position that the instant check is not enough to protect public safety. But at other times, Brady takes the position that public safety requires us to impose the same instant checks on sales of firearms by people who are not dealers.

Finally, the "public safety" fear of these guns is irrational. Today, Americans own more Garands and carbines than ever before.  We also own more semi-automatic rifles in general than ever before, and more self-defense handguns with standard magazines that hold more than 10 rounds than ever before.  Yet despite gun ban groups' predictions, the nation's violent crime rate is at a 35-year low.

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