Thursday, May 26, 2011

Old gray mare...

You know that gun Zoe uses in Firefly? It's a cinematic creation called a mare's leg, made from a chopped-down lever action rifle. They're used occasionally in westerns, and in homages to westerns.

Despite their screen heritage, mare's legs are pretty useless. They're significantly less concealable than proper handguns, are harder to shoot accurately than proper rifles, require both hands to operate, and make you break your aim to cycle the mechanism. Even if keeping to the period, you'd be much better off with a .44 or .45 revolver, and when comparing with modern* handguns, there's simply no comparison. The mare's leg is a curiosity, nothing more.

But one use it has in in illustrating the screaming absurdity of US gun laws.

This is a .44-40 Winchester Model 1892:

From General interwebs

If I bought one of those and a hacksaw, and cut down the barrel and stock, I'd be committing a federal felony. A felony, meaning a very serious crime that requires vigorous government response. Clearly, by making a short version of this rifle I must be causing such an overwhelming danger to my neighbors that such an extraordinary government response is necessary, right?

From General interwebs

That right there is a J.B. Custom Mare's Leg, firing the very same .44-40 cartridge. It's identical in every way to a cut-down Winchester 1892, except that it was manufactured from the start as a pistol, not converted into one. And as a result, it's no more strictly controlled than any pistol; citizens of free states can buy them with no hassle beyond the usual silly paperwork they have to fill out for any gun.

The only rational explanation for this is that the ATF believes a rifle retains some element of rifleness, no matter how much it may be altered. It's an eminently human tendency, just like our predisposition to value the Zippo FDR was carrying when Giuseppe Zangara assassinated him over an identical non-historic Zippo. I don't know whether this particular case is homeopathy or animism**, exactly, but it's certainly no basis for a law.

[* - As in, any handgun made since 1900.]

[** - Probably this one. Quite frankly, the great majority of current support for gun control is based either on misinformation or on undiagnosed animism.]


  1. “The only rational explanation for this is that the ATF believes a rifle retains some element of rifleness,”

    Come on, dude.....

    Isn't that a “false dilemma” fallacy?* Also the owning a sawed off rifle is not the big deal; it is the MODIFING the gun that is the felony.

    Making a rifle that is a quasi-rifle, a la T/C or mare's leg, just results in a fugly handgun.

    But chopping down a rifle to a handgun, we that is UNLICENSED(!!!) manufacturing of weapons.

    Furthermore, if the item still had “rifleness” then it could be classified, and regulated, as a... well, you know, a rifle!

    The real problem is the law regulates handguns different than rifles.

    If you are going to hate on something, hate it on it for the real reason it's bad, not the superficial crap that annoys us.

    *-or- It that a false dilemma fallacy or some other fallacy**
    **See what I did there?

    p.s. Trivializing something to discredit is never a good debate tactic. If it is trivial Why Worry about it?
    Never did work too good for the gun banners.

  2. If we're gonna get technical, it's the failure to pay a tax prior to modifying or taking possession of the SBR that's a felony.

    I was mocking the ATF and the NFA here; don't take it too literally.

    The real problem, the way I see it, is that the NFA, which originally "taxed" all concealable firearms, was amended when it was clear it wouldn't pass. Instead of dropping the whole ridiculous concept, the amended version dropped only the handgun restrictions, leaving all other concealable firearms restricted, creating a confusing, technical, and utterly pointless regulatory scheme that could never accomplish anything even if gun control worked.

    The result is absurd. And putting up big neon signs pointing out laws' absurdity is a time-honored way of attacking absurd laws.

  3. Isn't it fun to come up with innocent ways to commit felonies?

  4. Law of Contagion. The BATFEIEIO believes in the Laws of Magick, as explained in Randall Garrett's (USMCR) Lord Darcy stories...

  5. Given the existence of the GCA '34 and '68, and the "axe of my fathers" issue, I'm not entirely sure what the BATFE is supposed to do that would not result in this kind of thing.

    The law was originally supposed to tax any "concealable" firearm, and was badly patched to exclude "handguns", as defined. It's not that sawing off is unlicensed manufacturing of a firearm, it's that a "short-barreled" X is defined as (among other things) something "remade" from a rifle or a shotgun, and a firearms is legally the "receiver". Hence, once manufactured as a "rifle" receiver, there is no legal way to convert it to a "handgun", only a "short-barreled rifle", due to the way the law was written, requiring a tax stamp and probulation to create and/or purchase. Congress must fix this, either willingly or be forced to by the court system.

    (Incidentally, I believe that the BATFE's "rigorous" enforcement of the AOW clauses is an abuse of power - putting a forward grip on my Glock shouldn't make it an AOW.