Collins statement on Firearms Hearing

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at Wednesday’s hearing on firearms.  Ranking Member Collins said, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing on so-called “assault weapons.” Let’s hope after today’s hearing, we all have a better understanding of these types of rifles and how often they are used in committing crimes, particularly murder.  I hope we can have an open and honest dialogue about the firearms my colleagues wish to ban. I hope we can avoid the rhetoric that has plagued this discussion for decades. Only when we are equipped with the facts can we mobilize to effectively prevent violent crime — a goal we all share.  Let’s first look at the term “assault weapon” and when that term entered the American lexicon. Many attribute the invention of the term to Josh Sugarmann, the boss of one of our witnesses today. In 1988, Mr. Sugarmann stated, “Assault weapons — just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms — are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons — anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.”  “Assault weapons,” however, are not “assault rifles.” Assault rifles are rapid-fire, magazine-fed rifles designed for military use. They are shoulder-fired weapons that allow the shooter to select between settings: semi-automatic (requiring the operator to pull the trigger for each shot) and fully automatic (allowing the operator to hold the trigger as the gun fires continuously or in three-shot-bursts). As Mr. Sugarmann’s statement indicates, so-called “assault weapons” are semi-automatic — they aren’t assault rifles and can’t be used as fully automatic assault rifles. Semi-automatic firearms require you to pull the trigger each time for each shot, just as a pistol requires one trigger pull per shot.  Unfortunately, many in the American public, in the media and, shockingly, in this body do not understand the difference. We must understand what different firearms do and how they function if we want to have effective laws to prevent gun violence. I can’t imagine anyone here today would advocate for legislation that does not actually make our families safer, but that’s where I fear we’re headed. One member of this committee has conflated the terms “assault rifle” and “assault weapon” multiple times in dear colleague letters seeking support for a bill banning “assault weapons,” and, as we dive into these conversations, let’s clear up another popular misconception. The “A.R.” in AR-15 does not stand for “assault rifle.” It stands for ArmaLite Rifle model 15. AR-15’s are not assault rifles — they’re semi-automatic firearms that function similarly to wooden hunting rifles, where the operator pulls the trigger to fire each shot. The differences between these guns are largely cosmetic.  Sadly, certain members are not alone in sowing disinformation when it comes to so-called “assault weapons.” A state senator from California, when speaking about an “assault weapon,” stated, “This right here has the ability with a .30-caliber clip to disperse 30 bullets within half a second. Thirty magazine clip in half a second.” This is either a blatant misrepresentation or an indication of shocking ignorance. Even a fully automatic, military-issued M4 cannot fire at such a rate. Another member of this committee stated, “I’ve held an AR-15 in my hand, I wish I hadn’t. It is as heavy as 10 boxes that you might be moving and the bullet that is utilized, a .50 caliber, these kinds of bullets, need to be licensed and do not need to be on the street.” This brief statement somehow manages to make several misrepresentations. An AR-15 weighs between six and seven pounds and fires a .223 round of ammunition. It does not fire .50 caliber ammunition. Anyone who knows anything about firearms knows it’s absurd to suggest that.  I hope we can clear up these misconceptions in today’s hearing. My hopes aren’t high, however, when I hear a Democrat presidential candidate proclaim, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.” Let’s hope rational heads prevail here today. Finally, let’s review how these so-called “assault weapons” are used in a crime. Some estimates calculate the number of “assault weapons” in private hands at around 10 million. In 2017, according to the FBI, there were 403 murders committed with all rifles, not just those deemed by some to be “assault weapons.” By comparison, knives or other cutting instruments were used in 1,591 murders. Blunt objects such as clubs, hammers and bats were used in 467 murders. Hands and feet were used in 696 murders. In the same year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found speeding killed 9,717 people. I have yet to see any of my colleagues advocate for prohibiting the purchase or possession of a vehicle capable of traveling more than 70 miles per hour. My friends, if we are going to have this debate, we must be honest with each other and take the time to learn basic facts about the items you are looking to ban. That is not too much to ask. Hopefully the witnesses here today can assist with that task.”