SKS assault type rifles

After reading the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office one might be inclined to agree the guy was a risk to society. The prosecuting attorney was able to convince a jury the guy had been previously convinced of one or more felonies and was found in possession of one or more firearms. I don’t necessarily agree with that law (for example: certain consensual sexual acts have been, and may still be, considered felonies) but it is the law. What really bugs me about the press release is what they say the guns were:

According to testimony at trial and records in the case, on August 23, 2007, the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office High Risk Team executed a search warrant at THOMPSON’s house in rural Skagit County. They seized eight firearms, including one that was in a holster in THOMPSON’s wheelchair. The eight guns were two SKS assault type rifles, a Winchester .243 caliber semiautomatic rifle, a Colt Woodsman .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol, a Davis Industries .380 caliber semiautomatic pistol, a Ruger Blackhawk .357 caliber revolver, a Browning .32 caliber semiautomatic pistol and a Reck .22 caliber revolver.

The emphasis is mine.

Only in a few states has the SKS been considered an “assault weapon” and never, to the best of my knowledge, has the law ever declared an SKS to be an “assault rifle”. And since this was a Federal prosecution Federal law should control the definition. The SKS wasn’t even considered an “assault weapon” let alone an “assault rifle” under the now obsolete “assault weapon ban” of 1994.

The U.S. Attorney’s office appears to be attempting to demonize an ordinary semi-automatic, constitutionally protected, firearm.

I sent them the following email:

From: Joe Huffman
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 9:22 AM
To: ‘Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov’
Subject: Skagit county felon sentenced to prison for illegal gun possession.

 

I am a blogger focusing on guns and gun rights. My blog can be found at http://blog.joehuffman.org/.

 

I just read the press release I found here. I was rather annoyed at something I saw in the press release. The SKS rifles found in Thompson’s possession are described as “SKS assault type rifles”. The Attorney’s office almost certainly knows the 1994 Federal law defining “assault weapons” and banning certain firearms never included SKS rifles and even if it had that law is no longer in effect. Furthermore “assault rifle”, as opposed to “assault weapon”, has a very specific meaning to the U.S. military and the SKS rifle does not qualify as an “assault rifle”.

 

I can only think of three possible explanations for the U.S. Attorney’s office to use incorrect terminology. This terminology is always used in a derogatory fashion.

 

1)      The U.S. Attorney’s office has an agenda above and beyond the enforcement of Federal law—demonization of a constitutionally protected activity.

2)      The U.S. Attorney’s office is ignorant of U.S. firearms law.

3)      The U.S. Attorney’s office is careless with the facts.

 

All of these potential explanations are very discomforting to me as a gun owner. Could you please provide a correction and/or explain why an SKS rifle was described as an “assault type rifle”?

 

Thank you.

 

Joe Huffman

Update: I received a response from the public affairs person:

From: Langlie, Emily (USAWAW) [mailto:Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 9:38 AM
To: Joe Huffman
Subject: RE: Skagit county felon sentenced to prison for illegal gun possession.

 

Mr. Huffman –

I have attached the trial brief that I used to draft the press release.  You will note on page 2 a list of weapons found at the home.  The first two read as follows:

A. One SKS assault type rifle with wood stock;

B. One SKS assault type rifle with synthetic stop and a pistol grip;

 

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a gun expert.  I summarize the court proceedings for the general public who do not, in general, have the narrow focus that you have reading our press releases.  The defendant was prohibited from possessing ANY of the firearms because he is a convicted felon.    I simply described them as they are described in court papers. 

 

None of your three explanations are correct.  I will forward your email to the attorney who tried the case and wrote the trial brief so that he is aware of the distinction that you are drawing regarding these firearms.

 

 

Emily Langlie

Public Affairs Officer

United States Attorney’s Office

Western District of Washington

(206) 553-4110

My response (trial brief is here):

From: Joe Huffman 
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:32 AM
To: ‘Langlie, Emily (USAWAW)’
Subject: RE: Skagit county felon sentenced to prison for illegal gun possession.

 

Thank you for responding and forwarding it to the attorney who wrote the brief.

 

Reading the trial brief actually makes the situation worse. I thought perhaps there was some carelessness in the translation from the court papers to the news release. But that is clearly not the case. It also provides further evidence that the attorney and/or his experts are either ignorant of firearms or careless.

 

Item B.  One SKS assault type rifle with synthetic stop and a pistol grip.

 

The correct word is “stock”, not “stop”.

 

From reading the brief it sounds as if the attorney may have merely replicated data from the Sheriff’s office. In which case the primary error would have been made by them and only propagated by the U.S. attorney.

 

I understand that any firearm possessed by Thompson would constitute a criminal act and I’m not saying the type of firearm or how it is described would, or should have, changed the outcome of the trial in any way. I am concerned by the language the attorney is using. Using the term “assault” in regards to an ordinary firearm in common usage is similar to calling someone a “nigger” when the color of their skin is irrelevant to alleged crime. It shows a disrespect or ignorance for existing law or a prejudiced mindset.

 

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my concerns.

 

Regards,

 

 

Joe Huffman

One thought on “SKS assault type rifles

  1. If the SKS is now to be regarded as an “assault type rifle” then that .243 semi becomes a “super assault type rifle” or even a “terror assault/sniper rifle” having the .308 Win as its parent case, but I wouldn’t expect the average attorney (much less an attorney’s lackey) or any journalist to understand that. That’s asking rather a lot. Technical ignorance doesn’t stop them from using scary words to whip up anti gun rights bigotry however. That requires very little knowledge or understanding.

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