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Why A Semi-Automatic Rifle Owner Supports Stricter Gun Laws


Mike Weisser knows about guns. He spent half of his life in the gun business - selling guns, importing them, writing about them, teaching people how to use guns. He owns six semi-automatic rifles, and he likes to shoot them. But he wants to see the weapons heavily regulated. Mike Weisser joins us now from the studios of New England Public Radio in Springfield, Mass. Thanks so much for being with us.

MIKE WEISSER: My pleasure. Thank you for having me on.

SIMON: What do you own those six semi-automatics?

WEISSER: I like guns. So I don't really make a distinction between one gun or another. If I like it and I want to shoot it, I own it. I also own I don't know how many handguns. I don't know how many shotguns. It's a lot.

SIMON: And you're a collector?

WEISSER: No. No, I'm simply a gun nut. We're people who are hobbyists with guns the way other people are hobbyists with ham radios. I mean, if you go to a weekend model train show, same kind of people.

SIMON: Well, but you - I mean, as I don't have to tell you, I'm sure, guns are lethal in a way model trains or stamps aren't.

WEISSER: That's right. And that's one of the reasons why I've always felt very uncomfortable with the argument of not regulating them Because, you know, we have a long history of regulating all kinds of dangerous products. You know, regulation does not mean you can't get your hands on it.

SIMON: What kind of regulations would you like to see for semi-automatics?

WEISSER: What I would like to see is that there'd be a measurement of how lethal a particular weapon is. And the more lethal it is, the more it has to be regulated in a sense of what the buyer has to do to buy one and what the buyer has to do to show that he or she knows how to use it properly and what the buyer has to do to show that he or she is keeping their hands on the gun.

Because if we don't have a really good system - and it's not hard to do it - to keep track of guns in people's houses so that this theft rate starts to drop, we can talk all we want about law-abiding citizens, you know, and doing background checks, but if you've got a couple hundred thousand guns going out into the population that are there to be used as crime guns, then you're going to have an awful lot of gun violence.

SIMON: I'm told you're a lifelong - lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.

WEISSER: I'm a life member, correct. I've been a member of the NRA since I was 11 years old in 1965.

SIMON: Why are you still a member of the NRA?

WEISSER: Because when I joined the NRA, the NRA focused on the two things that I think guns should be used for by people who aren't in the military. And that's sports shooting and hunting. They still do that, although that's become really not their major focus. They also are the premier training organization. And I'm a certified NRA trainer. So, you know, I don't want to be on the outside just kind of yelling at them. Frankly, if they would get off this kick of the armed citizen and using guns for protection against crime, they wouldn't hear any noise from me. I just don't happen to like the position they've been taking over the last several decades to promote the sale of guns.

SIMON: And how (laughter) - how congenial do you find your viewpoint among gun owners? I know you hear from a lot of people.

WEISSER: Well, you know, I'm - it's not a congenial viewpoint. It's not something that most of the gun owners feel comfortable with. You know, I didn't start coming out publicly on these positions because I wanted to win any popularity contests. I thought it had to be said.

SIMON: Mike Weisser, who writes about guns for the Huffington Post - thanks very much for being with us.

WEISSER: My pleasure. Thank you very much for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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