Saturday, July 21, 2012
Knee Jerk Reaction
So here, right on time, is an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle today. Money quote:
A reasonable country would have taken steps to curb these tragedies years ago. Strong federal gun-control laws wouldn't stop every murder in the United States, but they surely would make it far more difficult to have a world in which a 24-year-old easily can purchase assault-style rifles and shotguns and walk into a dark, crowded theater. (And no, arming more people wouldn't have saved the victims in this massacre - imagine how many more deaths there would have been with multiple people shooting in dark, crowded theater.) But such is the strength of the gun lobby in Washington that members of Congress won't discuss, much less pass, any gun-control legislation.
Our elected officials refuse to stand up to a powerful and dogmatic lobby that fails to distinguish between weapons of war (such as the AR-15 assault rifle the suspect reportedly purchased legally in Colorado) and guns designed for hunting or self-defense.In the first paragraph, the opinion writer concedes that gun control laws wouldn't work every time, but at least it would make it more difficult for there to be these mass shootings, like Columbine, Virginia Tech and most recently in Aurora. More difficult? The inescapable problem is that someone who wants to shoot a lot of people probably won't be obeying any "strong, federal gun-control laws." As one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite writers, Cesare Beccaria, wrote hundreds of years ago:
The laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty — so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator — and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.
Making gun ownership harder to achieve only for those who are law abiding remains a very stupid idea if you really only want to prevent criminals from obtaining weapons.
In the second paragraph, the opinion writer makes a distinction between weapons of war (like an AR-15) and "guns designed for hunting and self-defense." What is this person talking about? A gun fit for war would be great for self-defense. A shotgun, which the shooter yesterday in Aurora actually used, is a perfect self defense gun. Hunting rifles are no less deadly than the more military looking models. Cosmetics is what this guy is talking about at the end. It is impossible to take him or her seriously for the ignorance displayed.
Here's a little history about assault weapons. The Nazis during WWII had weapons that were accurate out to about 1000 yards, the Kar 98 (developed in 1898), but they discovered by 1943 that none of their regular soldiers were firing at the enemy until they closed to about 400 yards. So why have a rifle round that goes accurately out 1000 yards if no one but the snipers are shooting at that distance? It's a waste of smokeless powder and the dwindling supply of brass for the bigger cartridge. So they solved it by using the same size bullet placed in a shorter cartridge (the 7.92 x 33, or 8mm Kurz) and that round, developed before the war, went into a new rifle, the Sturmgewehr 44, (which translates as assault rifle 44). That's it. The Russians copied it (although they deny it) and made the AK 47. We went with a smaller bullet in a smaller cartridge (but the small bullet goes perhaps 800 feet per second faster) and made the AR 15 (and the military version M-16) in the early 60s. So the dreaded, awful, has-to-be-banned assault rifle shoots a shorter or smaller round than the average hunting rifle. Oooh, scary. The only advantage over full powered rifles assault rifles have is less weight for more rounds carried and they shoot primarily to a distance where the soldiers are actually willing to shoot. That's an advantage at war, but the individual weapon is actually less deadly than the apparently non-scary hunting rifle.
Every time a liberal rails about assault weapons being a danger we ought to address, I and the other gun cognoscenti snort in disgust at the ignorance displayed.
You could have a rifle firing the exact same round and same rate of fire but with a nice walnut stock and foregrip and pretty brass inlay, and the anti-gun crowd won't identify it as an assault weapon.