Saturday, December 29, 2012


Whose Fantasy Regarding Assault Rifles?

I went to the gun show today and it was as crowded as I can ever remember. I got there at the opening and it took a whole hour waiting in line even to get in. Inside, people were buying every AR-15 there was for sale. As we creeped towards the entrance while in the line 400 yards long, there was a constant stream of people exiting the building carrying bricks and bricks of ammunition back to their cars. It was not a situation conducive to good thoughts about the future of this country.

I bought a 19th Century Austrian weapon, a Steyr-Mannlicher M1895. It is a straight pull bolt action with a 5 round en bloc clip of 8 x 56mmR that you push into the top of the fixed magazine below the bolt (like the 8 round clip into an M-1 Garand) and when the last bullet is chambered, the clip falls out the bottom (like with the Paraviccini-Carcano (aka Mannlicher-Carcano) M-91 (a variant of which, the M-91/38, was used by Communist Lee Harvey Oswald to kill President Kennedy). I haven't shot it yet. It is a shortened WWI rifle and apparently has quite a kick. I may never fire it, although I have quite a few clips of the hard to find ammunition; mine was made in 1939. It's steel and wood and doesn't look very mean but was the latest in weapon technology in 1895.

Then I got back from the real world and read the NYT unsigned editorial The Deadly Fantasy of Assault Weapons. I have to admit I don't know what an assault weapon is. I know what an assault rifle is--they all derive from the German WWII original, the STG 44, and include such famous military rifles as the AK 47, AK 74, M-16 and our current M-4. These are all full auto rifles (with one exception) that shoot an intermediate round. I've written about them here and here. The civilian versions in common use are not up to current military snuff, because the civilian versions are one trigger pull-one shot (semi-automatic).

But let's get to the NYT editorial. It starts:

Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., using a semiautomatic, military-style assault rifle made by Bushmaster. William Spengler Jr. used the same type of Bushmaster rifle to kill two firefighters last week in Webster, N.Y. The Washington snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, also used a Bushmaster in a spree that killed 10 people in 2002. 
True, but what happened in the 5 years prior to 2012 with mass shootings here in America? Did any others involve a Bushmaster (or any manufacture of) AR-15? None, according to Mother Jones on the subject*, although the crazy guy in Aurora, CO in July used an S & W, M & P 15, which looks like an AR-15 to me. Here are a few of the recent mass shootings in which no rifle at all was used.

Virginia Tech (4/16/07), Glock 19, Walther P22, 33 killed, 23 wounded.

The Ft. Hood shooting (11/5/9), FN Five-SeveN, 13 killed, 30 wounded.

The Rep. Gifford shooting, Tucson, AZ (1/8/11), 9mm Glock, 6 killed, 13 wounded.

Seal Beach, CA (10/14/11), 9mm Springfield, .45 H & K, .44 Mag S & W, 8 killed, 1 wounded.

Oikos U., Bay Area, CA (4/2/12), .45, 7 dead, 3 wounded.

Accent Signage, Minneapolis, MN (9/27/12), 9mm Glock, 7 dead, 1 wounded.

So what exactly is the point of citing 3 tragedies involving Bushmaster AR-15s when for each of those there are several with only handguns used? It is not apparent that Bushmaster AR-15s are necessary for mass murder, nor are they often used for that horrible purpose. Back to the NYT:

Bushmasters are by no means the only assault weapons of choice among mass killers (the Aurora shooter used a Smith & Wesson) [as I pointed out above], but the brand’s repeated presence in murderous incidents reflects Bushmaster’s enormous popularity in the gun world, the result of a successful marketing campaign aimed at putting military firepower and machismo in the hands of civilians. Gun owners once talked about the need for personal protection and sport hunting, but out-of-control ad campaigns like Bushmaster’s have replaced revolvers and shotguns with highly lethal paramilitary fantasies.
Those who understand the real purpose of the Second Amendment never talked only about hunting and self- defense. We talked about having a citizen army armed against invasion or insurrection or, if the worst happened, prepared for armed insurrection against a tyrannical government. See here. Strawman argument called out. Back to the Times:

The guns, some of which come in camouflage and desert khaki, bristle with features useful only to an infantry soldier or a special-forces operative. A flash suppressor on the end of a barrel makes it possible to shoot at night without a blinding flare. Quick-change magazines let troops reload easily. Barrel shrouds allow precise control without fear of burns from a muzzle that grows hot after multiple rounds are fired. But now anyone can own these guns, and millions are in civilian hands.
OK, most of this is just silly. Color or "bristling" features are merely cosmetic. A flash hider or a barrel shroud do nothing to make the rifle to which they are attached more deadly. And all box magazines can get new cartridges into the gun faster than stripper clips or en box clips you insert into a fixed magazine. But the box magazines didn't start in Bushmaster AR-15s or in rifles at all. They're a technological improvement over 100 years old. And the box magazine is NOT exclusive to assault rifles but are also in hunting rifles and most handguns. And what do they mean " anyone can own these guns" (emphasis added)? Now that they even exist (since the 40s) or now that the useless assault rifle ban ended 8 years ago? Here's more:

“There is an allure to this weapon that makes it unusually attractive,” Scott Knight, former chairman of the International Chiefs of Police Firearms Committee, told USA Today, speaking of the Bushmaster rifles. “The way it looks, the way it handles — it screams assault weapon.” 

The way it looks? The Ruger Mini-14 is not an assault rifle, or even the civilian version of one, nor has it ever been banned because it is not mean looking; but it shoots the same .223 intermediate round at the same rate, from the same size box magazines as the mean looking AR-15. To ban the AR-15 and not the Mini-14 is to make meaningless cosmetics the sole criteria for banning a rifle. This form over function is really stupid. The editorial goes on:

The company’s catalog and ads show soldiers moving on patrol through jungles, Bushmasters at the ready. “When you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers,” says the advertising copy, superimposed over the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet against the backdrop of an American flag. “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered,” said a 2010 catalog, peddling an assault rifle billed as “the ultimate military combat weapons system.” (Available to anyone for $2,500.) 

In case that message was too subtle, the company appealed directly to the male egos of its most likely customers. “Consider your man card reissued,” said one Bushmaster campaign (pulled off the Web after the Newtown shooting), next to a photo of a carbine. “If it’s good enough for the professional, it’s good enough for you.”
These paragraphs are embarrassingly smug. Of course only advertising could make us weak minded, lower class males want a mean looking weapon by appealing to our extended childhood, like we are continuing to play soldiers. The finale:

The effect of these marketing campaigns on fragile minds is all too obvious, allowing deadly power in the wrong hands. But given their financial success, gun makers have apparently decided that the risk of an occasional massacre is part of the cost of doing business.

Oh, only the fragile minds want the AR-15 (all 4 plus million of them)? And fragile minds are not at all attracted to shotgun or handguns including revolvers, despite the number of mass shootings, using only handguns (some listed above) in the hands of people with fragile minds?

This paragraph is stunningly embarrassing.

There is nothing special about AR-15s. There are far, far more deadly rifles out there. However, very few rifles of any type are involved in crimes of any type. Seeking to ban only the mean looking sub-set of the category of firearm least used in criminal shootings is beyond useless and stupid. It's bureaucratic.

The reasons 20th Century firearms should not be banned are many. One reason is freedom. We citizens get to chose the weapons we want to keep and bear, not the government. Another is parity. We can't let the government security forces get too far ahead of the citizen army's weapon technology otherwise the very reason for a properly functioning Militia is lost; and too technologically advanced a tyrannical government might never be overthrown. The flintlock rifles used by the Colonists to overthrow the British were then the very latest in weapon technology. Another reason is rationalism. It is irrational to try to legislate away tragedies the way that the left has already tried and failed, and wants to try again. Using merely how the weapon looks as the sole criterion for banning is just as irrational.

Meanwhile, the gun dealers sell out of mean looking rifles being snapped up by the people of the United States because they want to own them and fear they won't be allowed to own them in the near future.

* Mother Jones apparently has no real idea what even the left calls an assault weapon and called even the quintessential boy's first rifle, the Ruger 10/22, an assault weapon.


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