Friday, June 17, 2016

Rational Effort to Redefine Gun Control Debate

What is a military style assault rifle and why do civilians have access to them?

Is it insane that folks like you and I can buy “assault rifles”?

Summary – in terms of rate of fire, rifles went from powder and ball, to cartridge loaded, to multi shot capacity to machine gun.  This transition was complete over 100 year ago.  Fully automatic weapons have been strictly regulated for over 75 years and not many civilians can get them.  Semi automatic magazine fed rifles have been used by civilians for sporting purposes since at least the 1930s. What folks have come to call "assault rifles" are just semi automatic magazine fed rifles that look different than more traditional semi automatic magazine fed rifles.

Firearms utilized and popularized by the military have been used by civilians for sporting purposes ever since guns became guns.  Magazine fed, semi automatic rifles - like the AR-15 and semi automatic versions of the AK-47 - have been in civilian hands since the 1930s ( that is an approximate date, there’s an example in the LL Bean store).  When folks of middling analytical ability like T. Friedman say “It’s insane” that regular folks can buy semi automatic rifles that look like military versions of the same rifle, what I hear is “yes, I’m still just half informed like I always was.”  Magazine fed semi-automatic rifles are not new, nor are semi-automatic magazine fed shotguns, which in many cases would be more dangerous than rifles (shotguns require less marksmanship).

What is new is how much fame folks can get for using firearms to kill a bunch of people, and as the Tsarnaev’s showed, you can do the same with bombs and almost get away with it.  Perhaps it is new that so many people instinctively feel that passing gun control laws will create safety – Charlie Hebdo?  Norway?

Also new is the freakishly naïve idea that “gun free” zones create safety.  Over 90% of all firearms attacks on lots of people have happened in gun free zones.  Gun free zones are the most dangerous places you can find if you fear murdering crazies killing large groups of folks. If we make semi automatic magazine fed rifles unlawful for all but the government, such a ban is likely to work as well as the current ban on explosives.  If you believe a gun ban would work better than a drug ban, gun free zones, an alcohol ban or an explosives ban - how can you believe that?

What is also new is first person shooter video games.  I have read that every mass murderer of late was a consumer of those games, though I would guess the religious variety of killer is the exception. 

In short, when people tell me that we’d be safer if I couldn’t have my semi automatic magazine fed rifle or shotgun, I wonder if they are living in a dream world or they are just disingenuous.  

Part 2

No one is suggesting banning cars, even though cars kill far more people than do guns.  Why is that?To those who drive, a car has utility, therefore they judge the risk of 45,000 deaths annually is worth the reward.  Those who would take away this gun or that one are judging the gun does not have utility, therefore the risk is not justified. 

Half of all gun deaths and half of all automobile deaths are judged to be alcohol related.  We wisely gave up on alcohol prohibition a long time ago (would that we would do the same for drugs – ending the drug war would massively reduce gun violence).  So why now do we pretend that guns are to blame vice alcohol and/or cars?  Why do we ignore the evidence that prohibitions create more problems than they solve?

If you are in the camp that judges that guns have too much risk for their utility, I hope you might understand why I don’t accept the validity of your judgement.

But if you want to pretend that gun prohibition would make us safer, let’s also prohibit cars and motorcycles that can go faster than 25 mph, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, snowstorms, ice on sidewalks and screwdrivers and hammers, too.  "If it would save even one life, we have to do it" should be our mantra.  Natural gas explosions kill about ten people a year, so we should eliminate that method of home heating.  Swimming pools are about 900 times more likely to be the cause of a child’s death than a gun in the home, obviously it is time to get rid of pools, too.

I'm a lot of things but I'm neither uneducated nor a hater, I don't sleep with a gun in my hand while wearing an aluminum hat to stop the CIA from reading my mind.  I've been a police officer or a military member for 26 years of my life.  I love my kids and my dear wife and I want them to live in the safest possible world.  I will not pretend that government promises of safety offer anyone safety.  I will not accede to your willingness to pretend otherwise.  If you want me to take you seriously about your desire for a safer world, your argument should start with the recognition that the single step we can take that would slash gun violence would be to end drug prohibition.

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