Guns don’t kill people.
No, it’s true.
For that matter, neither do knives, nukes or nunchuks.
Knaves, knuckleheads and nutcases kill people.
The weapons make it easier.
An unarmed nutcase is still dangerous. An armed nutcase is a lot more dangerous. Take away the weapon and you still have a dangerous nutcase who can improvise a weapon.
So if we focus exclusively on the weapons, we are idiots. If we focus exclusively on everything except the weapons, we are idiots. And in the current political/social din, idiocy abounds.
Everyone has The Answer. So far, we are not having a discussion. We are having a who-has-the-biggest-political-dick contest.
This has its attraction, though - it’s easier to deal with trivia than confront actual violence and injury. If one has never had blood on his/her hands (in the literal sense), it is easier to talk blithely about a society where everybody mindlessly packs a pistol. If one has never been threatened with actual, immediate violence, it’s easier to claim that the cell phone is mightier than the sword.
And if one bloviates loudly enough, one doesn’t have to do anything useful in the real world.
Case in point: The DC Police are piously “investigating” NBC news anchor David Gregory. Last Sunday on Meet The Press, Gregory was interviewing NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre. To make a point, Gregory raised and gestured with a 30-round rifle magazine. He was asking something like “Why do we need these?”
Big magazines are illegal in the District. So the DC Police must investigate!
Mind you, there was no rifle present. I guess the magazine was dangerous. Gregory could have gotten angry and beaten LaPierre with it. When they have 30 rounds in them, they’re kinda heavy. However, a hammer would have worked better. And the DC Police would have approved - they let you have hammers in Washington.
In the meantime, the same police who are “investigating” Gregory are not investigating other people. There are places in DC where the police are unwilling to go alone. If you guaranteed that every firearm in DC were confiscated, there would still be places that they would be afraid to go alone. Reason? There are some nasty-ass people there.
Just as there are nasty-ass people in lots and lots and lots of places in America, and in the world.
Hassling Gregory about the single rifle-less magazine on TV is (1) cowardly and (2) stupid.
However, it is not (3) surprising. Directing attention to the objects is effective. They are black and scary looking. And eliminating them by passing a law is sooooo easy. If we make ourselves believe “no-guns, no-violence,” we can escape responsibility for solving the violence problems. After all, we tried our best, didn’t we?
(Recall that I do have a “pox on both your houses” view. Those damn 30 round magazines are stupid and defending them as a necessary incident of the Second Amendment is just dumb.)
The “assault weapon ban” is just an extension of the focus-on-the-objects fallacy. Can they be used for hunting? Sure. (In some states, those based on the current U.S./NATO military cartridge, the 5.56 mm/.223 cal. cannot because the bullet is too small, but obviously it’s a lethal round.)
But “assault rifles” look dangerous. They are black. They have lots of sharp angles and edges. Sort of. Mind you, the legal definition of “assault weapon” is so loose that a fairly innocuous gun might qualify. To meet the 1994 ban, a rifle need only have two of the following:
- A folding or telescoping stock - That aids concealability and diminishes stability for long range shooting.
- A pistol grip - The stock can be sculpted so that the hand is in a vertical position, but a pistol grip which is not a part of the stock qualifies.
- Bayonet mount - Just a mount. Not a bayonet. Of course, it’s hard to imagine a less useful thing than a bayonet on a rifle unless you’re going to be fighting hand-to-hand.
- Grenade launcher - I have to admit, that’s pretty assaultish. Of course, that ammunition is illegal already.
- Flash suppressor - There is a flash of light at the muzzle (end) of a firearm when it fires. A flash suppressor directs and allegedly conceals partially that flash. When I’ve had them, they have been designed as muzzle brakes, which redirect the exhaust gases upward to compensate for recoil.
It isn’t that these weapons are so pleasant that is the fundamental error in the public discussion. The sophistry lies in the belief that evil and deprave hearts will give up if it becomes more difficult to acquire these - or even all - guns.
(By the way - None of the "prominent" assassins of the 60's used what would be considered assault weapons. Oswald, Whitman and Ray used bolt-action hunting rifles; Sirhan, a .22 pistol.)
It is much more difficult to recognize why some citizens commit unjustified personal violence. And it will take guts to face that and resources even to begin to fix it.
Of that, more later.