by Mike Seebeck
It’s been three weeks since Adam Lanza killed his mother, stole her guns, and massacred two dozen innocent children and teachers in Connecticut. In those two weeks we’ve seen the usual hysterics from the anti-gun lunatic fringe and after a delay, similar posturing from the pro-gun right. It’s now time to put the situation into proper perspective.
First, everyone agrees that the massacre was a tragedy, and our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those affected by it. No child should have their innocence forever shattered by watching their classmates, friends, and teachers die. No family should have to bury their child. I know how that feels, having been there and having had to bury my own child. It’s simply Hell.
Second, a disclaimer: I support the Second Amendment, and I firmly believe that attempts to limit its application are both unconstitutional and morally reprehensible. People have the obligation with their right to keep and bear arms the responsibility to do so safely and responsibly, and failure to do so causes tragedy and death. Willful failure to do so should be dealt with severely.
Now onto business. Let’s start with the guns and get that hoplophobia issue set aside.
Guns are simply a tool. They are a device: nothing more, nothing less. Yes, they are a device whose purpose can be lethal (but not necessarily so). Nobody denies that. Guns come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, from the single-shot Derringer like Booth used to assassinate Lincoln, to muzzle-loading black-powder rifles like those used in the American Revolution, to modern hunting rifles and pistols, to machine guns, from small-caliber to large-bore. There are estimates that there are over 300 million firearms amongst the 330 million populace in America. People use them to hunt for both sport and food, to teach hand-eye coordination, marksmanship, and even in Olympic events. And yes, they are used in, and as deterrents to, crimes.
But at the end of the day, they are still a tool, just as any other tool that can be used for an illegal activity is still a tool, such as a blade, a hammer, a car, or even one’s own fists.
That’s the point: it’s not the tool that kills; it’s the person using it. Not once has a firearm that has been simply sitting there doing nothing randomly gone off and killed anyone without an outside force acting on it, be it, for example, an earthquake or other impact knocking it off a table causing it to discharge, or more commonly by someone pulling the trigger.
It’s pretty obvious that one cannot blame a gun for gun violence any more than once can blame a car for car accidents. Yet that is exactly what anti-gun folks want to do with their calls to ban certain types of guns that have been involved in crimes recently. History has shown with the 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban” that bans don’t work, and an examination of gun crimes going back into the 1960s has shown that such bans have no bearing on crimes.
For example, in 1966, the Texas Bell Tower Shootings took place, and the gunman there used bolt-action hunting rifles, as common then as now over 45 years later. If a ban on those were ever enacted, it would be unenforceable because of both sheer volume and simple resistance. Yet even after the high-profile shootings from rifles in 1963 (JFK, alleged bolt-action), 1966 (Texas, bolt-action), and 1968 (King, pump-action), those rifles were never considered for banning. Today the talk is rampant, both because of the “assault” nature of the weapon (more on that in a moment) and other factors, including the generational indoctrination of the anti-gun movement, aided by mainstream media, and the lack of respect and knowledge of firearms being replaced by fear and ignorance.
So what is an “assault rifle,” anyway? Well, the term is a loaded pejorative and a misnomer, created by the anti-gun movement to demonize a certain type of firearm based on its appearance only. It has no basis in any objective reality regarding functionality. In firearms, there are single-action, double-action, manual, semi-automatic, and fully-automatic guns. Let’s get our terms correct, since the anti-gun crowd can’t.
· Full-auto is also known as machine guns, which are guns that require a single trigger pull to fire all the rounds the gun can until either the clip is empty or the gun jams, or until the trigger pull is released. Machine guns are strictly restricted by the federal government and are limited to military use and specially-licensed owners and dealers. Even in the military, full-auto is discouraged as a waste of ammunition. I’ve fired full-auto and while it is fun, it is also difficult to control the full “rock and roll” movement effect that happens while firing. Full-autos generally can be fired as semi-auto as well.
· Semi-auto is where most of the so-called “assault rifles” fall under. Semi-auto means that on a trigger pull, the gun fires the round, ejects the cartridge, and chambers the next round if there is one. One pull, one shot. Military rifles can be fired in 3-round and 5-round bursts; but those setting do not exist on the civilian equivalents. Semi-autos can be either single-action or double-action.
· Manual guns require the user work a mechanism to eject the cartridge and chamber the next round. All bolt-action and lever-action rifles, as well as pump-action rifles and shotguns, are manual guns.
· Double-action is where it takes one action of pulling the trigger to cock the hammer then release it and fire the shot.
· Single-action simply means the shooter must cock the firing hammer first in order to shoot.
It can get more complicated than that when dealing with specific manufacturers and gun types, but that’s the overall general idea.
As for “assault rifles,” they simply are a semi-auto variation of the full-auto weapons that are used by the military or police. Like every other non-full-auto weapon, they fire one shot at a time and no more. What makes them “assault weapons” and deserving of a ban in the minds of the anti-gun mob is their appearance, because they “look” like their military counterparts. (That’s a veiled way of them showing their contempt for the military, by projecting their idea that the military weapons are evil onto the civilian versions, and then calling to ban those because they know a ban on the military versions will simply get them branded as the imbeciles they are.) Banning something because of its appearance is simply a bad argument and entirely subjective. A semi-auto pistol can shoot the same 15-round clip as an AK-47, but the AK-47 “looks” worse, so ban it but not the pistol, in their minds. That’s nonsense.
A note about speed here: yes, semi-autos generally load and shoot faster than manuals, but that is true for both semi-auto rifles and semi-auto pistols. However, a good shot with a manual can be just as fast as a semi-auto. Practice can make up for the speed difference, so arguments that they should be banned because of speed of use are simply not good arguments, because the speed varies.
So far, the arguments for banning “assault weapons” based on their appearance and speed of use have been debunked. But, the anti-gun crowd says next, there’s no need for high-capacity magazines. So, let’s look at that argument.
What’s a “high-capacity” magazine? In some states it’s 5 rounds; in others it’s 30. Note that the average revolver speed-loader uses 6 rounds, a WWII M1 rifle had 8 rounds in its magazine, an AK-47 has a 30-round “banana clip,” an AR-15 has magazines that vary from 5 to 50 rounds, and the infamous Thompson submachine gun (”Tommy Gun,” now highly restricted) used a drum magazine that held over a hundred rounds. The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 defined it as any magazine holding over 10 rounds. However, most semi-auto pistols can handle magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and they can be purchased separately. As you can see, the mileage varies. But on the other hand, a simple .22 Winchester lever-action Model 94 rifle can hold up to 16 rounds without a magazine. All that means is that there are ways around magazines of any size, and the real argument against these magazines is that they allow rapid reloading of medium to large amounts of ammunition.
Back to the argument. It takes about 3-6 seconds to change a magazine. The anti-gun crowd claims that those seconds can be used to stop a shooter (neglecting the argument that they are anti-gun in the first place, meaning they really don’t want even smaller magazines, let alone the guns they attach to, around) while reloading. Theoretically that may be true, but in practicality it is completely false. A defender, under cover, upon hearing fire cease, does not simply pop up and shoot back, because the shooter may simply be laying in wait ready to shoot instead of reloading. Reconnoitering the target will take the defender more than 5 seconds, and by the time they do the shooter has reloaded and the defender becomes simply another victim. Furthermore, most mass shooters simply carry more weapons and switch out, making reloading time irrelevant. That makes the reload time argument completely bogus, leaving the only real reason to ban the magazines is to get a number established and then reduce it until no magazines are legal, making any gun that uses them, mainly semi-auto rifles and pistols, completely useless, reducing the population to revolvers and rifles. It’s a de facto gun ban by preventing their use. At least that’s the theory under their real agenda. It fails because shooters will ignore the laws as they always do and get their magazines illegally. Plus, as the Texas Bell Tower Shootings showed, a shooter can be just as deadly with bolt-action rifles as semi-auto rifles. That shooter hauled an entire footlocker full of ammunition up there to use, then he barred the door, making the magazine argument even more moot.
So as you can see, arguments to ban the magazines are simply nonsense.
The next gun-related argument the anti-gun crowd makes is that the guns used in Sandy Hook were not locked up, which is how the murderer got access to them. However, there is zero evidence for that. There has been no evidence offered to date to indicate that the guns were locked up or not, or if so, how securely. There is also no indication how the murderer got access to the guns-did he get a key or access from his mother before he killed her, afterwards, or did he simply break into their storage, assuming they were locked up? We simply don’t know at this point, and as such we should not disparage the dead by assuming facts not in evidence. All that being said, *if* they weren’t secured, then that is a legitimate issue to address, and responsible gun owners *do* secure their firearms. However, at this point, there is no indication one way or another, so it is best to set that discussion aside for another day.
Next, we move from the guns to the people. Here it gets more complex, as the people are really the source of the problem, and also the solution for more safety.
In the case of Sandy Hook, the murderer was considered mentally ill and according to some accounts he was in the process of being sent to a mental institution when he acted. Because the murderer was by accounts mentally ill, the anti-gun crowd has seized upon that as a reason to call deny firearms to the mentally ill. The Heller ruling itself indicates that such a restriction is reasonable: “…nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” (Heller, as written by Scalia) However, this logic flies in the face of the plain language “shall not be infringed.”
All that aside, there is the procedural issue. As we saw in the Aurora theater shooting, the murderer there was diagnosed as mentally ill but nothing happened because of a broken system. This by itself is a legitimate issue, but it also raises complications. For one, HIPPA requires that mental health information can be released if the patient is considered a public safety threat, but then the information can only be released to an authorized police agency, and even then there’s no guarantee that would cause a denial of a firearm purchase in the background check. Simple mental illness without a criminal act attached to it, such as abuse or molestation, is not releasable. That’s why James Holmes slipped through the cracks and shot up the theater even though the signs of trouble were there. If there is to be more attention paid to the mentally ill by the state, then this problem with HIPPA needs to be fixed.
But is that a good thing? By itself, maybe, but to quote the late, great Paul Harvey, here’s The Rest of the Story…
Coming in May 2013 is the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5 for short. This is the diagnostic “bible” for psychiatrists, used globally, and its past versions have been, like large parts of psychiatry, steeped in controversy. DSM-5 is no exception. No less than the head of the committee that wrote its predecessor, DSM-4, has criticized the new version, claiming that the new category of “Behavioral Addictions” is expandable to make a mental disorder out of anything a person likes to do a lot-including own and shoot guns. It also changes normal emotions such as grief to Major Depressive Disorders.
What that means is that expanding mental disorders to include “healthy obsessions” with hobbies or simply being extra-concerned about an issue to the point of activism, be it nutritional health, firearms, the environment, or anything else, puts absolutely everyone at risk of being labeled with a mental illness, and as such being denied firearms-even if they are perfectly “normal” they are now labeled otherwise. The net result is a de facto backdoor ban on firearms acquisition and ownership, through a mental health loophole. Some may call that conspiracy theory nonsense, but it is in work, as part of the attempt to simplify and control people by applying labels to them and them restricting them according to those labels. We already see it in the financial incentives to diagnose, label, and drug school children.
As such, the problem with fixing the broken system is that once it’s fixed to report potential mental health problems, the idea of what a mental health problem is has become warped beyond rationality, thereby making the “fixed” system still broken! In order for the system to be effective, DSM-5 needs to be stopped in its tracks, or alternatively, given little to no credence. Only then can we properly address the issue of how to report and address mental illnesses especially in relation to firearms.
Onto the schools.
Certain areas of the public are considered “soft” targets. Shopping malls and theaters, as we’ve seen in both Aurora and San Antonio, are such prime targets. Schools, as we’ve seen in Columbine, Santee, Austin, and Sandy Hook, are also such prime targets. These are areas that are considered gun-free zones, where firearms, even for self-defense or concealed-carry, are prohibited. They are also known as “killing fields” because they draw murderers like sugar does flies. In every one of the examples cited above except Austin, the locations were gun-free zones.
Churches can be soft targets as well, but as New Life 2007 showed, that’s less of a case anymore.
The bottom line on soft targets is very simple: a business, school, or other organization that is going to insist on being “gun-free” is putting its patrons at risk, and as such they have a responsibility to provide for their protection. Multiple layers of security is the best approach, where there are armed security, random and undisclosed armed staff, both open-carry and concealed-carry, rapid-response alarms, cameras, and sign posting that there is armed and active security (even if there isn’t any; the bluff alone can work as a deterrent). This is not an unreasonable requirement. What also needs to come with it is an overall understanding and acceptance by administrators/corporate executives that employees should not be penalized for being armed or for defending people in their premises and in fact should be encouraged and rewarded for doing so, because a safe customer base is one that generates more business. If these places are going to require that people abdicate their responsibility to defend themselves, then they also need to accept that responsibility in place of the people and provide that defense. Simply making a place gun-free without the protection is unacceptable.
So the solutions are these:
· Expand the education about and safe operation and storage of firearms.
· Do not ban types of firearms or magazines, as those have been tried in the past and failed.
· Improve the mental health system *after* getting a rational control on defining what a mental illness is.
· Minimize soft target killing zones by improving their armed security in multiple layers and/or by allowing patrons to be armed, and by letting potential killers know that their target is not gun-free.
The solution to a problem with a tool is never to ban the tool, but instead to help people not misuse it. There is undoubtedly a group of people, and there always will be, who have an irrational fear of firearms and will not be placated until they are all banned. These Prohibitionists are simply on the radical extreme fringe, have a severe fear that is bordering on mental illness at worst and a phobia at best, and should be discounted, because their position simply lacks common sense.
Arm and educate, not disarm.
You can contact Mr. Seebeck at email@example.com.