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December 29, 2012

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This thing about assault rifles is overblown. Not the atrocity of the killings, but the potency of the weapons. Yes, they fire a lot of bullets but the .223 caliber round used in the AR-15 Bushmaster is puny compared to the ammo used in many bolt action hunting rifles.

Charles Whitman, in the 1966 Texas sniper massacre, killed 14 people and wounded 32 others using primarily a Remington 700 bolt action hunting rifle fired from an observation deck. Hardly what would be called an "assault rifle". But assault he did.

The Virginia Tech guy killed 35 or so with handguns. Assault he did.

Do guns kill people or do people kill people? I have solved this great debate. Get ready for brilliance. Here is the indisputable fact. Drum roll please...

People kill people with guns!!!

So, why limit the banning to just assault rifles? Ban all guns. All of them. Or you haven't really accomplished anything.

tucson, you need to consider the facts presented in my blog posts more carefully.

Guns aren't banned in other countries with much lower rates of gun violence, like Canada, Israel, Australia, Germany. Guns aren't banned in states with much lower rates of gun violence in the United States.

Reasonable restrictions/regulations on gun ownership, including the types of guns that can be owned, who can buy them, how they are stored, etc. have a big effect on gun deaths/violence. That's a fact.

Likewise, seat belts, air bags, and such have a big effect on automobile deaths. Yet if the NRA was in charge of auto safety, they'd be saying "people driving cars kill drivers of cars; cars don't kill people driving cars."

But actually cars do kill people, and guns do kill people. It's possible to make both cars and guns much safer, which other countries have been able to do, and some states in the United States have been able to do.

Did you know that the NRA got government funded research on gun deaths/violence banned? That shows how scared the NRA is of facts. Shameful.

I almost wished I belonged to the NRA, so I could tear up my membership card and send it back to them.


But Brian,

To cite one example, gun crimes and murders are way up in Chicago despite strict gun control laws there. The problem in America is in the culture which makes us different than other countries you mentioned that have strict gun control.

But that is not my main point which I have been trying to get across unsuccessfully in my comments to you and Dungeness for some time now.

My point is that until all guns are gone there will be wackos and criminals that will use any gun available obtained legally or illegally to perform crimes. Even mass murders have been performed with handguns so...

For this reason I think what follows logically is that those who want to ban assault rifles need to go for the jugular and get rid of all guns. All of them.

Nothing to it. Just round up all the estimated 300 million guns circulating in the USA. Put 'em in a furnace and melt them down into steel girders for homeless shelters or whatever.

I just don't see anything accomplished by banning only assault rifles.

For example, let's say assault rifles were banned. So, people at the emotionally charged drunken political event (Tea Partiers no doubt) did not have 100 round assault rifles like they usually do. What a relief! Instead, they all carried concealed 9mm semi-auto Glock pistols, .22 revolvers. .38 revolvers, .357 magnum revolvers, .44 specials, 1911 Colt .45 semi auto pistols, .380 semi auto pistols, vintage WWII mausers, and the list goes on.

Suddenly, an alcohol fueled heated argument ensues between caustic and aggressive heavily armed tea partiers and emotionally charged but kind and gentle Occupy Wall St.'rs. who feel safe because assault rifles have been banned. To their shock, the salivating, knuckle dragging, drunken tea partiers, just waiting for the opportunity to commit an atrocity, whip out their Glocks when they mistake a Twinkie, pulled out by a stoned Wall Streeter who got the munchies, and open fire killing scores in a scene of mass murder and mayhem.

The debate continues...

tucson, by your logic we should ban all cars, all ladders, all swimming pools -- because some people are killed by them. That's absurd. All of life's risks can't be eliminated, because life is inherently risky.

But we have mandatory seat belts, air bags, ladder safety standards, swimming pool lifeguards, etc. because some risks can be reduced.

In his book "Antifragility," Taleb points out that speed limits on highways make sense because driving at high speeds is much more risky that driving at low speeds. So even a libertarian'ish philosophy recognizes the need for regulations.

Sorry, your argument is illogical. There's really no debate here; facts are facts. The United States has more guns per capita than any other nation. Yet we have a much higher gun death rate. If guns made us safer, we'd be the safest country on earth when it comes to gun deaths.

So more guns means more gun deaths. Facts are facts.

Dear Blogger Brian,

Our logic is still not connecting.

What I am saying is that assault rifles are no more of a problem than any kind of gun because all of them have been used to kill lots of people. So, banning assault rifles is useless unless you are willing to ban all guns which is as absurd as banning all cars, ladders and swimming pools.

This is not analogous to swimming pools and ladders in the way you put it.

Banning assault rifles would be like banning 10 ft. ladders that people have fallen off of when they have fallen off all sizes of ladders. People will still continue to use other ladders and fall off them. If you want to eliminate ladder accidents, ban all ladders.

Or banning any swimming pool over 30 ft. long on the theory increased length allows more people to fall into it. People will still drown in 28 ft.swimming pools. If you want to eliminate swimming pool accidents, ban all swimming pools.

Outlaw fast cars. Let's say we ban all cars that go 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. People will still drive drunk and kill people in slower cars. If you want to eliminate drunk driving accidents, eliminate all cars.

No risk will be reduced by banning assault rifles. People will still aggressively shoot, in their madness, all the other guns. If you want to eliminate shootings, ban all guns.

The Newtown shooter could have walked onto the campus with a semi auto pistol and accomplished the same thing. These guns have 13-15 round clips. The .223 Bushmaster usually has a 20 rd. magazine. I don't see enough difference in lethality or firepower that the killings would have been any worse or better with either gun. 15 shots, drop the clip and shove in a fresh one. What's the difference when you are shooting kids at point blank range?

So, one last time, if people want to try to reduce mass gun killings they had best shoot for (pun intended) banning all guns.

tucson, if you're correct in your assertion that there's no difference in lethality between a semi auto pistol and an assault rifle like the Bushmaster, that's good news.

The NRA and assault rifle owners will be happy to have them banned, since they're not giving up anything.

But you're wrong, perhaps because you aren't familiar with different types of guns. I encourage you to educate yourself.
A short start is a You Tube video. Don't know if you've handled semi-automatic and revolver pistols (I have), but they're nothing like what the Bushmaster used to kill the twenty children can do. Have a look.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3QtHPcf7u4

Then there's this ABC News story:
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/newtown-massacre-bushmaster-223/story?id=18000884#.UOEl1aWX-s0

Here's some excerpts:
-----------------------
Bushmaster, headquartered in North Carolina, bills itself on its website as the leading supplier of AR-15-type rifles in the U.S. and offers more than a dozen different models in various calibers.

A February report by Guns and Ammo magazine noted a growing demand in recent years for AR-15-type rifles – and specifically those loaded with .223 caliber bullets – for use in home defense. The .223 caliber load is popular, the article says, because it has better fragmentation upon impact, meaning it will deal a lot of damage with less chance of accidentally continuing through the target and endangering whoever's in the background.

..."This thing is just a killing machine," Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told ABC News today. "It's designed, like I said it was designed... very similar to the weapon that's used in the battlefield."

...Connecticut's gun laws are some of the toughest in the country, according to anti-gun groups, but they do not specifically ban the Bushmaster AR-15-type guns and the weapon can be easily modified to dodge other restrictions. On Bushmaster's website, the company offers to help customers make sure their assault-style rifles are "state compliant."

"But it's still just as deadly because what makes it dangerous is the ability to take almost unlimited amounts of ammunition and a pistol grip," said Horwitz. "That's what allows the shooter to keep the barrel down on the target."

...On its website, the gun company says that "With a Bushmaster for security and home defense, you can sleep tight knowing that your loved ones are protected. Bushmaster offers everything you need to ensure the safety of you and your family. ... And with their intimidating looks, all Bushmasters make a serious impression. Any gun will make an intruder think. A Bushmaster will make them think twice."

...In 2002 the men known as the Beltway snipers, John Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo, used a Bushmaster .223 to shoot more than a dozen people. In that case, Bushmaster contributed $500,000 to a multi-million-dollar settlement with the victims' families, who claimed the gun manufacturer didn't do as much as it should to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals. Bushmaster said its contribution to the settlement did not amount to an admission of guilt.
--------------------
Yeah, right. That's what guilty corporations always say.

Brian,

You wrote to me:

"But you're wrong, perhaps because you aren't familiar with different types of guns"

--But I am familiar with different kinds of guns. I am not an expert or gun hobbyist but there was a time when it was vital that I arm myself in order to protect my family. My son's bedroom was barricaded with stacks of hay bales and multiple layers of 3/4" plywood. Sometimes the police can't protect you and you have to do it yourself.

I have owned about 20 different guns of all types from small and large revolvers, to semi-auto pistols to shotguns to the military style semi-auto "assault" rifles. I have had the opportunity to shoot many types of guns at shooting ranges and elsewhere. I have had training with gun experts.

Those days are long gone and I am now down to two self/home defense guns which are very bored (pun intended) and in a torpid state of dormancy and that's the way I like it.

The .223 does not, relative to all the rifle cartridges out there, have impressively lethal ballistics. Of course it can kill, but one of the main reasons for its selection by the military is its light weight so a soldier can carry more ammo,but not for its knock down power. Another reason is its low recoil for greater controlability. Why does it have low recoil? Because it is not all that powerful.

It would not have mattered if the Newtown gunman had a Bushmaster or a Glock or a shotgun or a revolver. With children cowering in terror in a corner they would be easy to shoot with any kind of gun. Sorry to put it that way. I do not like to think about that incident. Now I'm upset.

The type of sniper killing done by Malvo and Muhammad could just as easily have been performed with a simple bolt action hunting rifle. Even easier because most hunting rifles have greater long range accuracy and power than the AR-15 Bushmaster. The advantage of an assault rifle is when you have multiple adversaries at a moderate distance, say within 100 yds., and need to get off a lot of shots because you are likely to miss with most of them.

If you have a lot of children trying to run away from you in a playground, then I will grant you that an assault rifle would be the best weapon in that situation.

All I am saying is that banning bushmasters and the like is not going to solve the problem of people losing their minds and going on shooting sprees.

That's my opinion. Take it or leave it(which you will).

tucson, I do leave your argument, because it is false. Mass killings, and killings in general, fell dramatically after Australia banned assault weapons and instituted stricter gun control laws.

It's a fact.
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2012/12/what-us-can-learn-australia-about-gun-control

"In 1996, 35 people were killed in the worst gun massacre in Australian history. But the next decade saw the firearm homicide rate fall by 59 per cent, and the firearm suicide rate fall by 65 per cent, without a corresponding rise in non-firearm deaths."

Your libertarian instincts may make you believe, or hope, that government regulation can't do anything to save innocent children, and others, from being murdered. But your instincts are wrong. I hope you and others who say there is no point in doing anything to try to save those lives wake up.

Many lives depend on it. It's a fact:

"Australia’s response to the 1996 massacre was comprehensive. Admittedly, policies such as its government gun "buyback" policy could not conceivably be passed in the US. But other Australian policies, including a 28-day waiting period before purchase, and a complete ban on semi-automatic weapons could be imitated. The extent of America’s gun problems are so huge that even comparatively small improvements in their gun laws are worthwhile: a 1 per cent drop in gun fatalities would equate to a fall in deaths of 300.

Whatever happens, gun deaths in the US will remain far too high: it would take a ban on guns, utterly unthinkable, to end that fact. But the profound emotional impact of the massacre in Newtown does present an opportunity to improve America’s gun laws, however unsatisfactorily."

I still await your response to my question about what you'd do to help save all the lives in this country snuffed out by our gun obsessed laws and culture. Until you do that, in detail, with facts to back your position up, I have to assume that you simply don't care about those dead children.

Sorry, but in my world, actions speak louder than words. And so far allI hear from you are words that don't make sense.

I'm speaking bluntly. Guess I'm inspired, in part, by Nicholas Taleb and his book "Antifragility." He annoys people, but he speaks the truth as he understands it. And I like how he has good arguments to back him up. Taleb says:

"If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud... being accommodating toward anyone committing a nefarious action condones it."

The NRA and gun nuts in this country condone the killing of innocents by responding to 20 dead children by going out and buying more assault rifles that will be used to kill more innocent children, and calling for more guns in more places, which is the reason those children were killed.

I'm not going to spend my life letting nefarious fraud like this go unchallenged. I hate religious fraud, and I hate social policy fraud that kills innocent people. Those who stand by are accomplices to these murders. Everybody has to make a choice where to stand.

I've made mine.

Brian,

The US is not Australia. We have about 300 million more people and about 300 million more guns, 4 million of which are assault rifles. When assault weapons were banned in the US the murder rate did not go down but it was great for gun sales. Mass murders have been committed with guns other than assault rifles.

You wrote:
"I still await your response to my question about what you'd do to help save all the lives in this country snuffed out by our gun obsessed laws and culture. Until you do that, in detail, with facts to back your position up, I have to assume that you simply don't care about those dead children."

--So, you're really going to assume that I don't care about dead children because I have no answer for the mass killing problem. Really? I guess I'm sort of like Romney who wants a diseased planet and coastal flooding, according to you.

The quote you yourself provided is about the best answer I can give:

"Whatever happens, gun deaths in the US will remain far too high: it would take a ban on guns, utterly unthinkable, to end that fact. But the profound emotional impact of the massacre in Newtown does present an opportunity to improve America’s gun laws, however unsatisfactorily."


tucson, thanks for your response. I appreciate your honesty. I now know...

(1) You don't care about doing anything to prevent more killings of innocent children and adults.

(2) You believe that the United States isn't like any other country in the world, being somehow divorced from the reality that applies everywhere else on Earth.

I strongly disagree with both positions, which strike me as disturbingly uncompassionate and unfactual. But, hey, each of us has to live our own life, and live up to our own ethical standards.

I'm not saying that you aren't ethical. We just disagree about what our responsibility is to the many thousands who are killed by gun violence in this country every year, a rate many times higher than that in other countries with stronger gun control laws.

Today I read more of "Antifragile." Nicholas Taleb talks about our obsession with anecdotes rather than big picture facts. Good point.

On the news yesterday I saw a video of people risking their lives on thin ice to try to rescue someone who had broken through into very cold water. (Not smart, but admirable courage.)

Yet when people are confronted with undeniable evidence of thousands upon thousands of children and others unnecessarily killed by guns, they go "so what?" I don't get this; and yet I do, because I'm not immune to the disease of anecdotal/singular preoccupation.

We try to save a single child at risk of death, but we sit on our hands when the children are hidden from view. To me, compassion means looking beyond what is right in front of us to the needs of those who are outside our view, but equally in need of our help.

I try to understand how people, which seems to include you, can appear so uncaring about needless killing. So I do appreciate your willingness to engage in conversation about gun control.

However, I have to say that I still don't get how it's possible to say "I care..." and not be willing to do anything about the problem you claim you care about. There are many ways we fool ourselves. Often saying one thing, and realizing that we aren't acting in accord with what we supposedly believe, is one way of coming to grips with our internal bullshit.

Whether this is what you're doing is for you to decide, not me. We all have our own B.S. to wrestle with. I've got a lot of my own, for sure.

Brian,

In response to your points 1 & 2 above.

1) I care, but I don't see any feasible solution. You confuse my not seeing any feasible solution with not caring.

2) The U.S. is different from other countries because of the 2nd amendment which entrenches guns in our society.

tucson, understood. Again, I appreciate your honesty. There may not be a feasible solution. I just think we have to try, if the attempt fails.

Yes, the 2nd amendment is a reality that has to be dealt with. But the Supreme Court has interpreted it to allow reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, such as banning of assault rifles and high capacity clips.

It's the political, not legal, hurdle that is the most difficult to cross.

So Brian, if guns were banned, would you feel safer? Would you feel safer knowing that good people that are law abiding would be stripped of their guns? Would you feel confident that the bad guys would no longer have guns? Would you feel confident that police officers would be at the right place at the right time to protect you always? Do you feel confident in hand to hand combat that if someone was breaking into your house in the middle of the night to rob you or do harm to you and your wife, you could neutralize the bad guy(s)? Or do you think a call to 911 is going to be fast enough to save you, or investigate the crime scene?
All this ranting you have been bringing up is about terrorists that have done unthinkable acts, to soft targets. Why don't we focus on that? Terrorists... yes that's what they are. When a person attacks unarmed people in a place that is unprotected and they can get maximum damage with little resistance, that is Terrorism's prime target. Schools, Malls, Workplace, Theaters... places where there lots of people and no guns.
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/072312-619196-aurora-colorado-theater-gun-free-zone.htm?p=full
I like that information you give on state rankings of gun deaths per capita for two reasons:
Connecticut is one of the lowest rankings because of their strict gun laws. Hard to believe they could have an event like they just had in such a safe place.
Washington DC is not mentioned as one of the worst. Now you could say... well its not a state, however... DC’s policy is no guns what so every, and what has that done to their death by gun per capita? They win!!!!! 31 per capita…. In tiny little DC?
http://www.statemaster.com/graph/cri_mur_wit_fir-death-rate-per-100-000
Wait, here is one that is really close to home. Same genre… gunman on a rampage in a mall. Once again, lots of people, no resistance, soft target…. Until… He catches sight of a concealed weapon carrier pointing his gun at him. After which he stops his rampage, and does himself in. So having somebody with a gun in proximity stopped the violence and death to innocent people, without firing a shot.
http://www.kgw.com/news/Clackamas-man-armed-confronts-mall-shooter-183593571.html
Putting rules in place that regulates the ability of good people from getting guns is nothing but helpful for bad guys. They will always have a way to have guns, and the fact that they are illegal really doesn’t bother them. Why don’t we work on ways of thwarting terrorism here that helps protect soft targets? Why don’t we take steps to see that mentally challenged individuals are kept from getting guns? Why don’t we address the problem, and not the shiny object?
If you want to get to the root of this problem, then you need to remove Liberalism, and the acceptance that there is no accountability for one’s actions. It wasn’t that the shooter was crazy, and he shot a bunch of innocent children, he did it because he was picked on as a kid for being different… it was unfair, so he snapped and that’s why. So, if he hadn’t killed himself, he would have probably been sentenced to a mental ward to make him better, and eventually somewhere down the road, be released because he was all better now. He couldn’t be held responsible for his crime because he was crazy. Right?
If you have chosen your stance, why don’t you make a sign to post in your yard that says, “This home is a Gun Free environment” or is that maybe something you don’t want everybody to know? Maybe you want them to think you have an AR-15, even if you don’t.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XrNzE39J8E
Warning, this video is MA-14 for language used in it… Although it’s nothing that I haven’t seen you write before.

Brian,

Yes. You see we both care. We just disagree on what to do about it.

Brian: Ban assault rifles.

tucson: I don't think it will help.

That's where we stand.

True, if there were absolutely zero assault rifles with high capacity magazines anywhere, no one would be shot by THEM, but a maniac still would have a myriad of other deadly weapons to choose from. If it really would reduce gun violence in the USA by banning high capacity weapons I would support it.

Dan, some responses to your comment.

(1) I've never called for banning all guns. Where did you get that idea? I've never heard anyone else, especially not any politician, call for this. It's a fantasy of the NRA, that all guns will be banned.

(2) I'm a gun owner. Have been for a long time. Various types of guns. I feel comfortable with guns. I like having a gun around. Yet I, along with what seems to be a majority of responsible gun owners, favor banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

(3) Mental illness is a reality. Many mentally ill people kill with guns. I'm including temporarily mentally ill through intoxication, as with alcohol, one of our nation's biggest drug problems. Caring for the mentally ill has to be part of any effort to control gun violence. But other things need to be done also.

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