Following any random act of violence involving a gun, there are usually 4 stages of grief from the spectating public: (1) Expressing condolences (2) Blaming the NRA (3) Labeling all gun owners as crazy as the psychopath responsible for the murders, and (4) Lobbying congress for tighter gun control.
This is a familiar refrain. People who advocate stronger gun controls are “caring” and “responsible,” while anyone who understands the utility of guns is written off as a crazy redneck.
Jason Alexander, the Seinfeld actor, posted something to this effect on Twitter today. Let’s examine it.
This morning, I made a comment about how I do not understand people who support public ownership of assault style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Colorado massacre. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AR-15
That comment, has of course, inspired a lot of feedback. There have been many tweets of agreement and sympathy but many, many more that have been challenging at the least, hostile and vitriolic at the worst.
Clearly, the angry, threatened and threatening, hostile comments are coming from gun owners and gun advocates. Despite these massacres recurring and despite the 100,000 Americans that die every year due to domestic gun violence - these people see no value to even considering some kind of control as to what kinds of weapons are put in civilian hands.
He then goes on to parse the 2nd Amendment to show, I suppose, how it is antiquated and invalid.
Since the legal status of the 2nd Amendment is not as controversial to the judicial system, let’s just move past that.
Then I get messages from seemingly decent and intelligent people who offer things like: @BrooklynAvi: Guns should only be banned if violent crimes committed with tomatoes means we should ban tomatoes. OR @nysportsguys1: Drunk drivers kill, should we ban fast cars?
I’m hoping that right after they hit send, they take a deep breath and realize that those arguments are completely specious. I believe tomatoes and cars have purposes other than killing. What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve? Let’s see - does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality. Hardly the primary purpose of tomatoes and sports cars.
I’m hoping Jason Alexander can take a deep breath and realize that guns are not just used exclusively to murder groups of random people. I think this is a big cultural difference between coastal city-dwellers and the rest of America.
But, anyway, he asks a few questions.
What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve?
The AR-15 is, functionally, a “standard hunting rifle.”
Gun advocates will freely admit that the AR-15 “looks scary,” but it is mechanically similar to every other semi-automatic rifle. And don’t be afraid of the phrase “semi-automatic.” This is the Ruger Mini-14 ranch rifle, another semi-automatic rifle:
Looks pretty “standard,” especially when compared to the AR-15. But they each fire one bullet for each trigger pull. In fact, they fire the exact same bullet, the .223 Remington. Furthermore, the Mini-14, a “standard hunting rifle,” was used in the 2011 Norwegian shooting spree that left seventy-seven people dead. We need to be realistic and not judge guns on “looks.” (The AR-15 is NOT the same as the very similar looking M16, which is a fully automatic assault rifle.)
Let’s see - does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes.
This is true. You can put larger magazines on the AR-15. But you can do that for most guns and it does not necessarily make the gun more dangerous. You can carry ten 10-round magazines instead of a 100. It takes all of 2 seconds to reload. A single, larger magazine may actually be a liability to the shooter if it jams or malfunctions.
Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes.
Compared to what? And is accuracy not a “good thing” when it comes to guns? Is it “safer” if bullets just spray randomly in every direction?
Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes.
Again, compared to what? The bullet in the AR-15 is fairly standard. There are more common rounds that are much bigger. And even a .22 caliber round can be lethal.
The only real difference between the AR-15 and a stereotypical wooden deer rifle is that the AR-15 looks more aggressive and can hold large magazines. Cosmetics aren’t worth debating, and the magazine is not a “tactical advantage” when shooting unarmed civilians.
Then there are the tweets from the extreme right - these are the folk who believe our government has been corrupted and stolen and that the forces of evil are at play, planning to take over this nation and these folk are going to fight back and take a stand. And any moron like me who doesn’t see it should…
a. be labeled a moron
b. shut the fuck up
c. be removed
Well, there are some right-wingers who are more paranoid about the government than others. I think Mr. Alexander should, if not “shut the fuck up,” at least do some basic research into a topic he’s pontificating on.
And amazingly, I have some minor agreement with these folks. I believe there are evil forces at play in our government. But I call them corporatists. I call them absolutists. I call them the kind of ideologues from both sides, but mostly from the far right who swear allegiance to unelected officials that regardless of national need or global conditions, are never to levy a tax. That they are never to compromise or seek solutions with the other side. That are to obstruct every possible act of governance, even the ones they support or initiate. Whose political and social goal is to marginalize the other side, vilify and isolate them with the hope that they will surrender, go away or die out.
(Read: this is the Republicans fault)
Then there are the folks who write that if everyone in Colorado had a weapon, this maniac would have been stopped. Perhaps. But I do believe that the element of surprise, tear gas and head to toe kevlar protection might have given him a distinct edge. Not only that, but a crowd of people firing away in a chaotic arena without training or planning - I tend to think that scenario could produce even more victims.
I don’t think it would have helped if everyone was armed. Maybe if they were all trained policemen, but in a situation like that - a dark theater with loud audio at 1am, multiple civilians returning fire might not have helped. And, in this case, the potential to encounter armed civilians was not at all a deterrent to this guy, as he reportedly was wearing a vest and other armor. I agree with Jason Alexander here, but there are many OTHER situations when it might have helped to have other people be armed. For some perspective, watch this:
I have been reading on and off as advocates for these weapons make their excuses all day long. Guns don’t kill - people do. Well if that’s correct, I go with @BrooklynAvi, let them kill with tomatoes. Let them bring baseball bats, knives, even machetes —- a mob can deal with that.
There are lots of ways to kill a lot of people. Home-made bombs from widely available material. Using common chemicals as a poison in food or drinks. Driving a car through a pedestrian mall. Electrocution. The list of things a mob can’t deal with goes on and on. At the very least, excessive and unusual gun ownership can be viewed as a “warning sign” by a would-be killer’s friends and family.
These weapons are military weapons. They belong in accountable hands, controlled hands and trained hands. They should not be in the hands of private citizens to be used against police, neighborhood intruders or people who don’t agree with you. These are the weapons that maniacs acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents. They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles. These weapons are designed for harm and death on big scales.
Philosophical question: if guns only belong in “accountable hands,” who is going to hold them accountable? But, to the larger point, “these weapons” (presumably AR-15s) ARE the same as “hunting rifles” and “sporting rifles.” The Colorado killer did NOT use a fully-automatic military assault rifle - just one that looks similar. Yes, an AR-15 is probably a better gun than something built 100 years ago, but they all do the same thing. It is silly to nitpick based on the specific model. Personally, I’d rather see a wacko coming down the street with a very conspicuous AR-15 than with 3 or 4 handguns hidden on him. Both shoot bullets, and all bullets are dangerous.
Let’s dig deeper for a second. The reason nutjobs like this recent guy are attracted to weapons like the AR-15 is because it is flashy. It’s part of the fantasy - the fantasy they see played out so often in movies and video games. It’s not surprising to me that the Colorado shooter carried the AR-15, a shotgun, and two pistols - as that is THE typical armament in most “first person shooter” video games.
The media seems to be focusing more on the guns themselves than the fact this guy thought he was The Joker and shot up a theater playing a film that glorifies gun violence. What happened in that theater was something that can be commonly seen in movies - not at NRA meetings (though I find it unlikely anyone in Hollywood would criticize the movies).
But I don’t think we need to ban video games or movies. Let’s just be reasonable. A guy with marijuana in his system ATE THE FACE off another man earlier this year. Good luck finding a single person advocating a weapons ban while simultaneously suggesting stricter bans on marijuana. Most of them probably have medical marijuana cards. They realize that marijuana doesn’t kill people, and most people who smoke marijuana won’t eat anyone’s face.
We don’t need to blame our political adversaries for the actions of psychopaths. I don’t like that we live in a world with crazy people. I don’t like that we live in a world that needs guns. But it’s reality - not a Hollywood movie. Certain politicians may pretend they don’t understand the use or purpose of guns and assault rifles, but that doesn’t stop them from arming civilian populations around the world in countries with leaders we disapprove of. Where were all the gun control advocates when President Obama was arming Libyan rebels? Can someone send me a link to Jason Alexander’s essay about how sending weapons to Libyan rebels proves that semi-automatic rifles are “weapons that maniacs acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents?”
“But that’s there. This is here.”
Sure. But what prevents that from happening here? Our citizens having guns? Something else? You may disagree with many “right-wing nutjobs,” but if things ever get bad in the United States, who would you rather be friends with - an NRA member, or Jason Alexander?
Let’s not vilify people we disagree with. I have no doubt Jason Alexander is concerned with the welfare of people and is a decent, honest individual. But disagreeing with him doesn’t make you a maniac or unreasonable (especially when he clearly is not well educated in this topic).
In my opinion, the entire basis for his criticism of a specific type of semi-automatic weapon is flawed. Banning the AR-15 is not the solution to any problem, least of all one that he has failed to identify.
these people see no value to even considering some kind of control as to what kinds of weapons are put in civilian hands.
I have considered it, and I am still more concerned with the weapons that AREN’T in civilian hands, as those do the bulk of the killing. The government isn’t the answer to all our problems. Government controls are not going to stop people from going insane. We can maybe stop them from using certain weapons - but while there will still be plenty of other options available to them for killing, there will be fewer options available to law-abiding citizens who only want to protect themselves from a very real, very dangerous world.
*note: I made a same-day edit to this, replacing the Ruger 10/22 with the Mini-14 in the comparison above.
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