Thursday, June 16, 2016

Some Notes on Guns

Deadpool.  You either love it, or you're wrong.
Let’s get some stuff out of the way first.  Personally, I heart guns.  Deadpool was easily one of the best shoot-em-up super “hero” movies of the year, if not the decade. It opened with an exquisite orgy of gun violence and death that is both memorable and will be hard to parallel.  I love modern, vintage and archaic guns.  I'd love to have a replica of Wyatt Earp's famous Buntline Special on my wall right next to a Brown Bess and a Winchester 1866.  I enjoy shooting gun at targets.  I especially love to research and write about them.  If you've read my books, you can see I take great care to accurately portray weapons and their use.

I am, however, very much in favor of gun control.  I know.  That’s like being wrapped up in a nice, warm, friendly blanket that hugs you, but never makes you sweat and then having an ice water deluge poured down on you with the fury of ten-thousand frozen waterfalls.  Sorry about that.  Also, this position is not open for debate. That’s not what this article is about.

This position is not open for debate.

That's not what this article is about.

I hope those two points are clear.

Over the past few days, I’ve found myself educating more “gun control” folk than should be necessary.  Hopefully, this will shed some light on a sorely needed area that seems vastly misunderstood.  Gun control folk, if you really want to make meaningful change, you need to understand guns.  It would help if you’ve shot a few, but at the very least, please, please, please educate yourself.  Ignorance is as much a problem for the lack of change as the folk actively working against change.

When we appear ignorant (not stupid, just not educated on the facts) our arguments are easily hand-waved away.  If you know this stuff, then great.  Move along and continue the good work.  If you don't, please take three minutes to read to the bottom and then go do some more research.  It will only benefit all of us in the long run.

Reading—It's what matters.
First, let’s understand what an “assault-style” rifles is versus an “assault rifle”.  They are two different things.  The AR-15 (AR stands for ArmaLite, not “automatic rifle”—that’s the company who first designed the AR-15) and similar termed "assault-style" rifles are semi-automatic weapons that have "scary" bits attached to them.  They do not make the weapon any more dangerous than any other long rifle.  A flash-suppressor doesn’t make the bullets bigger, shoot further, or fire at a faster rate.  A pistol-grip and bayonet lugs do not give the weapon a superior ability to kill over other semi-automatic rifles.  Thus, the AR-15 is no more dangerous than any Remington .223 long rifle.  You pull the trigger once, and only one bullet is fired.

Assault weapons, like the M16 which the AR-15 is based on, are defined as being able to go fully automatic.  Fully automatic obviously makes a weapon shoot much faster with the single pull of a trigger.  This puts more lead into the air which is inherently more dangerous for humans who enjoy breathing.  As such, assault weapons have been banned from public ownership since the 1930s under the National Firearms Act.  Only the military can have fully-automatic weapons. 

That said, some semi-automatic rifles can be turned into full-automatics if you know what you’re doing.  It is mostly illegal, but that’s not part of this piece and not germane to the discussion.

Now, “assault-style” weapons like the AR-15 were banned (sort of) from 1994 to 2004 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  The data that we have from before, during and after the ban shows that it was wholly ineffective.  This is not to say that assault-style weapons found their way into criminal hands and were used to commit horrific acts.  They were not.  Instead, assault-style weapons were not used in any meaningful way to commit crimes such that banning them or not banning them made any sense.  In short, the “scary” looking guns were removed, and it didn’t make a lick of difference.

What everyone should understand is that all firearms are dangerous.  They are meant to do
Maybe this time?
one thing—kill.  The data on shootings shows that the majority of deaths and injuries (unintentional or intentional) are committed with handguns.  If we want to look at meaningful legislation that would reduce death and injury from firearms, it should from the facts and move forward—not knee-jerk reactions to traumatic events.  Those events only underline the need for change.

The take-away here is that banning "assault-style" weapons will do next to nothing.  It will probably feel like a victory to some people, but overall it would be smoke and mirrors meant only to placate. Meaningful change can be had, but it will take both sides understanding that any death or injury from firearms is almost wholly preventable.  We, as a nation, did NOTHING after Sandy Hook, except watch those little coffins being lowered into the ground, or the subsequent hundreds of other shootings, and thousands of other injuries that have taken place since.

Maybe today is that day.

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