Fisking

In response to the current about gun control following the school shooting in Florida, we were asked to read and comment upon a post from Facebook. Below is our response; the original is indented, with our reply interspersed throughout to make it easier to follow.

My brother’s response to my mom’s email about the recent shooting. I want to share, particularly because of the way he explains things. As a veteran and a gun owner, he knows much more about guns than I do. Hopefully his arguments and information can help any of my friends trying to sway people on gun control laws.

“Completely agree with the sentiment here, Mom. However, in order to make educated arguments for gun control, it’s important to actually know what you’re proposing and use the right language. Otherwise, you’ll just get completely shut down as “not knowing anything about guns” to people you’re trying to convince. And if you don’t know anything about guns, you can’t really advocate for responsible gun policy.

AR15s are not the problem alone. Yes, it’s the most popular military-style rifle, and it is designed to kill people effectively. But banning one model of weapon will just make people switch to other, equally effective killing machines. If you banned the Toyota Camry, would people stop buying midsize sedans? No, you’d just end up with more Honda Accords on the road. If you want to fix the problem, you have to ban all semi-automatic rifles. Semi-automatic means the weapon is loaded with a magazine (or belt in some cases) with multiple rounds; and for every trigger squeeze, one bullet is discharged.

So far, so good, except for the part about banning all semi-autos, which we’ll address throughout.

There is no real need for these weapons in civilian use.

First of all, rights aren’t about need.  Second, even if they were, we disagree; read on.

They aren’t necessary for hunting, where the point is to kill the animal with one shot.

Sometimes, you need more than one shot; you miss, or hit poorly and need to follow up quickly. Sometimes, you’re hunting groups of animals. We often think of hunting deer, but in many parts of the country, wild hogs are a problem. A serious problem. They’re a species not native to this continent, and have no natural predators once they’re past “piglet” size. They reach sexual maturity as young as six months, can breed 2-3 times a year, and can have litters of 12-18 piglets (8-12 is more common). Moreover, they’re hugely destructive to property, including both farmland and wild areas, destroying crops and out-competing the native species. You need to kill 60-75% annually just to keep the population stable.

They’re such a problem here in Oklahoma that the state Department of Wildlife has gone out on helicopter patrol to shoot them; at one point, they killed ~600 in a week. Didn’t even put a dent in the population, but farmers still make it a point to shoot them on sight whenever possible.

Hogs run in groups (called “sounders”) that can be a dozen or more animals. Eliminating entire sounders is desirable, because hogs are quick learners, and escapees are just that much harder to eliminate next time.

It is only useful for killing a lot of things in a short amount of time

…the value of which we’ve just established in a hunting situation…

or having fun at a gun range. I think our children’s lives are more important than a fraction of the population’s fun shooting a bunch of rounds quickly at a range.

There are entire disciplines of formal target shooting that require shooting something in military configuration. Today, that’s done with an AR pattern (you’ll also find people shooting historical matches with the WWII-era M1 and WWI-era 1903 Springfield rifles). These aren’t just “fun shooting a bunch of rounds quickly;” these are formal competitions, often held in conjunction with military competition shoots. The biggest is the national competition held annually at Camp Perry, OH, where top marksmen from across the services compete side-by-side with civilians at distances to 600 yards…with iron sights, not optics. We are personally acquainted with a former Navy man who has more than one trophy rifle from that match, and has been a member of the President’s 100 (top 100 marksmen in the services nationwide). That’s not just people out blasting pop cans to make noise; it takes incredible amounts of skill, discipline, and practice to shoot at that level, and they’re not hurting anybody by doing so.

They’ll cope.

Thank you for that. What activities do you enjoy that aren’t harming anyone (and, by the way, probably aren’t expressly protected by the supreme law of the land) that we can take away with a dismissive “you’ll cope?” How arrogant!

Handguns are far more responsible for gun deaths in America than semi-auto rifles.

True, sort of: they’re used to cause more deaths, but inanimate objects aren’t responsible for anything. Responsibility rests with the user.

You mentioned the kid who brought a gun to school as only having a “handgun, not a semi-automatic.” Well, almost all handguns are semi-automatic.

We’d say the majority, not “almost all,” but that’s splitting hairs.

They have magazines and one bullet per trigger squeeze. Though most handgun rounds aren’t as deadly as rifle rounds, it’s inconsequential at short range. And handguns are far easier to conceal than a rifle. With the exception of maybe revolvers (which have 5-6 round max before reloading), I believe handguns should be outlawed.

Revolvers can be reloaded very quickly; Jerry Miculek has made an art of it. Throw the name into Google and you’ll get all sorts of videos, including one of him firing 12 shots (meaning he reloaded) in a total of 3 seconds…and they were all solid hits.

Fun fact: semi-automatics eject the spent cases, which can be found and used as evidence. Revolvers don’t.

The Virginia Tech massacre, the most deadly school shooting in American history, was accomplished with handguns only. Don’t underestimate their lethality. I think military style rifles only account for about 2% of gun deaths each year. If you want to solve the problem, semi-auto handguns have to go, as well.

The Virginia Tech victims were shot execution-style, on their knees with their executioner behind them. He could have just as easily used a revolver, or even a knife, under those circumstances. Like Sept. 11th, though, we all know better than to take orders like that anymore.

If we really want to make a difference in gun deaths, we need to do WAY more than universal background checks and better mental health screening. Banning all semi-automatic weapons would make that difference.

Riiiight. Just like Prohibition got rid of alcohol, and drug prohibition got drugs off the street. It’s so simple, we can’t believe we didn’t see it!

Keeping shotguns, revolvers, and bolt-action rifles legal accomplish all the typical, common uses of guns.

First of all, shotguns come in semi-auto as well as pump-action, break-action (single- and double-barrel that break open at the rear of the barrel(s), even bolt-action. Second, some other action can be run nearly as quickly as semi-autos. Pump (or slide) actions, for example, and some countries ban them for that very reason; lever guns—think John Wayne—can also be run very quickly, as Chuck Connors demonstrated in the opening theme to The Rifleman (yes, that was real, done without cinematic trickery; check your local listings or YouTube for the sequence).

(Bolt-action rifles are typical hunting rifles that you have to reload between shots.)

Nope. You have to (manually) cycle the action, but they’re still fed from a magazine. When the magazine runs empty (and there’s no fixed limit on magazine size), then you have to reload. With box magazines, you can swap one out just like you can on a typical AR-pattern rifle; Remington even makes, or made, a pump-action rifle (the model 7615) chambered for the same round as the typical AR-pattern rifle (.223 Remington/5.56mm NATO), and using exactly the same magazines.

With these types of firearms legal, you can still hunt, defend your home, and compete in sport shooting.

Again, there are uses for those semi-autos in all of those things, particularly defense. What about the situation where you have more than one attacker? The Washington Post—certainly not anybody’s conservative-leaning paper—famously ran a photo on the front page, above the fold, during the Rodney King L.A. riots of Korean shopkeepers on the roofs of their buildings, holding semiautomatic rifles (including AR-patterns and AK-patterns) with standard-capacity (30 round) magazines. Later stories reported that the Korean district was largely spared from the destruction.

We don’t think that was a coincidence.

Combine the following with the semi-auto ban.
Government buy-back

Buy-back? How can they buy back what they never owned in the first place? Let’s try honest language: confiscation, with token payment.

program of all semi-automatic weapons. Once a grace period for turn-ins ends, possession will be a felony without a special (and rare) license for Federally approved dealers and collectors.

Kind of like possession of most drugs. Working great, don’t you think?

And this pie-in-the sky thinking completely ignores the fact that it would be thoroughly unenforceable without shredding the Constitution (as the author admits below). Current estimates put the number of just AR-pattern rifles in private hands in eight figures; all semiautomatic firearms would be solidly into nine. Given how many people refused to even register those firearms in states that have passed such laws (Connecticut is but one recent example), the idea of people complying with a “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in” (Dianne Feinstein’s stated intent; see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffI-tWh37UY) scheme is downright laughable.

So, since “turn them all in” isn’t going to happen, what next? House-to-house searches? Yup, goodbye Fourth Amendment. And, just for the record, if that ever comes to pass, it’ll probably lead to a second civil war.

…and let’s just dispense with the idea that even if they were all turned in, they’d cease to exist. They’re really not that hard to make; third-world villagers the world over have been turning out serviceable copies for over a century. http://cosmolineandrust.blogspot.com/2006/10/filipino-blacksmith-revolver-fruit-of.html has an example of a revolver that was cloned by hand in the Philippines (note: revolvers are actually harder to make than semi-autos due to tighter tolerances); Afghanis have been duplicating military rifles since at least the Martini-Henry used by the British Army back in the late nineteenth century, and continue making modern arms today. We’ve seen video of an AK-pattern made out of a shovel.

The AR pattern’s great leap forward was in pioneering the use of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining. CNC machines accept a billet of metal and a computer program (called gcode) and produce the desired object with very little intervention from the operator. Gcode files for numerous firearms—including AR-pattern rifles—are readily available, and CNC equipment can be built from scratch, or found any of a number of places (including facilities that make them available for public use; we’ve personally used a couple such facilities).

Also, as long as it’s going to be a felony, why stop at making a semi-auto? Full-auto (i.e. a machine gun) is actually easier to make. The Sten gun (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sten) is but one famous example, and can be made cheaply and easily with parts and tools found mostly at Home Depot.

So…the idea that passing a ban is going to be any more effective than Prohibition, or drug bans, or what-have-you, is absolutely ludicrous.

Gun licenses for all who want to continue to own approved firearms. Licenses will be granted by completing a comprehensive background check, psych evaluation, safety training, marksmanship training, and meeting strict storage requirements.

Psych eval. Great idea; who gets to set the standards? Remember, please, that homosexuality, and transgenderism have been considered mental illness in recent history. Remember, also, that totalitarian governments have often used “mental illness” as an excuse for stripping dissidents of their rights (Soviet Russia comes immediately to mind, but there are certainly others). What could possibly go wrong?

Storage requirements would include safes, weapons unloaded, with ammo stored separately.

…making them totally useless for defending your home or person, which the author already graciously allowed as a valid use of arms. “Hey, Mr. Critter, I see you’re breaking into my home; would you mind waiting a moment while I get my gun out of the safe, then go to a different location to get my ammunition and load it? It should only take a minute or two!”

Licenses expire after a certain number of years and all the requirements must be completed again for license renewal.

So…abolish the right to keep and bear arms; turn it into a privilege to be dispensed (or not) at the whim of the state.

One wonders if he’d be willing to apply the same standards to other Constitutionally-protected rights.

Registration of all firearms.

The first step in confiscation. History is replete with examples.  Also, tends to have a low compliance rate, as noted above.

Insurance for all firearms. If your gun is used in a crime or if there’s a accident with your gun, your insurance company is liable for damages.

Individuals are already liable for the damages they cause. As for “used in a crime,” shouldn’t that depend on who uses it? If my car is stolen, am I liable for the thief running people down?

Let the insurance market set rates based on their analysis of risk. Then, people can decide if it’s financially worth it to own a gun.

This is setting it up for failure on multiple levels. First, it’s again turning a right into a privilege. Second, it’s restricting a right to only the financially well-off. If getting an ID card to vote is too much of a financial burden to be allowed, how can anybody who believes in equal rights suggest buying an insurance policy to exercise a right and keep a straight face? “Such policies have disproportionate effect on minorities” says the argument against voter ID; surely something with a much greater cost would have a much greater disproportionate impact…and on precisely the people living in areas where crime (and thus the need for personal defense) is highest.

Incidentally, cost discrimination has historically (back to at least 1875) been used with the deliberate attempt to keep minorities from owning firearms by restricting ownership to the upper economic classes; see Tennessee’s Army and Navy Law for an example.

Finally, here’s your counterarguments for the most common pro-gun arguments:
Pro-gun argument – assault weapons aren’t an actual thing. Banning them won’t make a difference.
Counterargument – none. This is true. Classifying a gun as an “assault weapon” is something people who know nothing about guns do. Having a bayonet stud (a place to mount a bayonet) used to be one way to classify a gun as an assault weapon. Last I checked, we don’t have a bayonet problem in this country. Talk about banning semi-auto guns instead of made-up things like “assault weapons.”

Truth. “Assault weapon” is made-up term based upon appearance. In point of fact, the anti-gunners depend upon that confusion to get such laws passed; Josh Sugarmann, founder of the Violence Policy Center, famously said in 1988, “[a]ssault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.” (Source: http://www.vpc.org/studies/awaconc.htm)

Pro-gun argument – 2nd Amendment guarantees my right to bear arms!
Counterargument – sure, it does, but there can be limitations. And in case anyone needs a history lesson, the individual right to bear arms has only existed since 2008.

Inaccurate; the right has always existed; it hadn’t been interpreted as “individual” or “collective” prior to that (see below).

From the adoption of the Constitution until the DC v. Heller decision in 2008, the 2nd Amendment had never been interpreted to mean private citizens have a right to own guns. (Thanks, Scalia.)

If it weren’t held to be an individual right, it would be the only one in the Bill of Rights that wasn’t, which would have been completely inconsistent with the rest of the document.

But that decision is now the law of the land and precedent for future court decisions. Nevertheless, even in Scalia’s majority opinion, he asserts that there are limitations to the 2nd Amendment. Weapons allowed should be those in common use at the time. And limitations should be made on “dangerous and unusual” weapons, per previous precedent in United States v. Miller. I argue that semi-auto firearms should now be considered “dangerous and unusual,” given their lethality.

If the most common rifle in America (the AR pattern) is “unusual,” then what couldn’t be banned under the author’s premise? And the Court’s opinion (no fair blaming it on Scalia alone; he wrote it, but four other judges signed on to it as the official voice of the Court, not just his own individual concurrence) specifically mentioned examples of what might not be protected: machine guns, etc.  1934’s Miller isn’t especially good caselaw in that the case was remanded for consideration as to whether the short-barreled shotgun at issue was in common military service, which would have rendered it legally permissible; short-barrelled shotguns were used in military service as trench guns, but that issue was never explored on remand as Mr. Miller died before the remand could be heard.

As to “lethality,” it’s worth noting that the AR-pattern fires a less-powerful round than most hunting rifles.

Pro-gun argument – if law-abiding citizens get rid of their guns, criminals won’t follow the law, and we’ll be in more danger.
Counterargument – this is an argument against having laws. Since criminals don’t follow the law, there should be no limits on anything. Also, when we do outlaw things, it can work. Purchases of large quantities of ammonium nitrate fertilizer was restricted after the Oklahoma City bombing, and there hasn’t been a similar bombing since. We outlawed fully automatic weapons, grenades, rocket launchers, etc. in the 20th century, and what has happened? We don’t see violence with those types of weapons. Most weapons used to commit crimes are purchased lawfully. If we change the laws, it will work to reduce gun deaths.

Nearly all guns used to commit crimes are initially purchased lawfully; huge numbers end up stolen or otherwise possessed unlawfully before they’re used in crimes. If we change the laws, criminals (who are already getting weapons unlawfully) will continue to do so.

Pro-gun argument – if we ban guns, people will just use knives or baseball bats
Counterargument – there are plenty of incidents around the world of mass stabbings or clubbings, etc. Show me one that is as lethal as a mass shooting.

Truck bombs. Kamikaze airliners. Shall I go on?

People bent on committing mass murder are surprisingly creative.  (Okay, maybe not that surprising–Tom Clancy fictionalized a kamikaze airliner attack in his 1995 novel Debt of Honor, six years before the WTC attacks.)

Pro-gun argument – we need armed security guards in every school
Counterargument – do you trust the security guard won’t become a mass shooter? The Texas church shooter was an Air Force veteran.

…who was a prohibited person based on his criminal record, but the Air Force failed to get him on the prohibited list…just like the FBI failed to follow its own procedures and forward the Florida shooter’s (written) threat to the local field office.

The Pulse nightclub shooter was a security guard. Further, it’s relatively easy to get the drop on a security guard. Shoot him first when he’s not expecting, then keep going. That’s what the Pulse nightclub shooter did. It’s not difficult if you draw first. Columbine had armed security, too. Adding more guns to schools adds more risk, it doesn’t reduce it.

This is exactly why Congress, state houses, court houses, etc. do without armed guards.

Wait, what?

Pro-gun argument – it’s a mental health issue, not a gun issue *or* guns don’t kill people, people kill people
Counterargument – The United States has the same rates of mental illness as other developed Western countries, but we’re the only ones with this type of violence. The mentally ill are actually less likely to commit crime than those who aren’t mentally ill, which many find surprising. Also, those who are mentally ill are more likely to become the victim of a crime than those who don’t have mental illness.

Depends upon the kind of mental illness; they’re not all the same.

It’s a common refrain to hear “anyone who would do that must be crazy.” That’s not true. Being a murderer doesn’t actually mean you are mentally ill, which is why you hardly ever see successful insanity defenses in trials.

Actually, it has more to do with the legal standard for mental illness used in court (which varies by jurisdiction, and is a multiple-class-period discussion in law school).

And if “people kill people,” then we really should stop giving all these people guns, right? We don’t allow private F-22s or nuclear weapons, do we? Why? Because people would use them to kill other people. People use people-killing machines to kill people. Go figure.

We don’t allow private F-22’s because they’re still classified technology; if you want an F-4 Phantom, though, they’re available on the private market, as are MiGs, F-104 Starfighters, and other jet fighters. The cost of jet fuel is definitely prohibitive, though. Older, piston-engined fighters, bombers, and the like are much more reachable, and I’ve had the pleasure of riding in several and even turning wrenches on a few. Go to any decent airshow and ask around; pilots love to talk about old warbirds.

As to nukes: seriously? Argumentum ad absurdum much?

Pro-gun argument – We, as a society, have turned our backs on God. This is why crime is getting worse. We need God/Jesus to heal people’s hearts, not get rid of law-abiding citizens’ guns.
Counterargument – Crime has actually decreased overall in recent decades. Things are getting better, not worse. Murder rates and violent crime overall have trended down as we’ve advanced as a society. Mass shootings have remained steady, though, because angry people have easy access to guns.

Yeah, the whole religious angle is just a red herring advanced by people trying to push their own faith on others. Pass.

Pro-gun argument – we need guns to fight against the government in case it becomes tyrannical.
Counterargument – I doubt semi-automatic weapons will defeat a tyrannical government with fighter jets, bombers, tanks, artillery, drones, advanced cyber capabilities, and nuclear weapons.
Right. Just ask the Vietnamese, Afghanis, Iraqis, and any number of other insurgent groups who have managed to keep the US military tied up in fits.

Just a moment ago, the author was complaining that semi-autos are too dangerous and lethal; now they’re not lethal enough? Make up your mind!

This point actually addresses the most significant reason for the Second Amendment, though, and one adopted by the courts in the process of /Heller/ going up to the Supreme Court: “resistance…to the depredations of a tyrannical government.”

Would an AR be useful against a tank? Of course not…but tanks run on diesel (or other similar fuels, including kerosene or Jet-A), without which they’re just fixed fortifications (about which Gen. Patton had a clear and distinct opinion). Don’t shoot the tank with the AR; shoot the driver of the fuel truck. Fight smarter, not harder. Irregular warfare founded this country clear back at Lexington and Concord, and it continues to be relevant in conflict today.

As to nukes, again, argumentum ad absurdum. Does the author really think the feds are going to start dropping kilotons on the people to quell an insurgency on its own territory? Does he really think they’re so stupid as to not see that doing so would turn whatever support they might have had against them? Even seeing tanks roll down Main St. would stir up opposition, and there are more than a few servicemembers who would refuse such orders; it’s a lot harder to kill your countrymen, your family and friends, than it is to kill a faceless enemy, especially one who is visibly distinct from you. Dehumanizing the enemy has been a key part of warfare since, well, the dawn of warfare; in this case, it would work against the government as servicemen deserted—probably en masse—or joined in taking up arms against the government (and some would).

Pro-gun argument – gun registrations will make it easier for the government to disarm us
Counterargument – The registration is necessary to keep track of deadly weapons in case they are used in a crime, or in case a law-abiding citizen commits a crime that revokes their right to guns. There’s over 300 million privately owned guns in America. If the government wanted to take everyone’s guns, they’d do it the same way they would if there wasn’t a registry: by going door to door and searching everyone.

Asked and answered. You want a civil war? Because this is how you get a civil war. This is exactly how the American Revolution started at Lexington and Concord: the king’s army came to confiscate the colonists’ gunpowder. See David Hackett Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride for an excellent, well-supported and -documented history of the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the historical context thereof.

I truly believe we need to do far more than anything advocated by most mainstream gun control organizations like Everytown and Moms Demand Action. We need to follow the lead of countries like the UK, Australia, and Canada. They’ve figured it out. Why can’t we?”

Those countries are seeing their own rises in violent crime too. Bombings, shootings, acid attacks…they’re happening “over there” as well.

So…that’s it in a nutshell. Further explanation or clarification available upon request.