Mission statement:

Armed and Safe is a gun rights advocacy blog, with the mission of debunking the "logic" of the enemies of the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

I can be reached at 45superman@gmail.com.You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/45superman.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another book about the evils of gun rights advocacy

Well, I endured reading Sugarmann's torturously written Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns--now maybe I should see if my school library will get Joan Burbick's Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy.

According to the review linked to above (which by the way, refers to the book in positively glowing terms), the gun rights movement (for which the NRA seems to be a synonym, in the minds of those who disparage the idea of gun rights) is rooted in racism, misogyny, and religious intolerance (oh yeah--I think homophobia was mentioned, too). The review ends on this note:

By the end, you get a lucid, thoughtful understanding of why the "gun rights" culture and the NRA are so tied at the hip to the Bush Administration and the Republican Party, because they both yearn for the day when the white male reigned supreme.
Obviously, I haven't yet read the book, so I'm not really in a position to critique it, but if the BuzzFlash review above is very accurate about the book's contents, it would seem that Burbick is rather far off base. NRA members who are also members of ethnic minorities certainly don't see the NRA as a racist organization. The NRA's efforts to recruit women are coming along nicely, and I doubt NRA president Sandra Froman is much of a woman hater. There are also gun rights groups like the Second Amendment Sisters. As to religious intolerance, the gun rights movement includes Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (considered, by the way, a much less moderate gun rights advocacy group than the NRA). I certainly wasn't asked about my religious beliefs when I joined the NRA. The gun rights movement also includes the Pink Pistols--whose motto is "Armed Gays Don't Get Bashed."

Being a gun rights advocate does not imply any of the social evils the book seems to associate with it. Our backgrounds are diverse, but we are united in our love of freedom, and our knowledge that freedom can only be protected by those who are free. Argue against gun rights if you must, but argue the issues, instead of inflicting groundless attacks on the character of those of us who have committed ourselves to the fight for the Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ronnie Barrett--gunmaker, patriot, hero

We live in a world in which the bottom line trumps all--the idea of a corporation putting principles ahead of profits seems quaint and naïve. The gun rights deprivation lobby would have us believe that the gun industry is among the very worst culprits in this profit-motivated abdication of social and moral responsibility. Ronnie Barrett, of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc., shows us that the idea that gun manufacturers amorally seek profit at any price is a myth, perpetuated by the anti-gun zealots.

In the early 1980's, Mr. Barrett pioneered the commercial production of long range rifles, chambered for the powerful .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG) cartridge. I've talked about these rifles before, mentioning that their vast cost, huge bulk and weight, punishing recoil, and other factors make them extremely unsuitable for the commission of crimes (which might explain their almost total absence from crime statistics, and the fact that not a single documented death in the U.S. has been attributed to shots fired from such rifles). They are, however, quite useful (for specialized purposes) to the military, and have found a niche in the civilian market with wealthy target shooters who like to shoot at ranges that would be sheer fantasy for rifles of lesser caliber.

In 2004, anti-gun zealots in the California legislature showed their nearly absolute imperviousness to logic, and passed a law banning private ownership of these firearms in the state of California. Ronnie Barrett could have moved on, realizing that California is only one state (and perhaps the most rabidly anti-gun state in the union), and further realizing that he would still be able to sell to police departments (some large city SWAT teams find the big guns useful). There may, in fact, have been a larger market in California in the law enforcement sector than among private citizens. Barrett, however, had other ideas. It is illegal to knowingly sell firearms to criminals, and the California government, by instituting and enforcing the unconstitutional ban on private ownership of these rifles, has itself become a criminal enterprise. This being the case, Barrett has refused to sell any more rifles to any agency of the California governement (including municipal police departments), and will not perform any servicing on guns purchased by these agencies before the ban.

That is moral courage, and it constitutes a stand that will cost him a considerable sum in lost sales, but it's a stand that principle and morality dictated.

More recently, Barrett has introduced a brand new rifle caliber (and has started offering rifles chambered for it). This caliber, the .416 Barrett, although smaller than the .50 BMG, is still quite powerful, and capable of useful accuracy at ranges even greater than the capabilities of the .50 BMG. Even better, it is completely legal in California (at least until the gun haters ban it, too), so private citizens in California may buy it freely, while no agency of California government will be able to (because of Mr. Barrett's courageous stand).

Ronnie Barrett is a true patriot, and is a worthy American hero.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's the criminals, stupid!

The Brady Bunch has recently released another of their "reports", called "The NRA: A Criminal’s Best Friend." It consists of the typical anguished bleating of the gun rights deprivation lobby--their standard response to efforts to lift some of the more draconian (not to mention ineffectual) gun laws with which our country is saddled.

Readers of the "report" will find many references to the NRA "handcuffing," and "hamstringing" federal law enforcement efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Richard Pennington, chief of the Atlanta, Georgia police, is quoted as advocating putting " . . . handcuffs on the NRA’s lobbyists." Apparently, he hates the Second Amendment so much that he is willing to push for stomping on the First Amendment rights of those who would dare fight for the Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

The NRA backed legislation that seems to be the particualr focus of all this ire is fairly innocuocs--H.R. 5092, which would merely make permanent measures implemented for the last several years, prohibiting public release of gun trace data; H.R. 5005, which would make provisions for fining gun dealers who inadvertently commit minor paperwork errors, as opposed to the current situation, in which there is no middle ground between warnings and license revocation; and H.R. 1384, which would lift worthless and onerous restrictions on interstate handgun sales.

The gun rights deprivation lobby's ostensible reason for whining so piteously about these bills is that they would "help to put guns in the hands of criminals." Let's talk about that, shall we? A huge majority of gun laws (both on the books and proposed) are intended to prevent sale of guns to criminals. That sounds good on the face of it, but consider--if a person is considered too dangerous to be allowed to go into a gun store and purchase a gun, how can he be trusted not to steal a gun? How can he be trusted not to buy one on the black market (and no combination of laws will shut down the black market--if that were possible, the "war on drugs" would have been won a long time ago)? How can he be trusted, even if somehow prevented from getting a gun, not to kill with some other implement?

If we want criminals to stop killing people, we need to keep them locked up. Our criminal "justice system" has become a system of catch and release, with violent, repeat offenders back on the streets in a tiny fraction of the time they should be incarcerated. If prison overcrowding is a problem--tough. Prison isn't supposed to be comfortable.

The criminals' best friend? The system that isn't willing to do the hard work of holding them responsible for their crimes.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Democrats don't have to be enemies of gun rights (and if they're smart, they won't be)

Regular readers (I might be flattering myself) have probably noticed that, after the Gun Guys, my biggest source of ridiculous claims to refute is Josh Sugarmann, head cheerleader of the Violence Policy Center. In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Josh expresses his dismay over the fact that some Democrats have discovered that a platform that includes civilian disarmament (remember, I despise the term "gun control" in the sense in which it's generally used) has become an increasingly difficult sell. Acting on this realization, these Democrats have started moving away from attacks on gun rights, and in some cases, have even started actively supporting them.

This, of course, is a nightmare for the gun rights deprivation lobby, because it would be the beginning of the end of them having a major political party as puppets to advance their agenda. So Josh desperately tries to tell Democrats that supporting gun rights will never bring Second Amendment advocates over to their side. In his words,

There are, in fact, two parties for the pro-gunners. Unfortunately for Democrats, they're the Republican and Libertarian Parties.
He backs this claim up this way:
For proof, look no further than the November 2006 issue of the National Rifle Association's America's 1st Freedom magazine. The November 'Choose or Lose' issue is little more than a 64-page attack on Democrats, with a particular focus on Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee head Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
This ignores the fact that the NRA has donated $20 million to pro-gun Democratic candidates for their campaigns in the upcoming elections. The particular focus on Schumer and Pelosi in the "Choose or Lose" article is precisely because of their extremism in attacking the Second Amendment.

Granted, it has been largely true that passionate advocates of gun rights want nothing to do with the Democratic party. What Sugarmann doesn't bother to mention is that it doesn't have to continue to be true. Democrats can take away the near monopoly that the Republican party enjoys with regard to the pro-gun vote, simply by abandoning attacks on the Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

Admittedly, the returns on such a reversal of positions might be meager at first. Democrats will have to overcome decades of gun rights activists' mistrust, stemming from the words and actions of powerful Democrats like Diane Feinstein, Edward Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and many others (on the local and state levels, where battle lines over gun issues have not always been drawn along party lines, Democrats could benefit from a pro-gun stance much more quickly).

What would such a move cost Democrats? Very little, it seems to me. I haven't seen statistics, but I would be almost certain that the number of people who are so passionately in favor of restrictive gun laws that the issue dominates their voting decisions is extremely small (significantly less, I would wager, than the number of gun rights activists who view it as a make-or-break issue).

Democrats who can convincingly claim that they will uphold the entire Constitution, including the Second Amendment, could find themselves the beneficiaries of gaining the alliance of at least part of what may be the most loyal, motivated voting bloc in the country.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The NRA's biggest sin? Apparently, it's being successful

I've mentioned before how venemous the anti-gun folks get when discussing the NRA--I've seen three-year-olds throw more restrained and reasoned tantrums. Yesterday, some of my favorite anti-gun folks, the Gun Guys, found a new reason to get their knickers in a twist about the NRA.

Evidently, the Gun Guys are upset that the NRA has the unmitigated gall to be effective in organizing members to vote for candidates who support gun rights, and against those who would infringe on those rights. Furthermore, those darn NRA members actually go along with the plan, and vote in such a way that our rights are indeed protected. Evidently, the Gun Guys (and Josh Sugarmann--another of my favorite gun rights deprivation lobbyists) think it's wrong for NRA members to be so fully engaged in the political process, and to refuse to vote against our own interests. Of course, the Brady Bunch makes voting recommendations, too--aparently it's fine for them to do so (that list can be useful, too, by the way--just vote the direct opposite of what it says). Maybe instead of complaining about how effective a grass roots organization the NRA is, the Brady Bunch and the VPC should concentrate on mobilizing their own supporters just as effectively. Of course, it could be that they can't get that kind of response, because there just isn't that kind of support in the U.S. for crushing a Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human right of individuals. If the anti-gun folks realize that (on some level), that would explain their sour grapes, I suppose.

One of the amusing aspects of this is that the Gun Guys almost ceaselessly deny that the NRA is a grass roots group (their grounds for this assertion are somewhat vague, though), and that supporters of gun rights constitute too small a voting bloc for there to be any logic in legislators acting for our interests. Now, however, they're apparently acknowledging that we do indeed form a voting bloc that needs to be taken into account (although they don't seem to think it's "fair" that we manage that). They even go so far as to presume to accuse the NRA of subverting the Constitutional process of representative government (especially ironic coming from a group who claims that the Second Amendment doesn't guarantee any kind of right--which begs the question of why the founding fathers bothered including it in the Bill of Rights in the first place):

That is, of course, hardly what our forefathers wanted when they laid out the electoral system. Americans are meant to vote their conscience, not blindly follow a lobby that has convinced them with platitudes that they need to vote a certain way or else. The gun lobby is clearly and openly abusing the electoral process, twisting the system to follow their own gameplan rather than doing what they’re meant to do: release their viewpoint in the wild and let it stand on its own merits (or, in their case, the lack thereof).

Basically, encouraging NRA members to vote for legislators who respect the Constitution and the rights it guarantees is "openly abusing the electoral process. . . ," and members who follow the voting advice of the NRA are "blindly follow[ing] a lobby. . . ." What the Gun Guys think voters should do is blindly follow the fear mongering directives of the anti-gun lobby--that, of course, is exactly what the founding fathers had intended.

When the NRA points out the breathtaking scope of the anti-gun agenda that certain extremists have in mind, the Gun Guys accuse them of "spreading fear." This accusation completely ignores the actual words and deeds of the radical anti-gun legislators, such as Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) saying, "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them, Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in, I would have done it," or Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) trying to ban virtually all centerfire rifle ammunition, or any of a multitude of other words and deeds showing beyond any doubt that many of these people want every private citizen in the U.S. to be completely disarmed. We don't need the NRA to tell us that our gun rights are threatened, many of our enemies have no interest in even trying to be subtle about it.

If these people hate the NRA so much, the solution to making the NRA irrelevant is a simple one. All they have to do is stop attacking the right to keep and bear arms. The NRA has gotten this strong because gun owners have seen that they need to organize to protect their rights (and the Constitution itself). Our will is strong, our cause is just, and we shall overcome.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Think you have a fundamental human right to defend your life? The UN doesn't.

In a perusal of this document, from the UN's conference last July about "small arms and light weapons," I learned that the UN disagrees with the idea that self-defense is a human right. This passage from page 9 is illustrative:

A. Self-defence as an exemption to criminal responsibility, not a human right
20. Self-defence is a widely recognized, yet legally proscribed, exception to the universal
duty to respect the right to life of others. Self-defence is a basis for exemption from criminal
responsibility that can be raised by any State agent or non-State actor. Self-defence is sometimes
designated as a "right". There is inadequate legal support for such an interpretation.
Self-defence is more properly characterized as a means of protecting the right to life and, as
such, a basis for avoiding responsibility for violating the rights of another.
21. No international human right of self-defence is expressly set forth in the primary sources
of international law: treaties, customary law, or general principles. While the right to life is
recognized in virtually every major international human rights treaty, the principle of
self-defence is expressly recognized in only one, the Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights), article 2.15
Self-defence, however, is not recognized as a right in the European Convention on Human
Rights. According to one commentator, "The function of this provision is simply to remove
from the scope of application of article 2 (1) killings necessary to defend against unlawful
violence. It does not provide a right that must be secured by the State."

Three pages later, we see passages like this one:
Even if there were a "human right to self-defence . . . "

In other words, it looks as if not only do they deny that there exists a fundamental human right to self-defense, they seem almost to disparage the idea.

How can a group that claims to champion human rights be so contemptuous of what might be the most vital and fundamental of those rights?

The UN hasn't yet explicitly tried to insist that the U.S. repeal the Second Amendment to the Constitution, but it seems clear that very many member nations would like to.

That's just too damned bad for them.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What Reuters doesn't say about "gun violence"

Reuters has decided to enter the gun rights debate in the U.S. The article, not surprisingly, takes the view that the U.S. has entirely too many firearms in private hands, of varieties that are entirely too powerful for civilians (can anyone tell me what the hell a "high powered 'assault weapon' " is, and how it varies from a "regular powered" so-called "assault weapon"?), sold, possessed, and (gasp!) even carried with entirely too few restrictions and too little bureaucratic oversight--and that's why about 30,000 Americans (or about one in 10,000, or .01%) die of gunshot wounds every year.

Of course, it would take a fair amount of drama out of their story if they mentioned that over half of these deaths are suicides, meaning that the number of people who die of gunshot wounds who didn't want to die is less than 15,000, or in terms of the population as a whole, not 1 in 20,000, or .005% of the population. Part of that not quite .005% of the population consists of people who were shot and killed justifiably, either by police, or by armed private citizens who refused to be victims of felonious thugs. Still another slice of that pie consists of gang members shot by other gang members, in wars over drug dealing turf. The last two categories hardly seem a great loss.

The article also points out that there are over 200 million privately owned firearms in the U.S., and that this number climbs (or "swells," in the author's colorful parlance) by several million each year. That "swelling" brings up an interesting point: if the number of shooting deaths is directly correlated to the number of firearms, and if the number of firearms increases by several million each year, shouldn't shooting death numbers rise accordingly? Well, they should, if the premise of "more guns = more shooting deaths" holds true, but according to data from Centers for Disease Control, this isn't the case, with shooting deaths per 100,000 staying constant (from 1999 to 2003--the years for which I found data) within a few percentage points (and vastly lower than in the dark days of the early to mid 90's, when there were vastly fewer states with concealed carry, and in which the ban on so-called "assault weapons" got its start).

In fact, a major study conducted by the CDC found no proof that gun laws reduce violence. You can bet your backside that Reuters didn't bother to mention that particular fact, despite its clear relevance to any discussion about gun legislation and its success (or lack thereof) at reducing violence.

Much better to simply ignore facts that don't fit the intended slant.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What are restrictive gun laws good for? Nothing--but don't let that stop them

I concern myself chiefly with the gun rights debate in the U.S., but this article, about a poll conducted in Canada, is instructive, I think, in showing the attitudes that drive advocacy for restrictive gun laws everywhere.

According to the poll, only 14% of Quebec residents own firearms. Even for a place with such a low rate of firearms ownership, popular support for gun laws so restrictive that any attempt to implement them in the U.S. would provoke a civil war are astonishingly popular--a full 81% support an outright ban on all semi-automatic firearms (apparently under the theory that it's much better to be killed with a revolver), and 85% believe that non-hunting weapons should be used only in gun-clubs, and should be stored in a central location, instead of in the owners' homes. The odd part (quite apart from the extreme oddity of advocating such draconian restrictions) is that many of the people advocating the restrictive gun laws do so despite realizing that such laws will do little or nothing to reduce violence. Fewer than half (47%) think more restrictive gun laws will help to reduce violence.

In other words, a huge plurality of those who advocate stricter gun laws do so without being under any illusions that such laws will be useful in efforts to improve public safety. They know these laws are no more than a "feel good" measure, they admit it (at least in polls, which are fairly anonymous), but they want them anyway. They don't like guns--so no one should have access to them.

One has to wonder if there is much difference between the poll respondents in Canada, and the more outspoken gun rights deprivation lobbyists here in the States, such as Sarah Brady and Josh Sugarmann. I had always assumed that they, in their naiveté, really believed that the laws they try so hard to force on us would make a real difference in improving society's safety. Perhaps it is I who have been naive, in thinking that their motives were so noble (the misguided nature of their efforts notwithstanding). Perhaps they, like the poll respondents in Quebec, simply dislike firearms, and know that their arguments about saving lives are just a red herring that helps advance their true agenda of banning private firearm ownership outright.

I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of the term "gun control." The main reason for that is that guns don't go "out of control"--they only shoot wehre the muzzle is pointed, and except for rare malfunctions, only do that when the trigger is pulled. But the other reason that the term "gun control" is a lie is that it's intended to confuse people into thinking that it's about guns, when it's really about control--and disarmed people are much easier to control.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

No blog tonight

Between the World Series and the NFL (and the fact that I haven't really come up with anything to write about today), I'm taking a break. I imagine I'll have some gun legislation (whether already on the books, or just proposed) to complain about tomorrow.

See you then.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Gun Guys apparently think of themselves as CSI: Fayetteville

We learn from the Gun Guys of the near tragedy of a young woman being shot in a mall in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Due in no small part to the timely assistance of two 82nd Airborne Division combat medics (stationed at nearby Fort Bragg), who had served in Iraq and gotten plenty of experience with gunshot wounds, she survived, and is expected to recover fully.

The shooting seems to have been an accident--the result of a small pistol being carried directly in a pocket, without a holster, falling out of the pocket, hitting the floor, and firing. The interesting part of all this is that from the very sketchy information contained in the article linked to by the Gun Guys, they have come up an amazingly detailed theory about what happened (and used that theory to buttress their "argument"--such as it is--for the outlawing of concealed carry):

But what you can do it cut off gun access at the source– make carrying concealed weapons illegal. The person who carried this firearm was probably one of the NRA’s "law-abiding gun owners." Up until this point, they probably carried their weapon legally. It’s likely that they didn’t know the weapon didn’t belong in the mall (even though it seems common sense to most of us), because they probably have a permit to carry it around the entire state of North Carolina.

The Gun Guys don't offer any explanation as to how they determined that the gun was probably carried legally--it just wouldn't serve their argument very well if it wasn't, so they said it probably was.

Of course, whether or not the person with the gun was authorized to carry it or not, this method of carry was stupid and irresponsible. How one person's stupidity and irresponsibility should dictate the laws for everyone else is another matter.

In an update to this story, we learn that the person who dropped the gun seems to have been the victim's 19-year-old boyfriend (hopefully, ex-boyfriend), who is already on probation for convictions on misdemeanor charges. I am not familiar enough with North Carolina concealed carry legislation to know if a 19-year-old person on probation can be licensed to carry a concealed handgun, but I strongly suspect that he cannot.

Maybe the Gun Guys ought to stay out of the detective business.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Don't like the sound of freedom? Then legalize the means to turn it down

One increasingly prevalent avenue of attack on shooting (and, thus, an attack on gun ownership) is the growing resistance to shooting ranges--with, generally, the objection being the noise produced by all the shooting. Anyone aspiring to open an outdoor shooting range, even in a remote, lightly populated area, can expect a real fight--in more densely populated areas, it's almost impossible. Even worse than that, though, is the practice of many real estate developers of building suburbs near the sites of gun ranges that have been in operation for years (or even decades)--knowing that many of the residents will object to the shooting sounds. This problem is compounded by the fact that when the annoyed residents take their "point" to court, they often win, or at least cost the range so much in legal fees that it's not worth fighting.

The most appalling part, though, is the fact that an accomodation that would suit very many of the antagonists is readily available, except for the fact that it's illegal.

I refer, of course, to suppressors (more popularly, but not especially accurately, known as "silencers"). These are very tightly controlled under federal law (as part of the National Firearms Act of 1934), and beyond that, are banned outright in many states. Why is that? Beats me--it certainly has nothing to do with a rash of "silenced gun violence" (of which there has been almost none--ever).

For those who don't like the sound of our guns, how about lifting the restrictions on our putting a volume control on them?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

LA trying to turn crime victims into criminals

In this article, we see that Los Angeles has passed a law that makes it a crime for a victim of a gun theft to not report the theft to the police within 48 hours. Stellar idea, isn't it? Incredibly, they actually made the law retroactive--requiring owners to report any gun stolen within the last 5 years.

Unbelievable--placing responsibility on the shoulders of crime victims.

Here's an idea, LA--how about concentrating on actually arresting criminals, instead of crime victims, who (for whatever reason) choose not to report their victimization.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reading a poorly written book--so you don't have to

In an earlier post, I mentioned a book (Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns) by everyone's favorite anti-gun zealot, Josh Sugarmann, of the VPC. I was curious enough as to just what the case for banning handguns could be, that I resolved to read the book if I could find it at the library (I certainly wasn't going to pay for it, thus helping to fund the civilian disarmament lobby). As it turns out, my school library has a copy, and I finished it yesterday.

To my disappointment (if that's the word for it), Sugarmann didn't really advance many arguments that the gun hating crowd hasn't already trotted out a million times before. Probably the most interesting "feature" of the book is that it drew heavily on the "research" of discredited historian Michael Bellesiles, author of Arming America, the Origins of the National Gun Culture. In this book, Bellesiles makes the claim that prior to about the mid-19th century, gun ownership was the exception, rather than the rule, in the U.S. However, after compelling evidence was brought to light that much of the information contained in the book was seriously flawed (many have called it fraudulent), Bellesiles found it necessary to resign his position at Emory University. He was also stripped of the Bancroft Prize, which Columbia University had bestowed on him for the book in question, before the problems with his "research" were discovered. He was, amusingly, referred to as "the Milli Vanilli of the academic world." The book's publisher, Knopf, quickly withdrew the book from distribution. Even formerly enthusiastic reviewers of the book eventually labeled him as a fraud and a liar. Sugarmann's book, however, was published when Bellesiles was still the darling of the civilian disarmament movement, which had (in a wild excess of optimism, it turns out) seen him as providing much needed scholarly legitimacy to the idea that guns were not such an integral part of American history after all.

Another problem that Sugarmann seems to have with private ownership of handguns is that too high a percentage of handgun owners are white males. He doesn't really make clear why the gender and racial makeup of handgun owners should factor into a debate over banning handguns--unless he is trying to imply that handgun ownership is associated with racism and misogyny (a rather bizarre thought, it seems to me). Oddly, he also decries the gun industry's attempts to market firearms to women and minorities, despite the fact that success in those endeavors would help to address what he seems to see as the "problem" of white men owning a disproportionate number of handguns.

I read this book with the idea that it might provide me with insights into the thinking of those who wish to disarm Americans, but as it happens, it only deepened my conviction that there's not much thinking in their position, at all.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Washington Redskins help underpriveleged D.C. area youths--anti-gun groups outraged

Today, the Washington Redskins host their Second Annual Sporting Clays Challenge, to raise money for the Redskins Charitable Foundation, to benefit youth in the D.C. area. Sounds like a great thing, doesn't it? Not if you're a rabid, gun hating extremist. You see, this event is being held in partnership with the evil NRA, so any amount of good it does is more than washed out by that fact--not to mention that at this shooting event, there will be (gasp!) guns, and some innocent clay "pigeons" (small, clay disks, actually) will die.

So, that's why we have anti-gun lobbyists such as those at the Violence Policy Center whining piteously for the Redskins to cancel the event.

Actually, this year's outcry is a great deal more muted than last year's--perhaps because last year's event (the first time it was held) generated $150,000. Even these folks are apparently sufficiently in touch with reality to realize that they do their credibility no favors when they argue that raising that kind of money for youths is . . . bad for youths.

Last year, before the event was held, the clowns were fully mobilized--the Gun Guys posted no fewer than three articles (link to all three) making the odd assertion that money that the NRA helps raise is evil, simply because the NRA is involved (by the way, the Redskins take exactly ZERO part in the political battles in which the NRA is engaged, and it's hard to imagine how this event helps advance the NRA's missions--but when has logic had anything to do with what the anti-gun folks say?).

In another article last year, Josh Sugarmann, the VPC's head cheerleader, seemed to be predicting that the Redskins would back away from this evil...charity for underpriveleged young people, when they heard the mighty roar of the anti-gun pantywaists:

Sugarmann said he thinks the team has been blindsided by the outcry. "I believe if the Redskins had a better idea of what they were getting into, they wouldn't have gotten into it," he said.

Well, Josh, having done it once already, they must have a pretty good idea of what they're getting into, and yet they're doing it again--guess you blew that call, didn't you? Nice try.

Still, the stuff I've posted so far is mild compared to what these geniuses screeched last year. It's amusing enough to quote in its entirety:

What a hypocritical outfit this is! Their nonprofit "Charitable Foundation" certainly has no idea of how to be charitable to the hands that feed it. Among other things, the foundation’s mission statement tells us that its goal is to utilize its assets "to make a positive and measurable impact on youth in the greater Washington, D.C. region in the areas of literacy, youth development, education, community service and health and wellness."

We presume the foundation, by this statement, truly believes in extending its largess to the youth of inner city DC and thereby help to lift their sights to a higher purpose than being caught up in the potential dead-end future that can so easily engulf them in their neighborhoods in which violence is so prevalent.

Violence that is made so easy to come by thanks to the constant flood of guns -- everybody seems to be able to get a gun at a moment’s notice and too many of those kids think nothing about shooting each other with them just to settle some trivial argument over things like buying someone’s girlfriend a snow cone or simply mouthing off as teenagers are wont to do.

So here we are with our civic leaders and ministers and elected officials all uniformly struggling to find a way to get guns out of the hands of the kids -- and note that we are emphasizing the kids and the need to make their lives safe and hopefully meaningful and not even addressing the other side of the coin, which is about getting the guns out of the hands of criminals -- yet one of our city’s most prominent corporate citizens is in fact noting the supposed glamour of gun usage!

What we are specifically on our high horse about is the participation by the Redskins and its owner, Daniel Snyder, in the forthcoming October 25th National Rifle Association (NRA) "shooting event" which is to be a fund-raiser to benefit the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation.

Ladd Everitt, president of the DC chapter of the Million Mom March which, working closely with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, is the nation's largest national, non-partisan grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, as we were getting ready to go to press issued the following statement with which we are in absolute agreement:
There is no way that the Redskins can reconcile the stated mission of their foundation with the tacit endorsement of an organization [NRA] that disrespects District residents to such a degree that they would push legislation that directly endangers our children's lives. The NRA's attempts to repeal our gun laws are a historic violation of DC home rule and an absolute slap in the face of every victim and survivor of gun violence in this city.
As the DC-based Violence Policy Center pointed out in an October 10th letter to Daniel Snyder, the NRA "is currently lobbying Congress to overturn Washington, DC’s gun laws. The bills to repeal the District of Columbia’s gun laws promoted by the NRA would: legalize handguns as well as semiautomatic assault weapons and 50-caliber sniper rifles; allow any person to carry, openly or concealed, loaded handguns and other concealable firearms in houses, places of business, or other land 'possessed by that person'; and, severely weaken the District’s ban on armor-piercing handgun ammunition."

The mayor and all our officials of government, including all members of the city council must make it absolutely clear to Daniel Snyder that he forthwith disengage the Redskins organization from any connection with this or any future NRA-sponsored event. Just the mere fact of any connection between an organization that professes to be part and parcel of our city’s civic life and a vicious organization such as the NRA has absolutely no justification. Further, should Daniel Snyder not see how horrific is his involvement with the NRA then it would not be at all out of line for our city’s leaders to sever all relationships with the Redskins organization.

Just take a look (if you can control your nausea) at the cover of the current issue of the NRA’s monthly magazine, America’s 1st Freedom, and you will see our city once again vilified with that old Right Wing canard of "Washington, D.C., America’s Murder Capital" and the mayor depicted as a patsy in a two-page photo spread showing him seemingly holding up his hands as if to give in to criminals, with the caption, "D.C. to Criminals: We Surrender! The mayor of Washington, D.C., the Murder Capital of the U.S. for 14 of the last 15 years, strikes a telling pose as he defends D.C.’s absurd gun laws."

This is all just simply too disgusting to deal with any further other than to reiterate our urging that either Daniel Snyder get rid of the NRA or we get rid of him and his team!
Brilliant! I'm sure the people of D.C. would think of these folks as heroes, if they managed to drive the Redskins (and all of the money the team brings in) out of town.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The most compelling reason for Stand Your Ground laws

Those opposed to private ownership of firearms for self-defense (or for any other reason, it seems) are especially outraged over the number of states that have followed, or are in the process of following, Florida's lead in adopting laws designed to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens who shoot in self-defense. "It's bad enough that people have guns," the anti-gun folks seem to be saying, "but it's absolutely unconscionable that they are permitted to use them to defend themselves, without having the trauma of enduring such an incident compounded by criminal prosecution and/or civil litigation!"

The protection from litigation is, in my opinion, the most vital feature of these laws. It is probably true that most justifiable shootings don't subject the shooter to jail time, even without the Stand Your Ground laws (although that's certainly not universally true--the case of Harold Fish comes to mind). However, the justified shooter does very often face lawsuits, from either the wounded assailant (if he survives), or his family (if he does not). There are vast numbers of cases to choose from to demonstrate that point--I'll include links to a couple of them, here, and here.

Even when the shooter (who, keep in mind, is the crime victim) wins the case, he or she can be ruined financially, because of the vast expense of legal representation (and, as the second case illustrates, insurance companies are not required to pay the attorneys' fees). The monetary cost, as devastating as it can be, is dwarfed by the trauma of being dragged into the courtroom, facing the possibility of financial ruin much greater even than that caused by the legal fees.

Finally, how is justice served by providing a large monetary award to the criminal or his family?

Stand Your Ground laws serve to protect the rights of crime victims--not the perpetrators. To anyone who is not pro-criminal, this has to be seen as a good thing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If I need to know how many guns I should be able to buy in a month, I'll ask my credit card

It seems that the "gun control" measure du jour these days is the "one gun per month" law. The thinking (I'm being generous here), apparently, is that this will prevent those nasty "gun traffickers," who don't themselves have criminal records, from buying handguns by the dozen, for the purpose of distributing them en masse to criminals whose records would prevent them from buying the guns themselves. When gun rights advocates point out that such a measure punishes everyone who wishes to buy a couple handguns at a time (or within a 1 month period), they are met with the reply that no law-abiding gun owner needs to buy 12 handguns in a year.

The most obvious problem with such a careless dismissal of the very valid concern that such laws would constitute a gross violation of rights is that "need" is completely irrelevant to the discussion. The buyers of no other legal product are required to prove a "need" for their purchase. Cars kill vastly more Americans than guns do, but a car buyer is never asked to demonstrate his need for a car. Even SUV's, the leading culprits in the conversion of a vital natural resource into potentially extinction-causing (depending on how much one believes in the global warming theories) pollution, are sold without any question as to the buyer's need for such vehicles.

Another problem is the question of where such measures are going to stop. When they are implemented, and criminals continue to get guns (as they always have and always will), and kill innocent people (as they always have and always will), how long will it be before it is decided that no one "needs" more than 6 guns per year, or 4, or 1? In fact, New York City's mayor Bloomberg is already pressing for laws limiting handgun purchases to one every four months. Where this is headed, obviously, is the ultimate goal of declaring that no one "needs" any handguns. The fact that the slippery slope argument is a cliche does nothing to make it any less true.

Instead of attacking the rights of law-abiding citizens, in a futile attempt to shut down the black market in firearms to violent criminals, let's get the violent criminals themselves out of circulation. Anyone who is so dangerous that the (almost certain to fail) endeavor to keep guns away from him is important enough to impose restrictions on our entire society, is too dangerous to be on the streets.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Learning to fight violence--as savagely as possible

Today's topic is only tangentially related to guns. It will still, most likely, be upsetting to the folks who decry our nation's "gun culture," if they happen to read it, because it's about fighting back--stubbornly refusing to cower and wait for rescue. It is, to amplify, about developing a fighting mindset, and stealing the initiative from anyone who threatens innocent people with destruction. As it turns out, some students (and teachers and staff) in the Fort Worth area are being taught just that. When a gunman shows himself and starts barking orders, these people are being taught not to obey, but to fight, with whatever is at hand--books, pencils, fists, and feet (and teeth, fingernails, etc.).

Some, predictably, are calling this a recipe for disaster, saying that sending unarmed children (the plan in this Fort Worth school district is to teach this to every student, including the elementary school kids) to fight a gunman is grossly (perhaps criminally) irresponsible. I would reply that what is criminally irresponsible is allowing them to go on thinking that the best they can do is to try to hide under their desks and wait for the rescue that will almost certainly not get there in time.

Despite the fact that this won't "put more guns in schools," as they like to rail hysterically against, the anti-gun people aren't likely to get on board with this idea. They can't, because to do so would be to acknowledge that defense is not only the right, but the responsibility of the individual, and once one acknowledges that, it becomes very difficult to justify legislating a ban (or tight restrictions) on the most efficient means of defending oneself. To their way of thinking, teaching people to defend themselves from criminal thugs helps to perpetuate what they call the "culture of violence" in our society, and that, in turn, is what they think is responsible for society's "sick fascination with guns." They know that destroying any interest in guns would win their war on gun rights for them.

To their (rather odd) way of thinking, the perfect world is one in which anyone who wishes to be capable of self-defense is ostracized as a dangerously violent obstacle to their "brave" new world.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Safe storage" laws--costing innocent lives

The incident discussed yesterday reminded me of another, quite different (and vastly more tragic) incident.

I refer to one of the occasions in which a 14-year-old's lack of access to guns had tragic consequences.

On the morning of August 23, 2000, Jonathon David Bruce was high on drugs. He slipped inside a home when the parents were away and began attacking the children inside.

Armed only with a pitchfork, and without a stitch of clothing on his body, Bruce proceeded to chase the children through the house -- stabbing them repeatedly.

The oldest of the children, Jessica Carpenter (14), was babysitting at the time. Having been trained by her father, Jessica knew how to use a firearm. There was just one problem: the household gun was locked up in compliance with California state law.

Because of California's "lock up your safety" law, Jessica had few options. She could not call 911 because the intruder had cut the phone lines to the house. She could not protect herself, for state officials had effectively removed that possibility. Her only option was to flee the house and leave her siblings behind.

Thankfully, Mr. Bruce's murderous rampage was finally cut short when police officers arrived at the house. They shot and killed Bruce, but not before two children had already been murdered.

Now, notice when the attack ended. It screeched to a halt when the good guys -- carrying guns -- showed up on the scene.

Which has made many wonder: could Jessica have protected her brother and sister if the state law had not prevented her from doing so?

Well, the family seems to think so. After the murders, Jessica's uncle, Rev. John Hilton, blasted California legislators for having scared the father into hiding the gun where Jessica, who was trained in the use of firearms, could not get it.

"If only [Jessica] had a gun available to her," said Rev. Hilton, "she could have stopped the whole thing. If she had been properly armed, she could have stopped him in his tracks."
The deaths of these children were unnecessary--and could have been avoided in a society that knew enough to blame violence on violent people, instead of guns.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Once again, a handgun saving lives (the ones worth saving, anyway)

Tuesday, a 14-year-old boy in Corpus Christi, Texas faced the horror of a knife wielding home invader threatening to kill both him and his mother. The thug tied them up in the bedroom, and proceeded to loot the house. While he was busy with his larceny, the mother managed to escape the bonds with which she was tied, and release her son. By the time their attacker realized they were free, she had retrieved her husband's handgun from where it was hidden, and given it to her son. While she tried to hold the bedroom door shut, the enraged scum repeatedly said that he was going to kill them both. As his superior strength began to win out, slowly forcing the door open, the young man fired a single shot through the growing opening, hitting the assailant in the head, killing him.

I will not try to claim that a handgun saved Rose Ann Kozlowski's and her son's lives. To do so would be to make the same mistake the civilian disarmament advocates make, when they blame guns for all the suicides and murders committed with guns. I would also be doing an injustice to these courageous people--it was their courage and their resourcefulness that saved them--not the gun's. Guns have no such qualities, any more than they can have the quality of evil. The gun did what guns do--expelled a bullet in the direction it was pointed when its trigger was pulled. When the puller of the trigger is an evil person, pointing the gun at an innocent person, evil is done. When the puller of the trigger is an innocent person, pointing the gun at a person who can most improve the world by departing it, good is done. Fortunately, the latter is what happened Tuesday in Corpus Christi.

Today, a brave young man and his equally brave mother are alive because they had access to a means of defending themselves, along with the courage and will to use it. Also today, the predatory thug population is lower by one than it was two days ago. That handgun has helped, in more ways than one, to make the world a better place.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Brady Bunch throws yet another hissy fit

Yesterday, Paul Helmke, head cheerleader for the Brady Campaign, released this abject, whining statement about the gun rights deprivation lobby's exclusion from the White House School Violence Conference.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, issued the following statement:
I'm disappointed that today's White House conference on school violence did not focus on the too easy access to guns in our society. We need to address the ease with which young people and tormented adults can access firearms to carry out these types of attacks.

Two years ago, President Bush abandoned his campaign pledge to reauthorize the Federal assault weapons ban. Yesterday, a 13- year-old Missouri boy brought an AK-47 clone to school and fired it before being apprehended. The Bush administration's inaction two years ago has led to even deadlier weapons being available in our communities.

In addition to letting the Assault Weapons ban expire, President Bush has supported other gun lobby efforts to weaken federal firearm laws. Federal records on gun purchases are now destroyed within 24 hours and information on guns traced to crime is restricted from even law enforcement. The president is also supporting other legislation that would make it harder for the law enforcement to put corrupt gun dealers out of business.
An examination of this missive reveals yet again (for anyone who needs still more such revelations) that the truth is among the first casualties in the war against private ownership of firearms. For example, President Bush did not "abandon his pledge" to reauthorize the federal ban on so-called "assault weapons." The President did indeed promise to sign a bill reauthorizing that piece of legsislative filth (he worded it a bit differently), if such a bill crossed his desk. No such bill did. If Mr. Helmke has any knowledge of the Constitution of the United States, he would be fully aware of the fact that a President cannot draft legislation; nor can he force legislators to pass bills of his choosing. If Mr. Helmke has a problem with the expiration of the ban, he would be better advised to take that up with the legislators who did not see the continuation of the ban as being in the best interests of the American people. Alternatively, Helmke could rail at these same American people, for electing such legislators. As yet another alternative, he could take it up with the original drafters of the ban, for including a "sunset provision" in the first place.

Helmke's departure from reality becomes even more apparent when he blames the expiration of the ban for the fact that a 13-year-old Missouri boy brought a semi-automatic copy of the AK-47 rifle to school, and shot the ceiling with it. What Helmke didn't bother to mention is that this particular rifle is a MAK-90, manufactured by a Chinese company (Norinco). The significance of that is that no such rifles have legally entered the country since the Clinton administration (Clinton signed an executive order, which hasn't been rescinded, banning the importation of Norinco handguns and military-style rifles). Therefore, reauthorization of the ban on "assault weapons" would have had ZERO effect on this incident.

Besides, as alarming as it is that a disturbed kid would bring a loaded firearm to school, threaten people with it, and fire it--no one was hurt. Let's not get hysterical about a punctured ceiling.

The statement ends with the charge that the President is "supporting other legislation that would make it harder for the law enforcement to put corrupt gun dealers out of business." I reject that characterization of the legislation Helmke is referring to, but the bigger point is that, as mentioned before, the President has no power over what legislation reaches his desk for his signature (or veto, as the case may be)--if he is "supporting" this legislation (I would like to see the evidence of that), his support carries only the weight of a suggestion.

Perhaps Mr. Helmke would be well advised to switch to decaf.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The justice system--justice for whom?

This long article tells the story of Harold Fish, who shot and killed a man on a hiking trail in Arizona. Mr. Fish, a retired high school Spanish teacher, maintains that the man had threatened him, and was charging him, and that the (now dead) man's two dogs had broken off their own charge only after Fish fired a warning shot from the 10mm pistol he always carried (legally) when hiking. As there were no witnesses present, it seems that we are unlikely to ever discover the exact details of what took place that day. This, of course, is no obstacle to the Gun Guys, who, having little use for the principle of the presumption of innocence pending the proof of guilt, had already decided Fish was a murderer very early in the trial process. They wanted Fish to "run away" (necessitating turning his back to his assailant) from the younger man, who was already charging him, and had dogs (not to mention that Fish had already been hiking all day). All this means that Fish had almost no chance of outrunning the pursuit.

As it turns out, the jury agreed with the Gun Guys, and convicted Fish of murder, despite the fact that some of the "evidence" presented by the prosecution was extremely weak, to put it kindly. For example, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Fish's choice of caliber (10mm) and ammunition type (hollow point) indicates a desire on Fish's part to kill. Only a group of jurors with an amazing level of ignorance of firearms would be gullible enough to swallow that stupidity. The 10mm cartridge has been used by many law enforcement agencies (including the FBI), and is an excellent choice of sidearm in the wilderness, where assailants might be on two legs, or four. Hollow points are the standard for self-defense ammunition, not because they are more likely to kill, but because they are more likely to stop an attacker (granted, the same qualities that improve their ability to stop an attack also make it more likely that the attacker will not survive, but that, I submit, is the assailant's tough luck). Furthermore, because hollow point bullets are less likely to penetrate a target than are full metal jacketed bullets, they are actually safer for bystanders. For those two reasons, hollow point bullets are almost universally carried in police officers' duty firearms. Besides, the type of firearm and ammunition used have exactly ZERO to do with whether or not a shooting was justified.

The jury was also not permitted to hear much of the evidence that the defense tried to present about Grant Kuenzli's (the dead man's) history of mental instability and aggressiveness.

Since Fish's conviction, Arizona has passed a version of the "Stand Your Ground" law, which places the burden of proof in a case where self-defense is claimed on the prosecution. This is as it should be. There is often (as in this case) no way, in the absence of witnesses, that a person who uses deadly force in self-defense can prove that it truly was a case of self-defense. In such a case, the benefit of the doubt MUST rest with the accused. To do otherwise is to throw away the entire principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. This, I submit, we must not do. It is not clear at this point whether or not the change in Arizona law will be applied to Mr. Fish's case. It certainly needs to be.

By the way, here is an update to the events discussed yesterday. The death of the thug sounds like a smaller and smaller "loss" every day.

Monday, October 09, 2006

"Gun violence"--a bad thing?

In trying to come up with a topic for today, I decided to discuss this article (here is another article about the same incident), about a Seattle man who, over the weekend, used his legally carried handgun to stop a vicious, unprovoked attack on himself, very possibly saving his own life in the process. His assailant fared less well, and unlike a depressing number of perpetrators of violent crimes who enter our criminal justice system, will never have the opportunity to brutalize anyone else. The man who protected himself was not held by police, as this appears to be a clear cut case of self-defense.

What struck me about this story is that it occurred to me that among those who are rabidly opposed to privately owned firearms, and particularly to privately owned and legally carried concealed handguns, this will be filed as a "gun violence" statistic. Despite the fact that the "victim" of the shooting had already verbally articulated a death threat (there's not much ambiguity to the statement, "I am going to kill you."), and had gotten off to a fair start on carrying out that threat, by knocking the man down and kicking him repeatedly, this death will be counted, by some, as part of the "cost" society pays for not having more restrictive gun laws. If that's the "cost," then so be it--sounds like a bargain to me. If brutally attacking innocent people carries with it the risk of death for the attacker, I can't see that as a bad thing.

Many people are opposed to laws that permit law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns for self-defense. To name a few such people, we have Sarah Brady (of the Brady Campaign), Wisonsin Governor Jim Doyle (who has vetoed concealed carry legislation the last two years), Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (neither of whom has ever seem a draconian gun law he didn't just love), and many others. Interestingly, among those many others are rapists, muggers, psychopaths, and violent felons (who would never qualify for a permit to carry a concealed firearm). Curious company those political luminaries choose to keep, isn't it?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The VPC--a history of being disingenuous

Yesterday, I mentioned that the VPC has--let's call it a less than passionate commitment to telling the truth. In support of that assertion on my part, I pointed out some rather disingenuous statements they made about the .500 S&W Magnum. Today, I'm going back farther, to show that such tactics are nothing new for these folks.

Way back in 1988, they came out with this "study" about so-called "assault weapons." Most of their alarmist claims are unworthy of debating here--they have, after all, been saying the same things for almost 20 years. What is worth a look comes in the conclusion, as it provides a useful insight into their strategy.

It will be a new topic in what has become to the press and public an "old" debate.
Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary: the power of the gun lobby; the tendency of both sides of the issue to resort to sloganeering and pre-packaged arguments when discussing the issue; the fact that until an individual is affected by handgun violence he or she is unlikely to work for handgun restrictions; the view that handgun violence is an "unsolvable" problem; the inability of the handgun restriction movement to organize itself into an effective electoral threat; and the fact that until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault 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. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.
Here, we see that although their top prioity was (and seems to continue to be) an outright ban on private ownership of handguns, they realized that such a ban was not in the cards, so they chose to focus their efforts on the more vulnerable "assault weapons."

To see their lack of interest in a truly informed public debate, look no further than this sentence:
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.
I'm not accusing them of an outright lie in this case, but to deliberately attempt to exploit the public's ignorance of the difference between fully automatic firearms and so-called "assault weapons," is hardly respectable behavior.

One could argue, of course, that a nearly 20 year old article does not necessarily have much to do with what the VPC is doing now, but if that's the case, why keep this article on their website?

More hysterical hype about the .500 S&W Magnum

I've already talked about the Gun Guys' strident hysteria with regard to the .500 S&W, but in fairness to them, they're not the only ones who are trying to invent a "threat" out of thin air. Recently, I found a press release from the Violence Policy Center, in which we are told that the power of the huge cartridge renders police body armor nearly worthless. The VPC actually has the audacity to imply that the introduction of this cartridge, and the enormous revolvers that fire it, is a deliberate attempt by Smith and Wesson to exploit a supposed "cop killer market."

The "reasoning" here is that the .500 S&W Magnum fires a bullet with a kinetic energy level comparable to the .30-06 rifle, which will indeed penetrate standard police body armor with relative ease (as will a great many other center-fire rifle cartridges). The reason, we are to suppose, that police officers should be more frightened of these revolvers than they are of rifles is that the revolvers, being handguns, are "concealable." One might point out that although these are indeed handguns, they are enormous handguns, and would constitute a rather odd choice as a concealed weapon--but the VPC has an answer to that:

In addition, he [Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst, and author of the "study"] pointed out, at least one shoulder holster is being sold for the Magnum revolver, thus making it easy for criminals to carry the gun concealed.
This, of course, ignores the fact that the shoulder holster is vast--designed for hands-free carrying of the gun in the field (it was designed as a hunting arm, after all)--not for concealed carry (nothing less than a parka is likely to provide much concealment for such a gun and holster).

The .500 S&W Magnum revolvers are, as mentioned, huge, heavy (3 1/2 lbs, unloaded, for the short barreled model, and more than a pound heavier for the standard barrel length model), they can hold only 5 shots, they cost in the neighborhood of $1000 or more, and subject the shooter to recoil and blast that make accurate shooting very difficult for people without extensive experience with the big beasts. The price of the ammo means that getting this experience is very pricey, and the recoil means that few would be willing and able to practice for very long in one session (or to have multiple sessions without considerable rest periods in between).

These guns would be very near the bottom of the list of most logical choice of weapon for your friendly neighborhood cop killer, but far be it from the VPC to let the facts stand in the way of some good old fashioned fear mongering (more on that tomorrow!).

Friday, October 06, 2006

All gun owners want to be killers?

Today, the Gun Guys came to my rescue. It's been a pretty busy day for me, and I hadn't really thought of anything to post, and then I read this gem from them, in which they make the rather . . . interesting claim that anyone who owns a gun wants to kill:

That’s the only reason to still own a gun in America– because you are, or want to be, a killer. That’s what guns are created for– killing. And any gun guy who says he owns his gun for "protection" is straight out lying. He (or she) owns a gun because they want to kill.
Let's analyze this . . . remarkable assertion, shall we? First, I wonder what they mean by it's "the only reason to still own a gun . . ."--was there, at one time, a peaceful reason to want to own a gun, a reason that no longer exists? What could have changed, I wonder? Go a little further along in the sentence, and we get to it's "the only reason to still own a gun in America". The implication is that even now, there are peaceful reasons to own guns--just not here. I wonder where these places are, and what is different about them.

Those are minor objections; the bigger problems come up now, with "That’s what guns are created for– killing." Actually, guns were created to expel projectiles at high speeds, hopefully with some predictability as to where said projectile ends up. Granted, being in the way of this projectile is likely to cause some health problems. This fact makes guns useful in a conflict, but to imply that guns are specialized killing machines, like electric chairs and hangman's nooses,is rather disingenuous.

This next sentence is so wrong as to deserve its own paragraph, devoted to debunking it: "And any gun guy who says he owns his gun for 'protection' is straight out lying." Got that, folks? Apparently, there is no such thing as a self-defense shooting, and no one drives off a would be assailant by merely brandishing a gun, without firing it. Neither of these things ever happen, because if they did happen even once, the argument (to use the term rather generously--I'm feeling charitable in my old age) that guns cannot be used for protection falls apart. In fact, even if no gun has ever been successfully used for protection (an obvioulsy false premise), that still does nothing to prove that people might own a gun with that intention.

Their paragraph of lies ends with this: "He (or she) owns a gun because they want to kill." Actually, I own guns because I want to live. Also, I own some of them because I appreciate their historical significance. I own them because I like to shoot--paper targets. Some own guns for collector's investment purposes. There are, in the final analysis, myriad reasons, reasons that have nothing to do with killing, to own guns.

I won't quibble with the idea that hunters own guns to kill--that's obviously a hunter's intent--although since hunters generally eat their prey, it would seem that the killing makes sense. Eating an animal while it's still alive sounds a bit cruel.

One has to wonder in these days of ultra tight security at major events, like the Olympics, if anything is being done to protect everyone from the bubbling cauldrons of homicidal malice--the Olympic target shooters.

Actually, one has to wonder how there even is an America, with 80 million of us gun owners, and over 250 million guns--one would think we'd have wiped ourselves out by now, since we're so intent on killing (and since guns are so demonically lethal--just ask the Gun Guys).

Come on, Gun Guys--you can do better than that.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What a gun ban would "accomplish"

There are more than a few advocates of a complete ban on handguns (with or without a concurrent ban on semi-automatic long guns). Some of the proposals to ban handguns would "only" affect semi-autos, leaving revolvers alone. In other words, the details of these proposals vary, but they all sure the common goal of an outright prohibition on private ownership of a broad variety of firearms.

In discussing the "merits" and drawbacks of such proposals, I won't even touch on the most damnning problem--that they would grossly violate a Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right. That's an issue for another discussion. Instead, the goal here is to look at the practical effects of implementing such a ban (for the sake of this discussion, call it a ban on all handguns--but the details of this hypothetical ban's features are not really important).

I will also ignore the tremendous difficulty ("impossibility" is probably a more accurate word for it) of rounding up the (very approximately) 80 to 90 million handguns already in the U.S., and the gross injustice of forcing people to surrender possessions that were completely legal when they were bought (maybe that difficulty could be addressed with a massive, mandatory "gun buy back," costing billions of dollars). We're pretending that even all the illegally owned handguns, owned by people who, by definition, are criminals (and thus extremely unlikely to be very cooperative about surrendering their guns), are collected. In short, let us assume that not a single handgun exists in private possession, legally or illegally.

How long do you suppose this "happy" (for the gun fearing crowd) state of affairs would last? Probably about as long as Ted Kennedy's average period of uninterrupted sobriety (not very bloody long, in other words). This can be easily seen by looking at the vast quantities of illicit drugs smuggled into this country every day. The smugglers would be more than happy to expand their business (and thus their profits). They already have the infrastructure--the criminal distribution channels, set up. Even better, they already have a customer base established, as drug dealers are always going to want firepower to defend their turf from rivals.

So, what have we done? We have created a brand new black market, with all the problems associated with black markets. We have added greatly to the wealth and power of smugglers. We have moved commerce in handguns from the tightly regulated legal market to the entirely unregulated illegal market. Finally, we have made certain that the only handguns on the streets are owned by criminals, the very people whose possession of firearms poses a threat--"If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns," has become a cliche, but that makes it no less accurate.

Great. Well done. For our next act, maybe we could combat global warming--by inducing nuclear winter.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More on the Pennsylvania House

I know this has already been discussed here recently, but enough has happened since then to justify another look. Most obvious is the tragedy in Lancaster County, PA, in which five young girls were killed, and five more wounded, three critically. It would have been reasonable to assume that no one would be so lost to honor as to try to exploit this tragedy to advance an agenda--reasonable, but wrong. Not twenty-four hours after the deranged monster committed his vile, abominable act, several Philadelphia area politicians, seemingly immune to shame, tried to use this horror to justify the passage of yet more gun laws.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, to his credit, although he reaffirmed his commitment to such laws, at least had the honesty and moral courage to acknowledge that no gun laws would have done anything to prevent Roberts' hideous deeds:

"I think we should all understand, no proposed law, none that I would think of or none that I've seen, could have ruled out this situation," Rendell said.
Others, such as Representative Thomas W. Blackwell IV, of Philadelphia (where else?), lacked such restraint (and honesty). In questioning the idea of defending the Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right of the individual to keep and bear arms, he had this to say:
"Yesterday, all those children were killed," Blackwell said. "You're talking about a piece of paper while children are dying? What kind of god do you serve?"
By the way, this gem was part of a discussion about a ban on so-called "assault weapons"--weapons that had nothing to do with the shootings of the school girls.

Fortunately, even in the face of this tragedy, and the cynical, callous exploitation of it by the gun rights deprivation lobby, Pennsylvanians outside of Philadelphia were well enough represented that the last day of the "committee of the whole" ended without approval of any freedom destroying gun bills.

This, of course has the gun haters in an uproar. My favorite wingnuts, the Gun Guys, are apparently so upset that they think Philadelphia should become its own state:
The NRA is entrenched at the state level, especially in a state like Philadelphia [emphasis added].
The state of Philadelphia? Sound more than a little confused, don't they? Actually, though, for the sake of the rest of Pennsylvania, kicking Philadelphia loose doesn't sound like such a bad idea--it would certainly improve their legislature. As an Illinois resident, I certainly wouldn't be opposed to Chicago becoming its own state, and leaving the rest of us alone.

In the anguished wake of this unspeakable horror, the residents of most of Pennsylvania can take comfort in the fact that they are well represented by people who don't believe that the solution to the fact that there is horrible evil in the world is to render people disarmed and helpless to face it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

And why not new machine guns for civilians?

In 1986, Congress passed (and President Reagan signed) a bill, the Firearm Owners' Protection Act, which revised the Gun Control Act of 1968, in order to protect the rights of gun owners and licensed dealers. FOPA goes a long way toward accomplishing that goal, but in one respect, constitutes an attack on gun rights, rather than an affirmation of them. This attack comes in the form of an amendment attached to FOPA, making illegal the civilian ownership of fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986, in addition to the already onerous requirements for civilian acquisition of fully automatic weapons, as required by the National Firearms Act of 1934.

The story of how this amendment came to be added to FOPA, despite the fact that its effects run directly counter to the clear intent of the rest of the act, is worthy of a closer look. The amendment was introduced by William Hughes, then a Democrat representative of New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hughes had a long history of hostility toward gun rights in general, and FOPA in particular. He was apparently well aware that the amendment would likely be voted down in the presence of the entire House membership, so he brought it up for a vote late at night, after most of the representatives had left for the evening. Additionally, the vote was by voice, instead of by roll call. This turns out to have been important, because there is a widely held suspicion that the "Nay" votes actually outnumbered the "Yea" votes, but with Hughes' ally, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) presiding over the proceedings, the amendment was declared to have been approved, and with no roll call vote, that declaration was not subject to dispute.

The problems with the Hughes Amendment go beyond the allegations of perfidious conduct to facilitate its approval, though. Another problem is the need for such a measure, or more acccurately, the lack of such a need. The requirements imposed by the NFA for the acquisition and possession of fully automatic firearms are so strict that many people believe that private citizens are banned outright from owning them, and this was the case even before FOPA and the Hughes Amendment. It should be kept in mind that many states have in place yet more restrictions on these firearms, including, in many cases, outright bans. If one is of a mind to assume that the Hughes Amendment was a response to an epidemic of "machine gun violence," one should guess again, as is illustrated by these figures:

. . . in Targeting Guns, [Gary] Kleck writes, four police officers were killed in the line of duty by machine guns from 1983 to 1992. (713 law enforcement officers were killed during that period, 651 with guns.)

In 1980, when Miami's homicide rate was at an all-time high, less than 1% of all homicides involved machine guns. (Miami was supposedly a "machine gun Mecca" and drug trafficking capital of the U.S.) Although there are no national figures to compare to, machine gun deaths were probably lower elsewhere. Kleck cites several examples:

Of 2,200 guns recovered by Minneapolis police (1987-1989), not one was fully automatic.

A total of 420 weapons, including 375 guns, were seized during drug warrant executions and arrests by the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad (Will and Grundie counties in the Chicago metropolitan area, 1980-1989). None of the guns was a machine gun.
(source) If one were to look at crimes involving only fully automatic weapons owned legally within the framework of the NFA, the numbers become even more telling. With more than 100,000 fully automatic weapons legally in private hands, a grand total of two have been used in crimes (both, incidentally, after passage of FOPA and the Hughes Amendment). (Same source as above) Clearly, the Hughes Amendment is a "solution" to a problem that does not exist.

The most compelling objection to the Hughes Amendment being used to ban private ownership of machine guns built after 1986 might be that the language of the amendment doesn't actually do that. To illustrate that point, we must look at the relevant part of the amendment itself:
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), it shall be unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun.

(2) This subsection does not apply with respect to--

(A) a transfer to or by, or possession by or under the authority of, the United States or any department or agency thereof or a State, or a department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or

(B) any lawful transfer or lawful possession of a machinegun that was lawfully possessed before the date this subsection (p.670)takes effect.
The way this has been interpreted is that this bans possession of fully automatic weapons unless A) the weapons are possessed by a government agency (military, law enforcement, etc,), or B) the firearm was already in private possession before May 19, 1986. However, the actual wording of part (A) is "...possession by or under the authority of the United States...". It would seem difficult to argue that a machine gun for which there is a tax stamp, signed by the Secretary of the Treasury, is not "under the authority" of the U.S. government, and nowhere else is there any indication that such a tax stamp cannot be issued. Still, the ATF holds to the interpretation that private citizens cannot possess these firearms, almost without challenge.

The Attorney General could easily correct this situation, but I wouldn't hold my breath while Alberto Gonzales holds the office.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Why can't they leave our guns alone, and focus on something dangerous?

The ATF, more accurately referred to as the BATFE, for Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, has, as the name of the organization implies, four areas of responsibility. Of the four, firearms seem to get the vast preponderance of the agency's attention. I cannot help but be curious about this arrangement of priorities. Why is it that such a disproportionately large part of the ATF's energy is devoted to regulating firearms? Some might suppose that the reason for this arrangement of priorities is based on the number of deaths attributable to each of these four areas of concern. Such a supposition would be incorrect.

On average, slightly over 30,000 deaths (per year) in the U.S. are caused by gunshot wounds--30,136 in 2003 (this figure from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence--not a group likely to under report the number of gunshot deaths). Of these, more than half are suicide (same source as above). Removing guns can hardly be expected to prevent suicide, as is clearly illustrated by the fact that Japan, where private firearm ownership is virtually non-existent, has a suicide rate higher than that of the U.S. (source). It should also be noted that this figure includes legitimate self-defense shootings, and justifiable shootings by police--not really part of the so-called "gun problem."

By comparison, in the year 2000 (most recent for which I could find data), there were 85,000 deaths attributable to alcohol use (source)--not quite triple the number of deaths from gunshot wounds, but well over double. Even that number, though, pales in comparison to the more than 400,000 annual U.S. deaths from cigarette smoking (source)--more than 13 times the gunshot death number.

So, between alcohol and tobacco, our country comes dangerously close to losing half a million lives every year, as compared to just over 30,000 from gunfire, many of which would have occurred with or without guns, and some of which were necessary to defend innocent lives.

Explosives are a different matter entirely, of course. I haven't bothered researching deaths attributable to high explosives, because that number in the U.S. is certainly rather small (the story is obviously quite different for the men and women serving in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that is unrelated to this discussion). Still, that hardly means that we can afford to ignore the threat posed by misuse of high explosives. Bombs are the favorite weapon of terrorists, because they are by far the most deadly (at least in the absence of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons). Terrorists know that they can cause vastly more carnage with explosives than they can with firearms. Like anyone else, terrorists prefer to get the most return on their investment of effort and risk, and explosives are vastly "better" in that regard than guns.

So, does the ATF want to make Americans safer, or would they prefer to simply make us unarmed?