Other bits and pieces

Monday, April 6, 2009

Arm and Hammer

“Those who do not live by the sword may still die upon it.” -J. R. R. Tolkien

A couple of days ago, a mother in Pittsburgh woke up and became angry because her grown son's dog peed on the floor. She and her grown son, whom lives with her, got into an argument over it, and she decided he should move out. During the heat of the argument, she called the police to assist. Three officers responded to the domestic disturbance call expecting to settle a quarrel between a mother and son. When the mother let them into to the house, the son shot all three officers to death. A stand-off with police ensued. After dozens of rounds were fired from and into the house, the son was injured in the ankle and gave up. Many horrifying questions are still emerging from this horrific spectacle of depraved indifference. The craziest thing about it to me is simple: How did this thing go from dog pee to shooting officers in so short an order? But, others are asking different questions.

The ass-jockey doing the shooting was using a semi-automatic (civilian grade) variant of an AK-47, commonly available throughout most of the United States. An individual with no criminal history, or that of mental instability can purchase one after a several day waiting period and an FBI background check. Many people are asking: How is it that a guy discharged from the Marines for emotional issues was able to buy a gun like that? Why are guns like that legal to buy in the first place? If he had owned a different kind of gun this wouldn't have been as bad, right? With so much gun-related crime in the United States, isn't it about time we took a good hard look at tighter controls on the types of firearms people can get; wouldn't that prevent, or help to prevent so much violence? Okay, that's a valid concern, let's take a look at it.

First of all, let's get some perspective. I remember when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in the 1980's. Seven astronauts were killed, summarily honored as heroes, and a nation mourned. That same day, thousands of other fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters died in violent and painful ways across the country. It is in our nature to throw both our sympathy and our rage against that which is most sensational. The media has a pretty long-standing tradition of telling us what's the most sensational. Remember that the media (this would be a good time to pull out your shocked expression) doesn't report every violent crime in the country each day. So, keep in mind; every time you see a day-long running news story about any heart-wrenching shooting, that there were roughly another 50 murders and 3800 other violent crimes that day.

So, how does one legally acquire such a weapon? It's really not that hard. First you have to have somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 to $1800 on hand depending on how fancy you want your evil black rifle (EBR) to be. You have to have never been convicted of a felony, be able to prove that you've not been under significant psychiatric care in the recent past. You cannot currently be a defendant in a criminal proceeding, a habitual drunkard, a fugitive from justice, under 21, addicted to a controlled substance, ever been confined for more than 30 days for mental reasons, and a few other restrictions. If all of that is clean, you can pay for your gun. The dealer will call a special phone number and run your social security number against the FBI database. This is your background check. Once that's done, a document of transfer is done up, noting the serial number and make of the gun, and the name of the dealer who sold it to you. The dealer keeps a copy and it becomes public record. Now, all you have to do is wait 7-10 days for the transfer to be 'cleared' and you can go back to the dealer and take home your brand new, sparkley EBR. It doesn't seem like a lot to have to go through, but remember; for all of that do happen, you have to have maintained a pretty spotless record and been a pretty good kid for a very long time. The way the Feds see it, if you've been able to keep your nose that clean for that long, you're probably not looking to start a crime spree anytime soon.

So, if we kept people from getting these guns, how many innocent lives would be saved? According to a study, roughly 1.7% of crimes involving firearms involved an assault rifle [David B. Kopel]. Approximately 10% of violent crimes (not necessarily resulting in death) are committed involving a gun. From different sources, the homicide rate in the United States oscillates around approximately 6 homicides per year, per 100,000 people. There are roughly 303M people in the country, so, let's see, dived by, umm, carry the one, umm, the remainder, that's roughly 18000 homicides a year. Two thirds of the homicides were committed with a firearm, so that's 11880, so 201 people, on average, are killed each year by an assault rifle. So if we ban the sale of assault rifles, and assume that all the ones already out there will never be used in a crime, we will save 201 lives a year. Oh, wait, we said innocent lives. Two thirds of the people killed by gunfire each year are criminals being killed by other criminals, so now we're down to 66 people. Now consider that the last assault rifle ban only restricted guns from having any combination of more than two of the following: pistol grip, flash suppressor, and semi-automatic. So even under that ban, you could buy a semi-auto EBR with no flash suppressor, as long as it wasn't a carbine (shortened barrel), and didn't come with a magazine capacity of more than 10 (you just bought bigger mags on the Internet). So even if none of these guns kill anyone, I'm sure whoever really doesn't like those last 66 people will probably buy a shotgun and do the job anyway. They were all bastards anyway. Fuck 'em!

Keep in mind that half of the homicides are committed using hand guns. So, should we take these away as well? I could throw another bunch of digits up, but I think you know where we're going to end up. How many lives would we save by banning all guns? There's always this argument floating around that 80% of gun related crimes are committed by people unlawfully possessing a firearm. That argument is typically twisted into the understanding that it's illegal guns in the hands of perps. This is sort of true, and sort of not. The question to be answered is: how do the perps illegally obtain the guns? Well, most of them are a product of what's called the straw purchase. That is where someone who cannot legally obtain a weapon, either through a friend, relative, or bribed stranger, gets someone who can legally buy one to do so on their behalf. So, to be fair in this cogitative journey, it is reasonable to say that if you outlawed the legal sale of arms, you would seriously hamper the sale of illegal ones as well. But, would you stop the violent crime and homicides? I'm guessing it's reasonable to suspect that most people who want someone living to be less than living use the guns because it's easy, but they would use something else in a pinch. I could just see gangsters in LA capping each other with golf clubs. That would be cool.

Oh yeah, one more statistic before I press on: Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 millions crimes per year. Every day, 550 rapes, 1100 murders, and 5200 other violent crimes are prevented just by showing a handgun. In less than 0.9% of the time is the gun actually fired. [Gary Kleck, Criminologist, Florida State University]

So, we're not likely to really accomplish much by banning ARs. Okay, but what is there to say about the uselessness of these weapons? Many critics of assault rifles simply state that since these guns have only one purpose, and that of killing people, there is no reason for anyone to have them. I guess that depends on what you consider a valid reason. Some people like them to shoot at firing ranges. If you like shooting, there's nothing more entertaining that shredding a paper target emblazoned with the likeness of Bernie Madoff, or Rosie O'Donnell with 30 rounds of rapid fire 7.62x39 or .223. (almost got a boner just there) Other people like them for home defense. Heck, some people even hunt with them. In many states, depending on what you're hunting, it's perfectly legal. Though, if you live in Mississippi, I think hunting involves a lot more spatula to pavement than bullet to Bambi. But there is one use that these critics can't see because it's hidden in plain site: assault rifles are useful for killing people. Huh? That's right. I said it. A perfectly valid utility for any tool is its intended purpose. The assault rife was meant to assault. Oh yeah, and nothing enhances a penis more than a 30 round banana clip poking out of a machine gun. It is also worth mentioning that one cannot eat tofu or sushi around something as raw and brawny as an assault rifle...but I digress.

The second amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads, in part: “...the right to keep and bare arms shall not be infringed.” What part of the word 'infringe' is giving scholars such a dance around the pantry? There has been no end to the debate over many decades as to how to interpret this simple lexicographical juggernaut. And herein lies the problem. It's a simple statement, written to ensure a simple concept, by men who had just finished casting off their oppressors by force of arms. It doesn't need to be “interpreted”, or “interpolated”, “gisted”, “clarified”, “construed”, or paraphrased. And it doesn't take a historian to look into the annals (I said annal, not anal) of the past and see our founding father's intent behind it. Remember, these people just held a regime in check because they had weapons. They believed that no government would be able to rule tyranny over a populace so well armed. They weren't thinking about target practice, or 'sport'. They didn't use guns for sport. They used Indians for sport (everybody knows that). They used guns to turn happy, frolicking animals into tasty dead ones. They also used them to defend their homes, families, and communities. They expected you to do the same. Our government may have fighter planes, tanks, and a standing army, but it would be no match for even 1/3 of this countries population armed with rifles. (note: since I'm still part of that standing army, hold the revolution until after I retire, and don't take away my pension if you're successful...I'm just saying.) Killing people is not only a capability of firearms, it's a feature! The threat of it is part of the fabric of this nation. The greatness of this nation is no better demonstrated than by the fact that we are neither ruled nor governed. And guns are what maintain this status quo.e

Now get out there, do your civic duty, and arm yourselves!

©Raymond Smith- 2009

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