Sunday, July 22, 2012

Once Again, What Does It Take To Change America's Lax Gun Laws?

Reflecting last March upon the Jared Loughner and George Zimmerman shootings, Rachel Maddow asked what it takes for America to change its lax gun laws. She concluded that no matter what horrific event involving gun violence occurs, “All the changes in law go toward more guns in more places and more legal excuses for shooting people.” It is only the gun lobby, specifically the NRA, whose decision matters.

Prior to James Holmes' killing 12 and wounding 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, he purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, an AR-15 Assault Rifle and three other guns at local stores. The AR-15, shown above, is not a "sporting" rifle or a weapon for self-defense; with its magazine and trigger, it is designed to kill as many people as possible and as quickly as possible–the very purposes for which Holmes used it. Given Colorado's lax gun laws, he passed a minimal background check. The background check did not cover why someone would need to stockpile so many weapons in a short period. Isn't that alone grounds for suspicion?

Does anyone feel that more reasonable gun laws are on the horizon following this latest massacre? One article states that America is resigned to no change, especially given the power of the NRA. We come back to Rachel Maddow's question about what it takes and the direction in which gun laws always seem to go. America's gun situation is encapsulated in the cartoon below by Tom Tomorrow in which "Sparky the Penguin" tells an NRA supporter, "Barring some seismic realignment in this country, the gun control debate is all but settled–and your side won. The occasional horrific civilian massacre is just the price the rest of us have to pay. Over and over again, apparently."


gsel55 said...

Do you really believe you can pass any law to prevent this type of nutjob from killing people? What he did is already illegal and morally reprehensible. Would a person who can justify killing multiple innocent strangers stop to reflect on obtaining a gun illegally? Or explosives? Any number of household chemicals can be mixed to explode. You can't stop crazy. It is frustrating but it is a fact.

Jeff Tone said...

gsel55, I believe that we have to do something. This lunatic should not have been able to buy all that ammo online. He should not have gotten away with a minimum background check. There should have been a record that he was stockpiling an arsenal. Further, the lethal weapon he used to mow down so many shouldn't be legal. If any of these measures could stop someone in the future or save one life, it would be worth it. It's no coincidence that we have so many horrific events involving gun violence and such lax gun laws.

gsel55 said...

I think you miss my point. You assume that if the rifle had been illegal that the crazy man would have just went to watch the movie quietly. We have very strict laws against killing people,but he did it. It is probably against the law to fire any gun in the city...he didn't care. You can make all the laws you want, you can't stop the violence. Let's discuss how we can't commit crazy people anymore. We closed the asylums years ago and put millions of mentally ill people out on the street. Can't force treatment on them, can't confine them against their will until they go into a theater and kill dozens of people. We need to concentrate on the man and not his tools. After the Oklahoma city bombing did you call for stricter laws on fertilizer sales?

Jeff Tone said...

I make no such assumption. I disagree with the point that laws make no difference. The lack of background checks makes a difference. Selling ammo online makes a difference. The legalization of assault weapons enables them to proliferate. We have more of these massacres in this country, at least in part, because of our lax gun laws. It's not a coincidence. I'd concentrate on both the man and the tools he had such easy access to.

Regarding fertilizer, I'm reminded of those who ask, "Why don't we ban cars if someone plows into someone else?" The analogy doesn't hold. Cars and fertilizer have other purposes. An AR-15 has no other purpose than to kill as many people as possible. Remember the Glock used by Loughner in Arizona? If he didn't have access to that, he at least wouldn't have been able to kill as many at such a rapid clip. Again, legalization increases proliferation.

gsel55 said...

That is not true about the AR-15. You see them at shooting ranges for target practice and competition shooting all the time. That rifle doesn't do anything any other hunting rifle can't do. It just looks evil and people call it "assault." I am not certain if it was semi-auto or automatic, but if it was full auto it was illegal anyway. I use rifles and have never shot at anyone. What am I using it for. According to you, that is the only purpose. A Glock is just the brand name of a handgun. Movies and TV have given the name an evil connotation. A Glock is no different than a Springfield or a Colt except in brand specific categories. As far as how fast the crazy can kill, practice makes perfect. Magazines can be changed at an amazing speed with a little practice. As to proliferation...maybe if more guns had been in the theater, carried by sane people like me,he wouldn't have killed as many before he was stopped.

Jeff Tone said...

Of course I wouldn't accuse you of being a lunatic because you own a rifle. The fact is that Holmes and Loughner chose these particular weapons for a purpose. They didn't need to change magazines; they just blazed away. Nor am I assured that a bunch of people firing away in a theater would have helped matters at all.

gsel55 said...

Thank you for your faith in my sanity. Of course you don't know any more about me than the people doing the background checks did about Holmes. Problem? As a dedicated shooting enthusiast I would appreciate it if you and others who advocate for gun control would not make blanket misleading statements like: "An AR-15 has no other purpose than to kill as many people as possible."
Just for the purpose of pigeon-holing myself for you, I consider myself liberal, I am not a member of NRA (on purpose)and my biggest problem with President Obama is that he didn't go far enough in fixing health care. Medicare for everybody! Or something like that. Keep up the good work, just reel it in when you feel the urge to make broad unwarranted assumptions. Wouldn't want you to start playing your rock'n'roll backwards or anything.
Peace and Love.

Jeff Tone said...

I was responding to your statement that you "never shot at anyone." I make no assumptions about you or your views based on our exchange.

What I actually wrote is that the AR-15 "is designed to kill as many people as possible and as quickly as possible." I don't see how this can be denied. Tragically, the AR-15's design suited Holmes' purposes.

gsel55 said...

I thought that only republicans got to change "what they actually wrote." What you actually wrote was exactly what I quoted. It is still posted on the page Jeff. All guns are designed to kill. No secret about that. People have been killing each other since the first cave man picked up the jawbone of a conservative. My little .22 caliber target plinker handgun will kill very effectively and will shoot as fast as I can pull the trigger. All guns are deadly. If you think anything else you should never pick one up. Guns have bullets and firing pins and mechanisms to feed the bullets to the firing pin. Most of the other stuff is really window dressing like the difference between a Ford and a Chevy. They both take you from point a to point b. Beyond that is just a matter of taste. Once again, the tiniest gun is a deadly weapon. First lesson a small boy learns before he hunts. Treat every gun as if it is loaded even if you are certain that it is not, and never point a gun at something you don't intend to kill or destroy.

Jeff Tone said...

You're correct; I was looking at my original article, not my subsequent comment underneath to you. In any event, I stand by that second statement. Yes, one can use a switchblade knife to slice bread, but that doesn't mean it is a bread knife or that it should be legal. The purpose of a gun that one can use to mow down people without changing the magazine is just that, to mow down people. It should not be legal. I would not, however, say that about every gun.

Mike Schonhorst said...

Your fact checking needs a little work, Jeff.

True Fact #1: "Assault weapon" is defined by the intentions of the user, not the instrument. I have an "Assault Hammer" that I use to smack dumb people with.

True Fact #2: That AR graphic - the magazine has a 30 rd capacity not 100.

True Fact #3: That trigger is not capable of firing any more rounds per minute than any other civilian legal gun. No more, no less. Read up on what a Semi-Automatic firearm is.

True Fact #4: the Federal AWB did not make the sale of new AR-15 rifles illegal. It limited NEW magazine capacities to 10 rounds. Pre-ban magazines were still readily available. And for reference, the Omaha Mall shooter used an SKS rifle with a FIXED INTERNAL 10rd magazine. He was still pretty successful in causing mayhem in spite of this.

Also, factual errors aside, the premise of your argument stinks - pick a freedom you enjoy and I'll tell you why I think you don't "need" it. One person's opinion of another person's "NEED" has been the basis for denying liberties since the beginning of time.

Anti-gun folks are NOT a problem in our society, but folks who spout off on social issues with ZERO understanding of them are. You add inertia to an argument in spite of the errors in your statements. That inertia and lack of accuracy creates so much static that it becomes impossible for people to have a rational, educated, and well-thought-out discussion. This then leads us to terrible and lazy laws like the AWB ban of the 90's that do NOTHING to address an issue other than infringe the liberties of the lawful.

Jeff Tone said...

I’m well aware, Mike, of the definition of a “fact.” You need not tell me that facts are “true.” You don’t strengthen your argument by patronizing me.

By your logic, any weapon should be legalized based on the dubious notion of “intent.” I only intend to use a switchblade to slice bread, so let's legalize it.

The AR-15 that was used in the Colorado theater shooting had a 100-round magazine that was separately purchased. One can purchase that online. It is disingenuous of you to state that it “only” has a 30-round capacity if the magazine can be “upgraded.”

But let’s say for the sake of argument that that weapon can never have any more than a 30-round capacity. I still would be opposed to Holmes having the ability to get his hands on a weapon that “only” has such a capacity.

The trigger is not capable of firing more rounds per minute—true but irrelevant. The bigger the magazine, the more people one can kill and the more rapidly one can do so without pausing to change it. By the way, Holmes’ magazine jammed. What would he have been able to do if it hadn’t? Kill more innocent people enjoying a Batman movie at their local theater.

You’re correct about the graph’s reference to the “illegality.” Holmes, though, would have found it more difficult to purchase his weapon years ago given federal restrictions.

I completely disagree with you regarding the premise of my argument (though I disagree with you in a respectful way; unlike you, I don’t use disagreeable terms like “stinks”). True, I don’t believe that Holmes needs an AR-15 or 6,000 rounds of ammunition. He proved the very danger that I fear. There’s nothing wrong with attempting to balance freedom with a concern for public safety. That is a never-ending concern in a civilized society. In that regard, I also don’t think someone “needs” a bazooka. By your logic, I am restricting that person’s freedom.

I object to your simplistic labeling of me as “anti-gun folk.” Such blanket terminology connotes that I want to ban all guns, which I never stated. I have called for more reasonable gun laws. Those like you who fail to differentiate between the two are a major reason why it’s so difficult to have a reasonable dialogue.

I “spout off” and have “zero understanding”? Fine. Don’t waste your time writing to me again.

Mike Schonhorst said...

Fair enough, Jeff. You're right, I was patronizing, I guess it was a reaction to the amazing inaccuracies in your argument. I apologize for my tone, it is just as distracting from the discussion as bad info.

So let's take this from the top: you make a substantial jump in logic by assuming I'm taking the position that anything should be legal based on the not-at-all dubious notion of intent. Intent is kind of a big deal in our legal system, so I would hardly characterize it as dubious. Rather, I'm taking issue with the propagandizing of a discussion with terms like "assault weapon". That creates the supposition that an instrument is the problem rather than the user. I'll come back to this in a moment.

Next, I don't see how I'm any more disingenuous in stating your pic only has a 30rd magazine than you are in posting that pic stating it had a 100rd drum magazine and a special trigger when it does not. Once again, I'm taking issue with the propagandizing, or more specifically the mischaracterization of facts.

You say my point about the trigger is true but irrelevant, betraying the fact that the trigger was one of the main points of your argument.

I did not intend to label you as anti-gun folk, but rather the uninformed spouter, which as you pointed out carries a tone that distracts from a discussion and contributes to an argument.

Now, to the meat: there is a huge difference between "attempting to balance freedom with a concern for public safety" and using an interpretation of someone else's "need" to deny rights. I contend you were using the latter. If it were the former we'd be discussing statistics, the failures of the AWB of the 90's to have ANY effect on crime rates, the faults in logic with it, and MOST IMPORTANTLY the fact that the person is the largest actor in this equation.

So let's talk about people and grand displays of mayhem. What is the purpose of shooting up a movie theater? To send a message of some sort? Make a statement? Certainly. So if a person is so motivated to make this kind of statement, why would we think prohibiting a tool would prevent him either finding a different tool, or using the same tool acquired illegally? Wouldn't it make more sense for us to think about the socio-economic and psychological factors that drive a person to make this statement in the first place?

Look, the fact is, our current laws restricting the types of guns for civilian ownership are very effective. (This is a whole other discussion on what 2A means and why it was put into the bill of rights. We can get into that if you'd like but for now I'll stay on topic.) The methods for enforcing ownership qualification could use some work, but that raises the issue of practicality - how can you tell if someone is a lunatic and what their intentions are? How do you do that without undue infringement? Intentions are very important, AR15's like the one in your pic are owned by a great many citizens, used lawfully a great number of times per day. So the incidence of mayhem per AR15 does not support a link between the mayhem and the instrument.

But, restricting arbitrary features like grip, type of magazine, and an extra half inch of barrel length are easy and expedient, and they make us feel better. Despite the fact that those restrictions have ZERO impact on the issue but, instead, are very effective at infringing the rights of the lawful by artificially driving up prices and creating an ever complicated web of regulations making it more difficult just to remain lawful.

Jeff Tone said...

Mike, thank you for your comments. It’s always better to leave aside personal references.

“Intent” can be dubious when used solely as the basis for a judgment. I gave as an example the proposition that switchblades should be legal because I intend to use them to slice bread. The same can be said about assault weapons, which I’ll get to shortly.

The article was about James Holmes, whose AR-15 held a 100-round magazine. Regarding the trigger, the photo must be referring to the military version, which shoots continuously by holding it down. Regardless, one can still shoot 50 to 60 rounds a minute with a semi. With that capacity, whether or not Holmes had a military or a semi version is irrelevant.

Now to “the meat”: There are weapons that are too lethal to be legal. There may be some who contend that their “right” to own a bazooka is being infringed upon. I don’t want to get into a semantical argument over the term “assault”; suffice it to say that there are an awful lot of assaults associated with the weapons that are in turn associated with that term. That term is too mild, since mowing people down in a theater is a massacre. The fact that most who use an AR-15 are rational is beside the point. We don’t have time before the next massacre to ponder “socio-economic and psychological factors.” We should do whatever it takes to make it as hard as possible for the next lunatic to get an AR-15 fitted with a 100-round magazine. We can start by making AR-15s and 100-round and, for that matter, 30-round magazines illegal and requiring background checks for all purchases.

I’m dismayed by your statement that our current laws are “effective” given the massacres that have become a regular feature of our national life. I direct your attention to the cartoon under the article: “The occasional horrific civilian massacre is just the price the rest of us have to pay.” That’s too high a price to keep some–and I stress “some,” not “all”–weapons legal. To take the example above, my intent to use a switchblade to slice bread does not negate the fact that that is simply too dangerous a weapon to be rendered legal. Nor am I persuaded to make switchblades legal because some criminals can get their hands on them.

I’m also dismayed by your dismissing the “type of magazine” as a “feel-good” measure. I wrote in my previous message that Holmes could have killed more had his gun not jammed. Had he not had a 100-round magazine, he wouldn’t have been able to kill as many; the same could be said for a 30-round magazine.

I was recently on the subway with my daughter. There was an unruly passenger who was eventually thrown off. Before being ejected, he stated, “If I had a gun, I’d shoot all of you.” I believed him. At that moment, I was not concerned with his socio-economic or psychological background. I left that disturbing incident thankful that I live in a city that has rational gun control laws, including a ban on carrying concealed weapons in subway trains, and a mayor, Mike Bloomberg, who is a moderate Republican determined to keep such laws in place. Nor is the answer to arm everyone with concealed weapons and have “shoot-‘em-up” subway incidents.

Mike, this argument can go on ad infinitum. Especially given my time constraints, my part in this discussion has come to an end. Feel free, if you wish, to add a final word. Remember, though, that no matter what you and I discuss, as the cartoon states, “the gun control debate is all but settled–and your side won.” That debate doesn’t seem to be affected by the massacres we’ve witnessed with weapons like the AR-15–or those massacres that tragically are to come. That is the ultimate point of my article.

Maave said...

"I only intend to use a switchblade to slice bread, so let's legalize it."

Not a very good example. Why would a switchblade be illegal in the first place? Switchblades are legal in most states. They aren't any more dangerous than regular knifes.

Johnny Maier said...

It is not an assault rifle.An assault rifle has a fully automatic or burst fire selector. This rifle imitates the look. And do you really think someone like this really cares what the laws are? He was on a gun free zone anyways.