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January 28, 2011

Bullet talk: Part II

"Bet you're sorry you did that," a friend said after I posted a blog item raising my own doubts about the availability of high-capacity magazines following the shootings in Tucson.

Actually, I'm still glad I did. Despite the nasty-grams from people who accused me of being a homosexual, a tool of the left and spawn of the devil, I received a lot of thoughtful responses from readers about why attempts to regulate firearms and ammunition wouldn't have changed the outcome or made society better.

I like to revisit my own beliefs. I like a good argument. That's what you gave me. Thanks. I thought I'd share with you some of the best comments.

(Aside I: To those of you who wrote hate-filled garbage, that stuff will NEVER get posted. Further, what you wrote isn't half as bad as the slime the anti-hunting crowd sends me.)

(Aside II: Yes, I know the difference between an clip and a magazine. The fact that I used clip in my blog was just shorthand--a term I have heard police officers use when talking about their service Glocks. I would no more dismiss an argument on those grounds than I would denegrate the comments and philosophy of anyone who responded with misspelled words and bad grammar. It's the thought that counts, folks.)

Anyway, here's some of your thoughts: 

Jason: I like to start these conversations talking about liberty. You see, the gun issue is a bellwether. Knowing how a person views guns tells you a lot about how they view their fellow citizen.

A person who thinks that the common citizen's gun rights should be restricted thinks of the common citizen as a lesser class that needs to be controlled and lorded over, protected from themselves, and provided for. A person who respects the full right to keep and bear arms thinks of the common citizen as an equal, responsible human being capable providing for, and making decisions for themselves and dealing with the consequences of those decisions.

In short, the people who truly respect the Second Amendment embrace liberty for all it's value as well as it's cost. Liberty is not free, it does have a cost, and I'm not talking about the soldiers who die to defend our nation's interests. The cost of liberty is that at any moment you or any other free citizen may choose to do something terrible. Liberty is not safety. For some people that thought is terrifying and they seek to control others to alleviate their own fear. Therein lies the downward spiral.

Jon: No studies have been able to show that any gun control measure has a positive effect on crime rates, but politicians seem to have a need to propose "feel good" legislation even when it can be shown that it won't do any actual good.

If people really care about reducing gun crimes, politicians should take a lesson from MADD. In 1982 alcohol-related fatalities on the roads were more than 26,000. By 2008, drunken driving fatalities were down to under 14,000. They did it by targeting people who were driving drunk (which is the behavior that is the problem) with stiff penalties, enforcement, public education and zero tolerance.

In 2009, when the lady in New York wrecked her minivan, killing her daughter, three nieces and three men in an oncoming vehicle, people were horrified by the tragedy. Not a single person asked, 'Where did she get the vodka?' or 'Why can't we put breathalyzers on all vehicles?' As horrific as the story was, people put the blame squarely where it belonged: On the woman who drank a bottle of vodka then got behind the wheel.

There has been violent crime and murder since the dawn of time. Placing the blame for violence on anyone but the bad guy gives false hope of a solution and doesn't work.

Alan: I've always been a revolver guy. It's a Texas thing. If I can't stop my assailant in six tries, I probably deserve to die. And anyway, I can't hit anything with an automatic, despite years of trying. Extended magazines just make it worse; they unbalance an already difficult piece of machinery, and make my bad marksmanship even worse. I own a fair number of "high-capacity" (10+) mags and I almost never use them. When I do, I rarely load them to capacity.

I have no love for them, and my first reaction to your blog was pretty much indifference. Screw it, don't need them, wouldn't miss them.

Then I started thinking -- how would it work? Are we going to say 10 rounds max, and that's it? A lot of perfectly legitimate pistol clips are built to accommodate more than 10 rounds -- and why especially 10 anyway? Why not 12? or 15? What would be the practical result of such a ban? Would it have saved any lives in Tucson? I doubt it.

I wasn't there, but I suspect it will come out eventually that when he emptied his 32-round mag, Jared Loughner had trouble getting it loose, which is a common problem with those bastard mags, and that's when folks were able to grab him. If he were competent (and thank God he wasn't) he could have done a lot more damage using high quality 10-round mags.

After considerable rumination I concluded that a ban on 30-round magazines, while it wouldn't break my heart, misses the point and would lull us into thinking we'd done something about the problem, which we would not have.

A ban is a politically attractive concept because it's cheap and quick and gets a lot of attention, but it wouldn't do a damn thing to stop the Jared Loughners of the world, so it would be a waste. No, more than a waste, it'd be a deception, a canard, a straw man solution. And we would buy into it and sit back fat, dumb and happy, until the next Loughner came along, after which we would clamor to ban even more evil hardware.

I've thought about it and thought about it, and I can't make this come out to a happy ending.

The system didn't fail us because this wacko Loughner was able to buy an extended magazine for his gun. The system failed us because he was able to buy a gun at all. If we want something positive to come out of this horrible event, we need to look urgently at improving the NICS system so that the Loughners and Seung-Hui Chos of the world can't get their hands on firearms in the first place.

What should disturb us is not the weapons these madmen use, but that they can get their hands on weapons at all -- and that the public health system is so ill-equipped to identify and intervene to help these profoundly disturbed individuals.

But that's not a cheap or quick solution, which is why you won't see the politicians embrace it.

Posted by Candus Thomson at 11:49 AM | | Comments (9)


WHY does anyone need a gun?
WHAT are they AFRAID of?
If they're that INSECURE,
maybe they shouldn't be armed.

Actually, the strongest links to murder statistically are gender and race.

Males commit most murders.
Blacks (an eighth of the population) commit half of all murders.
A large percentage of murders are drug-related, mostly in regard to conflict over drug distribution.
Guns? Only about 0.005% of them will be used in a murder in a given year.
High-capacity magazines? A tiny-fraction of the number of gun-related homicides.

Anyone for eliminating all males?
How about blacks?
Drug-related violence could be largely eliminated simply by legalizing drugs (note that the unconstitutional federal "war on drugs" has resulted in many thousands of deaths and tens of millions of people's lives being ruined through incarceration)

Finally, does it only take one (or even a few) instances of someone using an item to do evil to justify banning that item? What about cars (43,000+ deaths annually)? The utility argument isn't really a very good one: "Why would anyone need a 32-round magazine", could just as easily be "Why would anyone need a sports car?" or "Why would anyone need a Hum-vee?" or "Why would anyone need a luxury car?" or simply, "Why would anyone need a car that is even capable of going more than 55mph?"

For that matter, why don't we look at the major killers in our society? "Why would anyone need fatty food?" (Heart disease kills 600,000+) or "Why would anyone need a cigarette?"(400,000+)

When one looks at the issue of high-capacity magazines in perspective, the deaths of dozens or even thousands of people is insignificant compared to preventable causes of death (over-eating, smoking, driving) that we simply ignore. 14 children a year drown in 5-gallon buckets each year. Should we ban them too?

Mr. Kendell,
You ask why anyone needs a gun; there are several answers but the most interesting deals with both symbolism and mentality. Before I explain that though, there are perfectly legitimate/practical reasons one would need a gun: 1) farmers, ranchers, and those living or working in rural & semi-rural areas to control varmints and protect ones person/family/livelihood from predators and wildlife like wolves and bears; 2) the civil duty of the citizen of the militia: most states define their militia similar to “every able-bodied male between 18 and 45;" 3) self-defense: there have been a surprising up-tick of stories about people confronting burglars & robbers in their homes in the past few years and to assume that your home will not or cannot be invaded in such a manner is folly.
In regard to mentality, I have found that carrying a weapon tends to make one both more self-confidant & more aware/conscientious of their surroundings and consequences of actions. No doubt this is in part to training, which I initially received in the military, and has continued at a somewhat more relaxed pace since my exit from there. Go to an open carry event if you can and interact with the people and see that there really is a difference in their manner –they tend to be more secure, I think– and not a bad difference.
Finally we get to the symbolism; it is here that we must brush off out history and think back to the Roman-Empire and later the Saxon tradition which in-turn influenced the English. In the roman times to carry a sword was a mark of a Citizen of Rome, no mere slave or conquered people was permitted to have one. The Seax, a particular knife/sword, was the same according to the Anglo-Saxon Foundation “It is part of England’s heritage, and at one time it was the sign of an English Freeman or Woman.”(Ref:
Maybe the question should be “Why aren’t more people armed?”

A sane and lucid response Candus, your eyes and mind wide open! May the rest of your blogs and writings be as open and candid!

On a last note, I bet you would be fun to debate!

The cities with the most gun control are Chicago and Washington DC. El Paso, Texas is one of the many cities with very little gun control. Chicago has a murder rate that is 19 times higher than El Paso's while DC's is 27 times higher.

According to the Brady Campaign Scorecard, California is the state with the most gun control laws. It has a murder rate over 400% higher than the state with the LEAST gun control.

Nationally, compare the US to Mexico. The medium sized Mexican city of Juarez had over 2800 murders last year, more than the six largest US cities combined. Please note that Mexico is a country with extreme gun control. And I am..... E. Zach Lee-Wright

Excellent response Candus. My hiccup with the comment by Alan is what most people forget about Cho. As a student at VT he was investigated and adjucated by the school to 'require' psychological counseling due to 'stalking' episodes. However, due to VT 'policy' this adjudication was not reported to 'out of school' authorities as it may have impacted his future. Why have the 'school authorities' not been held responsible for not forcing the counseling, or not reporting the fact that he was adjucated or expelled for not attending the required counseling? Just wondering how people forget reported facts and how 'Officials' arenot HELD responsible FOR TI]HEIR DESCISIONS WHEN i WILL SURELY BE HELD FOR MINE.

"After considerable rumination I concluded that a ban on 30-round magazines, while it wouldn't break my heart"

Under such a ban if a woman grabs her husbands pistol or rifle with an 11 round or larger magazine in order to ward of the man/men intending on raping/murdering her - she'd be committing a felony with a 1 to 10 year prison term. That should break your heart.

There are also quite a few other examples of what will result in prison time:

A disabled gay man buying a spare magazine for his Beretta.

A friend loaning me his pistol to shoot some paper targets.

Me loaning my rifle to my brother so he can shoot some cans.

A woman buying a pistol in case her crazy ex does come back to fulfill his threat of "I'll kill you".


Is it possible to subscribe to your blog so I get a email alert when you make a new post?

as usual the reason for the 2nd Ammendment gets lost in the chatter.
History defined the 2nd to ensure the newfound nation's citizens could protect themselves from enemies domestic & foreign. that ideal was ingrained into the oath that is taken by military, judicial, legislative, and executive personnel all.
any mention of hunting, gun control or gun laws has no place in discussions pertaining to the 2nd Ammendment.

regulating the capacity of legal firearms magazines/clips is meaningless in preventing crimes or mass carnage. it does have consequences in being able to quantivatively protect and defend against enemies, both foreign and domestic.

now, to the issue that brought this topic to the front - Tuscon. 99.99% of the citizens will never commit such an act. yet, some will have you believe that is not the case. the rare instance where an unarmed brave soul takes action to subdue an armed criminal is now adays rare.

laws are for the most part reactive; this is what happens if you do such and such. no law can prevent a criminal or criminal mind from acting.

my heart aches for those injured and the families of those killed in Tuscon, Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc, etc.

that all being said; forget the bullet talk.

"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."
Robert A. Heinlein

CT, i do so miss our discussions

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About Candus Thomson
In a world of paper vs. plastic and candy mint vs. breath mint, my early memories involved a debate about the merits of freshwater vs. saltwater.

On the one hand, a great uncle’s fishing cabin on the Susquehanna River beckoned, but so did family gatherings on the Jersey Shore.

The correct answer, thankfully, was, “both.”

As The Sun’s outdoors writer for more than a decade, I’ve fished across Maryland in one day, hiked the width of the state in one hour, camped overnight in the median of I-95 to experience the wildlife between the fast lanes and chased mountain bikers in a 24-hour marathon race.

Those are some of the highlights. I’ve also fallen in a raging Gunpowder River during a trout survey (photo available upon request), had a shark spill its guts on my clothes and been stuck in a sub-freezing Vermont wilderness with men armed with flintlocks and hatchets, shuffling along on ancient wooden snowshoes.

And, in my travels I’ve met lots of you, who share a love of the outdoors and the good times and mishaps that go along with it.

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