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.