Thursday, March 1, 2018

Knowledge is Power, but Stupid is Eternal

One of the dumbest arguments you see in the gun rights debate is the insistence that if you don't have a deep, specific knowledge of guns, their components and characteristics, and the jargon that describes it all, you can't have a considered opinion on the topic. As someone with a typically higher level of mechanical expertise on the subject than your typical wingnut gun rights absolutist, please allow me to weigh in on the subject.

First, it's a specious argument, really a category error, because we aren't against 'guns' in this argument, but against gun violence - the killings and suicides are are destroying so many lives in our country. The obvious fact that the easy availability of modern firearms is the direct cause of the gun violence in the US - NOT just  the high profile mass shootings, but the endless nightly death and horror that occurs every day and every week, like clockwork - is the reason we'd like to see some strong limitations on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Vigorous gun regulation works to massively limit gun violence in every nation that has tried it, and the tighter gun regulations in other nations don't seem to be causing any loss of 'liberty'.

But even in the context of this debate, it's a false imperative. YOU know what you're against. You know what a gun is, what it looks like, what it does. You are trying to stop murders - indeed, our people would never stand in the way of the kinds of regulations we'd pass if we hadn't at some point lost our collective minds as a population. You don't need to know what caliber cartridge is being used to slaughter kids. You don't need to know the difference between an upper and lower receiver. You don't need to know the make and model of the handguns that take hundreds of American lives - and destroy thousands more - every single day.

That said, the ONE exception to this rule is if you are advocating for a 'type ban'. It's fine to talk about an 'assault weapons ban' because we all know what it is we're asking for. But if you want to debate the actual functionality of the legislation - and you should, because there would be significant efforts to build in large-scale loopholes that prevent it from doing what we want it to do - then you'll have to get serious about learning what it is you want to ban. You can't ban 'assault rifles' because there is no legally agreed-upon definition for that phrase, and as soon as the NRA lobbyists get their input in the legislative language, it will be essentially meaningless anyway.

Nope, you're going to have to learn about stocks and grips and mechanisms and barrels and flash suppressors and all of the parts and pieces that will make up the meat and potatoes of your bill. You're going to have to figure out how to think like the manufacturers and include language that prevents them from designing the same rifle with different features. In that case, you're going to need to take a deep dive into the topic.

The exception to THAT, however, is if you want to advocate for a ban on semi-auto firearms. As an old-school revolver guy, I'm totally OK with that, but it's not something I'll be putting any effort into. No way congress passes it, no way a President signs it, and no way it gets through the courts who would strike it down as 'overly broad'.  Seriously, if we can move the needle on the gun debate so far that this becomes a viable solution, it will mean that some pretty effective gun control measures have already passed and the problem is still growing despite them.

I just wanted to put up this quick post because this seems to be a trending argument among the pro-gun absolutists on social media, and it's simply another attempt at obfuscation. If somebody tells you that you don't know enough about guns to argue against their easy availability, just tell them you know all you need to know because what you're really arguing against is murder.


  1. You are, of course, correct in that any high power*, relatively short, magazine fed, semi-automatic could be used for an 'assault'.

    But there are some concrete, well definable things that could be done.
    Magazine size is one. Full repeal of the Dickey amendment is another.

    And my favorite:
    I really don't care how many guns you have have.
    What concerns me much more is how many bullets you have. So with that in mind, someone much funnier than me:
    The Chris Rock solution to gun violence.

    *My definition of "high power" is a muzzle velocity greater than 1100FPS.

  2. Um, no, that's not going to work. Under your definition of 'high power', the .22 Long Rifle standard 40gr solid (1260fps) is a 'high power' round.

    Energy is a function of mass x velocity. You can't ignore one factor and end up with anything but gobbledygook....