“Hey, come on now. If you kick out the gooks, the next thing you’ll have to kick out the chinks, the spics, the spooks, and the kikes. And all that’s gonna be left in here are a couple of brain-dead rednecks, and what fun would *that* be?”
—Robin Williams as Airman Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam
The great American patriot Saul Alinsky famously preached to his radical disciples, never let a crisis go to waste. So in the wake of the tragic and horrific shootings last week in Aurora, it’s all too predictable that we see the Left frantically calling for bans on “assault rifles” lest all 318 million of us be mowed down in a hail of bullets.
Before Piers Morgan hyperventilates, let’s all take a deep breath and examine this.
First, using the Aurora tragedy as the basis for an assault rifle ban is silly. Rusty, a dozen people are dead—how can it be silly? Well, let me explain.
An “assault rifle” is a short shoulder-fired weapon capable of fully automatic fire—that is, it can fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull, like a machine gun—from a detachable magazine. Examples include the U.S. military’s M-16, and the ubiquitous AK-47. The Smith& Wesson M&P 15 rifle this lunatic in Aurora had is almost assuredly an AR-15 model, meaning it is a semi-automatic rifle; it requires a separate action of the trigger for each round. In other words, it’s not an “assault rifle,” no matter how many times you mindlessly throw that phrase around.
Class, let's repeat: an AR-15 is NOT an "assault rifle."
The only exception to this would be if the weapon happened to be a law enforcement version that I suppose could be fully automatic (although I can't find that S&W makes such a gun); such a gun IS an “assault rifle,” in which case it’s already illegal for him to have had it (thus once again demonstrating the simple truth that gun bans won’t save you from bad guys with guns). So calls for an “assault rifle” ban based on this one incident are either a nonsequitur—calling for the ban of a weapon other than what was used—or meaningless in their redundancy of existing law. Either way, it’s silly.
Furthermore, it’s a gross overreaction to what is essentially a non-problem. Not to diminish the loss suffered by those directly impacted by the shootings in Aurora, but the fact is this sort of incident is rare almost to the point of being unique. Outside of last week’s events, can any of you recall the last time you heard of anyone in the U.S. being murdered by someone using an AR-15? I doubt you can come up with even one. I couldn’t. And there’s a reason for that.
All rifles combined—AR-15s, illegal M-16s and AK-47s, bolt action deer rifles found in some 3/4 of the homes in Texas, etc.—account for around 3% of homicides each year. Using 2008 as an example, out of some 14,000 homicides in the U.S. that year, less than 400 were committed with a rifle of any type. Of those, AR-15 type civilian semi-automatic rifles would have comprised a fraction, if any. A rifle, assault or otherwise, as a practical matter simply isn't typically the weapon of choice for murderers. Even among those who use a firearm to do their evil, they use a rifle of any type less than once in ten. Among mass murderers, the only one I can find who chose a rifle was Charles Whitman—the University of Texas tower killer from the mid-60s—and even he was using either a bolt-action single shot rifle, or a semi-automatic WWII era M1 battle rifle, not anything even resembling an "assault rifle."
Now, 400 murders in a year is tragic, but let’s put it in perspective.
Out of that same 14,000 murders in 2008, about 13%—nearly 1,900 or nearly five times as many as with rifles—were committed with knives, the vast majority with common kitchen knives.
In 2008 there were nearly 40,000 automobile fatalities, more than three times the total number of murders by all weapons and other means combined. For every person killed with a rifle of any type, over 100 were killed by a car.
In 2008 there were over 20,000 deaths in the U.S. from overdoses of prescription medication. That’s more than 50 people killed by prescription drugs for every 1 killed by a rifle, again of any type.
With the Left’s hysteria over “assault rifles” in the wake of the Aurora shootings, you'd think there is some sort of epidemic of AR-15-related mass killings. But this simply isn’t so. If we’re going to react this way when a single lunatic kills 12 people, where is our similar response to kitchen knives, cars, prescription drugs, and any number of other things that kill vastly more people every year than do semi-automatic rifles?
What this does is expose the ignorance on the Left, whose knowledge comes solely from what they’ve seen in movies. Despite its looks, the fact is the AR-15 fires a relatively low-powered cartridge, with a bullet diameter the same as that in the common .22 LR ammunition fired in introductory level target rifles used to teach children basic marksmanship. And because its semi-automatic action requires a separate pull of the trigger for each round, it does not spew hundreds of belt-fed rounds a second like Rambo wielding a .50 caliber gatling gun from the hip, contrary to what the hysterical Left would have you believe.
But the Left doesn’t know this, nor do they care. All they know is they think the AR-15 is scary looking, so they seek to invoke government to take it away, without any regard for the real level of danger it poses. Unfortunately for them, the Constitution is pretty clear on this point:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Framers didn’t limit the Second Amendment to only those weapons that don’t frighten ignorant nitwits like E.J. Dionne. They didn’t condition it on whether Michael Bloomberg, in his infinite wisdom, agrees that an individual has a “need” to keep a particular type of gun (or a gun at all). The protection is absolute: the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. I don’t have to justify my exercise of that right to anyone. And as something more than an aside, although repeating fire weapons hadn’t yet been invented at the time the Constitution was written, having just fought an armed revolution to be free of a tyrannical government the Framers would certainly have understood the term “Arms” to have included at a minimum weapons of the same type wielded by the common infantry of the power against whom the free state needed to be defended at the time that defense needed to be made; I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t expect us to defend ourselves against modern weapons with flintlock muskets.
As with anything, there will always be a few who abuse the right in its exercise. In the case of the Second Amendment, that abuse is in the misuse of the gun, not in its possession or in the type of gun it is. And we already have a prohibition against that misuse: it’s called the murder statute. The potential for abuse by a few is no justification for summarily eliminating the right for everyone else without going through the constitutional amendment process.
This is why it’s important that the NRA takes the hard line it does, because the issue is bigger than just the Second Amendment itself. The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, were intended to protect certain rights from being limited at the subjective judgment of someone else, however good (albeit ignorant and misguided) their intentions might be. The instant we allow government to ignore the absolute guarantee in the Second Amendment, the precedent is set and the door opened for it to ignore any other constitutional guarantees simply because “you don’t need it” (according to them), or “times have changed.”
Or whatever subjective justification they articulate.
Imagine if Congress sought to bypass the First Amendment and ban all electronic communication on blogs and social media because a select few use them to spew hate speech and the Framers could never have imagined something like the Internet would allow communication to spread among so many people so rapidly. Or suppose in the interest of preventing rapes Congress bypassed the Fifth Amendment and banned all sex because “you don’t really need it.” Both scenarios are obviously extreme examples of overkill, and in either event you on the Left would be apoplectic in your opposition to this trampling of your constitutional liberties; and you’d be right. But once you unilaterally ban what you call “assault rifles” despite the Second Amendment because you have subjectively decided they are unnecessary, there’s no real defense left for any other rights.
Not coincidentally, in the specific context of the Second Amendment, once the government can ban private gun ownership without regard for the Constitution, there's no real defense left against the ultimate tyrrany of that government itself. Bans on private gun ownership have a long an honored tradition among dictators; getting rid of private guns was one of the first acts of Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin, among others. It's a whole lot easier to impose totalitarianism when you don't have to worry about an armed citizenry. As an unimpressed Bruce Lee told an opponent in Enter The Dragon who tried to intimidate him by breaking a board before a match, "Boards . . . don't hit back."
The world is dangerous, and always has been. There are always going to be isolated nutjobs who will do dangerous things, and you can’t insulate against that through legislation. The sad truth is this whacko in Aurora had plenty of other guns, and in all likelihood he would have done what he did even without the AR-15; do you imagine he would be sitting there with a shotgun, handguns, and more ammo than God, and yet say "Dammit, I don't have an AR-15, because they're banned. I guess I can't go." Indeed, if he were so inclined he could have done as much or more damage with a homemade pipe bomb made from common fertilizer and drain cleaner, or even just a couple of bicycle locks and a well-placed match. No ban was going to stop that.
But I’m left to wonder: how many lives might have been saved in Aurora had there been even one or two law-abiding citizens there legally carrying concealed sidearms?
EDITOR'S NOTE: I continue to struggle with the formatting issues, and for those who can see them, I apologize. I have no idea what the problem is, and I can't get any help from Google Blogger, which hosts this site. It's clear I will have to relocate, and as soon as I can get a new site built I will post the move in this space.
Also, in case I can't post here between now and then, next Tuesday July 31 marks the first anniversary of the launch of Chasing Jefferson. I never dreamed we'd make it a year, and I really appreciate the support from those of you who've stuck with me. Let's persevere through the site problems, and keep the conversation going.