Friday, August 5, 2016

Firearms Friday: Continuing The Dialogue


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a “Firearms Friday” post which was requested by a friend. I did what I could to address their original query but had no illusions that it would be an answer to their question. There are simply too many aspects to this whole discussion to offer a definitive response but it was a means to have a respectful dialogue. And so, with that in mind, below is their response to that post:

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question seriously. I really do appreciate it. Like you, I'd rather have smart laws and knee jerk reactions. As you say you may not be an expert, but you have more experience on this topic than I do and can point out the flaws in my arguments. My goal is a reduction in gun violence and I don't really care much how we get there, as long as it's a path that works and not a token effort.

Here are my immediate thoughts:

When I've been thinking about the problem of shootings I've been dividing it into three categories: one-on-one (most self defense cases would fall into this category, I imagine), one-on-many (mass shootings) and many-on-many (gang violence maybe?). I'm mostly concerned about the one-on-many, mass shooting case. I'm looking for ways that could render a gun less effective when attacking a crowd that would have minimal impact in the one-on-one case, and thus minimal impact on self defense uses. In our legal system it is considered inhumane to maim. If lethal force is warranted you are supposed to take lethal force. That is a sentiment I support. To be 100% clear: If your family is threatened, I want you to be able to defend yourself with lethal force.

I do think there are ways we can make guns less lethal in the one-on-many case that have little impact in the one-on-one case since. Bullet ricochet increases the number of casualties, whereas (I believe) it is a virtually non issue in most self defense cases. It's my understanding that most (all?) bullets are deadly, but not all bullets are equally effective at passing through a person harming the person behind them. Most one-on-one situations don't require dozens of dozens bullets be fired in mere seconds. This is why the arguments of limiting gun magazine sizes, limiting bullet caliber, and firing rate make so much sense to me. (Guns are machines and it is possible to engineer them to fire no faster than a specific rate, regardless of how fast one can pull the trigger.) For a one-on-one scenario, there is no rushing the shooter/person defending themselves. In a one-on-many such changes might give the crowd a chance. At least the casualty count should be lower.

I was unaware that there was a sport dedicated to conduct speed reloads. How long does it take the average-to-above-average person to reload? If it's non trivial, than limiting capacity sizes still makes sense to me. I think (hope) most would be mass shooters are not in the elite class.

I strongly agree with both your points that gun violence is glorified in the media, and that the way the media reports on shootings encourages copycats. I have no idea how this can be addressed given the first amendment.

I also agree that we as a nation need more support for mental health issues. What's less clear to me is what this kind of approach would look like, especially since mental health status can change. I think it's a noble, but unrealistic goal to catch everyone who would commit a mass killing before they have a chance to follow through. Besides, hate is protected under the first amendment. One cannot be committed saying people of a certain race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or anything else should be executed. (David Duke is a terrifying example of this.)

I know I will not change your opinion on the matter, but I support gun free zones. For what it's worth, I don't think the intention behind gun free zones is to prevent intentional shootings. As you, and others, have pointed out, there's nothing magical about a gun free zone that keeps bad guys with guns out. Rather, I thought gun free zones are intended to limit guns from areas where thinking may be impaired (such as places that serve alcohol) or judgement lacking (schools). They're intended to prevent heated arguments and rash decisions from turning into tragic mistakes. While I agree with you that we should hold the shooter responsible for his or her own actions, it's little solace to the person whose life was lost. In these situations I feel the potential for tragic accidents is so great it warrants special treatment.

In this response I will focus on where we seem to be the furthest apart. Let us begin by discussing “limiting gun magazine sizes, limiting bullet caliber, and firing rate” which, to this person, seem to be the options that make the most sense regarding the prevention of mass shootings while having little to no impact on the ability to defend themselves. Unfortunately, this is a flawed argument as the assumption is that “there is no rushing of the person defending themselves”. On the contrary, in many self-defense scenarios there is immense pressure for quick and effective action as seconds count… if you hesitate you are most likely dead. Further, under duress the use of multiple rounds is commonplace. This makes all three of the above options dangerous in a self-defense situation.  

While caliber is something that is thoroughly discussed within the firearms community the simple fact of the matter is that in a self-defense situation accuracy diminishes and stopping power and capacity play critical roles in eliminating the threat. Further, there is no predicting the size of the assailant or how they will be dressed so, personally, I would prefer to have a little more punch than average. Over-penetration is a reality which is why anyone with a reasonable amount of training (and, in my opinion, anyone who owns a firearm) should always be aware of their surroundings and what is behind their intended target. The final point in this is that limiting calibers is a slip and slide that I don’t car to ride as it is nearly impossible to enforce, it would put those who reload in a precarious position, and, most importantly, it is completely against the rights for which I stand.

Rate of fire is something that is already regulated as automatic weapons are classified as Class III firearms and only legal for ownership with those who undergo the scrutiny of the ATF application process (and pay the tax). To regulate rate of fire would not only be dangerous in a self-defense situation but would add over-complication to a rather elegant mechanism. We don’t need to Rube Goldberg firearms… look what that thought process has done to our government.

As for “gun free zones”, the idea that these places are made any safer by eliminating the presence of legal firearms is preposterous. It has proven, time and again, to be a fallacy… nothing more than a means to provide a “warm and fuzzy” feeling for some people. Anyone who has carried a firearm and knows others who carry on a regular basis knows that the one thing that maintains a person’s even temperament is not a sign but the fact that they are carrying a firearm. Those who accept this responsibility also accept the fact that they must go above and beyond when it comes to keeping calm in precarious or stressful situations. This also means that those who responsibly carry will not allow themselves to enter into an altered state of rage or intoxication.

While I would like to say that there is an answer to preventing, as a whole, the practice of mass shootings in this country that is simply not a part of reality. I have already made a few suggestions regarding how we can go about addressing the issue of mass shootings but they are by no means a way to “solve” the problem. The best way that we, as a society, can face this is to come to terms with the fact that this is the reality in which we live. And while the contrary is reported on the daily news, this persons primary objective has already been realized... shooting deaths and gun violence continue to decline while gun sales continue to rise.

However, an important point to remember is that while this person, and many others, continue to make statements regarding the importance of the first amendment and how it limits our ability to address certain statements, stances, and positions that heinous people take, those same people are willing to do anything to limit the second amendment. Remember, the only reason that the second amendment is second is so the first amendment has backup. Why is it that so many people are willing to acknowledge that heinous people are outliers regarding the beauty and effectiveness of the first amendment but those who commit heinous acts are representative of those who support the second amendment? While the person with which I am having this discussion isn’t one of these extremists, the position is all too common.  

If we really want a solution to the situation that we find ourselves in it would be to face the reality that there is evil in this world. Evil people will commit evil acts and we need to confront that evil head on by defending ourselves, defending others, and eliminating the threat when we are threatened. We can’t rely on government in general or legislation in particular. If anything, we need to eliminate the hurdles that continue to plague law abiding gun owners. We must educate ourselves, our families, and our fellow citizens about firearms. We must respect what they can do and appreciate the freedom that they represent. So, my advice is simple, go to a range. Understand, appreciate, and respect firearms. Teach one another. And never allow yourself to be helpless and maintain your self-reliance. I’m sure that this is not the response that they were looking for but it is an honest response and one that has proven, time and again, to be the most effective was to address the issues that we are currently facing.