Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reason #242: Futility

In the abstract, politicization of a tragedy is bad. That's an understood reality, and no one is going to challenge it. But however crass it may be to call for more talk about gun control after a massacre like the one in Colorado on Friday, it's nowhere near as crass as calling for less.

If you're opposed to gun control, in general or in any particular, that's fine--your voice should be a part of the conversation. But the fact is that we're not having this conversation 99% of the time, so if we don't seize upon moments like this to try and start a dialogue, when exactly is the right time?

Think about it - gun control opponents are essentially saying "how dare you try to convince people of something when they're most likely to be convinced?" It's the same argument the Bush people used to use about not criticizing the president while the nation was at war--even if the war is the subject of your criticism.

In any event, in the midst of President Obama's deafening silence on the matter, a handful of Democratic congressmen and women are indeed calling for limits on the availability of high-capacity clips like the one James Holmes used to shoot seventy people in something like two minutes.

They will be ignored, and they will fail utterly. But bless them for saying it.

(Side Note: as the blog approaches its one-year anniversary, and its 250th entry, I'm running a couple more simple survey questions. They can be found on the right until the end of next week.)


  1. Well, you got my attention here. I'm military and quite strongly opposed to gun control. There are so many ways to kill massive amounts of people, many of which can easily be bought at Wal-Mart. I won't go into detail here, so as to not educate those that don't know, but a quick Internet search can easily find you the information you're looking for.
    Every six days I stand an armed watch with an M16 and three 45-round magazines, an M9 with three 15-round magazines, a bottle of OC spray and a baton. What's to stop me from shooting the people I'm on watch with and then going on a killing spree inside my ship? I have all the necessary information to stop any sort of response I might get from our internal security.
    What is to stop a policeman from stealing guns and ammo from the police armory and going on a killing spree? What's to stop a construction demolitionist from blowing up a building? What's to stop me from driving my SUV into a crowded street festival?
    Sure, it's a crime to do all of these things, but isn't it a crime to commit a crime? Yet people do it all the time. Making something illegal is not going to stop people from doing it.
    A "high-capacity clip" does not make that much of a difference in how fast I can kill a group of people. A standard M16 comes with a 30-round magazine and shoots 600-900 rounds per minute in full-auto. To shoot seventy people, assuming I was just "spraying" bullets into a large crowd, I would need about 90 bullets, which can easily be carried in three magazines that fit nicely in a pouch on my gun belt. It is not hard to change an empty magazine, it can be done with the push of a button. There's no point to restricting them.
    Does making cigarettes and alcohol illegal to minors make it harder for minors to aquire them? Sure, but it doesn't stop them from doing it. Does making drugs illegal stop people from doing? Absolutely not. Reducing the availability of so-called "high-capacity clips" is not going to stop people from going on a killing spree.

  2. Hey, Kenny.

    I guess the first thing I'd say, just for the record, is that I don't use "gun control" as a synonym for "bans". A lot of people react to this conversation--and that's all I'm really advocating here; the conversation--with a "you want to take my gun" mindset, and it helps to get away from that right off.

    I think one of the things the government actually can do very well, and very naturally, is demarcate the border between personal liberty and common sense. They can't keep children from smoking--and no one is under the impression that they can--but they can make it illegal for them to buy cigarettes. They can't make you wear a seatbelt (for the most part), but they can insist that cars have them, and they can fine you if you're caught without one.

    Likewise, just because explosives could be made from items sold at Walmart doesn't mean that Walmart should just go ahead and sell hand grenades, or land mines, or bazookas, does it? Assuming you're at least with me on that, then we're actually in agreement on the fundamental principle--that ease of access should be limited in some way--and the only thing we need to debate is where to draw the line.

    And as to that, my personal feeling is that the Second Amendment requires a modern context. The world the framers were living in was one in which you'd be lucky to shoot two people in two minutes. As technology and society have evolved we've learned to limit even the First Amendment in situations like movie theaters (ironically) and airplanes, so I don't see why that shouldn't be the case with the Second as well.

    I don't pretend to know fuck all about guns, so I'm not going to sit here and tell a trained expert what is and isn't over the line, but the fact is, Jared Loughner had a 33-round magazine, and was stopped when he tried to reload. If he'd only had 6 rounds, or 10, or whatever, it's almost certain that fewer people would have been hurt or killed. Again, I'm not saying conclusively that x bullets should be legal and x+1 should be illegal, but I think that ideally, the onus should be on gun owners to explain why a 33-round magazine is necessary, not on others to explain why not.

    At the end of the day, my main reaction to mass shootings like Colorado is that crazy is crazy, and not only will they happen with or without gun control, they're honestly not as big of a deal as we make them out to be when compared to the million other ways Americans are dying at the moment. I just believe the debate shouldn't be so toxic.