Just sat down and read the blogs, and discovered the transcript of Glenn Beck’s discussion with O’Reilly about the Alabama shooting. Beck apparently suggested that “political correctness” might have been one of the pressures that caused the shooter to snap.
What a crock. Thankfully, O’Reilly flatly and publicly disagreed. And Beck deserves to be publicly shamed for hanging this tragedy as a frame on his cause du jour.
Here’s my take on it, in which I think I can guarantee I’ll piss off all sides in this debate – and in doing so, I hope get them to stop and think about their knee jerk reactions for just a bit.
First, most of the reactions to this have been bull***t. The Brady folks have jumped in before the blood has been washed away and waved the victims as tokens in their political game – just as awful as Beck, in my view. Then Instapundit linked to a Reason piece that attempted a fisking of the Brady Campaign by Jacob Sullum at Reason.
I’ve already backhanded the Brady folks as bloodthirsty opportunists; let me take a moment and bust Sullum for being disingenuous.
It’s not clear what Helmke means by “firepower.” The AR-15 fires a small (.223-caliber) cartridge, and the SKS fires an intermediate (.30-caliber) cartridge. The guns identified as “assault weapons” are chosen based on their “military-style” appearance, not the size of their ammunition, and many large-caliber guns were not covered by the federal ban. Maybe Helmke is really talking about magazine capacity, since the federal “assault weapon” law also banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. But this has nothing to do with “assault weapons” per se; many guns that don’t fall into that arbitrary category accept large-capacity magazines.
Here, it’s Sullum who’s not being clear or correct. The Wikipedia definition of ‘firepower‘ pretty closely approximates what I’ve been taught:
Fire power is a military capability to direct force at an enemy. It is not to be confused with the concept of rate of fire which describes cycling of the firing mechanism in a weapon system. The concept is taught as one of the key principles of modern warfare wherein the enemy forces are destroyed or have their will to fight negated by sufficient and preferably overwhelming use of force as a result of combat operations.
Look, to suggest that a .223 fires a “small” cartridge is absurd and ignorant – the destructive capability of a .223 is “good enough” in the overall range of ballistics, which is why the Army still uses it. A “small” cartridge is a .22 LR, and a lot of game and people have been killed by .22’s. To handwave, as Sullum does, and claim that “they are all the same” or that firepower is measured by narrowly testing the destructive capabilities of the bullets isn’t true in any meaningful way.
Let’s look in my gun safe, and compare two long guns.
A bolt-action .308 (a Savage Scout), with a detachable 5-round magazine.
A semiautomatic .308 (a Springfield M1A Scout), with a detachable 10-round magazine (note that there are 20- and 30- round magazines widely available for this).
There is no question – ought to be no question – that if I was headed out into combat, I’d pick the Springfield over the Savage. Why? Because it packs more ‘firepower’ – the ability to direct more sustained force downrange because I can shoot it more quickly, reload less often, and reload faster.
Yes, I can buy large-capacity magazines for all kids of weapons…they sell them for Glocks and for 1911’s, as an example. But past a certain point, the gun becomes so unwieldy as to be useless. Trust me, I’ve tried. The reality is that some weapons – the M1A in the case above – are designed to be handled with large-capacity magazines, and so are more effective militarily. And so more dangerous.
Gun-rights advocates need to get past handwaving rationalizations like this. First, because they are dishonest, and the public is smart enough to tell. Second, because they obscure the real point we all should be making, which is the point drummed into me when I first started shooting seriously.
“Guns are damn dangerous. But the ability to manage dangerous tools will make you a better and safer person.” And exactly in parallel, the fact that we live in a society where people can handle dangerous tools makes us – overall – a better and safer society than we would be otherwise.
But it comes at a sad, bloody price. And this month, a lot of people paid it.
If you want to know what I really believe, go read “Stand on Zanzibar” (actually, another Brunner book – “The Sheep Look Up” ought to be on your list as well), and think about muckers. I did a post about them after another shooting back in 2007. And what I said then still holds…“There is something dark and bloody in the human heart.”