I need to stress just how intermittent this blog will be. As tempting as it is to write treatises on current events, I’m trying to finish a draft of my next book by December 31. It’s a weak excuse, but there are only so many free hours in the day to write.
A few scattered thoughts on recent topics such as mass shootings, gun control and the like. My point of concern isn’t the concept of banning guns but rather the argument that concealed handguns would solve this problem.
1. I do not trust 99.9 percent of the human population to deposit their trash at the curb each week, much less to judiciously exercise deadly force with a handgun. The only people who envision themselves as Chow Yun-Fat performing acrobatic leaps and delivering precision bullets into consummately evil attackers are, as it turns out, full of shit and invariably unacquainted with the sensation of actual bullets being shot at them from actual guns. Throw in a chemical irritant, a darkened, confined space, etc. and you find the potential for pinpoint-accurate gun heroics diminishing.
2. You want my real opinion on handgun ownership in America? Here: “An armed society is a polite society.” That is, as long as you substitute “polite society” with “a society riven by its own terrors and shames that gropes at the disparate frissons of safety provided by having an inaccurate-but-still-deadly weapon wedged in its sweatpants whilst eating at Bojangles; also, a society that gets drunk and shoots things: sometimes itself, and often unintentionally.” That said, I’m a realist about what the law can and cannot accomplish, particularly when a large segment of the U.S. political system would actively subvert any far-reaching law signed into being.
3. I was ambivalent about handguns until I moved to Alaska, where they’re practically sewn into the flag and where illegal shootings are frequent. Cops get shot, gangs shoot up family picnics, you name it, but the distance and relatively small population keeps them out of the national news. The gun laws there are more liberal than anywhere else I have ever lived, and shootings happen so often that it really fails to make a blip on the radar. By contrast: when I was a kid growing up in Germany, there was a shooting in a town a few miles from mine. A man killed another man with a handgun while the victim was stepping off a city bus. The concept of such a thing taking place was utterly and completely foreign to all the kids in school, including myself (I didn’t live on post). Locally, it was a huge story that drew on for weeks. Handguns are, of course, banned in Germany.
There are compromises. I’m a big fan of lever-action rifles or shotguns for use in home defense given their difficulty to conceal and difficulty of use when employed by, say, a two-year-old. My buddy lives in a shoddily-constructed apartment complex and has a can of mace in his nightstand. He’s also a professional soldier (and a gun owner), but he doesn’t want any errant bullets to penetrate the walls and harm innocent neighbors. I’d rather live next to him than to a guy with an AK-47, a claymore mine, a PKM and a SMAW-D. But that’s just me.
4. “Assault rifles” achieve that categorization by having selective fire capability (among other things). Wild-eyed gun dogmatists like to raise hell about AR-15′s being incorrectly referred to as “assault rifles,” but that’s a case of missing the forest for the hair on the back of the mosquito climbing the bark of the tree among the trees. Seriously. An AR-15 with a reflex collimator (or equivalent) employed in semi-automatic mode is exactly the same kind of weapon used by U.S. Army infantry soldiers. Exactly. Our training does not instruct us to use the three-round burst mode, and a high-capacity drum magazine is actually more firepower (with fewer magazine changes) than what a typical rifleman would have at his disposal (obviously machine guns and grenade launchers are another story).
Trying to wheedle an AR-15 into some other category besides “assault rifle” is just an exercise in self-delusion. It’s a semi-automatic rifle intended for a fire-and-maneuver assault. It’s what I carried on every combat patrol and air assault in Afghanistan. If this guy in Colorado had an EOTech and a 100-round drum, he was actually better armed than I was. No, he couldn’t select “automatic” or “burst” when mowing down a crowd of innocents, but don’t try to tell me it was the same as a Marlin 1895.
5. Even in the military, for all the training we provide, we still have an absurd amount of negligent discharges (people firing their weapons unintentionally). Numerous rear-echelon bases in Iraq and Afghanistan had to adopt rules forcing all weapons to be empty (and magazine wells clear) inside the wire due to the abundance of accidental shootings. I know two other officers (one of whom is in the 75th Ranger Regiment) who ND’ed their weapons inside their offices in Afghanistan. I did an investigation on a guy who ND’ed the M240B in the ECP guard tower. Hell, the commanding general of U.S. Army Alaska banned concealed weapons for soldiers until the 2011 NDAA forced him to change the policy (link is a PDF). I might very well be wrong, but I struggle to believe that the concealed-carry permit training requirements are more stringent and exhaustive than, say, basic training and twice-yearly unit qualifications. If they are, great. Please tell me about them. I want to believe that they’re rigorous and demanding and that only people who should carry concealed weapons may. However, I doubt it, and considering how many states have “must issue” laws, I’m even less credulous.
Feel free to criticize the points made in this article, but please do not try to pigeonhole me as indicative of one side of this pro- / anti-gun binary. I have, at times, employed assault rifles and handguns for a living, and in many cases my life has depended upon them. In the near future, I will do so again. I just don’t think that all citizens should have the right to pack concealed heat. Maybe it’s a kind of elitism. Sorry — I’d rather that than have fawning populism get me killed by an idiot who can’t practice target discrimination.