Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rational response to mass killers

The initial response to the shooting of school children at Sandy Hook was a call to renew the Clinton-era assault-weapon ban. While the army has assault rifles, there is no real definition for an assault weapon. The 1990s law tried to define them by listing military features that were easily removed. Does anyone seriously believe that a gun capable of accepting a bayonet is more dangerous than a nearly identical one that does not accept a bayonet?

There is also a great deal of confusion about the term "semi-automatic". A fully automatic weapon continues to fire as long as the trigger is depressed. A machine gun is an automatic weapon. These are tightly controlled and have not been used in any mass shootings.

A semi-automatic weapon fires one shot each time the trigger is pulled. Some people would classify a revolver as being semi-automatic. The next step down from semi-automatic is one that requires an extra step to chamber the next round. This might be a bolt-action, a lever action, or a pump.

The biggest disconnect is that idea that disturbed people will be unable to injure anyone if certain guns are outlawed. The Columbine killers show how misguided that reasoning is. They considered flying an airplane into a building or crashing a car into a school bus and instead came up with a truly diabolical plan. They constructed two bombs around propane tanks and hid them in the school. Their intention was to kill upwards of a thousand people with the bombs then use guns and pipe bombs to kill the survivors. As a final touch, they rigged gasoline bombs in their cars to explode an hour later in the hope of killing police officers on the scene.

Fortunately, none of their bombs went off. When their plans failed, they began shooting people and attempted to detonate one of their propane bombs manually. After that failed, they shot each other.

And all of this happened during the assault weapons ban.

The Attorney General's recommendations say nothing about guns. Instead they talk about identification of disturbed individuals.

This is something that has been lost in the current reaction. The initial reaction to Sandy Hook is that it was caused by guns and that we have to do something about gun control. There is no recognition that tens of millions of peaceful people own guns or that mass shootings are not the work of ordinary people. Neither is there any recognition that guns will continue to be available no matter what laws are passed. Anyone who doubts that should should look at Mexico which officially has tight gun control or even cities such as Washington DC where guns are effectively outlawed.

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