Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Gun Control Round Two

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting of elementary school children at Sandy Hook, there was a loud call for new gun control. The media insisted that this time something must happen.

Since the shooting took place in December nothing could actually happen until January at the earliest. By that time, things had cooled and gun proponents had a chance to push back.

Yesterday was the kick-off of round two. This was lead by General McChrystal and Gabby Giffords.

McChrystal was quoted as being against assault rifles:

I spent a career carrying typically either an M16 or an M4 Carbine. An M4 Carbine fires a .223 caliber round which is 5.56 mm at about 3000 feet per second. When it hits a human body, the effects are devastating. It's designed for that," McChrystal explained. "That's what our soldiers ought to carry. I personally don't think there's any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America

McChrystal's opinions are being used selectively. He also cautions against our current strategy of drones. His support for gun control was front-page news but I hadn't heard about his opinion on drones until I searched for his quote on guns.

"What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," he said in an interview. "The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."

McChrystal said the use of drones exacerbates a "perception of American arrogance that says, 'Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.''

Other things not mentioned - McChrystal was relieved of command after reports came out of him allowing his staff to openly mock President Obama. The type of weapon he refers to - an assault rifle (not an assault gun) is only a tiny part of gun violence.

Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly (or a ghost writer using their names) wrote a column for USA Today. This has a number of disingenuous phrases. For example:

America has seen an astounding 11 mass shootings since a madman used a semiautomatic pistol with an extended ammunition clip to shoot me and kill six others. Gun violence kills more than 30,000 Americans annually.

Several things stand out. The word "astounding" for example is given without any qualification. Are mass shootings on the rise or are they just better reported? Yes, an extended ammunition magazine was used but I have it on good authority that those add so much weight to a gun that they make it difficult to aim and much more likely to jam.

The term "extended ammunition clip" is a red flag. The proper term is a magazine. A clip holds cartridges together until until they are loaded. A magazine encases the cartridges. Mark Kelly is ex-military. It is hard to believe that he would make that mistake. That makes me wonder how closely he read the column printed under his name.

The number "30,000" is also a red flag. That includes suicides and accidents, mainly suicides. Numerous studies have shown that the suicide rate is not affected by the availability of guns. They are just included in order to pad the figures. Calling suicides and accidents "gun violence" is like calling automobile deaths "car violence". The actual number of homicides is closer to 12,000 than 30,000. Of that 12,000, only a tiny number are mass shootings or caused by assault weapons.

If the problem is mass shootings then we are only talking about 11 in two years. Numbers like 30,000 are brought in to give the issue a false sense of urgency.

The column continues

This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small. Wise policy has conquered disease, protected us from dangerous products and substances, and made transportation safer. But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we're not even trying — and for the worst of reasons.

Upon analysis, this part gets very interesting. This paragraph claims that wise policy has conquered disease but in the last two years, more people have died from the flu than from mass shootings. In a rational debate we would look at the relative number of deaths and devote our resources accordingly. This is an emotional appeal, not a rational one so no numbers are given.

They talk about the horrors of the well-financed gun lobby then continue:

As a result, we are more vulnerable to gun violence. Weapons designed for the battlefield have a home in our streets. Criminals and the mentally ill can easily purchase guns by avoiding background checks. Firearm accessories designed for killing at a high rate are legal and widely available. And gun owners are less responsible for the misuse of their weapons than they are for their automobiles.

You would never know from this paragraph that the murder rate has been dropping for years and is half what it was 20 years ago. Background checks will not stop criminals. They are already breaking the law and they are seldom involved in mass shootings (the criminal who shot two firemen does not count as a mass shooting). As for the mentally ill, a common thread with mass shootings is looking back and wondering why the shooter hasn't been declared mentally ill? Background checks will not stop people from buying guns unless we become better at identifying them ahead of time.

The statement about gun owners not being responsible is puzzling? Do they think that I will be in more trouble if my stolen car is involved in a fatality than if my stolen gun is? Or do they think that fatal shootings are treated more lightly than fatal auto accidents?

Forget the boogeyman of big, bad government coming to dispossess you of your firearms. As a Western woman and a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don't want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home. What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.

And these changes are...? They continue on for several paragraphs but never offer any specific proposals. From context we can assume that they want to require background checks on all gun purchases and outlaw high-capacity magazines, semi-automatics, and high-velocity ammunition but they never commit themselves. Of course, if they committed themselves then the flaws in their proposals would be open to criticism.

They also promise that they will come up with funding to match the NRA. Where will this come from?

Finally, notice the bit about having their guns locked in a safe at home? The message here is that it is ok for you to have a gun as long as it is locked away and unusable.

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