But Me No Buts

This one’s an op-ed from the New York Journal News. Short, but no less stupid for that.

No reason but to kill

From all indications, Congress intends to let the 10-year-old ban on military-style assault weapons expire on Sept. 13. Unless, of course, public demand that the ban be extended reaches such a pitch that Congress dare not do otherwise.

And it’s the job of our newspaper editorialists to motivate the masses to do just that! That small but influential lobby must stop the small but influential eeeevil NRA from letting the law sunset!

That’s why it is important to make the public aware of the ban’s pending expiration through such events as the news conference held by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence in White Plains on Tuesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.

Congressional Republicans showed their intentions in March when they voted down their own bill to give immunity from lawsuits to gun manufacturers after Democrats added an amendment that would have extended the assault-weapons ban at the same time.

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, who supports the ban, cited FBI figures that listed one in five law-enforcement officers slain in the line of duty between 1998 and 2001 as killed with assault weapons. Indeed, a protective vest offers no protection against such weapons.

Which is standard Violence Policy Center bullshit procedure: stretching the facts, as I pointed out back in May of last year. The VPC report stated that 41 of the 211 officers to die by gunfire were killed with “assault weapons,” but to reach that number, they had to expand the definition of “assault weapon” to include seventeen rifles that are not covered under the “ban.” As I said back then,

Now, according to this site between the years of 1998 and 2001 (inclusive) there were 229 officer deaths by firearm, not 211. And according to this table the number of police deaths, at least for the last couple of decades (and excluding the 72 killed in the Twin Towers in 2001) has been apparently unaffected by the relative explosion in the mid 1980’s of “assault weapons” (as defined by the law) into the general populace. They’re trying to make it sound like the presence of “assault weapons” has somehow added 41 deaths that otherwise would not have occurred. The evidence does not support this. But that’s the conclusion you’re supposed to draw. “Ban ’em, and these cops would have lived!”

To continue:

“Whether you have a right to bear arms or not,” Spano said, “you do not have a right to endanger society with assault weapons.”

Er, what? That means I do have a right to “endanger society” with a shotgun or a deer rifle?

This is logic?

Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said she “strongly” supported the right to bear arms,

Wait for it…

but there is no legitimate reason to have an assault weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in a very short period of time.”

Let’s parse that sentence, shall we? What is the right to bear arms for? Connie du Toit spells it out succinctly here. The right to arms isn’t about hunting, it isn’t about target shooting, it isn’t about self defense against criminals. If you support the Second Amendment you support the right of civilians to own weapons of military usefulness. Duck guns and intermediate range sniper rifles deer rifles are simply protected under that greater umbrella. No but about it.

“…there is no legitimate reason to have an assault weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in a very short period of time.” As I read that, killing “as many people as possible in a very short period of time” is a “legitimate reason to have an assault weapon”? Huh?

Look, this is just regurgitation of the gun-grabber mantra of “Ooh! They’re scary!” If “there is no legitimate reason to have an assault weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in a very short period of time,” why are our police forces armed with fully-automatic assault weapons? So they can kill lots of civilians?

It’s not the weapon, it’s the intent. But the editorial writer doesn’t bother to think about it, just accepts this revealed wisdom.

She’s right. No reason whatsoever.

Any thinking going on in that brain? Critical or otherwise?

Getting back to the “one in five” police officers killed with “assault weapons” – you know, weapons whose only legitimate use is to “kill as many people as possible in a very short period of time” – what of the other 170 officers killed with firearms in that same period? They were killed with weapons designed to tickle people?

A gun is a device designed to hurl small metal projectiles at high velocity. It doesn’t matter if it’s a handgun, a shotgun, a rifle or an “assault weapon.” “Assault weapons” are not somehow orders of magnitude more lethal than other firearms. The only real difference is their appearance, which is why the AWB was based on appearance, not lethality. It’s why the AR-15 style rifle was targeted, but the Ruger Mini-14 wasn’t.

Voting to extend the ban means opposing the National Rifle Association, which lines up congressional support like target cans on a fence, as well as taking on the rest of the gun lobby. Without the support of public outrage, few in Congress have the fortitude to do that.

And that’s the meat of it. Opposing the eeevil NRA is what must be done, regardless of the fact that the AWB has had no measurable effect on gun violence. Even Tom Diaz of the VPC has said:

If the existing assault weapons ban expires, I personally do not believe it will make one whit of difference one way or another in terms of our objective, which is reducing death and injury and getting a particularly lethal class of firearms off the streets. So if it doesn’t pass, it doesn’t pass.

The VPC’s “objective” is to get handguns banned. They said themselves back in 1988 that “Assault weapon” legislation was just a stepping-stone to that end:

It will be a new topic in what has become to the press and public an “old” debate.

Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary: the power of the gun lobby; the tendency of both sides of the issue to resort to sloganeering and pre-packaged arguments when discussing the issue; the fact that until an individual is affected by handgun violence he or she is unlikely to work for handgun restrictions; the view that handgun violence is an “unsolvable” problem; the inability of the handgun restriction movement to organize itself into an effective electoral threat; and the fact that until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons – just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms – are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons – anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun – can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.

In other words, through efforts such as this op-ed, it is the intent of gun control forces to take advantage of public ignorance to get them to support gun control measures they don’t understand.

How do you like being manipulated like that?

But wait! There’s more!

Efforts to stop restrictions on assault weapons will only further alienate the police from the gun lobby.

Until recently, police organizations viewed the gun lobby in general, and the NRA in particular, as a reliable friend. This stemmed in part from the role the NRA played in training officers and its reputation regarding gun safety and hunter training. Yet, throughout the 1980s, the NRA has found itself increasingly on the opposite side of police on the gun control issue. Its opposition to legislation banning armor-piercing ammunition, plastic handguns, and machine guns, and its drafting of and support for the McClure/Volkmer handgun decontrol bill, burned many of the bridges the NRA had built throughout the past hundred years. As the result of this, the Law Enforcement Steering Committee was formed. The Committee now favors such restriction measures as waiting periods with background check for handgun purchase and a ban on machine guns and plastic firearms. If police continue to call for assault weapons restrictions, and the NRA continues to fight such measures, the result can only be a further tarnishing of the NRA’s image in the eyes of the public, the police, and NRA members. The organization will no longer be viewed as the defender of the sportsman, but as the defender of the drug dealer.

Efforts to restrict assault weapons are more likely to succeed than those to restrict handguns.

Although the majority of Americans favor stricter handgun controls, and a consistent 40 percent of Americans favor banning the private sale and possession of handguns, many Americans do believe that handguns are effective weapons for home self-defense and the majority of Americans mistakenly believe that the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the individual right to keep and bear arms. Yet, many who support the individual’s right to own a handgun have second thoughts when the issue comes down to assault weapons. Assault weapons are often viewed the same way as machine guns and “plastic” firearms – a weapon that poses such a grave risk that it’s worth compromising a perceived constitutional right.

(See op-ed above for a textbook example of this. And the right isn’t perceived, dammit.)

Although the opportunity to restrict assault weapons exists, a question remains for the handgun restriction movement: How? Defining an assault weapon – in legal terms – is not easy. It’s not merely a matter of going after guns that are “black and wicked looking.”Yet that’s precisely what the “Assault Weapon Ban” did. It went after guns that are “black and wicked looking,” that’s all. As Charles Krauthammer put it in 1995,

Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic – purely symbolic – move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.

Letting the AWB sunset is supporting the right to keep and bear arms.

No “buts” about it.

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