The Pendulum is Still Swinging, Apparently.

A Google News search for the term “assault weapon” today brings up a plethora of news stories on the Illinois House rejecting the current attempt to ban them. Whatever they are. It was a close one, however, failing by a single vote.

But the thing that grabbed my attention was the number of op-eds and letters-to-the-editor that were pro-gun. Like this one from Maine’s Morning Sentinel:

I am tired of gun-control laws, their supporters and their tired lies. The assault-weapons ban is dead. You cannot breathe new life into it with the same lies and emotional diatribe that gave it life initially. My opinion is unchanged by the most recent reiteration.

So-called assault weapons do not function differently from any other semi-automatic firearm. They shoot one bullet with each squeeze of the trigger, like a revolver. They shoot bullets that are either the same as, or less powerful than, common hunting calibers. They do not “spray” bullets, because they are not machine guns. They look like machine guns. They have bayonet lugs, pistol grips, flash suppressors and detachable magazines, and they’re usually black.

They’re scary looking, but they won’t kill anything any deader than any other firearm. Anyone with any familiarity knows this. If you have done your research, you know it. I can only assume your supporting this misguided effort means you will someday support banning all semi-automatic firearms. That failing, eventually, you will support banning all firearms.

The NRA, gun makers, dealers and sportsmen’s groups don’t vote; gun owners vote. We always have, and always will. We buy newspapers, too. Lawmakers would do well to not ignore those who elect them, and those who make their livelihoods selling newspapers should pay heed as well. Deal in truth and facts. You’ll be respected and prosper.

Leon A. Richard

That was published as an op-ed.

Or this one from the St. Paul MN Pioneer Press:

The Minnesota Personal Protection Act has been in the news recently for two very important reasons — the “carry law” will become law and a permit holder has been charged with murder. It seems reasonable to try to determine if this is the exception, or the rule, in other states that have had much more than two years of experience and many more permit holders than the 25,000 in Minnesota.

By law, Texas is required to gather statistics on the arrests and convictions of permit holders. These statistics show that 3,370 permit holders have been arrested in the nine years since Texas enacted its carry law. That may sound frightening unless you know that there are 350,000 permit holders in Texas, and that only 24 percent of those arrests resulted in a conviction.

The resulting conviction rate makes permit holders almost eight times less likely to be convicted of any crime compared with nonpermit holders. The events in Minneapolis were an exception, not the rule. This is a good law that deserved to be resurrected.


Which rebutted this one that appeared two letters above it:

I found it interesting that your brief mention of the shooting death of Billy Walsh, a doorman at Nye’s Polonaise Room in Minneapolis, never mentioned that the shooter was a permit holder, issued a permit under the 2003 conceal and carry law. Given that the day after the shooting the Senate passed a bill to re-enact the 2003 law, wasn’t the fact that the shooter was a permit holder worthy of reporting? No wonder there isn’t more outrage about having so many loaded handguns in public — if the media doesn’t include such details, how are we to know?


Can you say “balance”?? Color me shocked.

Now, how about this piece in the North Greenville College newspaper, The Skyliner?

Library staff retires overused words

During several lunchtime discussions in the fall of 2003, the faculty of Hester Memorial Library began to comment to each other about the tendency of pop culture to overuse various words and phrases.

From these discussions, came a list of words which the group felt should be retired, or at least given a rest. The following spring, the group honed this list down to the top five words for that year.

In the spring of this year, the group gathered to compile a second list of overused words.

Certain words that are abused or overused by media, news casters, and television culture as a whole will be put on a list to be banned from the English language. This list is composed by Jonathan Bradsher, Director of the Library here at NGC for five years and NGC librarian of six years Carla McMahan.

The idea behind this list was to critique the usage of the English language in popular culture and to note its overuse, or misuse, of words and phrases. Because television tends to be such an influence in American culture, this critique is focused on the medium of television.

The top five words to the retired for 2005 are as follows:

1. Literally- A word that means “free from exaggeration or embellishment.” It has been a favorite of news programs and especially the local ones. It is unfortunate that many of these users do not seem to understand its meaning. A recent newscaster reporting on a flood stated that “the water is just a few feet away… literally.” One’s first thought after such a statement is, what about the water that’s “figuratively” just a few feet away?

2. Assault Weapon (and/or High powered Assault Weapon)- a phase that is loaded with politics and factual ambiguity. The reason that this word is on the list is because there is no one definition for this phrase and yet it is so widely used. What is an assault weapon? Whatever the speaker wants it to be. Since there is no definition, this phrase does not have to be qualified. Therefore, one could state that a slingshot was an assault weapon and a slingshot with an extra strong rubber band was a high powered assault weapon.

The remaining three worst words and phrases were “Ripped from the headlines!”, “To the next level”, and “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” (To that I’d like to add “going forward” or “moving forward.” “Conceptualize” is pretty bad, too, but not used as widely.) But still, the wording of the “assault weapon” paragraph makes me smile.

And finally, there’s this op-ed from Florida’s Tallahassee Democrat:

Florida isn’t about to become Deadwood East

By Bill Cotterell

Shortly after Gov. Bob Martinez signed the 1987 concealed-weapons bill, I was seated next to a Sports Illustrated reporter at a Miami-FSU game. Before kickoff, he was prattling on and on about this wacky new Florida law.

Of course, he hadn’t read it. He’d only heard about it from late-night comedians and national news accounts.

The magazine writer had already chosen his headline – “Shootout in the Gunshine State” – so it’s fortunate that the football game turned out to be one of the best ever. Shaking his head, he told me he was going to write in SI how one of the first folks he’d met upon landing in Miami was a filling station attendant with a gun on his hip.

Perhaps feeling obliged to defend my home state, I pointed out that (a) a holstered pistol is not a concealed weapon, (b) although the law had been signed, the state was not yet issuing “conceal to carry” permits and (c) there were probably guns under the counters of some gas stations and convenience stores he had stopped at on his way up here. But southerners can’t talk guns to New Yorkers because they’ve made their city so safe.

An odd thing is, Georgia had permitted concealed weapons a few years earlier and nobody noticed. Maybe it was the popularity of TV shows like “Miami Vice” or movies like “Scarface” back then, but Florida still has a reputation for weird things that only happen here.

Remember all those wild gun battles on Monroe Street since 1987? Remember how the concealed weapon law created an O.K. Corral in every crossroads of Florida? Me neither.

Actually, nothing much changed.

Law-abiding gun owners continued to abide by the law and criminals kept on being criminals. And people who don’t want anything to do with guns weren’t required to run out and get one.

Then there was the assault-weapon ban a few years later. Congress adopted a federal ban on certain types of rifles amid much discussion of folding stocks, banana-shaped clips and whether there could be handles on top of the thing.

I don’t know much about guns, but, when I got out of the Marine Corps 40 years ago, the guidebook said a projectile leaves the muzzle at 2,500 feet per second. It doesn’t matter whether a weapon is shaped like a pistol, a rifle or a piano. As long as it fires one shot per trigger-squeeze, an ounce of lead at that speed will do the same damage.

The Bush administration let the assault weapons ban expire last year. Have you seen a lot of people running around with AK-47s and Uzis? Me neither.

Actually, nothing much changed.

Now we’re hearing the same indulgent chuckles from more enlightened quarters because the Legislature approved the “castle doctrine.” The law Gov. Jeb Bush signed last week says you don’t have to retreat if someone tries to invade your home or car, or assaults you on the street.

The law says you can meet force with force but it doesn’t say you should. A sensible person (and our laws do presume that you’re sensible) will still try to avoid a deadly confrontation.

There’s a certain macho appeal to the law, but any sheriff or police officer would probably tell you that if you can get your family to safety and call 911 from next door, that’s still the best thing to do.

It’s doubtful many of the critics have read the bill. In fairness, neither have most of its supporters, but this time, the hooting and finger-pointing can be hazardous. A lot of the dire warnings about this new law may leave the impression that you can shoot the Avon lady.

There still must be a reasonable belief that you, or people near you, are in imminent danger. Police and prosecutors aren’t stupid. Maybe some guy who shoots his wife will try to get off by saying he thought she was a burglar, but that could happen under the previous law – and juries can still see through alibis under the new one.

As with the conceal-to-carry law and the lifting of the assault-weapons ban, we’re told that Florida will become Deadwood East. We hear how street-corner confrontations that used to end in shouted threats or maybe a bloody nose will now wind up with a chalk outline on the sidewalk.

When I worked in Atlanta, the little town of Kennesaw got into Johnny Carson’s monologue with an ordinance that said every “head of household” – in Georgia at the time, this meant “husband” – had to own a gun. (In a bit of sublime satire, the elders of Ely, Minn., mandated that every home had to have a fishing pole, on the theory that feeding your family is as important as defending it.)

Sent to Kennesaw to write a story, I asked a merchant to give me the big picture.

“Well,” he said, pausing, “I guess I’m gonna sell a gun – if there’s anybody around here that don’t already have one.”

Actually, nothing much changed.

And maybe, if people will quit saying you can shoot first with impunity, nothing much will change with Florida’s new castle doctrine.

Yes, I know they’re all insignificant next to the New York Times, but taken together, they indicate to me that the pendulum is still swinging our way.

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