Another Quora Thread

No, not that thread, a different one.  If you’re among the tl;dr crowd, just skip down to the last comment.  It’s in gold.

Here’s the question that was asked last December:

Questions that Contain Assumptions:  How do extreme gun rights advocates defend the fact that the shooter in San Bernadino was able to legally buy AR-15 assault rifles with 1400 rounds of bulletproof vest-piercing ammunition?

Here’s my answer and the comment thread that followed:

You’re obviously not familiar with California’s gun laws. If, in fact, the San Bernadino shooters were armed with fully-functional AR-15 rifles, they did not acquire them legally. Those are verboten in California, as are pipe bombs.

You are also obviously not familiar with “bulletproof” vests. Vests are classified by what power levels they are rated to stop. The classes are:

Level I – rated to stop up to .38 Special, a rather mild handgun round.
Level IIA – rated to stop up to 9x19mm and some .357 Magnum handgun rounds.
Level II – rated to stop high-velocity .357 Magnum.
Level IIIA – rated to stop most .44 Magnum handgun rounds.

You’ll note that none of these are rated to stop any rifle cartridge. The Level IIIA vest is the heaviest vest normally worn by police officers in the performance of their everyday duties, because as the level of protection goes up, the vests get thicker, heavier, stiffer, hotter, and more uncomfortable. A Level IIIA vest or lighter won’t stop a .30-30 Winchester round (traditional deer rifle cartridge) from one of these:

 photo win94.jpg
The lightest rated vest that can stop a 5.56NATO round (the round fired by the standard AR-15 rifle) is Level III, and it includes plates made of steel or ceramic. Level IV vests are the only vests literally described as being able to stop “armor piercing” ammunition fired from rifles, and 5.56NATO ammunition does not meet the definition of “armor piercing.”

As far as having 1,400 rounds, that’s less than a case and a half of ammunition – otherwise known as “a good weekend” in a lot of places in America.

Edwin Blake Waddell
We can quibble over specifics. My only point here is that it bothers me (and many others) that these shooters were able to get assault-style rifles (or weapons, whatever semantics you prefer) legally. My point was never that the weapons were obtained illegally. That’s the whole problem! Some laws need to change. I question how thorough these “background” checks are. The F.B.I. found evidence that Farook was in touch with people domestically and abroad who have Islamist extremist views, according to officials. Sounds like a red flag to me. We can argue about whether they had “rifles” or “weapons” and how many rounds of ammo they had, and what kind of bullets they were but the bottom line is: another day in America, another mass shooting and it is becoming the “new normal.” Whether they are terrorists or mentally ill or normal people who “snap”, I’ll say it again: It’s too damn easy to get a gun (especially multiple assault guns) in this country! Something needs to change. Background checks need to be expanded. Maybe a mental health evaluation needs to be passed before purchasing a gun. I think I am hearing from “good guys” who want to “keep their guns.” NO PROBLEM! I don’t want to take away guns from good guys. They may save my live some day. But strengthening a few regulations might, just might, keep some “bad guys” from getting guns. I would think responsible, safe gun owners would welcome tighter regulations. You guys would PASS a tighter background check. The Farooks of world (mostly) would not. I know: “bad guys still find a way of getting weapons.” Well some, yes. But if tighter regulations kept just a few mass shootings from happening, it is worth it!

Except the weapons were acquired illegally, and apparently modified illegally, and combined with illegal explosives.

And your response is that you want to make it MORE illegal. Illegaler!

I think you need to do some research. How about reading this report (PDF, 18 pages):

Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2010

If that’s too long for you, here’s the TL;DR version:

In 2010, about 76,000 background checks resulted in denial of sales, some 47.4% of which (34,459) were for “a record of a felony indictment or conviction.” How many people ended up in jail for signing their names to a falsified Form 4473 – which carries a 5-year prison sentence? Well, 62 people were “referred for prosecution.” That’s 0.18%.

Of those 62, thirteen plead guilty or were found guilty – down from 73 in 2006.

Or how about this:

 photo federalprosecutions.jpg
It doesn’t appear that more laws are needed, but possibly the will to use the ones we’ve got already. I have to ask – if we aren’t using those laws, then what are they for? And why should we add MORE?

Ok, I’m fine with using the ones we have if they will really bring down gun related deaths. I just think that access to guns is part, not all, of the problem. I’m not satisfied with the ways things are in America related to gun deaths. The rate of prosecutions are not keeping up with the rate of gun deaths. Look at the stats in this article especially in contrast to other countries:

Gun related deaths are down. Are YOU aware of this?

Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware

 photo homicides.jpg
The guns are already out there. They’re not going to go away. Making it more difficult for people to buy guns from gun shops will have NO EFFECT on firearm accessibility to people who are willing to commit murder, which (as it happens) is also illegal.

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from the gun control meta-study commissioned by the Carter Administration and published in 1982 as Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America:

“The progressive’s indictment of American firearms policy is well known and is one that both the senior authors of this study once shared. This indictment includes the following particulars:

(1) Guns are involved in an astonishing number of crimes in this country.

(2) In other countries with stricter firearms laws and fewer guns in private hands, gun crime is rare.

(3) Most of the firearms involved in crime are cheap Saturday Night Specials, for which no legitimate use or need exists.

(4) Many families acquire such a gun because they feel the need to protect themselves; eventually they end up shooting one another.

(5) If there were fewer guns around, there would obviously be less crime.

(6) Most of the public also believes this and has favored stricter gun control laws for as long as anyone has asked the question.

(7) Only the gun lobby prevents us from embarking on the road to a safer and more civilized society.

“The more deeply we have explored the empirical implications of this indictment, the less plausible it has become. We wonder, first, given the number of firearms presently available in the United States, whether the time to “do something” about them has not long since passed. If we take the highest plausible value for the total number of gun incidents in any given year – 1,000,000 – and the lowest plausible value for the total number of firearms now in private hands – 100,000,000 – we see rather quickly that the guns now owned exceed the annual incident count by a factor of at least 100. This means that the existing stock is adequate to supply all conceivable criminal purposes for at least the entire next century, even if the worldwide manufacture of new guns were halted today and if each presently owned firearm were used criminally once and only once. Short of an outright house-to-house search and seizure mission, just how are we going to achieve some significant reduction in the number of firearms available?” (pp. 319-20)

“Even if we were somehow able to remove all firearms from civilian possession, it is not at all clear that a substantial reduction in interpersonal violence would follow. Certainly, the violence that results from hard-core and predatory criminality would not abate very much. Even the most ardent proponents of stricter gun laws no longer expect such laws to solve the hard-core crime problem, or even to make much of a dent in it. There is also reason to doubt whether the “soft-core” violence, the so-called crimes of passion, would decline by very much. Stated simply, these crimes occur because some people have come to hate others, and they will continue to occur in one form or another as long as hatred persists. It is possible, to be sure, that many of these incidents would involve different consequences if no firearms were available, but it is also possible that the consequences would be exactly the same. The existing empirical literature provides no firm basis for choosing one of these possibilities over the other. Restating the point, if we could solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter very much what we did about guns, and unless we solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter much what we do about guns. There are simply too many other objects that can serve the purpose of inflicting harm on another human being.” (pp. 321-22)

Here we are 33 years on, with probably 200 million more firearms in private hands. Homicide rates are at levels last seen in the 1960’s, but nobody told the public, and the constant drumbeat of “GUN CONTROL!” is increasing in tempo.

I wonder why that is?

I’m sure we could trade “definitive” articles all night to support our views (my turn) but ‘crazy me’ still thinks that the more guns there are, the more gun deaths there are.

AKA: “I reject your reality and substitute my own.”

Yep. We both have our own versions of reality.

The question is: Which of our two respective realities is the one that doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it?

And the pièce de résistance, posted tonight, more than a year after this thread originated:

Sekaye Knutson

I was leaning towards increased gun control until I saw this beautifully thorough thread.

And THIS is why I write there.

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