Gun Control Irony

“This is gonna work.  It’s a movie, I’m a good guy, this has got to work . . . I’m a comedy sidekick . . . Oh, sh#t! I’m a comedy sidekick! IT’S NOT GONNA WORK!”

            —Austin O’Brien as Danny Madigan in Last Action Hero

 

Does the guy ever give the politicking a rest?  Is there anything he won’t try to exploit for his political agenda?

Last Monday a disgruntled and apparently disturbed Aaron Alexis entered the Navy Yard complex in Washington, D.C., and killed twelve people before being killed himself in a gun battle with police.  President Obama went ahead with a previously-scheduled press address set for the purpose of bashing Congressional Republicans over budget issues while the shooting was still in progress.  He did take a brief minute from his pre-prepared remarks to acknowledge the tragedy, but even then he couldn’t refrain from waxing political, lamenting “yet another mass shooting.”

The victims’ bodies weren’t yet cold, and Obama was already setting up to use their deaths to push for gun control.

On Sunday he was at it again, this time cynically using a memorial service with the victims’ familes as a political pulpit, saying that the need for gun control “ought to obsess us.”  He went on to call for correction of laws that fail “to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.” Clearly someone is obsessed with something.

This is beyond tasteless.  It is one thing to use the incident as anecdotal evidence in support of a political argument.  It is quite another to co-opt a funeral in order to make the point.  I mean, really?  Can’t you let these people grieve without turning their grieving into a political stage?  There is nothing about Obama’s gun control pitch that couldn’t have waited until Monday, and his insistence on using the families’ sorrow for gross political theatrics was at best callous and crass.

Same as it ever was.

It is more than a little ironic to hear cries for more laws to keep guns away from “criminals and dangerous people” coming from an administration responsible for Operation Fast & Furious, in which the Justice Department deliberately allowed thousands of guns, including .50 caliber sniper rifles and AK-47s, to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, ultimately leading to the murder of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry.  This is also the same administration that recently waived federal law so it could supply weapons to rebel forces in Syria that it has openly admitted include elements of al-Qaeda (of course, you won’t see anything about that in the mainstream media).

Apparently drug lords and terrorists are neither criminals, nor dangerous.  But you, American Citizen, are.

And that’s not the end of the irony.  The President wants to use the Navy Yard incident as the impetus for more gun control, and presumably the logic is that more stringent legislation in the form of bans or background check requirements (or both) would have prevented it (and thus enacting it now will prevent similar tragedies in the future).  But the Navy Yard incident is a curious gun control poster child indeed, because the shooting took place in the District of Columbia, where guns are already effectively banned.  All guns—handguns, rifles, shotguns—must be registered with the D.C. police, and possession requires a separate permit, training, and qualifying exam.  You can’t even transport legally-owned guns through the District; just ask Army Lieutenant Augustine Kim, who had his gun collection—secured in his trunk as required under federal law—confiscated by D.C. police when he stopped at Walter Reed Hospital for treatment of battle wounds. 

Moreover, contrary to initial reports from a media rabid to take the bait and link the shooting to the evils of “assault weapons,” the Navy Yard killer did not have an AR-15; he had a shotgun, the very weapon Genius Joe Biden told us last spring was all you legitimately needed to own. 

Just stand on the balcony and fire a couple of blasts from a double-barrel (of course, then you have to stop and reload).

The Navy Yard killer had also obviously passed the background checks necessary to join the U.S. Navy, and later to gain admittance to the Navy Yard as a civilian contractor.  So it is not clear to me what sort of additional “gun control” legislation we should be obsessed to enact in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting; guns were already banned in D.C., and the shooter’s background had already been looked into.  Neither measure prevented the tragedy.    

Furthering the irony, Obama’s comments Sunday came on the heels of an incident in Obama’s hometown of Chicago Thursday night in which gang members opened fire on a pickup basketball game, wounding thirteen—something he has curiously not mentioned at all.  The weapon of choice there appears to have been a “military grade” AK-47, a gun already requiring a federal class III permit to own—which virtually no one has—and already illegal to possess in Chicago even with the federal permit.  So like the Navy Yard shootings, the Chicago shootings took place in a locale that already has some of the most stringent gun restrictions in the country, and in the Chicago case including an outright ban of the specific weapon used.  And one suspects that gang members aren’t ones to stand on ceremony when it comes to submitting to registration and background check requirements.

The Navy Yard and recent Chicago shootings demonstrate that gun control laws won’t and can’t stop these sorts of tragedies.  Criminals—by definition (something oddly lost on the intellectuals on the Left)—do not abide by laws, so the idea that adding another law, whether in the form of a ban or a background check or registration requirement (all of which were already in place in both D.C. and Chicago), is going to stop them from what they intend to do is folly.  While I have some sympathy for the argument that we need more stringent vetting to ensure that the insane do not gain access to guns, I am very leery of a mechanism that ultimately puts peoples’ Constitutional rights at the mercy of someone else’s subjective judgment; what happens when an anti-gun zealot gets himself appointed head of the psychiatric review board and suddenly every applicant is ab initio found to be criminally insane precisely because they submitted a gun application?

It is worth keeping in mind—as Glenn Beck points out so well in his new book Control—despite media hysteria and sensationalism creating the impression of an epidemic of mass shootings, incidents of this nature are in fact extremely rare.  Nor are they unique to the “gun-crazed” culture of the U.S.; they can and do happen elsewhere, even in places that practice the strict gun control Obama and others advocate here.  Crazy people will always be with us, and sometimes they’re dangerous.  I’ve made this point before: Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with $250 of fertilizer.  You simply can’t legislate away the dangers of insanity and evil.

Gun control laws do not stop bad guys with guns.  Good guys with guns do. 

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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

 

Bond:  She died of skin suffocation.  It’s been known to happen to cabaret dancers.  It’s all right as long as you leave a small bare patch at the base of the spine to allow the skin to breathe.

M:       Someone obviously didn’t.

Bond:  And I know who.

M:       This isn’t a personal vendetta, 007.  It’s an assignment, like any other.  And if you can’t treat it as such, coldly and objectively, 008 can replace you.

            —Sean Connery as James Bond, and Bernard Lee as “M” in Goldfinger

 

I don’t mean to belittle the experience of people like Gabrielle Giffords, who use their personal examples as a platform to argue for gun control.  But let me share with you my own experience.

A year ago yesterday, I received a phone call from my sister telling me my Dad—a patrolman with the Dallas Police Department—had been hurt on duty and was heading to a hospital via ambulance.  Her initial information was sketchy, but apparently he had been cut by broken glass in the course of wrecking his patrol car.  When she called back a half hour later, her information was more solid, and more terrifying:

He had been shot, and—we would later learn—very nearly killed.

Dad was answering a domestic violence call at an apartment complex.  The call turned out to be ambush bait, and as he was rounding a corner in the parking lot, the shooter was waiting for him, and shot him through the driver’s side window.  But for Dad’s shoulder mic, the bullet would have hit him in the upper left chest in a place the body armor doesn’t cover.  As it was, the bullet ricocheted off the mic and lodged behind his jaw; an inch in any direction, and he would have been hit in the brain, spinal cord, or carotid artery, all likely fatal.

Even though I spoke with him and knew he was OK, I was largely dysfunctional for a week.  I’m told the audio from his radio transmissions was on the internet after being released by a local radio station; I’ve never listened to it, and won’t.  He’s offered to show me the video from his patrol car camera; I’ve declined.

We were very, very lucky, and I’m happy to report that Dad is fine and back on his beat.  So my experience is not quite as dire as that of Ms. Giffords, or those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.  But it’s close enough to give me some sense of their perspective.  And yet my response to that incident was not to seek tighter gun control, but to begin acquiring my own guns (and learn to use them), and regular readers of this space know I have been loudly opposed to unilateral federal gun control measures.  While I don’t purport to speak for my Dad, he has done nothing but voice support for both my actions and position in this regard.

The reason I can take the position I do despite this experience is I don’t allow my emotional response to override my rational judgment, or to blind me to the practical realities or the larger overriding constitutional issue.  I understand that no amount of gun control would have prevented my Dad from being shot.  Ban “assault weapons” (whatever those are)?  Dad wasn’t shot with an AR-15 or AK-47; he was shot with a .40 S&W caliber semi-automatic pistol.  Ban large-capacity magazines?  Most .40 S&Ws are already limited to 10 round magazines; and in any event he was shot with the first round, so 17 rounds, 15 rounds, 10 rounds, 6—wouldn’t have made any difference.  Increase background checks?  The overwhelming likelihood is that the shooter obtained the gun legally after passing a background check; if he didn’t, that demonstrates a willingness and ability to get around the process.   Nothing currently being proposed in the way of gun control would have stopped what happened to my Dad.

Now, I recognize that my Dad’s incident is a little different from mass-shooting episodes like the Connecticut massacre.  But consider the common thread that runs through incidents of that nature.  Here are some examples:

  • 1966, Austin, Texas—Charles Whitman killed 15 and wounded 32 from an observation tower at the University of Texas before being shot by police.
  • 1974, New Orleans, Louisiana—Mark Essex killed 9 and wounded 13, mostly from a hotel across the street from City Hall before being shot by police.
  • 1982, Miami, Florida—Carl Brown killed 8 and wounded 3 at a Miami welding shop before being shot and run down by witnesses as he attempted to escape.
  • 1984, San Ysidro, California—James Huberty killed 21 and wounded 19 at a McDonald’s before being shot by a police sniper.
  • 1984, Fairbanks, Alaska—Michael Silka killed 9 and wounded 1 before being shot by a police sniper.
  • 1988, New York City—Cho Mun Chu killed 2 and wounded 14 in an apartment building before being shot by police.
  • 1994, Spokane, Washington—Dean Mellberg killed 4 and wounded 23 at Fairchild Air Force Base before being shot by police.
  • 2008, Kirkwood, Missouri—Charles Thornton killed 6 and wounded 1 at a City Council meeting before being shot by police.
  • 2009, Carthage, North Carolina—Robert Stewart killed 8 and wounded 3 at a nursing home before being wounded and disarmed by an off-duty police officer.
  • 2009, Killeen, Texas—Nidal Hassan allegedly killed 13 and wounded 30 at Fort Hood before being wounded and disarmed by police.

Certainly this list isn’t exhaustive, and there are other examples and exceptions, but it is instructive.  With the exceptions of Huberty (Uzi) and Mellberg (AK-47 clone), none of these shooters employed an “assault weapon” that would be captured by the proposed ban (Whitman had a sawed-off shotgun and Brown used a pistol grip shotgun, but there is nothing to suggest that a ban on those features would have stopped either one).  Most did not have “high-capacity” magazines, and at least four (Whitman, Brown, Huberty, and Hassan) managed to reload without being stopped.  Background checks and registration requirements don’t seem to have stopped any of them.

The common thread here is that mass shootings of the sort driving the current gun control discussion almost invariably don’t stop until the perpetrator himself gets shot, whether by his others or (as is often the case) by his own hand.  The only real variable is how quickly that end is brought about, and this is Wayne LaPierre’s and the NRA’s point when they advocate armed guards at schools.

Mass shooters aren’t stopped by “assault weapon” bans, or large magazine bans, or background checks and registration requirements.  They’re stopped by someone with a gun.  How much more quickly could some of these episodes have been brought to their inevitable conclusion had there been one or two armed citizens on hand instead of having to wait for the police?

How many more people would be alive today?

Just asking.

(Forced) Unilateral Disarmament

Clanton:   Why, it’s the drunk piano player.  You’re so drunk, you can’t hit nothin’.  In fact, you’re probably seeing double.

Holliday:   I have two guns, one for each of you.

                  —Thomas Haden Church as Billy Clanton, and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone

 

I can’t believe I’m having to deal with this again.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has now introduced her bill on gun control.  In it she seeks to ban a list of some 150 specifically-named guns, as well as more generically-defined “assault weapons,” meaning those semi-automatic weapons that combine a detachable magazine and at least one other “military characteristic.”  I am at a loss as to what cosmetic or ergonomic features like a pistol grip or a barrel shroud have to do with gun violence and a particular weapon’s potential lethality, and I expect Senator Feinstein can’t explain it either; she’s admitted that the current bill, like her 1994 ban, has more to do with what looked scary to her in a catalogue picture than any actual study or evidence relating a particular design feature to gun violence.

As President Reagan once quipped, “The problem with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

There are a number of things you should notice about this push.  First, as I alluded above and have covered before, banning “assault weapons” and even high-capacity magazines has little or nothing to do with actually curbing gun violence, which is what they tell you is their objective.  The 1994 ban on those very things had no discernible impact, and the reason for that is very simple: those types of weapons are almost never used by civilians to kill people.  Mass shootings are incredibly rare, and they’re rarer still with guns qualifying as “assault weapons.”  If they were serious about gun violence, they’d be seeking to ban your garden-variety handguns—.38 specials and the like.

But they’re not.

No, what they’re after are not the kinds of weapons that are actually being used in gun crime to any significant degree, but those that a militia—go read the Second Amendment—would want to have available if it came down to the citizenry having to protect themselves and the security of a free State.

Second, there’s a big push for increased registration and background check requirements.  But that wouldn’t have stopped the Connecticut massacre; those guns were purchased legally after a background check and duly registered.  Ditto the guns James Holmes allegedly used to shoot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Ditto the guns Major Nidal Hassan allegedly used to murder fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas.  And the man who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).  And the guy who shot up Virginia Tech in 2011.  And so on.  Registration and background checks didn’t and won’t stop people who go insane.  And they’re irrelevant to criminals; criminals don’t buy guns via legal channels, and they damn sure don’t register themselves.  What registration and background checks do is let the government know where the law-abiding citizens who have guns are.

Why would they want to know that, do you suppose?

So, what we have is a proposed ban on guns that have almost nothing to do with gun violence, but have considerable potential for providing the public with a viable means of defense.  We have proposed registration and background check requirements that have almost nothing to do with gun violence, but everything to do with telling the government where the legal guns are.  And here’s the real punchline:

Feinstein has conveniently exempted herself from the ban.

That’s right, Senator Feinstein wants to prevent you from having an AR-15 with a 30 round magazine, but her bill and its weapons ban specifically do not apply to herself and other “government officials.”  Now, recall this is the same government that I told you back in August was stockpiling literally billions of rounds of ammunition—including over 11 million rounds of AR-15 ammo—for agencies other than the Army and Marines.  This is the same government I now notice has its Department of Homeland Security placing an order for 7,000 M-4 rifles (the military version of the AR-15) with 30 round magazines, in part because of their utility for “personal defense.”  Hmmmmm.  This is the same government whose Commander-in-Chief recently signed a law granting himself armed bodyguards for life.  New York Mayor and shrill gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg—“government officials” isn’t limited to federal—similarly has refused to give up his own armed security detail.

There’s something sinister when someone tells you you don’t get to have a gun, but they do.  There’s something particularly sinister when that someone is already in a position of power.  We have the Left opportunistically using an emotionally-charged tragedy to claim a state of emergency that requires action.  But the action being taken has little or nothing to do with the tragedy.  Instead the action seeks to disarm us, while the government itself is stockpiling the very weapons and ammunition it seeks to take away, and those in government exempt themselves from the disarmament and surround themselves with professional armed bodyguards.  Meanwhile, mysteriously right on cue, the Left’s surrogate mouthpieces in the media begin running segments featuring supposed academic experts explaining to an ignorant public that the Constitution’s time has passed, and it’s time we start simply abandoning those pieces the Left doesn’t like.

Take away their defenses, mass your own, and start inoculating them against the idea that the Constitution remains viable and worth defending.  Ensure that you are the only one with any ability to carry on a fight, and convince them that there’s no longer anything left worth fighting for.

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being set up?

No Real Bias For Action

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

            —William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 

Once again, President Obama has demonstrated that he’s all political style, and zero substance.

On Wednesday—once again emphasizing the urgent need to take decisive action to save lives—he announced a series of executive actions he is undertaking unilaterally to reduce gun violence.  Further highlighting the importance that we do this to protect the safety of children, and in an impossibly cynical and sophomoric bit of political showmanship, he surrounded himself on stage with a bunch of grade-schoolers.  We have to do this for the kids.

It’s too bad that the executive orders he signed have essentially nothing to do with preventing gun violence.

Consistent with everything else this man has said over the last four years, the list—up to 23 items from the advertised 19—is chock full of vague platitudes like “launch a national dialogue . . . on mental health.”  What the hell does that mean?  In all, there were five items relating to data sharing and tracing (i.e., knowing which law-abiding citizens have guns, and where they go after a crime has been committed) two on research, two on safety standards and practices, and one each on the prosecution of gun crimes (again, after  the crime has already been committed) and administrative matters.  In fairness, three items related to training and response plans for law enforcement and school officials, although query how that’s in any way a legitimate federal responsibility or even prerogative.  But a whopping FIVE—basically a quarter of the entire list—dealt with issuing or clarifying new regulations under Obamacare.

Health care regulations are going to prevent gun crimes?  Really?

In all, roughly half the list dealt with tracking law-abiding citizens and the unconstitutional health care law.  Not surprisingly, Wednesday’s actions also included some $4.5 billion in new spendingBy all means throw some money at the issue.  Among the whoppers in the spending are $150 million for new school resource and guidance counselors, $50 million for schools to create “safer and more nurturing” environments, and $50 million to train social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals.  I guess we’re now turning these people into either the new gun-control enforcers or at least government informants; they’ll eventually be subject to liability if they fail to turn someone in and that person later shoots someone.  Worse, the prospect that they in their sole judgment have the power to put people under federal scrutiny has to have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to go seek help when they need it.  Sounds like a positive step, doesn’t it?

Like so much from this President, Wednesday’s announcements contained a lot of noise, but at the end of the day didn’t do much.  I suppose I should be thankful that, at least for now, Obama has kept his exercise of Imperial authority to a relatively modest level on this issue.  On the whole it’s a bunch of nothing at least as it relates to the stated goal of actually preventing gun violence.  But at least he acted, and he did so within a month of the school shootings in Connecticut.

And boy, did it make for good political TV.

But contrast his swift, if meaningless, action in this instance with some other notable issues facing his administration.

It’s been now five years, and he has never presented Congress with a meaningful budget.  What little effort he has made in this regard has been routinely and unanimously rejected even by his own party.  Given his current insistence that Congress must raise the debt ceiling yet again and do so without placing any contingencies concerning reducing future spending, one begins to suspect that the underlying problem may be he has absolutely no idea what a budget is.

It’s been 129 days since the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked in what now appears to have been a large military-style assault.  Four Americans were killed while the White House and/or CIA watched live via spy drone.  These were Americans that, unlike the children in Connecticut, actually were the federal government’s—and, more to the point, this Administration’s—responsibility.  Obama’s own State Department put these people in harm’s way, and kept them there despite obvious warning signs and repeated pleas for help.  Yet for all his talk about the urgency to take action to save even one life, President Obama hasn’t even had the temerity to address the nation on what happened.  Not exactly a bias for action there.

It’s been over two years since federal agent Brian Terry was killed near the Mexican border; yet another dead American.  Ironically, in this instance not only was Terry’s safety the responsibility of the federal government, but he was killed by guns; guns allowed into the hands of Mexican gangsters by this Administration.  Yet there’s still been no real explanation to the American public or to the Terry family, and no real fallout from the incident.

We are still in Afghanistan with no mission, even though Osama Bin Laden was killed nearly two years ago.  Meanwhile, over 1500 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s four years and three weeks on the job.  That’s nearly three times more than killed during the entire eight years of the Bush administration, in half the time.  Indeed, just in the time since Bin Laden’s death, the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan has nearly matched the total Bush-era fatalities (606 vs. 630).

This guy is all about what makes him look good, and nothing more.  For all his flowery talk about saving lives, the actions he took Wednesday have little to do with that.  When it’s been time to face up to real issues in a substantive way, particularly when there’s no good political theater to be had, he’s a complete no-show.  Even on other issues when there’s been real action he could legitimately take to save American lives, if it won’t make him look good on TV, he’d rather just wait out the news cycle and hope everyone moves on to American Idol and forgets about it.

At least his handicap is going down.

Fiat Out Of Control

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun . . . Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.”

            —Chairman Mao Zedong, The Little Red Book

 

This is scarier than I thought.

Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting this week with his committee on curbing gun violence and various pro- and anti-gun groups.  On Wednesday, he emphasized the urgency of action:

“If our actions result in saving only one life, they’re worth taking.”

Only one life, huh?  To save even one life, it’s worth the Administration taking unilateral action; you sure about that, Joe?

You mean like sending armed help to save Americans trapped in a consulate compound under siege in Benghazi?   Or responding to urgent requests in the weeks leading up to that attack to increase security at that post?  Or closing it (as the British did) months earlier after it became clear that the situation was unstable and dangerous?  Are those the kind of life-saving actions worth taking, Mr. Vice President?

You mean like ending the occupation in Afghanistan and withdrawing instead of leaving troops in harm’s way for some undetermined period of time with no mission?  Or employing whatever means are necessary to obtain information about terrorist plots aimed at killing Americans?  Are those the kind of actions worth taking if they save even one life, Mr. Vice President?

Or do you mean like securing the Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico borders against heavily-armed drug runners (drug-runners armed by your own Department of Justice)?   Is that what you mean, Joe?

How about stopping hundreds of millions in federal funding for 300,000+ abortions a year performed through Planned Parenthood?  Is that what you mean, Joe?

I assume you don’t mean ensuring that a stay-at-home-mom is in a position to stop an intruder and save her children when there’s no time to wait for the cops, do you, Joe.

Apparently some lives and some actions are more worthy than others.

But here’s the scary part.

The above litany demonstrates that these people are not serious about “saving lives,” which of course begs the question what it is they’re really up to.  And that’s what makes this so troubling, because Biden now says that the Administration’s zeal nevertheless to act and act quickly on gun control could include the issuance of undetermined executive orders:

“There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken.  We haven’t decided what that is yet.”

Wow.

I have repeatedly covered this President’s history of power abuse through the unilateral exercise of executive fiat (by decree: it is because I say it is).  But to date that’s been limited to unconstitutional usurpations of Congressional authority by effectively repealing legislation (Defense of Marriage Act), amending legislation (Obamacare (the CLASS Act), No Child Left Behind), or enacting legislation (DREAM Act) by one form or another of executive order.  Now we’re talking about the possibility of the President, acting alone under his sole authority as determined by himself, purporting to alter/restrict/eliminate (pick your verb) a right expressly reserved to the People of the United States in the Constitution.

Let me repeat:  we’re talking about the President limiting or removing a right specifically guaranteed to you under the Constitution, based solely on his own self-proclaimed power to do so.

Of course, nothing in the Constitution grants him that authority:  Article I gives the legislative power exclusively to the Congress; Article II limits the power of the President to executing laws duly enacted by that Congress; Article V provides the sole means of altering the Constitution itself, neither of which include executive fiat.  Yet there he goes (or is at least threatening), and if he can do that, where, exactly, are the limits of his power and who is to enforce them, because they’re obviously not to be found in the Constitution?

Now if that doesn’t have you good and puckered, let’s review a little history.  On November 9, 1938, anti-Jewish riots broke out all over Nazi Germany in response to the murder of a German diplomat in Paris.  This event became known as “Kristallnacht” (“night of broken glass”), and although Jews had been persecuted in Germany prior to this event, Kristallnacht is generally regarded as the beginning of the Holocaust in earnest.

On November 11—just two days later—Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick enacted the Regulations Against Jews’ Possession Of Weapons, which effectively banned all Jewish ownership of guns.  The next day, November 12, the German Jews were fined 1 billion marks to pay for the damage caused during Kristallnacht.  On November 15, Jewish children were expelled from public schooling.  Less than a year later, Jews were being rounded up and shipped to concentration camps.

Some six million Jews were killed.

No, Hitler didn’t come to power by seizing guns, nor did anti-Semitic persecution begin with gun control.  But when it came time to get serious about rounding up and disposing of perceived enemies of the State, one of the very first things the Nazis did was disarm their victims.  And they did it by administrative order—the stroke of a bureaucratic pen—not through the open deliberative process of a representative legislature in accordance with an objective rule of law (i.e., a Constitution).

The Nazi Germany experience is not unique, although it may be the most stark in terms of the temporal relationship between government disarmament and the institution of mass killings of potential dissenters.  There are numerous other examples of public disarmament followed by governmental mass murder of dissenters just in the twentieth century.

  • The Ottoman Empire began instituting restrictions on the manufacture or carrying of firearms in the late 1890s.  By 1915, local Armenian officials were ordered to collect (read: confiscate) quotas of guns, but faced a Hobson’s choice:  meeting the quota proved you were part of an armed conspiracy against the government, while not meeting it proved you were stockpiling weapons.  Either way, you were executed.  Ultimately the Armenian population was rounded up and force-marched to relocation camps in the interior of Turkey.  A million or more died.
  • The Soviets began requiring the registration of firearms in 1918, almost immediately upon taking power.  By 1925, unauthorized possession of guns was outlawed.  Stalin’s political purges and ethnic deportations between 1929 and 1953 led to some 20 million deaths.
  • The Chinese began instituting gun control laws in the early 20th Century.  In 1957, the Communist government banned possession altogether.  Between 1957 and 1976 about 20 million Chinese dissidents died at the hands of that same government.
  • Cambodia likewise had had gun restrictions dating to the early 20th Century.  When the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, they didn’t bother enacting a law—they just went village to village and took the guns.  Once the population was disarmed, the Khmer Rouge rounded up the intellectuals (i.e. the most likely potential dissenters), and force-marched them to labor camps.  About a million died.
  • In Uganda, the government banned unauthorized possession of firearms at least as far back as 1955.  By 1969, the country was under the control of dictator Milton Obote, who tightened the ban basically to cover everyone but those close to the government.  Idi Amin took over in 1971.  The Asian population was promptly deported and their property confiscated.  Some 300,000 political enemies were killed.

While it does not involve genocide, even our own history is marked by the efforts of a tyrannical government to disarm a dissenting public.  The first military engagements of the Revolution took place on April 19, 1775 at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.  Any elementary school kid can tell you about Paul Revere riding the countryside to warn the colonists and muster the militias against a column of Redcoats marching out of Boston:  The British are coming!  But recall what it was the British were after:  private guns.  They were going to seize weapons and supplies the colonists had stockpiled at Concord.

The White House’s threat to resort to executive action on gun control is a serious, serious deal.  And don’t hold your breath waiting for John Boehner and this Congress or John Roberts’ Supreme Court to stand up and stop it.  Ain’t.  Gonna.  Happen.

We, the People, are all that’s left.  We have to stand up and stop this, and we have to do it now, before it’s too late.

Join the NRA and your state or local association.

Call or write your congressman and your state reps.

And when it comes down to it, band together and refuse to comply.

Bad Reflexes (continued)

Little Bill:       Well, sir, you are a cowardly son-of-a-bitch!  You just shot an unarmed man!

Will Munny:  Well, he should have armed himself if he’s going to decorate his saloon with my friend.

           —Gene Hackman as Little Bill Daggett, and Clint Eastwood as Will Munny in Unforgiven

 

I want to expand a bit on the last post, because the issue has really been troubling me.

As you listen to the hysteria from the Left about the need for controls to curb gun violence following the tragedy in Connecticut, what you have to understand is that this debate isn’t limited to, nor is it even really about gun violence per se.  It’s about the continuing viability of the Constitution as a whole, and about all of the individual liberties it is supposed to guarantee.  And what you’re seeing is less of a reasoned and compassionate response to a tragedy than an opportunistic manufacturing of a “crisis” to push (and mask) a broader and more sinister agenda.

Rusty, how can you say it’s not about gun violence?

The Left is pushing a return to the Clinton-era ban on “assault weapons” that was in place from 1994 to 2004.  This ban outlawed civilian sales of certain military-style rifles (defined largely by a list of cosmetic attributes having more to do with sinister appearance than with lethality), and limited the magazine capacity of semi-automatic weapons to a maximum of 10 rounds.  Of course, I made the point in the last post that banning guns doesn’t stop violent lunatics, the majority of whom don’t even use guns anyway.  Taken further, study upon study upon study was unable to conclude that the 1994 federal assault weapons ban resulted in any measurable reduction in gun violence.  Even the 2004 University of Pennsylvania study ABC News has disingenuously characterized as saying the impact was “unclear” concluded that

“We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence . . . And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”

Shockingly, it turns out that violent criminals and lunatics don’t abide by gun control laws.  Moreover—and this was part of my point in the last post—these things the Left seeks to ban actually show up in so few violent crimes in real life that banning them has no real effect.  And surely the Left knows this, which begs the question what it is they’re really trying to achieve, because it isn’t curbing gun violence.  And this question raises two very troubling issues.

The first is one of political precedent.  The Left repeatedly challenges the gun-rights lobby with the question why do you need assault weapons?  You don’t use those to hunt.  But that’s framing the debate in terms of a false construct.  The Second Amendment isn’t limited to hunting or “need”; it doesn’t prohibit infringement of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms for the purpose of hunting,” or of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms that they need.”  The question hunting or of what you in your subjective judgment think I “need” is totally irrelevant.

But not only is the Left casting the threshold test in terms of a qualification the Constitution does not impose, they are then using that false premise to un-do an absolute Constitutional right by legislative fiat.  Unlike many of the “rights” the Left claims are “implied” in or emanate from the “penumbras” of the Constitution, the Second Amendment actually grants an explicit and unequivocal protection of the right to bear arms.  And as with any other provision of the Constitution, the only way to curtail that right is by Constitutional amendment, as provided in Article V.  The Framers understood that there may over time be a need to make changes to the Constitution, but there’s a reason they made that process difficult and cumbersome:  the Constitution was established specifically to protect the fundamental rights of free individuals against infringement by the passing whims of an emotional and fickle majority.

If the government can curb your right to bear arms by mere legislation grounded in a needs-based test that is found nowhere in the Constitution, it can do that with any other Constitutional right, and the amendment process in Article V becomes meaningless.  Indeed, the Constitution as a whole becomes meaningless, because it’s subject to override by anyone who can cobble together a temporary majority in Congress.  Then the federal Beast becomes truly dangerous, because once the government can limit the Second Amendment without going through the Amendment process, there is no limit to the rights it can take away.

Suppose a 50.1% majority in Congress decide that the world would be much safer if it required that we all went to Sunday School, or that it’s becoming too difficult for prosecutors to develop evidence in criminal investigations without being able to compel the accused to testify, or to search homes without a warrant.  Your First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment protections would be no safer than your Second Amendment ones.

So what is it you think the Left is really doing by capitalizing on the emotions in the heat of the moment to press for a legislative restriction of a Constitutional right that doesn’t even address the stated problem?  There’s a reason they are playing to your sense of shock and compassion over a traumatic event, and relying on semantic games that sound reasonable but have no grounding in the Constitution: they are trying to distract you from their real agenda and guilt you into going along with them before you realize the full implications of what they’re doing.

The question you have to ask is: if the Second Amendment goes, how are you going to stop them from taking away anything or everything else?  And this highlights the second major troubling issue in this debate:  your Second Amendment rights are ultimately the only protection you have for all your other rights.

Patrick Henry, arguing against ratification in Virginia, noted the inexorable link between liberty and the ability of an armed public to defend it against the government: “[N]othing will preserve [liberty] but downright force.  Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”  This argument—not hunting rights—is the primary reason the Framers included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights: to provide a final check against a tyrannical government by ensuring that the people themselves were armed and could fight back against that government if necessary.  James Madison in Federalist No. 46 argued that even a federal government with a regular army could not long persist in infringing upon the rights of the people and the States, because unlike in Europe where governments were “afraid to trust the people with arms,” the people of the United States would have “the advantage of being armed.”  Noah Webster, in urging ratification in Pennsylvania, echoed Madison’s sentiment:

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe.  The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed [and] they will possess the power, and jealously will instantly require the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.”

Supreme Court Justice William Story, writing in his Commentaries on the Constitution in 1833, later confirmed this understanding of the purpose and importance of the Second Amendment:

“The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject.  The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers . . . The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers[.]”  (emphasis added)

There is no doubt that the Framers were deeply distrustful of a central federal government stepping outside its proper bounds; they fought a revolution over precisely that issue, and they weren’t about then to leave it to the good nature and honest intentions of future elected officials to limit their exercise of power.  They built into the Constitution the ultimate insurance policy in the form of a guarantee of an armed citizenry that could resist—by force—a tyrannical overreach of their own government.  Certainly that is a drastic and last-resort remedy, but there is no denying that the Framers intended that remedy to be there if necessary.

This debate is crucially important.  The process and rationale of the Left places the entire Constitution in jeopardy.  And because their target is the Second Amendment, if they succeed there will be essentially nothing left to protect against further usurpations or even total destruction of the Constitution and the individual liberties it is supposed to guarantee.

Bad Reflexes

 

John:              We’re not going to make it, are we?  People, I mean.

Terminator:   It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.

John:              Yeah.  Major drag, huh?

            —Edward Furlong as John Connor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator in Terminator 2:  Judgment Day

 

There’s a saying among lawyers that bad facts make bad law.

In the wake of last week’s horrifying and tragic school shootings in Connecticut, the usual suspects on the Left were (all-too predictably) immediately out there foaming at the mouth over the need for nationalized gun control.  NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (himself surrounded by gun-wielding bodyguards) and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino separately demanded “immediate action” on a “national policy” against guns—as though mayors in New York and Massachusetts have some authority based on a shooting in Connecticut to impose limitations on the citizens of, say, Texas.  Never mind that Connecticut already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, and that didn’t seem to stop Friday’s rampage.

By the way, gentlemen, have you seen how dangerous Chicago and Washington, D.C. are, despite the fact that you almost can’t legally possess a gun there at all?

Rupert Murdoch, in his infinite wisdom, called for politicians to find “the courage to ban automatic weapons.”  Of course, automatic weapons are already for all practical purposes banned in the U.S.  But the better point is that Murdoch’s reflexive response to the Connecticut tragedy ignorantly misplaces the blame; the Connecticut shooter didn’t use any automatic weapons.  In fact, while I couldn’t readily find any statistics, I’d wager that few people, if any, have been killed in the U.S. by a truly automatic weapon in private hands since the days of Dillinger and Capone.

It is natural for us to want to respond to something like the Connecticut tragedy.  As human beings we want to control events and make sure that something like that never happens again.  But we tend to make bad overgeneralizations and faulty causal connections when we seek to find reason in the unreasonable.  The fact is our history is replete with people who kill people—lots of people—without guns.

The three most prolific serial killers in U.S. history didn’t use guns at all.  Gary Ridgway, who killed at least 71 people, strangled his victims.  Ted Bundy decapitated or bludgeoned his 35 victims.  John Wayne Gacy stabbed or strangled 33.  No gun ban, automatic or otherwise, would have had any impact on these killers.

In fact, when you look at the list of twentieth century multiple-killers in the U.S. (check out Wikipedia on this—there are too many separate instances for me to use individual citation links), you see the majority either didn’t use guns at all, or used them sporadically and more as a weapon of opportunity (or killed in the course of an armed robbery).  That list includes some of the more notorious killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer (bludgeons and other perversions) and Ted Kaczynski, (the “Unabomber”).  Not on the list was the Manson Family, who did most of their deadly work with knives.  Granted, the list excludes “rampage killers”—and I’ll get to that—but of the 88 U.S. mass murderers I counted, only twenty (less than 25%) used guns as their primary M.O., and seven of those had five or fewer victims.  By far the more common choices were strangulation (35) and/or stabbing/slashing and bludgeoning (35).  Obviously we can’t outlaw kitchen knives, rocks, and bare hands, but that’s where we have to go if we follow the knee-jerk logic, because they’re more commonly used to kill multiple victims than the guns we’re hearing once again have to be banned.

Rusty, those people only killed one or two at a time.  What about the rampage killers who go kill a bunch of people at once?

To be sure, there have been incidents where gunmen have killed large numbers of people at one time.  But let’s put that in a little bit of perspective.  The largest single-event mass murder in U.S. history took place on September 11, 2001, costing 2,996 lives—I would venture that that outnumbers all other U.S. mass murders combined, including binge killers who used guns.  Their weapons of choice were Boeing 757s and 767s; not one of the killers had a gun, not even to hijack the airplanes, which was done with 50-cent box-cutters.  And that’s not the only time airplanes have been used to commit mass murder.  I count at least four other murderers who killed their victims by hijacking and crashing commercial aircraft in the U.S.  Every one of them racked up a single-event death toll higher than that in Connecticut or any other gun-related rampage killing ever in the U.S..

Are we going to ban commercial air traffic?

Timothy McVeigh used $250 worth of commercial fertilizer to fashion the truck bomb he used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  He killed 168, again a total several multiples higher than the highest number anyone in the U.S. has killed on a shooting spree.  And like the Connecticut shootings, many of his victims were children.

Are we going to ban fertilizer?  Better warn the ethanol producers, GM, EPA, and the Obama administration if you do.

We can go on.  Jack Kevorkian (“Dr. Death”) participated in some 130 assisted suicides (most, it turns out, with people who had no physical sign of disease) by administering overdoses of prescription drugs.  In 1997, 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult killed themselves with a cocktail of Phenobarbital, vodka, arsenic, and cyanide.  Any number of arsonists have killed hundreds over the years.  And don’t even get me started on the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives taken every year by Planned Parenthood, all with government imprimatur and the insanely rabid cheering of the very same Leftists who shriek about gun control.

And that’s just the intentional killings.

My point here is not to deny that there are those who misuse guns to kill people, sometimes on a tragically large scale.  Unfortunately, they do.  My point is mass killers use a lot of other things, too, and banning guns isn’t going to stop people from killing people.

The uncomfortable, but undeniable, fact is there is evil in the world.  Violent, vicious evil.  It’s as old as Mankind itself: Cain killed Abel, and he didn’t need a gun to do it.  This evil is unpredictable except in its inevitability, and you can’t legislate or regulate it away.  There are simply a certain number of people out there who, for whatever reason, are programmed, destined, or genetically predisposed to commit unspeakable acts of massive horror.  Yes, they may use a gun.  But for every psycho-killer who uses a gun, there are one or more who use a common household item, a construction tool, or even their bare hands.  Taking the guns away isn’t going to stop that.  It might not even stop many of those who end up using guns; if they’re hell-bent on committing large-scale evil, they’ll either obtain the gun illegally or just look to a different weapon to do it.

On the flip-side, for every Adam Lanza, there are a million or more of us who responsibly and safely own guns.  Each of us has our reasons.  Some own for sustenance.  Some for sport.  Some professionally.  And some for self-defense.  All are legitimate reasons, but the more important point is it doesn’t matter why each of us owns guns:  the Constitution absolutely and unequivocally guarantees our right to do so, no matter what Michael Bloomberg or Barack Obama or Piers Morgan says:

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

“Shall not be infringed.”  Period.  And there’s a serious reason why the Framers did this.

Our Fathers understood all too well that at the end of the day, the only line of defense against a tyrannical government is a well-armed citizenry.  They fought and won a war for their independence against the best-armed, best-trained, best-equipped professional army on the planet, and they did so in large part with the use of their own private guns.  Without private arms, we’d all be British subjects today.

Or German.

I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating.  One of the first acts of a would-be dictator is to disarm the public, because people are much easier to control when they can’t shoot back.  That’s what Hitler did.  That’s what Lenin did.  That’s what Mao did.  That’s what Pol Pot did.  That’s what Idi Amin did.  Think you can own a gun in North Korea?  Iran?

My heart cries out for the victims of the Connecticut shootings and their families.  But we cannot allow our natural human emotional reaction to an unspeakable tragedy lead us to sacrifice our fundamental freedoms—and the ultimate backstop for them—in a misguided knee-jerk effort to regulate away evil, which will always be with us.

Have Gun Will Travel

“I’ve got a trunk load of shotguns.  I got three big-bore battle rifles.  Ammo up the ass . . . and I ain’t safe!  I can’t protect myself!”

            —Christopher Malcolm as Kirk Matunas in Highlander

 

This almost slipped by me.

Buried among the lesser headlines on the Drudge Report a couple of days ago was a piece from Alex Jones’ infowars.com entitled “Social Security Administration To Purchase 174 Thousand Rounds Of Hollow Point Bullets.”

174,000 bullets.  For the Social Security Administration.

Do I have your attention now?

It seems that the SSA has issued a request for proposal for the purchase of 174,000 rounds of .357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow point ammunition (and don’t rely on the article, follow the link to the RFP form itself).  For the uninitiated, the .357 Sig round—not to be confused with the .357 Magnum—is handgun ammunition used almost exclusively in concealed-carry and duty (read: law enforcement) type semi-automatic pistols.  The 125 grain jacketed hollow point bullet is a duty/personal defense round designed specifically to expand and “mushroom” upon impact, the idea being to cause maximum damage to surrounding tissues, while minimizing the chance that the bullet will pass through its intended target (or a wall) and hit something behind.  In other words, this is not practice ammunition, this is not competition ammunition, this is ammunition specifically designed for stopping human targets.

Um, why, exactly, does the Social Security Administration need any ammunition, much less 174,000 rounds of hollow point manstoppers?  Sig Sauer’s P250 full size carries a 14 round magazine when chambered in .357 Sig (although 10 – 12 rounds is more common), meaning the SSA is ordering over 12,000 magazines worth of ammo.  Frankly, I’m surprised to learn there are any armed employees associated with the SSA, much less enough to merit that kind of ammo volume.  What law enforcement/security function does the Social Security Administration perform?

Are there really that many little old ladies threatening to storm SSA offices looking for their monthly checks?

Taken alone, this might not be that big a deal.  But it’s not an isolated incident, as the piece goes on.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”)—yes, the folks who track hurricanes—this week purchased 46,000 rounds of hollow point bullets allegedly for the Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.  You know, because striped bass are a real menace.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The Department of Homeland Security back in March bought 450 million rounds of .40 caliber hollow point cartridges.  This, again, is law enforcement duty ammo, not paper target practice ammo.  And it retails for about $0.50 – $0.60 a round; even assuming the government gets it for half that, that’s still $112,500,000 worth of ammunition—and this isn’t the Army we’re talking about.

But just wait.

Apparently not satisfied with its March arsenal deposit, last month DHS nearly tripled its haul, soliciting bids for an additional 750 million rounds over the next five years.  That’s 750,000,000 rounds of ammo.  Add that to the 450 million from March, and DHS is in the process of stockpiling 1.2 billion rounds of ammunition, or about 5000 rounds for every single one of its 240,000 employees, including Secretary Janet Napolitano and the custodial staff.

Viewed a little differently, that’s not quite 4 rounds for every American, if you follow.

Think I’m crazy?  DHS’ assorted munitions collection will include:

Over 11,000,000 rounds of .223 Remington, which can be fired in both the military’s dreaded M-16 assault rifle and its semi-automatic civilian cousin, the AR-15;

337,000 rounds of .357 Magnum hollow point—again, law enforcement grade manstoppers;

Over 1 million rounds of .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol ammunition, most of it once again in a hollow point configuration;

373,000 rounds of 30-06 and .308 rifle cartridges, which today is almost exclusively sniper ammunition, unless DHS is planning to go elk hunting;

Over 2 million rounds of 00 buckshot shells—standard issue close range defense ammunition; and

And most curious of all: 205,000 rounds of 7.62 x 39 mm rifle ammunition (Alex, what ammunition feeds the AK-47?)

Not exactly your basic Daisy BB gun stuff.  Why?  Why do DHS, NOAA, and SSA need billions of rounds of law enforcement and military ammunition?  Why do they even have AK-47s, much less need hundreds of thousands of rounds to feed them?

Recall President Obama’s July 17, 2008 campaign speech in which he declared:

We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set.  We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

A civilian national security force as powerful, strong, and well-funded as the military.  Why?  Why do you need a security force as powerful and strong as the military when you already have the military? 

It was easy enough to shrug this off back in 2008 as the mindless dronings of an ignorant and idealistic erstwhile candidate.  But having now seen four years of Obama’s imperialist dismantling of the Constitution—he’s already all but done away with Congress via his unfettered use of executive fiat—statements like this become hard to ignore.  A separate national security force that’s as powerful and well-funded as the military . . . You mean something like hyper-armed executive-controlled civilian departments like DHS, NOAA, and SSA?

Rusty, you’re drifting into conspiracy-theory la la land.

You think so?  Consider that Colonel Kevin Benson (U.S. Army, ret.) recently co-authored an article in the Small Wars Journal entitled “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future.”  In that piece he considers a scenario where Tea Party-influenced “extremists” mount an insurrection, and argues that “once it is put into play, Americans will expect the military to execute without pause and as professionally as if it were acting overseas.”  According to Colonel Benson and his co-author, “Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil.”  Clearly there are those thinking about situations where Americans have to fight Americans.  These two can’t be the only ones.

To be sure, DHS is specifically tasked with guarding against terrorism and with securing the borders.  And these functions require that agency to field a limited armed wing.  But beyond initial threat response and control, the heavy lifting in any serious terrorist threat or border insurrection would surely fall to the military.  It’s almost impossible to justify DHS arming itself to the extent it is (particularly when they’ve effectively been instructed by the Obama administration NOT to enforce the border), and there’s no case for arming the Social Security Administration.  That is, unless you thought you might not be able to rely on the military.  Surely Obama is smart enough at least to question whether the rank-and-file of the Army and Marines would have his back if push came to shove against fellow Americans; and the idea that they would accept being deployed in a pre-emptive offensive strike on U.S. soil is at best questionable.

Adolph Hitler faced the same dilemma in not being able to trust the support of the German military as he increasingly assumed dictatorial power, which led to the rise of his personal paramilitary/military organization, the Schutz-Staffel, or SS.  Hitler eventually deployed the SS against his own citizens in the violent purge known as the “night of the long knives,” solidifying his ascendance to Fuhrerdom.

You want to know why I own guns?  Same reason the Founders owned them, and guaranteed the right to do so in the Second Amendment.

Guns And Roses

“Hey, come on now.  If you kick out the gooks, the next thing you’ll have to kick out the chinks, the spics, the spooks, and the kikes.  And all that’s gonna be left in here are a couple of brain-dead rednecks, and what fun would *that* be?”
            —Robin Williams as Airman Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam
The great American patriot Saul Alinsky famously preached to his radical disciples, never let a crisis go to waste.  So in the wake of the tragic and horrific shootings last week in Aurora, it’s all too predictable that we see the Left frantically calling for bans on “assault rifles” lest all 318 million of us be mowed down in a hail of bullets.
Before Piers Morgan hyperventilates, let’s all take a deep breath and examine this.
First, using the Aurora tragedy as the basis for an assault rifle ban is silly.  Rusty, a dozen people are dead—how can it be silly?  Well, let me explain.
An “assault rifle” is a short shoulder-fired weapon capable of fully automatic fire—that is, it can fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull, like a machine gun—from a detachable magazine.  Examples include the U.S. military’s M-16, and the ubiquitous AK-47.  The Smith& Wesson M&P 15 rifle this lunatic in Aurora had is almost assuredly an AR-15 model, meaning it is a semi-automatic rifle; it requires a separate action of the trigger for each round.  In other words, it’s not an “assault rifle,” no matter how many times you mindlessly throw that phrase around.  
 
Class, let’s repeat:  an AR-15 is NOT an “assault rifle.”
 
The only exception to this would be if the weapon happened to be a law enforcement version that I suppose could be fully automatic (although I can’t find that S&W makes such a gun); such a gun ISan “assault rifle,” in which case it’s already illegal for him to have had it (thus once again demonstrating the simple truth that gun bans won’t save you from bad guys with guns).  So calls for an “assault rifle” ban based on this one incident are either a nonsequitur—calling for the ban of a weapon other than what was used—or meaningless in their redundancy of existing law.  Either way, it’s silly.
Furthermore, it’s a gross overreaction to what is essentially a non-problem.  Not to diminish the loss suffered by those directly impacted by the shootings in Aurora, but the fact is this sort of incident is rare almost to the point of being unique.  Outside of last week’s events, can any of you recall the last time you heard of anyone in the U.S. being murdered by someone using an AR-15?  I doubt you can come up with even one.  I couldn’t.  And there’s a reason for that.
All rifles combined—AR-15s, illegal M-16s and AK-47s, bolt action deer rifles found in some 3/4 of the homes in Texas, etc.account for around 3% of homicides each year.  Using 2008 as an example, out of some 14,000 homicides in the U.S. that year, less than 400 were committed with a rifle of any type.  Of those, AR-15 type civilian semi-automatic rifles would have comprised a fraction, if any.  A rifle, assault or otherwise, as a practical matter simply isn’t typically the weapon of choice for murderers.  Even among those who use a firearm to do their evil, they use a rifle of any type less than once in ten.  Among mass murderers, the only one I can find who chose a rifle was Charles Whitman—the University of Texas tower killer from the mid-60s—and even he was using either a bolt-action single shot rifle, or a semi-automatic WWII era M1 battle rifle, not anything even resembling an “assault rifle.”
Now, 400 murders in a year is tragic, but let’s put it in perspective. 
Out of that same 14,000 murders in 2008, about 13%—nearly 1,900 or nearly five times as many as with rifles—were committed with knives, the vast majority with common kitchen knives. 
In 2008 there were nearly 40,000 automobile fatalities, more than three times the total number of murders by all weapons and other means combined.  For every person killed with a rifle of any type, over 100 were killed by a car.    
In 2008 there were over 20,000 deaths in the U.S. from overdoses of prescription medication.  That’s more than 50 people killed by prescription drugs for every 1 killed by a rifle, again of any type.
With the Left’s hysteria over “assault rifles” in the wake of the Aurora shootings, you’d think there is some sort of epidemic of AR-15-related mass killings.  But this simply isn’t so.  If we’re going to react this way when a single lunatic kills 12 people, where is our similar response to kitchen knives, cars, prescription drugs, and any number of other things that kill vastly more people every year than do semi-automatic rifles?
What this does is expose the ignorance on the Left, whose knowledge comes solely from what they’ve seen in movies.  Despite its looks, the fact is the AR-15 fires a relatively low-powered cartridge, with a bullet diameter the same as that in the common .22 LR ammunition fired in introductory level target rifles used to teach children basic marksmanship.  And because its semi-automatic action requires a separate pull of the trigger for each round, it does not spew hundreds of belt-fed rounds a second like Rambo wielding a .50 caliber gatling gun from the hip, contrary to what the hysterical Left would have you believe. 
But the Left doesn’t know this, nor do they care.  All they know is they think the AR-15 is scary looking, so they seek to invoke government to take it away, without any regard for the real level of danger it poses.  Unfortunately for them, the Constitution is pretty clear on this point:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Framers didn’t limit the Second Amendment to only those weapons that don’t frighten ignorant nitwits like E.J. Dionne.  They didn’t condition it on whether Michael Bloomberg, in his infinite wisdom, agrees that an individual has a “need” to keep a particular type of gun (or a gun at all).  The protection is absolute:  the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.  I don’t have to justify my exercise of that right to anyone.  And as something more than an aside, although repeating fire weapons hadn’t yet been invented at the time the Constitution was written, having just fought an armed revolution to be free of a tyrannical government the Framers would certainly have understood the term “Arms” to have included at a minimum weapons of the same type wielded by the common infantry of the power against whom the free state needed to be defended at the time that defense needed to be made; I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t expect us to defend ourselves against modern weapons with flintlock muskets.
As with anything, there will always be a few who abuse the right in its exercise.  In the case of the Second Amendment, that abuse is in the misuse of the gun, not in its possession or in the type of gun it is.  And we already have a prohibition against that misuse: it’s called the murder statute.  The potential for abuse by a few is no justification for summarily eliminating the right for everyone else without going through the constitutional amendment process.
This is why it’s important that the NRA takes the hard line it does, because the issue is bigger than just the Second Amendment itself.  The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, were intended to protect certain rights from being limited at the subjective judgment of someone else, however good (albeit ignorant and misguided) their intentions might be.  The instant we allow government to ignore the absolute guarantee in the Second Amendment, the precedent is set and the door opened for it to ignore any other constitutional guarantees simply because “you don’t need it” (according to them), or “times have changed.”  
 
Or whatever subjective justification they articulate.
Imagine if Congress sought to bypass the First Amendment and ban all electronic communication on blogs and social media because a select few use them to spew hate speech and the Framers could never have imagined something like the Internet would allow communication to spread among so many people so rapidly.  Or suppose in the interest of preventing rapes Congress bypassed the Fifth Amendment and banned all sex because “you don’t really need it.”  Both scenarios are obviously extreme examples of overkill, and in either event you on the Left would be apoplectic in your opposition to this trampling of your constitutional liberties; and you’d be right.  But once you unilaterally ban what you call “assault rifles” despite the Second Amendment because you have subjectively decided they are unnecessary, there’s no real defense left for any other rights.  
 
Not coincidentally, in the specific context of the Second Amendment, once the government can ban private gun ownership without regard for the Constitution, there’s no real defense left against the ultimate tyrrany of that government itself.  Bans on private gun ownership have a long an honored tradition among dictators; getting rid of private guns was one of the first acts of Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin, among others.  It’s a whole lot easier to impose totalitarianism when you don’t have to worry about an armed citizenry.  As an unimpressed Bruce Lee told an opponent in Enter The Dragon who tried to intimidate him by breaking a board before a match, “Boards . . . don’t hit back.” 
The world is dangerous, and always has been.  There are always going to be isolated nutjobs who will do dangerous things, and you can’t insulate against that through legislation.  The sad truth is this whacko in Aurora had plenty of other guns, and in all likelihood he would have done what he did even without the AR-15;  do you imagine he would be sitting there with a shotgun, handguns, and more ammo than God, and yet say “Dammit, I don’t have an AR-15, because they’re banned.  I guess I can’t go.”  Indeed, if he were so inclined he could have done as much or more damage with a homemade pipe bomb made from common fertilizer and drain cleaner, or even just a couple of bicycle locks and a well-placed match.  No ban was going to stop that.
But I’m left to wonder:  how many lives might have been saved in Aurora had there been even one or two law-abiding citizens there legally carrying concealed sidearms? 
 
 

Stand Your Ground

 
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, I Won’t Back Down
 
I suppose it was only a matter of time before Washington Post resident nitwit E.J. Dionne weighed in on the Trayvon Martin shooting, using the case to support a politically expedient call for an end to “Stand Your Ground” laws.  Echoing known Second Amendment scholar New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dionne says these laws promote a culture of vigilantism, tilting the balance of power in a street encounter in favor of the armed.  Apparently they are concerned that hoardes of us are roaming the streets with pistols stuffed in our shorts, looking for [black] people to blow away. 
The essence of Dionne’s position is clear in his recitation of the line so often repeated throughout the liberal media since the Trayvon Martin case broke: “Stand Your Ground” laws authorize the use of deadly force simply whenever a person “feels threatened.”  And it is this misunderstanding—or deliberate misstatement—of what these laws actually say that fuels the argument from the Left.  “Stand Your Ground” laws do NOT authorize vigilantism, and they do not come into play simply because a person feels threatened. 
The Florida statute at issue in the Martin case is virtually identical to our statute in Texas, and is typical of such laws.  Florida Statutes Section 776.012 defines basic self-defense: a person is justified in using deadly force and has no duty to retreat if he reasonably believes that that force is “necessary to prevent imminent death or bodily harm” or the commission of a forcible felony (i.e., rape).   Section 776.013 then expands on the concept of reasonable belief that force is necessary [in pertinent part]:
(1)        A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using [deadly force] if:
(a)        The person against whom defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle . . . and
(b)        The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
*  *  *
(3)  A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
This statute does not turn citizens into cops, and it doesn’t permit you to walk around town gunning down everyone who gives you the evil eye.  It does two things.  The first is to create a legal presumption that you have a reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or bodily harm if the person you shoot has broken into (or is in the process of breaking into) your home.  This is the “Castle Doctrine” that says if the bad guy is in your house, we’re going to assume you acted in legitimate self defense; you’re not required to wait for him to shoot first, take the chance of asking him a bunch of questions to see why he’s there, or turn your back and try to crawl out a window, and we’re not going to second-guess you.  For my life I can’t imagine how this is in the least bit controversial.
The second thing this law does is clarify that anyplace outside the home, if you are attacked you are not required to attempt to retreat before you may defend yourself.  Importantly, however, this second aspect does not extend the Castle Doctrine’s legal presumption of reasonable belief in imminent danger.  Outside the home, while you are not required to run before you can use deadly force to defend yourself, you will still bear the burden to prove your self-defense defense. 
This is significant, and it’s a point that rabidly anti-gun people like Dionne miss or deliberately gloss over.  “Feeling threatened” won’t get you there—in fact, even “being threatened” isn’t enough.  To make a self-defense case, you have to prove three things.  First, that your fear was reasonable under the circumstances; hyper-paranoia, or naked racist stereotyping, isn’t going to be enough.  Second, your fear must have been of death or serious injury.  A fear that the other guy was merely going to hit you, or even attack you with a non-lethal weapon such as a taser or pepper spray, is almost certainly not sufficient to support the defense; the guy has to be about to kill you dead.  And third, that peril must be imminent.  That is, the guy has to have the means, ability, and proximity to kill you right now.  Having a knife in his boot 30 yards away from you probably doesn’t put you at imminent risk of death, whereas a knife in his hand 5 feet away probably does.  If he’s not armed, he’d better be physically capable and in the process of beating you to death with his bare hands, or your use of deadly force will be a difficult defense to make.
Further, the “Stand Your Ground” aspect of the Florida statute doesn’t apply if you are in the process of committing a crime.  Nor does it apply if you started it.  So the bad guys can’t use the statute to defend themselves, and the statute doesn’t allow you to go around picking fights.  All this statute does is allow you to defend yourself in your own home, and not require you to run if attacked in the street.
Dionne nevertheless argues, paradoxically, that on the one hand these statutes somehow create confusion for prosecutors and cops, and on the other hand that they weren’t necessary because the common law—i.e., the proclamations of judges—already long recognized the doctrine of self defense.  Of course, if all the statute does is codify existing common law (which is basically true), how could there be any added confusion?  More to the point, why should any of us faced with defending ourselves in a life-or-death situation have to rely for our defense on a doctrine that exists only because a judge somewhere said so, and will continue only so long as future judges adhere to it?  It is common for legislatures to enact statutes that take the common law developed over time in the courts and convert it into a firm statute.  The Uniform Commercial Code, which governs most contracts and financial transactions in all 50 states, is a prime example.  It is worth noting in this regard that in the past courts have in fact required you to make every effort to retreat until retreat is no longer possible before you could defend yourself, which isn’t very helpful if the guy you turned your back on to run from has a gun.  “Stand Your Ground” statutes are intended to make clear that you no longer have to run before you can defend yourself, and to prevent courts from reverting back to that standard. 
There is no doubt that regardless of how it really went down—and we may never know that with complete certainty—Trayvon Martin’s death is a tragedy.  I am not here to defend George Zimmerman, and if he can’t make out his defense, I hope the State of Florida rings him up.  But much as people like E.J. Dionne and Jesse Jackson would like to use this incident as fodder to crucify the NRA or even seek federal anti-defense legislation, Trayvon Martin isn’t dead because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, and repealing that statute wouldn’t have changed that outcome.  George Zimmerman would, in all likelihood, have been carrying his weapon that night with or without that statute, and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t have used it in exactly the manner he did—however that was—without that statute.  And once the altercation began it was no longer a “Stand Your Ground” situation.  If Zimmerman was, as he claims, already on his back having his head beaten against the concrete, he obviously couldn’t retreat no matter what the law said.  Alternatively, if he was the guy on top, as others have suggested, his self-defense defense is no good with or without the statute.  And if Zimmerman in fact pursued Martin and initiated the fight, the Stand Your Ground law won’t even apply. 
This simply isn’t a “Stand Your Ground” case; it’s a self-defense case, and the jury is very much out at this point.