Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Gun Hobby

    Our gun laws have been distorted to suit the needs of a single interest group. That small, privileged group’s desires outweigh the needs of nearly every other American, and have more influence with our elected leaders than the suffering of crime victims, the recommendations of law enforcement, or the common-sense demands of public safety. These privileged few are not hunters, or sportsmen, or homeowners concerned with self-defense. They are hobbyists. We live in a gun collector’s paradise, and it is very dangerous.

        Our nation’s worst mass shootings, like this year’s murders in Aurora and Newtown, were committed with semiautomatic weapons that have very large ammo magazines, magazines which were illegal until the assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. These weapons allow criminals to kill dozens of people without reloading. The concealed-carry laws currently promoted by gun lobbyists are useless when violent offenders use guns with such high-capacity magazines. Assault weapons were designed to overcome armed opponents by firing a large number of rounds at high speed, suppressing fire, so that the target cannot safely fire back. Police officers armed with handguns, no matter how well-practiced or well-trained, cannot easily fight back against such guns, which was one reason behind the original assault weapons ban. Random civilians carrying concealed handguns are not likely to do better. Those who argue otherwise display their willful ignorance about guns.

        The best hope for stopping a mass shooter, and often the only hope, is to attack him when he reloads. At that moment, and usually only at that moment, he is vulnerable and can be disarmed. The Tucson killer, who wounded Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others, was stopped when he needed to reload his gun, and more killings were prevented. The people who disarmed him did not have or need guns of their own. The Blacksburg killer, who murdered thirty-two people, knew how vulnerable he was when reloading and took elaborate precautions to protect himself when he did. Giving killers the ability to fire fifty or a hundred rounds before reloading allows them to kill many more victims, and takes away victims’ best and often only chance to fight back or escape. Limiting magazine size will not be enough to end gun violence in this country. But it would allow more of us to survive it. And restoring the assault weapons ban is something we can ask Congress to do right now.

        Why were guns with hundred-bullet magazines allowed to become legal again? They are not hunting weapons. They take the sport out of sport shooting. (No one needs suppressing fire against a skeet.) They are less useful for home defense than a handgun or shotgun. If you cannot defend your home with a handgun and a shotgun, you do not need more firepower. You need backup. And while some talk about gun ownership as a check on hypothetical government tyranny, these weapons could never rein in our national military with its tanks, planes, and guided armaments. These personal assault weapons are grossly inadequate to the hypothetical task of standing off the federal government, but grossly excessive for any legitimate use.

        These guns are sold to collectors. The purpose of owning them is the sheer pleasure of owning the object. It is ultimately no different, and in itself no less innocent, than owning a vintage baseball card or a Model T Ford. These guns are not tools but toys. They provide a perfectly harmless and interesting pastime for most collectors, and an enormously lucrative market for gun manufacturers. Hobbyists buy expensive high-end products and keep buying more. They are where the money is. So it is natural that the gun makers, and the gun lobby they help fund, are bent on keeping that profitable business legal. The result is that we have laws, written at the behest of well-heeled pressure groups, that are more concerned with protecting sellers and collectors from inconvenience than in protecting honest citizens’ lives. Nancy Lanza, who bought and was killed by the guns used in the Newtown murders, was one such avid hobbyist. But the laws that favored Ms. Lanza’s freedom to build her pleasure arsenal must give equal weight to her neighbors’ freedoms to live peaceably, send their children to school, and grow to adulthood. I do not begrudge collectors their hobby. But that hobby cannot take precedence over every other consideration. Children should not lose their lives so that adults may have their playthings.


    "The purpose of owning them is the sheer pleasure of owning the object."

    This is it, Doc.  Right there. And people don't like to be told what to do.  First they come for your arsenal and then for your alternate cover Peter Parker marries Mary Jane Watson Spider-Man limited edition.  We're always a step away from fascism, right? 

    I also like the plan of a California legislator to require a $50 (per year) permit for anyone to buy ammunition in the state.

    ..."must we allow either criminals or gang members, or in this case the mentally ill to purchase ammunition by the pallet, no questions asked.".....A similar law passed in 2009 would have required a permit and background check for anyone purchasing handgun ammunition.

    That law was challenged by the National Rifle Association which argued that there is no such thing as handgun ammunition. It's now in the appeals process.

    De Leon says if passed the new legislation would render the lawsuit moot.

    Cheap! I just looked these up:  annual license for Fishing, Small Game, & Deer Gun Hunting in Wisconsin is $65; the special one-time Wolf Harvest is $100.

    Which brings to mind: does anyone ever really check out anything before they give someone one of those "licenses"? Or is it that they just don't like calling it a tax, which it probably mostly is, which they use to pay the government's expenses concerning the sport? Doesn't government have expenses concerning ammuntion, like many expenses of many kinds?

    Back to the reason they're supposedly trying to enact this. Is it going to be like a fishing license, or like a driver's license, where the record of the person applying is actually checked out? I actually think most enthusiast types would be proud of their clean record, and furthermore, could afford to pay more.  Most state picture ID's cost more than that (though they cover many more years,) without much of background check involved, unless it's for driving, too.

    It's pretty much just a tax that people volunteer to pay.

    I like to collect atomic bombs.

    They are interesting and hang upon my mantels and all my guests are impressed.

    I like to collect incendiary bombs and I hang those from the ceiling.

    I like to collect dead people. I have them properly stuffed and I like to take pictures of them in various positions.

    And I just love pix of Annie Oakley.

    Oh damn! It is almost midnight and I need to take my medication.



    Kim Jong-Day?

    The NYT has an article on your topic in print today:

    Many Owners Say Semiautomatic Weapons Are Just Another Hobby

    But the far better and more useful article in the same paper, mho, is:

    Lessons in Politics and Fine Print in Assault Weapons Ban of ’90s

    Thanks, aa. I saw these, and was very pleased by the "hobby" headline. Nice to be confirmed.

    As for the problems with the early AWB: sure. It had too many loopholes. The next one will have too many loopholes. The best approach is not to wait for the perfect gun bill (which would likely never get passed all at once, anyway), but to pass an imperfect one and then come back to toughen it.


    Best idea to my mind would be to come from the opposite direction.  Since it seems well nigh impossible to make a list of weapons and gun accessories that are unacceptable, much less to keep that list up to date as new products get released -- and this is what has historically bedevilled all weapons bans -- the more logical place to start is a list of guns and accessories that are legal, with ongoing requirements for manufacturers to submit new products for review in order to be listed.   I suppose there'd be a hue and cry if manufacturer's weren't allowed to submit guns retroactively if they were originally excluded, so wiggle room for petitions would probably have to granted.   But it's clear that starting from the other direction hasn't worked and probably will never work effectively enough.  This would put the review board in the driver's seat, rather than leave them to constantly play defense. 

    A successful ban would regulate firepower, not form.  Gun control laws that fail to do this will fail to have impact.

    I mean that by implication.  Please pardon me if I'm getting deep enough into ballistics for you.   I'm not a gun afficionado. 

    The point that I am trying to drive home here is that I think most gun control advocates know what they're implying.  The trouble is that, as a matter of law, implication is not enough.

    This is an inadequate response to mass shootings.  In the Columbine massacre, the killers did not use any weapon that was legally defined as an "assault weapon."  Instead, they used the Hi-Point 995 carbine, a gun that was designed post-AWB to be legal according to the AWB.  So, we've seen this movie before.

    Gun control advocates might want to consider banning the phrase "assault weapon."  It has no meaningful definition.  All weapons are designed for assault.  The .357 magnum revolver is not designed to make friends and influence people or even to hunt game.  It's designed to drop bodies, full stop.

    In military parlance, an assault rifle is a select-fire rifle, typically capable of semi-automatic, burst or fully automatic fire.  Fully automatic weapons have been controlled since 1934.  New sales have been completed banned since 1986.

    This much touted Mother Jones piece illustrates the danger of obfuscating the difference between fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons.  Of the mass shootings they counted over a 30 year period, they counted 35 "assault weapons" used.  I went through the worst mass shootings as collected here by the Washington Post.  Not one fully automatic weapon was used.  There's no way to know this from the Mother Jones piece since they don't bother to define "assault weapon" and use it interchangeably to mean any semi-automatic or automatic weapon that isn't a pistol, even though the AP Stylebook says they should know better.

    Far and away, the weapon of choice in mass shootings, as in most homicides, is a semi-automatic pistol.

    Banning a particular weapon by make, model and styling is tantamount to banning the Ford Mustang, but not the Camaro or Charger.  Mass killers with simply substitute with comparable weapons that have not been banned.  We know this because it's happened.

    In addition to all this, passing inadequate gun control laws does not necessarily lay the groundwork for passing better laws in the future.  This is certainly not in evidence in California, where we've banned "assault weapons" since 1998.  These laws are now an abject failure, unable to constrain sales of even the specific makes that the law attempts to ban.  CA DOJ had avoided comment on loopholes like the Bullet Button for years, but a court ruled earlier this year that it is legal.

    Lawmakers in California are now starting to talk about passing a law to ban the Bullet Button, but AR and AK type rifles are still perfectly legal without it provided that you remove or "disable" the pistol grip - as are all semi-automatic rifles.  Products like the Monster Man Grip are designed to make the standard grip legal under California law.  People who think this makes the weapon sufficiently less lethal are fooling themselves.

    The bottom line to me is that there is a mountain of evidence that "assault weapons" bans have not been in any way affective at curbing mass shootings or generally putting a halt to the proliferation of guns or gun violence.  The NYT article linked above notes yet another study that finds no significant impact on overall gun violence by the AWB.  The failure of similar bans in California and Connecticut are manifest.  Gun control advocates need to wise up and learn from past failures if they actually want to pass a better law.

    In the meantime, we're just waiting for the next one.

    See above.  And in the meantime, watch your back.  Or carry a gun if you're so disposed.  It's going to take a long time. 

    Watch my back.  Nice.  There was a time when didn't think I'd see this kind of comment on Dagblog.

    Does anyone care to defend this comment as anything more than mere emotional sniping bereft of substance?

    I was reacting to your comment that we're all waiting for the next one, and meant that in this terrifying situation, you should watch your back. I actually had more in mind that we all should watch our backs -- meaning you and me and all of us who are threatened by this growing danger and thinking of us all as together on the same side -- but since I was responding to you I directed it to you.  It never even occurred to me that you'd take it as a threat, and I'm really quite saddened that you do.  But believe me, I'm not a subtle person and if I'd wanted to be a creep to you, I would've been way broader than that.  I don't snipe.  I bray.  And I really did mean you should carry a gun if you believe you must.  

    I saw this as a comment more rueful and shared with all of us than as a snipe or threat. Hopefully now that DF has had a chance to roll it around mentally, he feels differently as well.

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