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February 17th, 2018

Gunshots That Echo On And On And On…(continued)

More dead children. How did it come to this? I ask myself, as a sixty-four year old American male, and also as a gun owner who believes in a democratic right to own your own firearms. Firstly, there is a Scientific American article I would implore you to read…it’s a good one…science is our friend…let’s try using some…

4 Laws That Could Stem the Rising Threat of Mass Shootings

These are good…I enthusiastically support Every One of them, and especially the singling out of domestic violence as an indicator of future bloodshed. Seriously, if the one who loved you, who you took into your arms, is afraid of you, who the hell shouldn’t be? And if a child can’t trust you to at the very least keep them safe from harm then you are not a very well adult, and to whatever degree possible you need to be kept far away from any sort of weapon.

But here we are again. How did it come to this. Well you might say it’s the easy availability of guns, but I’m old enough to remember when they were even easier to get your hands on. Before the assassination of president Kennedy you could buy them in mail order catalogues and have them delivered to your doorstep. You could walk into most any hardware store and put your money down and walk out with one. Mass shootings, especially in our schools, were simply not as frequent then as they are now. Which is not to say they never happened either. There was the notorious sniper shooting spree at the University of Texas in 1966. To my knowledge they still don’t really know why he did it. Maybe I’m not remembering it right in my senior years, but that seemed to be a horrific exception. Now it’s happening almost monthly. What happened? How did it come to this? We are not helpless. And yet…we are…so long as we can’t talk to each other. And not just on this one issue either.

Fox News. Clear Channel and the Talk Radio screamers they promote. Right wing tabloids like the National Enquirer. Stealth propaganda outlets like Sinclair Broadcasting. What you need to understand about them, at long last, is they aren’t specifically trying to promote a policy point of view. They exist to sew discord and make the common working class citizens fear and hate one another. Because that is the only way the hard right can win elections, given how vastly unpopular its policies are. They’re good at it. And we are way too good at falling for it.

I feel sometimes like I have a foot in both these worlds. Most of my friends are liberal democrats like myself. Yet when another mass shooting happens I find I’m mostly just keeping my mouth shut while everyone around me is calling gun owners child killers, ammosexuals, Moloch worshipers, et al.  And even when temperatures cool down a tad I darent speak up when someone starts yapping about this or that devil gun de jour. It’s one of those issues where actually knowing what you’re talking about disqualifies you from talking about it. But if you want to make some actual progress on getting things back under control listening to one of us who isn’t an hysterical nothing else matters NRA single issue voter might be helpful. And since this is my blog let me just go right ahead and put something out here: maybe you’re the one obsessing on guns.

Listen to me. Now it’s the AR-15. Not all that long ago it was the AK-47. Who knows what it will be next time. There are lots of semi automatic rifles that are not functionally all that different in one regard, which is is why banning just that one rifle makes no sense and won’t get any traction: ban the AR-15 and you might just as well ban dozens of others. It’s not just that one gun. But yes, in another sense you’re absolutely right…there is something unique to these sorts of weapons that you can justifiably say puts them outside the boundary of reasonable personal, sport and self defense firearms. And no god damn it, it’s not the military style plastic grips and stock. No it isn’t the semi-automatic mechanism either. No. It isn’t. You Are Paying Too Much Attention To The Gun.

The kid who murdered 17 people last week came to the school, so I’m told, with a backpack full of 30 round magazines and he fired off something like 150 rounds in the space of just a few minutes. Look at that. No…really look at it. How was that possible? The problem isn’t the rifle.

Here’s the problem:

This is what makes the AR-15, and every other rifle and handgun that uses a magazine to reload vastly more dangerous. It takes maybe a second to drop an empty, slam another in the magazine well, drop the bolt, and away you go…thirty more rounds. Or more. Google “AR-15 magazine” sometime and get properly horrified. Then reconsider. It is not the gun. Forget the gun. It is the magazines.

California, my beloved land of my birth, for the past several decades has been trying to address this in various ways, each of which the NRA kook pews have found a too ingenious for their own damn good work-around to. But it’s a good path, and I propose going all in on it; and I say this as someone who owns firearms that take magazines. Go after the magazines. Here’s what I propose:

Firstly: any gun that takes a magazine needs to either have a magazine lock or be retrofitted for a permanent magazine, such that the gun now reloads with an en bloc clip like the M-1 Garand did. Limit capacity to only what a revolver would normally have, which would be five in the magazine and one in the chamber…six rounds total. Make higher capacity magazines illegal to own on the same scale as silencers (yes…I know…republicans…) and sawed off shotguns.

But with rifles like the AR-15, and certain handguns, you can go further. See how in the photo above, the cartridges are staggered, they don’t line straight up and down. That’s one way of stuffing more into the magazine. But it also makes them fatter. With a five round limit you don’t need that, so the magazines could be thinner. I’m showing my age here but I remember when we made the switch from leaded to unleaded gasoline and they made the fuel inlets smaller on cars that only took unleaded to prevent leaded from getting in and trashing the catalytic converter. We can do the same here. Make the magazines narrower and then require all new semi automatic weapons for civilian use to have magazine wells that will only allow the smaller capacity magazines to fit inside them, and require everything already out there to be retrofitted.

Secondly: (re: California and “bullet buttons”) require anyone who wants to manufacture new magazines to get a license from the Federal government and they have to make them to spec. Because sure as shit the NRA kooks will make them that are narrow at the top so they can fit in the smaller magazine wells and fatter below the magazine well. I know how they think…as I said, I walk among them.

This buys us three things. 1) It limits the firepower of semi automatic rifles in a meaningful and practical way. 2) Simplicity. Now we’re not playing whack-a-mole trying to define what is, and what is not an “assault weapon”. It’s moot. If it takes a magazine, it Must be limited as per above, end of story. Plastic faux military do-dads or not, it makes no difference. Every firearm that uses a magazine to reload must comply. Simple. 3) Political. We are not going after your guns, we are going after firepower civilians do not need and it matters not what sort of gun it is. You have a right to own a gun. But your privately owned gun is for pleasure/sport shooting or self defense, not criminal activity, armed rebellion or terrorism. And when they start babbling about how we need our guns to protect us from tyranny, push back, Hard, with, no…the ballot box is our defense against tyranny, and then pivot to a discussion about voter suppression and gerrymandering. Because as long as every American adult can cast an anonymous ballot in a free and open election, and all votes are equal, no government can become too oppressive.

I appreciate this is not going nearly far enough for some, and way too far for others. So I have a final proposal: Show The Carnage.  

Seriously. Show the public…everyone…both sides, all sides, all the grim horrifying pictures of the aftermath. Show Everyone what a bullet does to a child’s body. Show us the dead where they lay, trying to escape. Put the images out in the public view. I appreciate that family and loved ones will not want that because it would reopen terrible wounds all over again and again. Fine. Work with them. Listen to them. Respect their wishes. But surely some will agree this needs to be seen, to be adequately understood.

Then, maybe, hopefully, enough people will stop reflexively digging in their heels and we can work with each other to fix the problem. Please? Because we are not going anywhere, except into the trashcan of history, if we can’t work together, if we can’t talk to each other.

 

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