2:33 a.m. January 16, 2013

The Hard Facts On Gun Control: A Gun Enthusiast (And Former Marine) Writes

With Obama unveiling his new gun control laws, I consulted a gun-enthusiast friend of mine whose opinions on this matter I respect, and are very different from mine. As I wrote after the Newtown massacre, we need a politics of gun control that combines gun control with social justice politics, rather than what Obama is proposing and what Clinton already tried: neoliberal austerity with gun control, a guaranteed loser.

I should disclose yet again that I’m a longtime amateur gun enthusiast myself, having grown up with guns. I’ve been highly skeptical in the past about knee-jerk responses to rampage massacres that focus only on gun control laws, because gun control laws don’t explain why workers only started rampage-massacring their own workplaces in the late 1980s, and why that spread to students Columbine-ing in the 1990s, and why those uniquely American, uniquely-post Reagan Era mass murder sprees keep going on like clockwork. On the other hand, as I've argued in my book Going Postal, inequality and the structural change in America’s corporate culture offer a more obvious, if controversial explanation why this “going postal” massacre phenomenon started in the workplace, why it began when it did, and why it then spread to other areas of the culture that were once assumed to be safe.

Which brings me to my gun-enthusiast friend, who asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons — in the post-Newtown environment, you’re not going to win any brownie points if your views on gun control differ from Joe Biden’s.

I can at least give you a bit of context on "Gun Enthusiast": He’s a former Marines officer, has extensive professional experience with a variety of weapons, and owns a handful of firearms. He’s a well-educated Blue State Republican who defies the usual cliches (he's even referred to himself as libertarian-leaning, and yet here we are friends for 10 goddamn years now).

Okay, enough of that. Here is what Gun Enthusiast emailed back to me about gun control laws and the gun control hysteria post-Newtown:

"Assault Weapons": Gun control debate :: "Death Panels" : Health care debate The term "assault weapons" is silly. Any weapon can be used to assault someone. The term was invented by Democrats trying to make guns more scary to voters the same way that "death panel" was invented by Republicans to make universal health care sound like a bad idea. The previous "assault weapons" ban applied to bells and whistles that look intimidating to people who are gun-illiterate, such as bayonet studs, pistol grips, collapsible stocks, and flash suppressors. True, these features do make the weapon moderately more effective in a tactical environment, e.g., an infantry skirmish in low-light conditions, but the fact remains that a serial execution such as Newtown/Aurora/Columbine can be as easily accomplished by a Ruger Mini-14 as it can by a Bushmaster (both are rifles that fire the same 5.56mm round, both are semi-automatic; one is an "assault weapon" per the 1994 legislation, one is not). Sen. Feinstein's bill would seek to ban such semi-auto rifles as the Mini-14. I don't see it passing — it's really restrictive. I just don't see it getting through the House, given that the U.S. as a whole is a lot more pro-gun than the coastal people who dominate the media industry realize. Furthermore, there are going to be lots of loopholes in any legislation that passes; for example, ranchers are going to want to still be allowed to buy "assault weapons" so that they can go after coyotes and other predators. If Feinstein's bill does pass, get ready for the court challenges that take place over the next few years. Taking it a step further, what happens when a stalking victim tries to buy a pistol to defend herself in case the stalker violates the restraining order, and she gets denied on the basis of the new law, and then the stalker kills her? I mean, can you imagine the Fox News coverage that would ensue if something like that were to happen? Bottom line: I don't think that this has the legs to make it all the way through to law. I have no problem with comprehensive gun registration I get that some people (specifically the black helicopter, secret messages on the back of road signs crowd) think that gun registration is the first step in the UN OneWorld government taking over their rights as Americans. Let's take a step back and think about this for a second. If, God forbid, the US becomes some kind of fascist dictatorship, who is going to form the backbone of the resistance? Military veterans like yours truly. Most of us who've served in the combat arms community in the last decade have extensive counterinsurgency experience, and we'd be really, really good insurgents (it gives me a moto-boner just thinking about it, in a fucked-up kind of way). Newsflash: the government already knows where all the veterans live, as the regular correspondence I and everyone else get from the VA demonstrates. If they want to shut down the resistance preemptively, they already have all the addresses they need; the cat's out of the bag. I say this, of course, with all due respect to the fatass rednecks in the Idaho panhandle who never took it upon themselves to sign the enlistment contract. All that said, gun registration should be sealed (i.e. not available in public domain), so that a) gun collectors don't become robbery targets (although they obviously would have the capacity to defend themselves); and b) non-gun owners don't become robbery targets (i.e., allowing anyone to search the database to figure out who doesn't have a weapon in their home is a bad idea; Florida's statute on this seems to be pretty effective, as opposed to New York's). No ban on bolt-action weapons shows shortsightedness / emotional volatility of gun ban advocates If someone has bad intentions, I'm way more concerned about them if they have and know how to use a bolt-action, precision high-powered rifle, than if they have a semi-auto "assault weapon." Does anyone remember Charles Whitman? Look him up on Wikipedia to find out what a good shooter can do with a hunting rifle. This is just conjecture on my part, but I'm pretty convinced it's true: if Adam Lanza had carried out his depraved murders with a Remington Model 700 from 500 meters away instead of with a Bushmaster at point-blank range, the media harpies would be shrieking about "sniper rifles" and not "assault weapons." The magazine ban, if enacted, is going to be a shitshow Am I the only one thinking about this? Do they not realize that AR-15 civilian rifles and the M-16s/M-4s used by the military use the exact same magazine? The price of 30-round 5.56mm AR-compatible magazines is going to skyrocket if a ban is put in place. As a former platoon commander and company XO, I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about how much of an incentive there will be for guys to sell their mags on the black market, and the asspain that will result for small unit leaders in charge of the guys who "lose" multiple magazines on a regular basis. (For those who don't know, people in the combat arms community get issued extra magazines like candy; at present, if you lose one it's not that big of a deal, you just have to pay for it.) A magazine ban will probably result in all kinds of painful and hard-to-comply-with inventory measures being put in place that will make being a junior officer, already a shitty job, suck even more and contribute further to the problem of terrible JO retention that continues to plague our military. Failure to secure your firearms properly should be a felony Do I believe that Americans should be allowed to own high-performance firearms, including so-called "assault weapons"? Yes, even after what happened in Newtown. However, failure to secure said weapons should be a felony. I define "secure" the way we did in the Marines: it's either within one arm's reach or it's locked away (and by this I mean the weapon is physically attached to the building, e.g., it is locked in a safe that is bolted to the wall). Some states (including Connecticut) have "safe storage" laws; these laws are relatively lax, applying a "reasonable person" standard to determine whether weapons are locked away properly, the main goal being preventing young children from accidentally killing themselves. These laws need to be more specific and need to apply in all 50 states. One counterargument to this could be that forcing people to keep their weapons in safes will decrease their ability to respond to, say, a home invasion quickly enough. I disagree; there are plenty of safes on the market that give you quick access. I could also see the argument that the cost of a good safe is an onerous requirement, that it discriminates against lower-income people, etc. Maybe so, but the way I see it, if you have the money to buy a weapon, the onus is on you to spend the money to store it properly.