Contra Mozilla

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Roundup of Post-Orlando Links and Commentary

There are, of course, quite a few commentators talking about the Orlando Massacre--both of the "professional" and from the "armchair/amateur" variety--and not all of them are saying good or even intelligent things. Some on the Left are (rather predictably) attempting to blame the NRA and especially conservative Christians for this atrocity. The NRA, maybe, but then again if the FBI would enforce existing (mostly common sense) gun laws, a lot of these problems would go away.

The Ruger SR9 without extended grip.
Nor do I think that banning high-capacity semiautomatic weapons is necessarily "common sense," in part because I do not think there is a reasonable "common"definition for "high capacity." Is 7 round high capacity? I have a revolver which holds this many, so presumably not. Is it 10? There are handguns which can carry up to just fewer than 20 (the Ruger SR9, for example*), without being obviously overdone. Indeed, it is the magazine size and not necessarily the gun which fires the magazine which determines the ammunition capacity, and there exist "high-capacity" (more than 20 rounds) after-marker magazines for many common handguns.

For that matter, the (relatively lower-caliber, lower-power for a rifle/carbine) AR-15 could in principal accept a 10-round magazine. For that matter, there exist after-market limiters for the AR-15 which limit it to 10 rounds. Placing a ban on magazine capacity is virtually impossible in the US, shy of simply banning all semi-automatic guns (rifle, carbine, handgun, etc) for the simple reason that a semi-automatic gun need not use only the magazine made by the original manufacturer.

It could be argues that what is needed is not an absolute ban on magazine capacity, but rather ammunition sales in a given time frame. However, this does nothing to prevent a person from making (or even reloading) their own ammunition, nor from simply "saving" ammunition**. This is of course assuming that such an "ammunition limit" can be feasibly implemented in the first place. It also overlooks the fact that such a limit may prove detrimental to the ability of anyone who needs to buy ammunition for the purpose of practicing***. I suppose there could be a loophole for buying and then using ammo at the range, but then how would this actually be enforced?

Another alternative is to attempt to regulate neither magazine capacity nor bullet caliber, but some combination of both. The reasoning here is simple: different calibers will be more or less likely to be lethal, and thus more or less likely to be used for a mass shooting. Nobody is particularly worried about a mass shooter unloading 30 rounds of 0.22 caliber bullets into a crowded area, in the sense that while this would be very, very bad, and while is certainly could result in some death or serious injuries, the odd are that a shooter using this caliber of ammunition will not wrack up a high body count. Indeed, I would bet that said shooter would almost certainly wrack up a lower body count than a man using a 0.357 revolver in the same crowded area.

Of course, by limiting "high-caliber" rounds (and given that 0.223/5.56 NATO rounds prove quite lethal when fired from an AR-15) one may inadvertently encourage shooters to pack a combination of low-capacity, high caliber and low-caliber, high-capacity weapons (to say nothing about the aforementioned point about the difficulty of actually regulating magazine capacity). And as one observer has noted, "gun wounds are often preferable to the alternatives," and moreover,
"On guns, it is a little known fact that even in the Natted States Merica, where they seem rather more easily available than elsewhere, they do not account for the majority of murders. Convenient as guns may be for this purpose, if you are a Merican (according to the latest FBI statistics) you are six times more likely to be murdered with a knife; and with a rifle, only one chance in fifty. That the murder rate itself is higher than in some other countries, I will happily concede. What can we say? Mericans just like to kill each other. Banning guns won’t help."
I should note here that I am not in principle opposed to limiting magazine capacities--though I question whether there is a magic number to which they should be limited--nor to such things as expanded background checks, mandatory waiting periods, or (better still) randomly assigned waiting periods of arbitrary duration (not to exceed a month or so). In the past, I have favored what I would call the "national gun buyers identity" which would allow a person the ability to purchase as many or as few guns as he chooses without further background checks for a limited period of time, which is then renewable upon completing a thorough background check upon expiration.

I am, however, quite skeptical that any other these things will actually help. The US homicide rate in general--and also the homicide by firearms rate--has been decreasing for some time--the overall homicide rate in the US is at a 51 year low, according to the FBI. For that matter, so has the violent crimes rate, and our overall rate of violent crime is actually lower than that of Britain (though our homicide rate is higher).

What makes me more skeptical than anything against using regulations to lower gun death rates is that this is basically imposing a technical solution on a moral problem. And the moral problem here runs fairly deeply, and exists on several levels. For one thing, we as a society, indeed as a civilization (I am here including Europe as well) have become virtually incapable of naming our enemies, be they human or spiritual. I noted above (and before) that the immediate reaction in the wake of a killing perpetrated by a Mohammedan who may or may not have also been a homosexual but who did pledge allegiance to ISIS was to blame Christians in general and conservative one in particular.

When even moderate Muslims are willing to admit that Mohammedanism is at least in part behind this shooting, it seems clear to me that we who are not Mohammedans, and who have no vested interest in propping us Islam, should be able to do the same. Moreover, we have created an environment in which people are not allowed to turn others away for religious or moral reasons because of anti-discrimination laws. Now these anti-discrimination laws are to some extent good, but they fall prey to the very thing they try to prevent: namely, they do not allow discrimination in cases where discrimination is just.

Case in point: suppose a gun store owner decided to turn away a Muslim because the gun store owner had a suspicion that he was up to no good; what is this suspicion based upon? If the Muslim was acting in good faith, but merely had some social peculiarity, does anyone doubt that he might attempt to sue on anti-discrimination charges, thereby taking the gun shop owner to the kangaroo courts of the civil rights commissions? Yet, sometimes those hunches do prove to be right--as they did in the case of the gunshop owner who refused to sell a gun to Mateen "because he seemed odd." How many gun store owners are more afraid to be convicted of "hate crime" than of inadvertently selling a gun to a mass-shooter? Especially given that the former is more likely than the latter, since (we have all been assured) the vast majority of Muslims are perfectly harmless?

This is just picking on one sub-group of mass shooters and homicidal maniacs, the Muslims. This wasn't an isolated incident, as Mr. John C. Wright points out: during the Obama presidency, 115 people have been killed in the US in the name of Islam, whereas non have been documented to have been killed (or even brutally injured) for believing in Mohammed or Mohammed's God. And I am picking on this group in particular, because it is the one group which we cannot name as terrorists, the one group it has become politically incorrect to call out, and indeed one of the few groups which it has become politically expedient to actively help, and the one group which cannot be called intolerant, especially not of women or gays. It may not be the only group about which we must be dishonest, both publicly and privately, but it is the one group which we must continuously pretend to be "shocked" in learning that the latest terrorist--foreign or domestic--gives allegiance to.

I will add here that there is another sense of moral decline--they are myriad, too many to really discuss in detail here--which plays into all of this, and which regulation simply does not fix. That is the negligence of some--not a majority, but still far too many--actual gun owners. None of these proposed laws will prevent the negligent homicide of a child who finds the loaded gun and shoots himself (or his friend, sibling, or even parent). There is no reasonable law which can prevent this fully. Sure, there may be developed a technology of the sort which can help prevent this--for example, a gun which is bio metrically sensitive****.

There exists already a number of laws which are meant to "idiot-proof" firearms against accidental discharge and/or unauthorized use. But, as the saying goes, any time you idiot-proof something, somebody comes up with a better idiot (the skills of whom are then widely duplicated). The vast majority of these "accidental" firearms homicides (or even injuries) can be chalked up to lack of common sense and/or lack of caution/precaution, or simple negligence (which is another word for "lack of care"). These are, by and large, all moral defects, and cannot be simply legislated away. There are some who go so far as to question whether Americans are "moral" enough to merit the constitutional protections of the Second Amendment. This is perhaps a valid question, but it leads to another--do we merit any of our other rights, either? Such a line of reasoning may quickly lead us to conclusions which are more dangerous, indeed which are in general worse, than the "threat" of firearms from which they were meant to protect us.

*This compact handgun has a manufacturer-included extended-grip magazine which allows 17+1 of 9 mm ammunition, for example; without the extended grip, it's 10+1 rounds. This is a compact pistol, which is meant for concealed carry.

**Incidentally, it might still work to reduce "mass shootings" in the sense of serving as a deterrent to mass shootings committed by a person who is willing to plan for days, weeks, or months. On the other hand, given that a typical "box" of ammunition will have 20-50 rounds in it, and that it's generally recommended that one put hundreds of rounds downrange for practice to keep up marksmanship (to say nothing of competition shooters), it would seem to me that this kind of law will have very little effect on preventing mass shootings.

***Typical advice says practice live-firing your gun once per month, 50 rounds each time, minimum. That is 600 rounds per year, minimum!

****While we are at it, why not insist on a second law which disables the gun when outside of the user's house/property/hunting area/competition area/gun range? There are, of course, a variety of problems with this, not least of which is the obvious infringement on freedoms inherent in using, for example, a gps tracker to locate said gun. In a country with a history of mistrust of the government in general, and with respect to gun confiscation in particular, such a law is a non-starter, arguably worse even than gun registration. Perhaps the technology exists to do this without a gps, e.g. the gun has a receiver only and no transmitter, the transmitters can be bought and placed in the home--but then, what is to prevent one from being transported along with the gun?

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