Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Violins on television?

"I suppose, Gorgias, that like me you must have been present at many arguments, and have observed how difficult the parties find it to define exactly what the subject is which they have taken in hand and to come away from their discussion mutually enlightened; what usually happens is that, as soon as they disagree and one declares the other to be mistaken or obscure in what he says, they lose their temper and accuse one another of speaking from motives of personal spite and in an endeavor to score a victory rather than to investigate the question at issue; and sometimes they part on the worst possible terms, after such an exchange of abuse that the bystanders feel vexed on their own account that they ever thought it worth their while to listen to such people."

Said Socrates, at least according to Plato. For those Americans under 40: both these men lived long before the internet, but how well the description fits the arguments we read on the web every day!

Raw Story ran a somewhat cooked story the other day about a gift of an "assault rifle" to Sarah Palin and as usual, the article treated the gun in question as "military style" without mentioning that it is not, in fact, military in anything but appearance. As is customary, the righteously wrathful posted a frenzy of caustic comments about Palin, machine guns and the wholesale slaughter of innocents and wolves that we are experienceing because the NRA wants everyone to have a machine gun.

As usual, both the author and the audience had no common terminology and no more real clue as to what they were talking about than the late Emily Litella. When the public hears "assault Rifle" they hear "machine gun" and hardly anyone is interested in correcting them since to insist that we talk about reality instantly identifies one as the enemy, the gun nut, the NRA controlled devil.

Even a combat veteran chimed in, telling us his experience with fully automatic military weapons showed that machine guns are too dangerous for the public. Others proudly proclaimed that they were hunters and didn't need machine guns to kill a moose, still more that nobody has a legitimate need for "assault weapons." Would any of them stop and say "never mind" if they were reminded of these three facts?

  • Automatic weapons have already been effectively banned since 1934
  • The difference between a legal "military style assault rifle" and a hunting rifle has to do with the shape of the stock and not the rate of fire or the type of ammunition. Legal assault weapons are not machine guns.
  • The now expired "assault weapon ban" didn't actually ban these look-alike weapons if they were made in the US, nor did it remove the millions of them from the market or prevent the sale of those made before the ban.

Which of these two is an assault weapon? Both or neither is the answer, the only difference between them is the stock. The rifle given to Sarah and the many she already has are essentially the same but phobia is, by definition, not rational and with such money being spent on panicking the phobic as well as the obsessed, we have the entire country talking at cross purposes, with undefined terms, completely failing to understand what the other side is talking about and making fools of themselves with their hollow passion.

I think Socrates is still laughing, but for my part, I'm just tired of the endless ranting about misperceptions.


RR said...

The issue for me isn't "assault" or no -- but some people love affair with weapons: period.

To clarify, I own a hunting rifle and a handgun ... I don't think owning weapons is a "bad thing".

However, the fascination with military style/looking weapons is an issue: for me. It signals that the owner is likely some type of military wanna-be ... someone who's spent too much time watching Bruce Willis bring down the bad guys with an assortment of hardware.

Too many people think they actually NEED these things for self defense. I see them at the range (which I try to get to at least once every 6 months or so). They have regaled me with stories of how "if only I had my gun with me in the Lowes parking lot -- when those teenagers hooted at my wife"...

as if escalating an insult into a deadly encounter were somehow noble.

I'm not a fan of bringing back the assault weapons ban ... but I tell you when a politician is presented with a AR-type (from the photo) weapon as a "gift of appreciation" there is something wrong with the group that gives it -- and the politician that accepts it.

Baltazar said...

I noticed as a little kid that if someone said they didn't understand then they never understood.
It's a tactic..

Capt. Fogg said...

The Image of Sarah aiming that gun is quite disturbing, but because of what I know about her otherwise. Personally I like most mechanical gadgets, fishing reels, cameras, scientific instruments and guns, but plinking with a .22 satisfies my desire to play with them. I don't own anything remotely military other than a couple of Civil War relics.

Oddly, though , the only people I know who admit to owning AK's are millionaire yachtsmen who cruise the southern Caribbean and worry about pirates. I think the perceived threat of these ugly things is greater and that's just what they want.

It really does bother me how readily people who really think they're on the side of reason are being duped however -- and at how resistant they can be to shed a false impression. Sometimes we're almost as pig headed and fond of our illusions as Republicans.