Friday, January 18, 2013
Baby on Board
If all that I read were the sporting goods catalogs that arrive in the mail I would still know something was up. There are suddenly pages of drum magazines for sale to fit everything from non-military versions of long guns to shotguns to semiautomatic pistols. Drum magazines, you'll remember seeing them on The Untouchables, great round things holding 75 to 100 rounds mounted on the infamous "Chicago Typewriter." One catalog even features violin and cello cases fitted out to carry them. Fedora and Zoot Suit sold separately. What you'd need to carry a Glock pistol with a 75 round drum mounted below the grip, I don't know, but it's next to useless as a concealable or even portable weapon. So why this feeding frenzy? Why just now? Is there an invasion coming?
Gun shops are getting very crowded again. There's a large supermarket style one under construction in my area of coastal Florida. Prices are rising and they can't seem to keep military-looking fake 'assault rifles' on the shelves. Another catalog features a kit allowing one to bolt together two Ruger 10/22 rifles - the kind of gun some country gentleman might give his son on his 18th birthday into a two barrel, crank operated .22 rimfire Gattling gun, complete with tripod. Only $397 but you have to supply your own pair of rifles. Their website bears a headline saying they're up to a week behind on shipping orders because of massive demand. In barber shops and hardware stores and the Sporting Goods department at the local Wal-Mart, you hear muttering and whispering about "that monkey" and they don't mean Wayne LaPierre. I heard an octogenarian friend say at dinner the other night "we don't have any freedom any more." She'd just sold her handgun from the fear that someone would steal it and murder someone and she'd be blamed. It isn't true of course, but the fear is on the street and in the retirement homes and the mansions and yachts and trailer parks. That monkey is after our guns.
Yes, it's gun control time again with one side arming themselves for war and the other side howling Gun Control like ragged extras in a Frankenstein movie. The President has offered a package of measures designed to calm the hysterical on both sides and it's not likely to do that, or so I think. It's the "biggest legislative effort in a generation" says the Huffington Post, "a bold and potentially historic attempt to stem the increase in mass gun violence." Lets see what it looks like after passing through the entrails of Congress. Surely some of the proposals were pinned to the coat-tails of a tragedy like a rider on an unrelated bill: ban the armor piercing ammunition? Well it's really not that nor are the hollow points we use for hunting "Cop Killer Bullets" either. How does one argue for meaningful gun control with all that lying going on?
Really most of these inflammatory lumps of high velocity hyperbole are just that: attempts to emotionalize and to dupe the uninitiated and succeed in polarizing the attempt to do something useful. To me, much of this heated argument is corrupted by dishonest coinage, invention and the refusal by both sides to examine the axioms their arguments rely on. GUN CONTROL! and when I ask "what kind?" The expression I get from either side is the same -- I must be one of them!
Will banning the millions and millions and millions of guns and accessories now in 150 million private hands do anything? By the time anything like another loophole-ridden, designed-to-fail ban hits the streets, the number of these things buried in back yards and hidden behind paneling in basements will have doubled and the ranks of camo-clad, militiamen and survivalists and preppers will have grown further and short of a house to house search of 100 million private residences and storage lockers and bunkers, very little will be done to reduce their numbers.And nice people, ordinary people, educated people, affluent people are buying guns they would have had no interest in -- because Obama's gonna ban them. The best way to create demand is to ban something.
And if Congress does do it again, and if they suddenly disappear with a wave of the magic wand, will someone still be able to find the hardware to kill a score of innocents? Could you get drunk in 1929? Can you get stoned in 2013? Of course.
Have all the miscellaneous and ballyhooed safety regulations done anything? Mandatory trigger locks, microstamping of firing pins, loaded chamber indicator and magazine disconnect regulations? No. Has there been an increase in the murder by firearm rate as is being said? No. It's lower than it was in the 1950's. The fear is oversold. Much of what is being proposed can be no more effective in protecting school children than those stupid, yellow Baby on Board signs people put on their cars in the '70s. It's just there for the "I hate guns" people.
I'm still wondering if there has been an increase in mass gun violence or if the handful in the last few years is a statistical blip and the result of the unrelenting "never forget" emotional media coverage that promotes repeat performances, but that question will never be settled when opinions on both sides are bolstered by selective facts, when the tenets of faith, the proclamations of activists and politicians and lobbyists are taken as axiomatic without question.
Whatever happens, I doubt my shotgun will be confiscated, nor my Civil War pistols or my Flintlock Rifle. I'm sure I'll still be able to go to the outdoor shooting range and make holes in targets with a .22 pistol Top Shot will still be on the History Channel and the Biathlon will still be held and Sarah Palin can still hunt for moose. Floridians will still be able to shoot wild hogs and Burmese pythons and out in the bayou, they'll still be able to hunt 'gators with .22 rifles. The fear is oversold.
Whatever happens, much legislation will be designed by people who know dangerously little about firearms and in a state of near hysteria and much will be sabotaged by their opponents terrified of symbolic emasculation and little will change. No one will bother to mention or discuss or factor in the fact that gun violence is still on the decline and that the level of gun control in any particular state or city does not correlate to that decline. It's a battle of preconceived notions and it's all about irrational fear.
Increased penalties and such won't effect anyone bent on committing suicide and taking a few dozen innocents with him. Banning an auto-loader with a 15 round magazine when Abraham Lincoln's brass bound Henry repeater will fire 16 rounds in 16 seconds will not make anyone all that much safer and we'll go on banning all kinds of things to "save the children" and setting the stage for a massive Republican victory in 2016. America loves guns or we wouldn't own 300 million of them. America loves guns the way it loves trucks and football and beer and that's not going to change.