Gun control (I refuse to use the politically expedient phrase “gun violence” – we should call a spade a spade) has been much in the news lately. One branch of the story is that gun sales rose dramatically – by 200-300% – after the Sandy Hook massacre. I would have expected people to recoil in horror at Sandy Hook, and for gun sales to drop accordingly. Obviously, a significant number of people feel differently. I will freely admit that I don’t get it.
In previous posts about gun control, I’ve mentioned the unique character of the AR-15, the weapon that was used to such devastating effect in both Sandy Hook and Aurora, and which is the biggest selling rifle in the country. The AR-15, which is both the precursor to, and the civilian version of, the military M-16, is a high velocity, low-caliber rifle. By low-caliber, I mean that it’s a .22, the same gauge as the rifles our kids (mine included) learn to shoot at summer camps all over America. However, a bullet comes out of an AR-15 at 3250 feet per second, which is about three times faster than the summer camp variety. That high velocity, combined with something – I’m frankly not sure exactly what – about the bullet’s design, causes the bullet to tumble and then fragment upon impact. The result is a weapon that is relatively small and light, has little recoil, yet does extraordinary damage to the flesh it encounters.
In response to one of those posts, someone commented that the military purpose of this design is to wound rather than kill. The objective, he said, was to force enemy soldiers to care for wounded comrades. I haven’t seen any evidence that this is the case. I did, however, see a CNBC documentary called American Gun – Rise of the AR-15, which describes the bullet-tumbling and shows x-rays of wounds caused by AR-15s. They are, as you might imagine, horrific. I recommend this documentary, which is informative and by no means an anti-gun rant (unlike it’s sister station MSNBC, CNBC is not exactly a beacon of liberalism), to anyone who is interested in this issue.
As far as I can tell, there is no reasonable civilian use for this particular type of firearm. If you’re hunting a deer that you plan to eat, the last thing you want is to hit it with a bullet that’s going to shred it and then leave fragments in your venison steak. And if you’re interested in target practice, it confers no advantage over a host of firearms that have less killing power. On the other hand, if you want to kill dozens of school children, moviegoers, blacks, Jews or Federal agents, or perhaps just want to pretend you’re a tough guy. . .
I don’t know any way out of this mess other than to amend the Second Amendment. Aside from the vexing comma (for the unfamiliar, it appears after the word ‘militia’ and renders the amendment’s intent utterly vague; of course, the amendment itself was written with a quill, so perhaps it was just a random ink drop), it’s meaning seems pretty clear. “Shall not be infringed” sounds a lot like “Shall not be infringed.” It was written in a different era, under different conditions and for different purposes than those that obtain today. There has to be a way to preserve both liberty and safety. I don’t know what it is, but hope we can find the courage to figure it out.
On a separate note, the main news story continues to be the Boston bombing. I remain in awe of the people – not just the professionals, but the bystanders – who threw their own safety to the wind and rushed to the aid of the wounded. They are the best of America. One of them, by the way, is my brother-in-law, a lieutenant in Boston EMS. He’s the guy who trains them for this sort of event, and he was in the thick of it.
All of that said, and I know I’m going to get in trouble for this, every time I see the “suspects’” mom on TV, I can’t help but make this comparison.
When this story finally unfolds, I suspect we’ll find out that it wasn’t about extremism, Islamic or otherwise, but rather was the story of an immensely dysfunctional family. As the saying goes, if it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.