Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Know-Nothing

One thing that I don't understand about the some people on the American left is their dogged insistence on entering the firearms debate without accurate information.

Consider this graphic. The weapon labelled as: "The gun our founding fathers used," simply isn't. It's a modern black powder percussion weapon, not even a reproduction of a known period weapon. The U.S. didn't use percussion weapons until the 1840s. The one illustrated has double set triggers, which weren't around until the 1820s; still, too late for the Revolution. The weapon illustrated would have been more at home on a Civil War battlefield. In the Revolutionary war, it would have been bleeding edge, if not literally futuristic. From what I've seen many early percussion rifles managed three or four shots a minute, so one or two rounds a minute would be slow, but reasonable, especially since you have decent sights and can aim carefully.

But inaccuracies in the illustration aside, if you stepped out on to a Revolutionary war battlefield with a smoothbore Land Pattern Musket, you'd have been armed as well as everyone else on the battlefield. Depending on how good with the gun you were, you'd maybe be able to double the numbers given, so between 2 and 4 rounds per minute, but if you could only manage one or two, you'd be in the ballpark.

Now the illustration of the "AR-15" is also inaccurate. With a barrel that short, the gun would be a Short Barrelled Rifle under federal law, and those are restricted under the National Firearms Act. A teenager could simply have walked into a gun store and bought one, but they require a special license. The Smith and Wesson M&P 15 (https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/mp-15-0) that the shooter used doesn't come with a barrel that short for just that reason. (Short barreled weapons also have crappy resale values because of the limited pool of people who can buy them, so they'd be unlikely to simply be on the shelves.)

But again, inaccuracies in the illustration aside, if the best your weapon could do is 45 rounds a minute, you'd be outclassed on any battlefield in living memory. Even the World War 2 M1 Garand rifle, which is bolt action and only holds 8 rounds at a time, could manage 40 to 50 rounds per minute. In just about any military conflict that anyone alive is old enough to remember you'd be facing people with weapons that either fired (much) farther, used heavier bullets or had higher rates of fire, or all three. Pretty much any semi-automatic weapon, or bolt-action weapon with a multiple-round magazine could sustain 45 rounds a minute.

I mention this because the weapon as described in the Occupy Democrats graphic wouldn't be a frontline military rifle. It would be the sort of thing that you'd find paramilitaries using. In fact, there are very few weapons available to the broad base of civilians who lack special licenses that would be capable of keeping up with even second or third-tier frontline military weapons. And in that sense, the Second Amendment has more than kept up with the times. If you reported to General Washington with a Brown Bess musket, you were likely using the very same weapon that the British soldiers were using. If someone were to send me out onto a battlefield with an AR-15, I'd be tempted to ask what I'd ever done to them, because as someone who has done much shooting in the past 30+ years, I'd really be in trouble if that was the best I had to work with.

The problem with the Left being ignorant of weapons is that it makes them non-credible in a debate. A gun control advocate asked me the following on social media:
Are you opposed to national laws for gun licensing, including closing loopholes like gun shows, safety standards, including things like RFID to make sure only properly licensed users can use their guns? Banning bump stocks, magazines holding more than 10 shots, exploding bullets?
And I responded:
It's interesting. I look at the list you provided, and I don't see a plan for reducing firearms deaths. It strikes me mainly a list of reactive measures designed to prevent mass shootings with particular weapons and using specific technologies. (And I'm pretty sure that explosive rounds, which are of dubious use in small arms, are already illegal for civilians - I don't even know if a class three SOT would allow you to deal in them them.) Despite the media headlines, these things are rare. If I remember correctly, domestic violence and suicide are the big drivers of firearm assaults and deaths. Street crime might slot between the two or it might be further down. I'm not sure.

And I think that this is the problem with this only being an issue when there are headlines around it - it leads to a focus on the causes of the specific headlines that driving the awareness, rather than the factors that are driving the actual occurrences.
His reply was:
Look at how the kid in FL and also the kids for the Columbine massacre purchased the weapons. And how the Sandy Hook. shooter got the weapons. Look at the kind of weapons they used. And 'Many states today consider it legal to use exploding bullets weighing less than 400 grams against material targets.' from Weaponslaw. Not sure where the disconnect is. The biggest problem is that the left talks about gun restrictions and safety, and the gun lobby interprets that as disarming law abiding citizens, leading to government tyranny, and creates waves of FUD and angst.
The problem was is that his statement about "exploding bullets" didn't refer to the states that make up the United States, but rather to nation-states, like, well the United States of America. "The disconnect" was that he was citing a source that he either didn't understand or hadn't actually read. And at that point, I started tuning him out. Why debate someone who clearly doesn't know what they are talking about? And when I pointed out to him that he's basically misinterpreted the entire statement, he attempted to label hollowpoint bullets as "exploding." Why debate someone who isn't interested in having their misconceptions corrected?

I get that being anti-gun to the point where you know little to nothing about them is a point of pride for some people on the American Left. But the problem with being ignorant about a topic is that you can't effectively debate it. Because it's really hard to come to rational and reasonable conclusions from faulty information. For the gun debate to get anywhere, there needs to be knowledge on both sides. And if one side feels that the level of information available to an informed layperson is somehow off-limits, they're always at a disadvantage.

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