The guns the Colorado killer did not use

Andrew Sullivan shares the writings of an email correspondent that are about the best thing I’ve yet read on the issue of assault weapons bans:

I’m so sick of arguments like Adam Ozimek’s that basically say “you won’t be able to keep everyone determined to get a gun from getting one, so therefore gun regulations are pointless.”  It’s just absurd.

“Strong illegality wouldn’t have stopped [Holmes],” Ozimek says, pointing to the home-made IEDs in his apartment.  Let me ask you a question, Adam – why didn’t Holmes use a fully automatic, military-issue M4 instead of the civilian AR-15?  Hell, why not full-on light machine gun, like the M249, capable of rattling off around 1000 rounds per minute, complete with canister and a hundreds of rounds of ammunition? Why didn’t he use military-issue hand grenades and booby trap his apartment with claymore mines?  Does Ozimek believe that it was some kind of merciful choice that Holmes made, deliberately forgoing the additional lethality he could have brought with him to the theater if he were simply “determined” enough to get it?  Or does it seem more likely that the strict regulations in place to prevent dissemination of fully automatic, military-grade assault weapons may have had some impact on his weapons of choice? [emphasis mine]

Even if you can never stop all wars, you still work for peace.

And here’s Mark Kleiman in the wake of the Jared Loughner shooting:

The Tucson assassin managed to kill six people and wound thirteen more, at least one critically, before he ran out of ammunition. When he paused to reload, three heroic unarmed people tackled him. If he’d had a smaller magazine, fewer people would be dead and injured.

The 31-round magazine he bought, legally, along with his 9mm Glock, last November, would have been illegal until the NRA managed to prevent the extension of the assault weapons ban in 2004.

I’m not a huge fan of generic gun control. Making it harder for already ineligible people to get guns – by passing tougher laws on gun trafficking and closing down the private-sale loophole that allows sales without background checks – would have some value, but shrinking the number of guns owned by people allowed to own guns under current law wouldn’t do much about violence. States that make it easier to get a concealed-carry permit don’t find that the permit-holders commit many crimes. And “assault weapons” constitute only a tiny part of the gunfire problem.

Still, this is a case where excessively loose controls permitted avoidable violence. The shooter hadn’t been convicted of any crime or been officially judged a risk to others due to his mental-health problems, but there’s no way he could have passed even a cursory training program for concealed carry; he couldn’t even get through a community-college algebra class without being spotted as a dangerous person. [emphases in original] Arizona is one of only three states to allow concealed carry without a special permit.

But even assuming that he would have simply ignored that law, there’s no reason to think that he would have been sufficiently dedicated or knowledgeable to acquire an illegal high-capacity magazine. If he’d had only 10 rounds in his clip rather than 32, some of his victims would be alive and unhurt.

Honestly, I cannot think of another issue in American politics where one side is just so completely irrational.  The idea that one has to defend even high capacity military assault rifles to the utmost extreme is just nuts.  Can’t gun rights supporters just admit that we can limit these types of weapons and not come and take away their handgun or rifle?!  We had an assault weapons ban for 10 years and it was not some totalitarian takeover of American life.  Nobody is coming to take your guns away!  We’re never going to complete stop psycho mass murders, but if we can limit the harm they do when they go psycho killer, damn-it, that’s something worth doing.  Especially when the only harm it causes is somebody’s “suffering” from getting by without an AR-15 or 30 bullet magazine.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to The guns the Colorado killer did not use

  1. mike from Canada says:

    “Can’t gun rights supporters just admit that we can limit these types of weapons and not come and take away their handgun or rifle?!”

    No Steve, they can’t. They won’t.

    You have had posts relating to this subject before. They live in their own bubble. They are prone to incestuous amplification of information. They only read material that supports their view. They ignore everything else.

    Have you ever seen those “Stop watching Cable” commercials?

    1) They make an unsupportable statement.
    2) You prove it wrong through links to facts.
    3) They ignore the old statement. Never happened. They utter a new statement. Goto 2.
    4) Then you do the same thing over and over until you want to put a fork in your eye.
    5) DON’T put a fork in your eye.
    6) You stop replying to their nonsense.
    7) They live in their bubble without further intrusion of facts that don’t support their irrational beliefs.
    8) They continue to spout nonsense.
    9) Goto 1.

  2. ke says:

    The shooter, before killing someone, must first make two separate decisions.

    1. Do I shoot people?

    2. If yes to 1, how shall I shoot them?

    Gun restrictions may influence the second decision, but most likely not the first, if the shooter is determined to accomplish 1. It is true that he may be somewhat indifferent about the second question, in which case gun restrictions may indeed successfully influence/reduce the number of people ultimately shot.

    However, the decision of what weapons to use depends on the relative ease of acquiring less lethal vs more lethal weapons. Changing relative preferences may be thought of as making more lethal weapons more difficult to acquire, or making less lethal weapons easier to acquire. The shooter’s weapon selection also depends on what weapons he thinks he might have to fight against.

    However lethality is often difficult/subjective to determine. An assault rifle that jams/ difficult to conceal/ may be less lethal than a handgun, for instance.

  3. But even assuming that he would have simply ignored that law, there’s no reason to think that he would have been sufficiently dedicated or knowledgeable to acquire an illegal high-capacity magazine. If he’d had only 10 rounds in his clip rather than 32, some of his victims would be alive and unhurt.

    There you go again with that STRAW MAN. Gun clips take seconds to change on average about 5 seconds and gun clips are very cheap and easy to acquire legally. High capacity gun clips are in the small minority of mass murders

    • Steve Greene says:

      Every gun clip change is an opportunity for the situation to change. I believe Loughner was stopped when he had to change clips. If something is only used in a small percentage of mass murders does that mean it should be de facto legal? Given the limited civilian utility of these items, even if it only saves a small handful of lives, that sure strikes me as worth it.

  4. If it makes you feel better I would support a ban on high capacity gun clips for civililian use. Most mass murderers simply don’t use them and it is my understanding that Loughner was stopped by police as he exited the theatre after killing and shooting innocent victims, You have obviously not changed a gun clip on a gun and do not realize that people are ducking for cover and by that time he already has ejected one clip and slammed a new one into place in 5 seconds or less

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