The San Bernardino terrorist attacks have spawned an editorial on page one from the vaunted New York Times, its first time doing so in nearly a century. What would cause the Gray Lady to be so incensed? Surely it has something to do with the Islamic State, or maybe our vulnerability to other terrorist actions and our ability to combat it. Surely they would use such an unprecedented event for this menace that we can barely comprehend.
But no, that’s not what it used its front-page platform to discuss. Instead, it proclaimed the evil nature of so-called “assault weapons”, the end state being that if only we got rid of them, we’d solve the damn problem of ISIS attacking us on US soil.
As in my previous blog on assault weapons, I’m not going to get into a debate with respect to the second amendment or the he-said she-said gun control arguments. I’m simply going to relay some facts. Whenever something like this occurs, the first thing that erupts is emotion, which is exactly what this editorial contains. It’s long on emotion, but woefully short on facts.
The op ed’s end state is that we should eliminate weapons that “civilians can legally purchase [that are] designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.” In other words, “weapons of war” which are solely designed to kill other humans should not be in the hands of civilians. Hunting rifles, in its opinion, should be the only weapons allowed. From this, I know immediately that the editorial board who wrote it has no business writing about weapons of any sort, because they apparently have absolutely no knowledge of the subject. Some facts:
1) While it’s not a particularly glowing endorsement on the human condition, every single firearm revolution in history came about specifically to kill another human. The secondary effect of such research and development was that it, as a tool, was also more efficient for hunting, target practice, and other sports. The bolt-action deer rifle the esteemed authors would presumably allow to remain in shooters’ hands was first designed and purchased by the Prussian army in the 19th century. The invention of the metal cartridge itself – or “bullet”, in Hollywood parlance – wasn’t made to put meat on the table, but to allow a soldier to reload faster without having to stand up from cover as he had to with a muzzle-loader. Rifling, which makes tac-driving long guns work their magic in NRA and Olympic competition, came about from the Civil War. John Browning designed the venerable 1911 handgun for the US Army in, of course, 1911. Today, it is one of the most widely replicated and used handgun designs on the competition circuit. The .30-06, one of the most widely used center-fire rifle cartridges for hunting of big game throughout the world, was invented by the military – to kill humans. And so it is with the venerable AR 15 platform that the article is decrying (by the way, the AR does not stand for Assault Rifle. It stands for Armalite – the first company to make the weapon). Currently, the AR 15 variant is the single most sold rifle platform in the United States. Why is that? Is it because everyone who purchases it wants to secretly slaughter humans? No. It’s because it is accurate, reliable, and easily modified for a plethora of different shooting situations and calibers. It is simply the evolution of firearms, and making a distinction, as if the AR 15 is a death-dealing weapon solely useful for killing humans, is incorrect. The very attributes the Army and Marines chose through its development directly translates to every lawful endeavor for which firearms are purchased, just as evolution in racing informs the next generation of automobiles. Anyone who’s tinkered with vehicles knows the term “street legal”. Some types of automobiles are only suited for the racetrack, but the R&D informs our everyday ride. The same is true of actual assault weapons – which are fully automatic, and already illegal to own – but the advances for legitimate civilian use can not be parsed simply because it was at one time invented for the military. To do so would reduce firearm ownership to the bow and arrow – something I’m sure the New York Times would love.
2) The article goes on to state that some calibers of ammunition should be banned as well, presumably meaning the one used in San Bernadino because the round is a death-dealing slaughter monster unfit for any lawful use. Once again, the writer shows little knowledge about ballistics. That caliber was 5.56/.223, the NATO round primarily found chambered in an AR 15 in the military (actually the fully automatic M16/M4 variants). Guess what? In Afghanistan and elsewhere the US Military stated it was inefficient in its chosen purpose: That it was not very efficient in combat – it was not that great at killing humans – and something else was needed. Every time “assault weapons” are mentioned, there’s some talking head proclaiming how deadly the round is, failing to mention that the 5.56 round is less powerful than fully two-thirds of center-fire rifle cartridges used in hunting throughout the United States. It is not, pardon the pun, a magic bullet. I’m not sure how that little fact will play with the New York Times, but emotionally, it doesn’t really matter. All that is necessary is demonization. Facts are irrelevant.
3) The capstone paragraph, with typical NYT vagueness, states, “Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.” Apart from the scary implications, I’ve already shown in my previous blog that in fact, it is not possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way – and as a matter of fact, they are already outlawed in California. That didn’t seem to matter to the terrorists. Take a look at this in an alternate universe. Had the AR 15 platform been unavailable, what would they have used? Shotguns? The two pistols they already owned? The next hue and cry from the New York Times will be that those must be outlawed as well. What would happen then? They would have used their pipe bombs, causing potentially more death than they were allowed to inflict with the rifles. If that had happened, I’m sure the NY Times would demand that pipe bombs be outlawed. Oh, wait….
4) The relentless quest to obliterate civilian ownership of the AR platform in order to save lives is, on its face, a chimera. I’m assuming of course, since the NY Times put this on the front page – the first time they’ve done so in nearly a century – that they are actually attempting to save lives. In that endeavor, as an uninformed reader, emotionally I must assume that the evil AR platform must be one of the most used methods of humans killing other humans, since they’ve put so much emotional time and space into the editorial, but statistically it is not. In fact, it’s not even close. From 2010 to 2014, using FBI crime statistics, rifles of ALL types – lever action, bolt action, pump action, single shot and semi-auto – account for fewer homicides than hammers. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m not sure why we haven’t seen an editorial demanding the banning of blunt objects. Knives account for almost TEN TIMES as many deaths as rifles of all types. But I haven’t seen anyone demanding they be banned. I’m not making that up. It’s not an emotional appeal. It’s simply a fact. One other: Rifle deaths have been falling steadily year after year, even including the horrific mass attacks in recent years and the repeal of the so-called assault weapons ban. Yes, at the height of the vaunted ban that everyone is trying to reinstate, there were more deaths by rifles than there are after the ban’s repeal. Banning the AR platform again will not create the utopia that the New York Times hysterically proclaims. They can have their opinions, but they can’t have their own facts.
In the end, the New York Times makes much of people “deflecting attention” away from gun control by using “ridiculous” terms like terrorism, but they are only speaking from emotion. When facts are used, their statements don’t hold up. Anyone who cares to look can clearly see that their solution would do little in the way of preventing future death at the hands of Islamic Jihadists. And they know that as well, because their ultimate goal is total disarmament.
Something I’m sure ISIS would love.