A Final Bit of Clarity


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Quick post since it’s 4 in the morning at the time of writing and my migraine has finally wound down enough that I expect I might be able to get some sleep, but continuing in the tradition of “shit I’m tired of hearing every time there’s a mass shooting”, because there’s a well that will never run dry given the general lack of political will necessary to address Constitutional amendments, a few more points.

“Your fancy penis-substitute rifle wouldn’t do you any good if the government took over anyway, so why have them?  You can’t possibly stand against a modern military with only small arms!

There’s an element of truth there, but it’s a pretty small element.

Like hydrogen small.

Yes, small arms alone will generally not let you conduct a truly successful insurgency.  Most of the big ones have generally received some elements of external support, but to be frank?  Those are insurgencies being conducted against a foreign power.

Domestic rebellions are a completely different kettle of fish.  The local magistrate cannot enforce the law on an armed populace.  CAN.  NOT.  There are places today where the police are reluctant to go if they don’t go in force, so you can imagine what things would be like if suddenly you’re the agent of a genuinely oppressive government out trying to conduct counterinsurgency operations.

In a city.

When the citizens you’re trying to round up are carrying pretty much the same guns that you are.

In fact, quite a few of them are arguably better armed, have body armor that’s at least as good, night vision gear just like you, and while they might lack the same level of training, it’s the kind of thing that the survivors would pick up fairly quickly.

Sure, you can send in the Army.  Won’t change that much.  I have a hard time imagining the level of force that would be required to suppress a genuine rebellion in the United States, particularly since the last time we had a really big one, it got its own name and everything.

And that war was largely conducted with single-shot muzzle-loading rifles.

“The framers of the Constitution meant that people could keep weapons for hunting, so all you’re guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment is single-shot rifles!”

First off, let me congratulate you for somehow managing to either remain completely ignorant of the text of said amendment, or miraculously attaining the ability to write without concurrently attaining the ability to read.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It’s complicated and apparently contradictory, I grant.  But bear in mind that in the parlance of the day, “militia” and “regulated” meant rather different things than they do today, and more importantly, the operative clause is that last bit, wherein the rights of the people shall not be infringed.

Not “the rights of state and local governments”, but the people.  Part of that revolves around the fact that the Founding Fathers clearly did not want a Federal army in any way, shape, or form.  Congress can raise one, after all, but again, by the standards of the day that kinda implied that it would be disbanded once the necessity for it had passed.

So no.

The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting weapons, and anyone who told you that lied to you.  But hey, we’ve got this whole process wherein we’re allowed to amend the Constitution.  Not that it’s going to matter terribly much when it comes to gun control in another decade or two, but if it makes you feel better to make the attempt, by all means, go for it.

“It’s not a gun control issue, it’s a mental health issue!”

Those issues are intertwined, unfortunately, and in such a fashion that the dangers of establishing the sort of “cannot buy a gun because a shrink thinks you might be dangerous at some point in the future” kind of database are moderately horrifying.

You can trumpet all you like about the need for a national database of dangerously unbalanced people, but the fact remains that most of those people don’t actually do anything to tip people off that they’re about to go on a killing spree, and buying guns does not count as evidence in that direction, for reasons I will address shortly.

So while I’m all for keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, or people that have been committed to mental institutions for violent behavior (typically making them criminals by definition), I cannot support any attempt to create a database of people who are denied a Constitutional right solely on the grounds of “that guy seems kinda creepy”.  It’s too subjective, too open to abuse, and the first step down one of those slippery slopes that always seem to lurk just around the corner whenever we start talking about curtailing rights in the name of security.

The final point is one that hasn’t been brought up this time around, because the shooter wasn’t loaded down with firearms like some sort of video game character, but honestly, I’m tired of writing these damned things and I figure I’ll get it out of the way now:

“The shooter had <insert number perceived to be ridiculous> guns!  How could they not tell he was about to go on a rampage?!?!”

Easy.  Because people buy that many guns on a regular basis and don’t use them to shoot up anything more dangerous than cardboard.

Speaking as someone educated about, but entirely outside of, gun culture, I can say that when people with substantial disposable income fall into the financial black hole that is gun collecting, they often do it with a blatant disregard for what their neighbors or future creditors might think.  Or at least that’s what I’ve observed personally.  And it’s not an incredibly unreasonable thing to do, I might add.  You can ask “how many guns can you possibly need?!”, but to the people who are enthusiastic about them, and can afford them, the answer is “as many as I can fit in my house, because they’re all different.”

And they’re not wrong.

Let’s say you buy a handgun for self-defense and you do the responsible thing, take it to the range, and put at least a few hundred rounds through it to familiarize yourself with it and get some modicum of an idea of how to hit at least a stationary target.  Now, in this process, you realize you actually really enjoy target shooting, but the gun you bought fires some relatively expensive cartridge like .357 Sig.  You decide to get another pistol that fires something cheaper, so you don’t feel like you’re wasting too much money on your hobby.  And so now you have two guns.  And then you decide that you’d really like to have a revolver to shoot, since that’s a different experience than shooting a semi-automatic handgun.  Two becomes three.  At this point, you figure that you’d like to branch out some, and try some pistol-caliber carbines, and wind up picking one up for yourself.  At which point you decide since you’ve got what’s effectively a scaled-up pistol, you might as well try a cut-down rifle, and buy some short barreled AR platform.  And by now you’ve moved to an outdoor range, since the indoor range where you were shooting doesn’t allow you to fire rifles, and you discover trap shooting, and you simply must buy a shotgun.  You start small and go with a break action to begin with, but rapidly decide that you want to go a bit more extravagant and wind up with a semi-auto.  And since you’re shooting outdoors now, you decide you want to try some real long-range shooting and get a bolt-action rifle, and just as quickly as with the shotguns, a semi-auto rifle follows.

So at the end of this perfectly natural progression that can easily take place within a single year, you’ve gone from no guns to nine guns, and that’s just hitting the broadest possible categories.  Leaving aside the incredible variety of possible cartridges to choose from, the AR platform alone offers functionally infinite customization options to people with the interest to pursue them.

So no, buying 50 guns in a year isn’t necessarily an instant red flag.  It’s the kind of thing I’d just as soon see regulated, because there’s no real reason not to, but it’s also not some vast failing on the part of the government.

Which brings me to my related point.

Who cares?

I mean this with all sincerity; my concern over people who buy 50 guns in a year has exactly nothing to do with the possibility that they’re gonna go shoot up a school, and exactly everything to do with the suspicion that they might be acting as a straw purchaser.

If you buy fifty guns, or five guns, or five thousand guns, the inescapable truth is that you can only fire one of them at a time.  At least only one at a time with any accuracy, despite what John Woo might have led you to believe.  The guy who buys 50 guns is a lot less dangerous than the guy who buys two and trains with them relentlessly for a year, practices hitting moving targets, reloading technique, room clearing, all the things that would make a would-be mass murderer so much more effective.

And yes, that would necessitate buying an awful lot of ammunition, and no, that would not serve as a red flag for law enforcement, because once again, normal people do that all the time, in spades.

The fact that the Vegas shooter brought dozens of guns with him into his hotel room doesn’t prove that he was some meticulous mastermind of death, it proves that he was stupid and had no idea how to properly manage risk, or perhaps that deep down inside he wanted to be caught.  I could see bringing in two or three rifles, perhaps, and maybe a handgun or two if you want something less cumbersome to blow your own brains out with, but beyond that, every gun you haul around is just another chance to get caught with a shitload of guns, and the inevitable questions that would spawn.

Quick post turned into not-so-quick post, as it turns out, but I figure by this point I’ve listed all the things I just don’t want to hear the next time this happens, which at the rate we’re going will probably be only a few weeks, or at most a couple months, down the road.

We have a problem.  We have a problem that is uniquely American in the scheme of the self-styled “developed world”, and it is a difficult problem to address.  When you meddle with it, you’re putting weights on the balance between liberty and security, and exquisite care is needed to ensure that the scale doesn’t tip too far in one direction or the other.

So put some damned thought into it rather than just parroting catchy nonsense you hear from people who have either thought as little as you have, or are actively trying to take advantage of your ignorance.

Thoughts and prayers don’t bring people back to life.