Tuesday, July 24, 2012


My friends Jim and Lisa have a good post up over at Ranger Against War discussing the recent Colorado shootings I was fulminating over in the preceding post.

And - though it's not really the subject of their post - something came up over there that reminded me of a point of American politics that has always driven me fairly batshit.

That's the whole mythology centered around "Second Amendment Rights".

Now I'm not going to kid myself that Americans will ever give up their private firearms. We've had a pash for them since before we WERE Americans and that's not going to stop now.

And as a guy with two shotguns and a rifle in the gun safe, well, that'd be pretty hypocritical, anyway.

But that's not what bugs me.

The thing is, we WILL pay a price for private firearms. A blood price, different in causation but no different in effect than the one we pay for being able to get from Portland to Seattle in three hours, or for being able to eat food that other people prepare.

Those activities carry not just the risk but the certainty that at some point the brakes on the truck behind us will fail and the e. coli will lurk inside the hamburger. A statistical percentage of us will die, or be maimed, or injured, because of those things we want, and we accept that without a murmur because we consider our lives richer because of those things.

So with private firearms.

But automobiles and supermarkets are a practical necessity for our modern lives. We don't have to invent justifications for them.

Firearms aren't.

We don't hunt for survival any more. And the chaos inherent in a vigilante society is why we armed and empowered policemen and soldiers.

So our private firearms are really just toys, and it's hard to find a reason to keep a deadly toy around the house. We certainly would let our kids play with an exploding Etch-a-Sketch, would we?

So the people who build bunkers around private firearms for a living - and, yes, I'm looking at you, National Rifle Association - have to fill their sandbags with pure-D, 100% straight-from-the-feedlot bullshit, and the stinkiest of the pile is the one about how Our Guns Will Defend Us From Tyranny!


But here's the things that make this utterly ridiculous.

1. The vast majority of the people in the U.S. who keep and bear arms are politically anywhere from mildly conservative to foaming-mouthed-Michelle-Malkin-wanking wingnuts. There's a relative handful of armed liberals in this country, and we tend to be a rare and lonely breed; there is no Liberal Militia.

2. Let's be honest with ourselves - the New Deal breed of U.S. nanny-state authoritarian is as dead as the dodo. Any "tyranny" that will arise in the U.S. in some future scenario will be wrapped in the flag, quoting Ronald Reagan, and carrying a cross.

3. All those wingnuts will lay their customized-fully-auto-AR-15s at the feet of this dictator like the goddamn freikorps. Even the "moderate conservatives" will be unlikely to take to the hills to resist the New Corporate Overlords, because
4. Is anyone willing to argue that the U.S. circa 2012 isn't already about 80% of a functioning oligarchy? Hell, even the GOP is willing to openly fight for a return to the economic and social policies of the Gilded Fucking Age. Most of us that still have our jobs are wage slaves, too frightened of losing our homes, our medical care, and our jobs, to do more than peep helplessly as the elites regain everything they lost in the Thirties.

How have all those liberty-givin' guns done with that, anyway?

5. And with the red-meaters goin' all fascists those of us liberals, those who would fight, will be as helpless against their U.S. Army and the new freikorps as the old Rotfrontkämpferbund was against the old SA and their stahlhelm buddies. Not to mention that

6. To be a guerrilla fighter is to die. Silly movies aside, regular troops kill dozens of irregulars for every trooper they lose. Look at the WW2 statistics for the partisans in the occupied Soviet Union, for the maquis, for the Yugoslav and Greek partisan bands. The sorts of people who make good guerrillas are tough, brutal peasants whose "good life" sucks hard. Pampered Americans raised on television and McDonalds? We'd be lucky if one in a thousand of us managed to survive more than a week and bit more than wing one of the "oppressors" before buying it.

So...nope, the whole "guns keep us free" trope?

Utter horseshit.

I loves me my old Lee-Enfield rifle. I still enjoy going to the range even though I no longer hunt with it.

But it's a toy. A luxury.

A toy that can kill one of my fellow Americans at half a mile.

And if I want to keep it - and I do - I should be willing to act the adult and stop coming up with ridiculous bullshit Wolverines! fantasies to make my case.

ISTM that the problem here is that we want to have our guns and our nobility, too.

We let people like the NRA promote these ridiculous fantasies when we know full well that we're not going to use our firearms to fight a desperate guerrilla war against the Nicaraguan or Chinese occupiers, or to overthrow the fascist dictator we elected in a fit of Limbaughism.

They're our toys, our security blankets, and our hobby.

And so that we may enjoy ourselves people will have to die.

We should have the balls to say that straight out.

In fact, I just did.

See? Isn't that simple?


Podunk Paul said...

Well said, Chief.

People, young men and middle-aged guys with lowering horizons seem to think guns are a magic wand, an irrefutable argument that compensates for all their vulnerabilities. Fast automobiles had a similar aura for my generation. Back eons ago at the Infantry Board we cleaned machine guns and talked about James Dean and his Porsche.

rangeragainstwar said...

ar 15's are NOT full auto. nor are they assault rifles, but this distinction is superfluous since you can buy 100 round mags.
as u stated previously on RAW-EITHER OUTLAW or accept the outcome of kill your neighbor weapons on the open market.
ISTM that all the crazy shooters cannot distinguish between fact and fancy in their narcissism viewpoints.

FDChief said...

jim: What, you mean you haven't sent away for the lower receiver with the automatic sear? God love the Internet - no background checks, no nothin'...

ISTM that the problem here is that we want to have our guns and our nobility, too.

We let people like the NRA promote these ridiculous fantasies when we know full well that we're not going to use our firearms to fight a desperate guerrilla war against the Nicaraguan or Chinese occupiers, or to overthrow the fascist dictator we elected in a fit of Limbaughism.

They're our toys, our security blankets, and our hobby.

And because of that people will die.

We just don't have the balls to say that straight out.

Leon said...

If I may add my Canuckistan perma-civilian viewpoint:

You yanks have a problem with your second amendment, specifically the context. When it was passed, the standard infantry firearm was the smoothbore musket. Simple sights, short accurate range, and multiple steps to reload. To be effective on the battlefield you needed to practice reloading so often that it would become second nature and not something you could mess-up in the heat of battle.

And screw ups could still happened to trained soldiers, I recall an anecdote about soldiers who would load multiple powder and shot forgetting to fire until they had essentially an IED in their hands.

So you needed a trained and practiced militia to survive as a nation when those evil inbred Brits could come rampaging down waving their Brown Bess' and cups of Earl Grey (donuts not having been invented yet).

Nowadays it takes seconds to reload and you can put out more lead in seconds than a company. Also the nature of warfare has changed considerably. How is a 'well trained' milita supposed to stop a tank? Or an attack helicopter? Or an ICBM for that matter?

This delusion of armed militia to keep the government in check is fairly outdated. If the government ever decides to do the full Stalin on it's citizens then your closet of rifles won't matter when a jet drops a napalm strike on your troublesome town of rebels.

And if the government doesn't have the ability to do the full Mao, then it will just call you terrorists and put the full force of it's propaganda machine to portray you.

FDChief said...

"This delusion of armed militia to keep the government in check is fairly outdated"

And, as I've tried to lay out explicitly in this post, it's worse than that - it's completely opposite to what in the U.S. Army we used to call the "Enemy's Most Dangerous Course Of Action".

The likelihood that some fantasy liberal-socialist-communist government will suddenly start oppressing the general public, forcing people to have sex with random strangers, outlawing religion and fast food, and mandating gay marriage and punitive taxation is just that - a complete fantasy. The current President, a moderate Republican circa 1955, is considered to be a freakishly radical socialist by about a quarter to a third of the U.S. public.

No - the MOST likely scenario for some sort of "government tyranny" would be another 9/11 or worse followed by the ascendance of a right-wing authoritarian who seizes "emergency powers" to "fight the terrorists".

Mind you - we've already come a hell of a long way towards an secret-government/public-security-state and I don't see any of these would-be Patrick Henrys' in the street with their shootin' arns.

And in the case of the future hypothetical GOP despot, I'd argue that something like 60% to 80% of the private firearms would be at HIS command rather than fighting him - the model I'm seeing is NOT the ridiculous Wolverines! farrago but the very real historical example of the post-WW2 German right-wing freikorps that helped facilitate the eventual Nazi paramilitary thugs...

So the MOST likely use for all these liberty-lovin' firearms will be just the opposite - to arm the militias that will carry out the most loathsome of the neoReaganite dictator's will...

Lisa said...

According to a 2011 Gallup report, 55% of gun owners self-report as Conservative, 40% as liberal.

We do not need the NRA or a Wolverines excuse to own guns -- our Bill or Rights permits it. I'm really not sure why this is a Democrat vs. a Republican issue, but like everything else, we seem hopelessly riven along party lines.

As you say, any of the things of society which we enjoy may kill us: certainly food poisoning can do us in, as can the wonders of modern medicine or driving a car or flying a plane. Or indulging in anything to excess (food, drink, etc.)

If guns were restricted or banned, why there's always the crossbow at Walmart or the hunting knife which might do you in. Or rope and duct tape. We just can't ban it all.

Human can be a grotty lot, full of genetic mutations which don't always serve us. It's who we are.

Sometimes I think I'd do well marketing a shirt, "Humans -- effed up from the get go", or somesuch, but I don't know how TRULY humble my fellows are ...

FDChief said...

Lisa, I love you to death, but...a crossbow??

Repeating firearms are terrific for killing people. That's what they're best at. Single-shot weapons are still fine for hunting; my pop used to say; "One shot. One deer. Two shots. Maybe one deer. Three shots? Nothing."

It's perfectly possible to prevent rapid-fire firearms from being in general use among the public. Lots of nations do it.

We choose not to, because we like to fool with them. We don't NEED them, like we do automobiles, food and drink, or airplanes.

So - if we were really honest, really stand-up, those of us with firearms and who support private firearm ownership would say to the public at large:

I like my guns.

I don't want to give them up.

Because of that some of you will die.

And I'm OK with that.

And then deal with what the public at large does with our stand, win or lose.

But we won't do that, because we know that to be honest is to lose the "argument".

Which says some pretty loathsome and detestable things about people in general and the politics of firearms in the U.S. in particular.

FDChief said...

And the Bill of Rights issue really has nothing to do with this, either.

In 1789 a flintlock musket required a ton of practice to use correctly. A "well-regulated militia" at the time meant that U.S. citizens had to "keep and bear arms" just to be minimally competent.

But any fucking idiot can pick up an H&K semiauto knockoff from a sporting goods store and with a ten-minute block of instruction from the salesman spray and pray his way through a crowded synagogue.

I'm damn sure that's NOT what the Framers had in mind, or what they would have chosen had they been able to see what certain whackaloons choose to do with their "rights"...

Lisa said...

Sorry -- not being very weapons oriented, I misnamed the weapon/hunting tool I'd seen (not a crossbow:). I still don't know what it was, but it struck me as something that could be lethal to humans if one wished to use it that way ... alas.

I'm not sure if it's the availability of weapons that allows these senseless cinematic displays of violence or something else in our society. I s'pose we could limit magazine size and outlaw certain weapons, but we are a gun society.

That might reduce the number of kills per episode, or it might alter the way in which these spectacles are carried out. The perpetrators may become more devious, or they may be satisfied with a lower kill ratio. I doubt tweaking the particulars about guns will stop the rampages, though.

I find it curious that the NRA (to which neither of us belong) participated in the Army-run, congressionally-authorized Civilian Marksmanship Program (begun in 1903) which transferred obsolete military firearms to United States civilians to learn and practice marksmanship skills. The purpose was so that participants would be skilled marksmen if later called on to serve in the U.S. military. No rampages occurred during that program.

There have always been assassinations and crimes of passion, and the gun as robbery tool, but these were discrete, targeted events. The mass shootings today make no sense.

So what is it about our society that allows for the employment of the gun in this sort of activity?

rangeragainstwar said...

I have a friend that spent time in federal pen for using an auto sear drop in .He is a retired military type with an excellent service record.
We as a nation have CREATED A NEW CLASS OF CRIMINAL and this is as unjust as is the movie murders.
About smooth bores.
Historically our civilians in America have ALWAYS been better armed than the military. We had rifled long guns before they became standard military issue. Same for repeating arms. Civilian marksmanship was a citizens duty hence the DCM ,1871, director of CIVILIAN MARKSMANSHIP. I learned to shoot thru DCM programs and even rec'd free ammo to do so, with gi issue m1922 springfields provided free of charge.
I used this knowledge to serve as a rifle toting soldier.
Sniper rifles and the m1 rifle were developed by civilians and not soldiers.
Riflemen and infantry men will ALWAYS be the center of our national defense.
How do you suggest we limit this knowledge/skill/and ability??
How would you do it?
I fought for the Constitution , and not for selected interpretations there of, or just for the popular parts.

FDChief said...

We've always done this stuff, Lisa; read almost any good "social history" and you come across these nutters.

But 1) we didn't have the access we do now - so rather than something that only happens every couple of decades (in our town or city) is happens every couple of years), 2) our repeating firearms have gotten significantly easier to use since the Forties, and 3) I think the electronic media ALSO makes it more attractive for the loons to do stuff like this so they can make the news cycle.

The marksmanship program pretty much tells its own story. These guys don't get their weapons through some sort of "process" because the process itself tends to weed out the whackos. The instructors tend to notice the weirdos - I did when I was on the Trail - and turf them out. So when the guys eventually take their '03 Springfields home the nutters didn't get one...

FDChief said...

jim and Lisa: The Second Amendment simply says "keep and bear arms" - it says nothing about what KIND of arms, or whether the people have to have EVERY kind of arm there is.

So, frankly, I see no reason that if the U.S. - or any of the states, say - wanted to restrict us to bolt-action rifles, pump-action shotguns, and revolvers they couldn't.

But like I said in the post; we like our semiautos. I think they're worthless for hunting - well, not worthless exactly, but sloppy and conducive to poor stalking and shooting - but what they are is FUN. They're fun to shoot. That's why I said it; they're our toys, and our hobby.

And I have no problem telling other people that they're gonna die so I can enjoy my toys..

But, then, I'm a callous asshole that way.

What's the NRA's excuse, and the Congress' I have no idea.

FDChief said...

And jim, ORGANIZED riflemen and infantrymen have been the rock of our soldiers (actually, I'd argue that since 1918 artillery and tacair have been, but I'll give you 1775-1918...). Just letting random Joe and Molly walk around strapped has really only helped add to the domestic chaos.

How I'd deal with the knowledge/skill/ability is I'd draft every mother's son (and daughter). It's pretty amazing what military training exposes - I'd bet that about 95% of these whacks and nutters would be fucking medicated after Week 8 of Basic. Plus they'd get the fundamental steady hold factors so they'd at least be able to select their targets when they went bugnuts and reduce the number of kiddies they capped...

OK, nasty joke there. But in truth, I'm not precisely worried about losing our national rifle skills; in a pinch I have taught Joe how to shoot in 24 hours. That's why I believe that all this "keeping and bearing arms" really has nothing to do with protecting the nation.

If it did we'd do something like Switzerland does; draft everyone, give them basic infantry training, and send them home with a rifle and ammo in sealed magazines ("Open only in case of Soviet invasion!"). Plus, as I said, that would have the added advantage of finding the nutters - most of the nutters - and adding their names to the list of the Rubber Gun Squad.

Lisa said...

Interesting that Switzerland doesn't have these random murderous spectacles, though fully armed.

FDChief said...

Lisa: The Swiss militamen are required to keep their weapons locked up at all times, and the ammunition in sealed packets, until mustered by their national command for war. The weapons and ammo are inspected regularly to insure that these rules are followed.

I can't find the comment, but I think jim made an observation about the parallel between these sorts of shootings and the gory movie that was showing at the shooting site, drawing an inference between our current fascination with video gore and the actuality of the shooters and their insanity.

And my thought was; for centuries people went to public executions and things like floggings as entertainment. Brought lunch and the whole famdamily to watch a couple of hangings and a traitor drawn and quartered (google THAT some time for a real gory matinee...).

So, again, I don't think that we've changed all THAT much. We've just invented ways to kill more people more quickly. Up to us what we do with that...

Ael said...


BigFred said...

Chief, great post. We are on opposite side on this, but a great post.

FDChief said...

Ael: The exception that proofs the rule.

BF: Not sure we're on opposite sides as much as at 90-degree angles. I'm not really advocating "gun control" but I despise the current mendacity of the NRA and the "Second Amendment Rights" hucksters. I own and enjoying owning both rifle and shotgun, and would miss them if I couldn't.

But I also admit that there's a case to be made that the current situation regarding the relative ease of acquiring rapid-firing firearms in the U.S. is both ridiculous and unnecessary. I don't accept it as "proven", but there's a case and I think it has a lot of strong points.

Unfortunately those points are beyond the people who will only give up their guns when someone pries them from their cold, dead, fingers, and so the situation will remain unchanged, IMO...

Ael said...

Yes, exceptions do prove rules.

They prove them false.

The Swiss are human like everyone else and every once in a while one of them breaks, badly.

That being said, you can (and IMO should) impose various sorts of enforced rules to limit the potential damage when the inevitable occurs. It's the humane thing to do.

FDChief said...

Ael: The operative word is "proofs" the rule. From the medieval Latin legal term "exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis" ("the exception proofs (confirms) the rule in cases not excepted")

Meaning that the stated exception - in this case, a single incidence of mass murder in Switzerland, a "heavily armed" nation often used as a comparison to the U.S. in terms of weapons in private hands - implies the existence of the rule ("Despite the numerous military-grade weapons available to the Swiss public the incidents of mass murder are extremely low") to which it is the exception.

FDChief said...

Ael: Not to pile on, but from teh very link you cited:

"When issuing weapon licenses, the application is closely examined, since Leibacher had been diagnosed with a paranoid personality disorder and "brain weakness" ("Gehirnschwäche"). He was able to legally buy the weapons although he had already threatened people, had been known as a grumbler and has had a report made against him."

Following this protocol a huge percentage of currently legal U.S. weapons and ammunition sales would be banned, including all Internet and mail-order sale as well as pretty much all "uncontrolled" sales such as private person-to-person sales and gun shows.

rangeragainstwar said...

Chief, people.
let's be a little less emotional here.
when did anyone ever spray and pray in a synagogue by way of H&K?
Is this dream/wish fulfillment?
The sad fact is that the 2nd is about keeping military weapons for the purpose of killing.There is no sporting use clause..
We may not like it, but that's how it is. If it is unpalpable then change it.

FDChief said...

jim: The reality of the U.S. in 2012 bear little resemblance to the "well-regulated militia" of 1789.

But - as I said in the beginning in the pot itself - there is neither the political will nor the public interest in changing anything.

99.9% of the firearms in public hands today are toys, hobbies, or security blankets rather than military weapons for national defense. But you will never hear that from the people who insist that they are, and therefore are covered by the 2nd Amendment.

And - as I also said - the 2nd Amendment says NOTHING about what type, number, and control of said firearms may be enacted by Congress. And yet, the NRA and its siderunners treat every attempt to do so as a "slippery slope" to confiscation.

The hypocrisy, mendacity, and foolishnes involved in every aspect of the national politics of private weapons is epic.

Our inability to think and speak clearly about our firearms is just one more reason to wonder if the Framers had their heads up their collective ass about We the People's capability for self-government...