Thursday, June 30, 2016

Running the Gun (Part One)

"He was two hundred and fifty feet away and shooting at a moving target. Oswald got off three rounds with an old Italian bolt action rifle in only six seconds and scored two hits, including a head shot!" Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) Full Metal Jacket (1987).

What does that look like to you? 

Here's a hint - it is a military, semi-automatic rifle that fires a 7.62mm...basically a thirty caliber...round. It does not have a detachable magazine, or pistol grip. Two of my friends were shot with one similar to it. A Jeffco SO sergeant was killed almost 20 years ago with one.

 How about this?

This is a Colt A3, an AR-15 system. It fires a .223 (5.56mm) caliber bullet - sort of a 22 on steroids. It is very similar to the one I carried when I was on patrol. It (and related systems) has been used in several high-profile mass murders, including one several Christmases ago in
Webster, NY where two firefighters were shot to death.

Can you tell the difference?

Well, of course you can. That was a silly question, right?

 How about this one? Getting tired of the games? 

Yeah, me, too.

The long-overdue gun discussion is lurching into the public consciousness, put there by yet another madman with a rifle. Only, this time (and several others), their madness grew not from defect, but from an inextinguishable passion to kill in the service of...something. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

What makes the black gun in the middle deadlier than the others? Or, is it? A matter of definition? Totally.

Let's start with lethality. One of the things I've learned is that any projectile, properly placed, can be deadly.

 "Richie loved to use 22s because the bullets are small and they don't come out the other end like a 45, see, a 45 will blow a barn door out the back of your head and there's a lot of dry cleaning involved, but a 22 will just rattle around like Pac-Man until you're dead." Vincent "Vinnie" Antonelli (Steve Martin), My Blue Heaven (1990).

Pistol grips, made of plastic, lots of attachments?

I carried this type of rifle in the ROTC in college. It is made mostly of wood and does not have a pistol grip. It is an extremely lethal weapon, very accurate and has a 20 round magazine. 

How about magazine capacity? If you have 30 rounds, you are more dangerous than a shooter with 15 rounds? No! The "black gun" is more quickly reloaded than the ones without detachable, easily accessed magazines. A skilled, experienced (but not necessarily expert) rifle handler can exchange magazines in a second, plus or minus. In the time it takes for someone under fire to perceive that there is a lull, the asshole has reloaded and is back to work. So, that makes it more lethal, right?

No. Another aspect of lethality is mission. What is the point of shooting someone, nestled in the mind of the shooter? Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy with an eight shot Ivers-Johnson .22 caliber pistol. That murder (like his brother's before him) probably changed the course of world history. SS really didn't care if anyone else was shot (in fact, five others were). He wanted Kennedy dead for (wait for it) his support of Israel.

So, fuck it. We're so confused. Let's get rid of all semi-automatic rifles, as a start.

Lee Oswald shot President John Kennedy with a bolt action rifle he had purchased through the mail for about 20 bucks. He used an alias. From an observation platform in a building in Dallas he fired three shots in under six seconds, striking Kennedy twice. Texas Governor John Connolly was also struck, possibly by one of the rounds that had passed through Kennedy.

A co-worker and I stood in the School Book Depository, mere feet away from where Oswald's sniper position had been reconstructed. We looked down onto Dealey Plaza, the spot where the bullets had struck the occupants of the car less than a hundred yards away. For Oswald, a trained marksman with a 4 power sight, it would have been easy.

Claire Davis, fifteen years old and a horsewoman of considerable ability, was the only victim of the December 2013 shooting at Arapahoe High School. Was her death less tragic, the event less senseless, because she was the only one who died at the hands of a killer with a shotgun? Because she wasn't the intended victim?

Guns must be reasonably, rationally regulated. The trick then, is how? Keep the damn things out of the hands of people bent on murder, allow the law abiding to purchase them for their own uses. They are all lethal, especially in the possession of a trained marksman. Semi-auto, bolt action. Flint lock. They all kill. You want to decrease gun violence?

Figure out a way to keep guns and murderers as far apart as possible. How?

Many of you won't like the answer.

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