In an opinion piece published on-line on the 3rd of September, the Editorial Board calls on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to end his “inertia on gun safety” and do something about what they believe to be daily mass shootings.
Admitting that “no single law would end gun violence,” they nevertheless insist on a “ban on the sale of military-grade assault weapons. Unneeded by civilians, they are a blight on the nation, their ready availability a national disgrace. Eliminating them would slow the growth of this list [of mass shootings]. It would save lives.”
Enough of us have corrected the bogus label of “assault weapon” to make yet another explanation of why it’s a disingenuous term tedious. I am seeing more and more advocates of gun control tell me that I do not need an AR-15, the firearms that these days are the most common example offered for what a “military-grade” gun is supposed to be. When I ask them what their qualifications are for making that assertion, I’m told that it’s common sense—the fallacies of bandwagon appeal and begging the question—and then asked why I’m such a lousy shot. These are dodges to avoid admitting that the people making the argument are not experts in weapons, tactics, or history. There are many answers as to why I or others need—require, want, employ, possess—semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines, but the fact that some politicians and voters want to take them away is the bottom line when the person asking isn’t willing to hear any other responses.
Their claim that civilians don’t need “military-grade assault weapons” deserves attention, especially as it illustrates how little qualified they are to tell me what any of us need. “Civilian” originally meant a resident of a city—from the Latin word, civis —as opposed to a member of the nobility (military order) or clergy, and its contemporary meaning continues that contrast with soldiers. “Police” comes from the Greek word, polis, which also means city. They function as members of the “civil administration,” not as an occupying military force. As such, according to the editors of The Washington Post should insist that cops have their icky guns taken away. But one point of the Second Amendment is to guarantee that ordinary Americans have some measure of parity with armed agents of the government, and that’s, even more, the case as the police are increasingly turned into paramilitary forces.
And then there is the claim about daily mass shootings. The Editorial Board needs reminding that a mass shooting is a single incident in which four or more are killed, not including the terrorist. A Reddit user by the handle of Billy Speed “decided, all by myself, to change the United States’ [sic] definition of a mass shooting.” This was a deliberate attempt to inflate numbers to create the impression that we have many more terrorist attacks when, in fact many incidents that get swept up into the count are ordinary criminal violence.
This is not meant to dismiss the latter or to deny the damage done by any murder or assault. But basing a policy (another word derived from polis) proposal on poor arguments and dishonest presentations will not lead to good ends. We who value gun rights, however, cannot be satisfied to accept a win on the technical points while demands to “do something” grows louder.
One “do something” proposal is a requirement that any transfer of a firearm—and of late, gun control advocates are being honest that they don’t want guns to be loaned to friends—must be done with a background check. And there is an easy solution here, one that offers the promise of achieving what gun control advocates claim to desire. Open the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Allow gun buyers to log in and receive a time-stamped go/no go ticket that they can present to sellers, whether licensed dealers or Bubba the Dremel Man. With computer databases and smartphones, this can be both instant and convenient. Of course, it doesn’t tie the buyer’s name to a particular gun, avoiding concerns about a de facto registry, but gun control advocates insist that they want to compromise
Another solution is one that I point out over and over: Treat domestic violence seriously—at least as serious as possession of marijuana in the laws of many states and the federal government, for example. Mass shooters often have a history of violence against romantic partners and other family members. Investigating and prosecuting these crimes offer the best chance to forestall future attacks. And by the way, for the benefit of gun control advocates who don’t realize this, there is no girlfriend loophole. The Lautenberg Amendment makes anyone a prohibited person who is convicted of violence against someone with whom he (typically it is a man) cohabits in a family relationship. (https://www.bhwlawfirm.com/lautenberg-amendment-federal-gun-ban-domestic-violence/) Assault or similar acts against people with whom the attacker does not live is still a crime, despite what gun control advocates seem to believe.
The problem here is that many of us on the side of gun rights do keep offering things that we can do, but the “do something” crowd shows no interest in anything but curtailing gun rights.
Over and over I’ll be told that what I suggest—the above along with better access to education and healthcare, reductions in income inequality, and ending the war on drugs—are good, but we also need gun control. I then get accused of being a fake liberal, a fake gun owner, or the like, depending on who’s in the conversation. The fact is that yes, I and others have something that can be done to reduce overall violence and specifically mass shootings. We in the gun community have to speak out with at least as much volume as the advocates of gun control, calling for solutions as well as insisting on respect for rights. And we must not be silent when we’re presented the accusation that opposition to gun control is the same thing as support for murder.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.