I bought my first assault rifle in 1978 – a Colt Sporter AR-15 with a ten-round clip. Since I lived near the big army base in South Carolina, Fort Jackson, I was able to get my hands on plenty of.223 ammo. So from time to time I would take a sack of ammunition and go down to a sand pit with the gun to have some fun.
I also owned two lever-action rifles, a Winchester 30-30 and a Marlin in 44 mag. These were the guns which knocked down deer aplenty, the 30-30 probably bring the most versatile hunting caliber ever devised.
Anyone who tries to pass off an assault rifle as a hunting gun has drunk too much kool-aid to have a serious discussion about guns or anything else. On the other hand, the AR-15 is lots of fun to shoot. And the reason it’s so much fun is precisely the reason it has now been used in three mass shooting rampages in just over a week.
The AR loads its ammo magazine from beneath the gun, which means that no matter how big a magazine or how many rounds it holds, it won’t get in the way of the shooter looking through the sights and aiming the gun. Most AR rifles come with a 20-round magazine, 30 round mags are commonly found, and if you tape two 30-round mags together, you can get off 60 rounds with an AR in a minute or less. The kid who shot up the Sandy Hook Elementary School popped off more than 90 rounds in five minutes, most of that time spent moving from room to room.
Shooting an AR with a hi-cap magazine is like playing with a shooting video game. Except all of a sudden it’s not a game if the targets are real people rather than some cartoon figure on a screen.
Of course the minute Trump got done demonstrating once again his leadership by schlepping out the old ‘thoughts and prayers,’ he then went back to the other standard narrative about how mass shootings are the work of the mentally ill. I’m surprised that the mental health network hasn’t yet made their usual noise about how mentally ill people shouldn’t be castigated for violent behavior, but that messaging will no doubt come before the day is out.
As for the physicians who deal with physical, as opposed to mental health issues, this morning’s CBS broadcast of their ‘Sunday Morning Show’ brought seven docs together to talk about their reactions to this weekend’s events, and they all agreed that physicians need to do a better job figuring out who is capable of committing this kind of carnage before the event occurs. The fact that the shooters in Texas, Ohio and California all purchased their guns from licensed dealers was somehow ignored.
What all these mass shooters have in common is that most of them planned their events in a very deliberate and painstaking way. They built up their arsenals over time, they practiced at the range, they checked out various locations and escape routes. All of this behavior was and is very different from the impulsive and immediate way in which a street guy yanks out his Glock and goes – bang!.
The point is, that if anything, people who want to commit mass carnage go out of their way to appear ‘normal’ to other folks precisely so that they can make their plans in an organized and efficient way. To deny that such people are not mentally ill is really silly unless you want to define mental illness as being totally and completely deranged.
I would love physicians to develop some kind of evaluation profile that would allow them to identify people at risk for committing mass murder with guns. But in the absence of such research, I simply don’t understand why the medical community has so much difficulty responding to gun risk by saying clearly and loudly that the one way to end gun violence is to get rid of the guns.
You really don’t need more CDC research funding to figure that one out.