Did A Good Guy With A Gun Stop A Bad Guy With A Gun? Not In Dallas.

The last time that a sniper climbed up into an office building and tried to kill someone in downtown Dallas was November 22, 1963.  The sniper was Lee Harvey Oswald and the victim was the President of the United States.  This time around, the shooter appears to have been an ex-Army reservist who served in Afghanistan, and victims were five members of the Dallas PD.  These two sniper attacks were separated by nearly fifty-three years in time, but less than five hundred feet in space.  The unfortunate Dallas police officers were apparently shot near the intersection of Main Street and South Lamar; walk a block east down Main Street, turn left and you’re standing in front of what was the Texas Book Depository Building where Oswald perched himself when he allegedly shot JFK.

 

Bystanders stand near pollice baracades following the sniper shooting in Dallas on July 7, 2016.  A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted.  / AFP / Laura Buckman        (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bystanders stand near pollice baracades following the sniper shooting in Dallas on July 7, 2016.
A fourth police officer was killed and two suspected snipers were in custody after a protest late Thursday against police brutality in Dallas, authorities said. One suspect had turned himself in and another who was in a shootout with SWAT officers was also in custody, the Dallas Police Department tweeted.
/ AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Oswald, a former Marine Corps member, used a surplus military rifle called a Mannlicher-Carcano 91/38, which he bought from a mail-order sporting goods wholesaler in Chicago for twenty bucks. There’s been no confirmation yet out of Dallas, but I’ll bet you that the murder weapon used in yesterday attacks was an AR-15 assault rifle, or some variation on the theme, like the Sig-Sauer rifle that mowed down over 100 people inside The Pulse.

Wait a minute!  Nobody’s going to quarrel with the idea that President Kennedy was shot with a military gun; Oswald, after all, was a trained Marine Corps marksman, which meant he probably learned to shoot with a Springfield, bolt-action 1903 rifle, a gun that was similar in design and function to the gun he took into the Book Depository in order to carry out his assault.

But the AR-15 is a ‘sporting’ rifle, according to the NRA and the NSSF.  It doesn’t have any military application at all.  Those unfortunate Dallas cops weren’t shot with a military weapon, they were shot with a gun that is no more dangerous than any other rifle that you can find for sale in in any gun shop and can be purchased by anyone whose ownership of a gun is approved by a call to FBI-NICS.  Let’s not rush to judgement here, even if President Obama is already ‘politicizing’ this terrible tragedy by renewing his call for more regulations over these kinds of guns.  And what did Obama get in return for mentioning that these cop killings were the result of people being armed with ‘powerful weapons?’ He got an immediate response from Ben Carson (remember him?) who was plopped out in front of a Fox television camera to remind the audience that “we still have the 2nd Amendment” which gives us the right to use a gun to protect ourselves “against an overly aggressive government or external invasion.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how Gun-nut Nation gets past this one, if only because it’s one thing if a ‘street thug’ shoots another ‘street thug,’ it’s another thing if five police officers were killed and seven others, cops and civilians, were wounded by a guy walking around with a ‘sporting’ gun.  And remember that Texas is an open-carry state; in fact, there was one guy walking in the parade who had an AR-15 slung over his back; fat lot of good he did when the shooting broke out.

Adam Gopnick had a piece in The New Yorker in which he pointed out that the Dallas assault represented “the grotesque reductio ad absurdum of the claim that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.” The parade route was lined with good guys who had guns, and the result was that five of them ended up dead.

But not to worry, Adam.  Like the veritable phoenix arising from the ashes, the NRA will wait the customary few days and then trot out again the myths of the ‘modern sporting rifle’ being used by the ‘good guy with the gun.’  After all, they now have a Presidential candidate who will probably be saying the same thing.

 

Advertisements

Gun Control Then And Now. Does History Repeat Itself?

It’s a standard argument among pro-gun advocates that gun control is antithetical to the norms and traditions of a free society.  And the proof that is usually thrown up consists of vague references to the efforts by dictators like Stalin, Mao and Hitler to disarm their own populations as a way of consolidating their repressive regimes.  Now we finally have a serious book on the subject written by Stephen Halbrook, an attorney whose resume shows him to be one of the most active, pro-gun litigators in the United States, including serving as Counsel to the NRA.

Halbrook’s book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, details the efforts byhitler the Nazis to disarm the German population, in particular the German Jews, between the advent of the regime in 1933 and the widespread anti-Jewish violence known as Kristallnacht that broke out in November, 1938.  It was the latter event that escalated anti-Jewish persecution from legal statutes to organized violence, and paved the way for a much wider consolidation of repression and dictatorial authority. The author shows how the Nazi government used gun control measures promulgated under the democratic, Weimer government, to identify and arrest Jews and other political undesirables, thus effectively frustrating the ability of anti-Nazi elements from resisting the growing tyranny of the National Socialist regime.

While Halbrook’s well-researched and balanced narrative is a significant contribution to modern European historiography, it is also, despite his claims to the contrary, an argument against current efforts to expand gun controls in the United States.  The author notes: “A disarmed population that is taught that it has no rights other than what the government decrees as positive law is obviously more susceptible to totalitarian rule and is less able to resist oppression.”  [Page. 218] If anyone believes that this statement is anything other than a thinly-veiled reference to the anti-gun ‘dangers’ of the Obama Administration, I refer you to a recent statement, among many others, made by Jim Porter, current President of the NRA, who argues that Obama’s attacks against the 2nd Amendment are just another example of his “usurpation” of Congressional authority.  Isn’t that exactly how Germany slid from the democracy of Weimar to the tyranny of Hitler?

It’s a nice and simple way of viewing the world to assume that one government’s attempts to disarm its own population is no different from any other attempt.  Unfortunately, it’s not true.  The original gun control measure passed by Weimer in 1920, and then refurbished by the Nazis in 1938, came about as the government’s response to organized, armed political violence from political movements both on the Right and the Left.  The extension of gun control by the Nazis was motivated by a similar desire to disarm groups that posed a political threat to the government, insofar as these populations, including Jews and Communists, were considered “enemies” of the State. At no time did either Weimar or the Nazis ever consider or even discuss gun control in response to non-political violence of any kind.

The last time that anyone in the United States took up arms against the U.S. Government was the bombing of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861.  And while the initial impetus for the first federal gun control law in 1968 was the assassination of JFK, nobody ever imagined that Lee Harvey Oswald was spearheading an all-out assault on our political institutions or laws.  Whether it takes the form of crimes (homicide, assault) or mental illness (suicide), gun control initiatives in this country always flow from concerns about gun violence perpetrated by citizens against themselves or others, not violence either for or against the State.  In fact, data gathered by the United Nations shows that we are the only country in the entire world whose level of gun violence rises to levels found only in Third World countries where the use of small arms is still a destabilizing political or economic force.

Don’t get me wrong.  Halbrook’s book is a welcome addition to the literature on the organization and consolidation of the Nazi regime.  But what this country needs is a serious and sober discussion about how to limit and ultimately eradicate gun violence, and this discussion will not take place if either side continues to justify their positions by taking historical events out of context and pretending that they somehow apply to the present day.