When It Comes To Assault Rifles, The Gun Industry Has A New Friend: The New York Times.

There’s a video floating around that shows Rupert Neate, a reporter from The Guardian, being heaved out of the Shot Show because he walked up to the Smith & Wesson display and began asking a company employee about an assault rifle ban.  This conversation took place as a member of Smith & Wesson’s marketing team happily placed an assault rifle in Neate’s hands and kept referring to it as a “modern sporting rifle,” although to be fair the gun, known as the AR-15 Sporter, fires only an itty-bitty 22-caliber cartridge, as opposed to the more lethal 5.56 or .223 military calibers that most so-called modern sporting rifles use.

ar              This nonsense about how a remarkably-lethal weapon used by our armed forces has been transmogrified into a ‘sporting’ gun by the gun industry for the last twenty years has been going on since the imposition of the 10-year assault weapons ban back in 1994.  The gun industry first reacted to the ban by claiming that ‘assault’ weapons were fully-automatic guns used only by the military; hence, any semi-automatic rifle deserved to be sold in the civilian market regardless of its design. And when the ban was not renewed in 2004, the industry went whole hog in trying to convince everyone that an AR-15 gun, as long as it didn’t fire more than one shot with each pull of the trigger, was no different from Grandpa’s old Remington or Winchester hunting rifle except it had a more modern look.

In arguing against any new attempt to impose a new assault weapons ban, the gun industry has cited again and again the Koper study, published as the ban was expiring, which could not, according to the author, definitively determine the effects of the ban on rates of gun crime.  But this study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, has also been cited by proponents of a ban as showing that changing the design of assault rifles and limiting the capacity of all semi-automatic gun magazines did, in fact, result in a reduction of gun crime. So once again it’s the old story in the gun debate: pro-gun advocates saying that government regulation doesn’t work, gun-control advocates saying it does.

Out of the woodwork we now have a major gun-control voice joining up with Gun Nation to proclaim that the assault weapons ban was a dud. And the voice belongs to none other than The New York Times, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning editorialist, Nicholas Kristof, has decided to share this “inconvenient truth” with his liberal colleagues in an evident attempt to get the GVP community to be  more realistic and honest in its approach to guns.  To quote Kristof, the gun debate should be driven by “evidence of what works,” and what didn’t work, was the assault weapons ban. To quote Kristof again, the law was “poorly drafted” and didn’t reduce gun crimes during the ten years it was in effect.

Far be it from me to challenge the ability of a Harvard and Oxford-educated journalist to read his sources clearly, but I have read the Koper report several times and Kristof’s attempt to align its contents with the views of the pro-gun mob just doesn’t work. First and foremost, the report compared only a few years of data before and after the ban when nearly all of the pre-ban guns were still in circulation and a majority of pistols were equipped with hi-cap mags. Furthermore, very few police jurisdictions collected data on magazine capacity of guns picked up at crime scenes, and the vaunted tracing data of the vaunted ATF turned out to be useless at best.

If Koper’s report says anything, it says that attempting to evaluate the impact of a weapons ban which expired before sufficient data even existed was an exercise that simply could not succeed.  Which is much different from concluding that the ban didn’t work. Kristof is correct in asking for evidence, not opinions, to shape the gun debate. He might show the way by doing it himself.

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Want To End Gun Violence? Go To The Source.

Ever notice how the chief culprits are never identified or even mentioned in the great blame game that breaks out after every horrendous shooting?  Now don’t me wrong.  The unintended injury or death of any human being is horrendous, but we don’t register the daily, humdrum gun violence affairs; we wait until a really bestial, mass murder takes place to which we then assign terms like’ horrible,’ ‘unthinkable,’ ‘tragic’ and the like.  Then we play the great blame game.

For Republicans, the blame is now squarely fixed on something called “very’ very sick people.” Or at least this is how Donald Trump began his contribution to the blame game after the Oregon massacre last week.  It was basically what he and other Presidential wannabes said after the August 26 gunning down of two television journalists in Virginia; funny how these guys (and a gal) all agree that we should do a better job of collecting information about the crazies among us but, at the same time, we don’t need to extend background checks. So what should we do with all this new information that we’ll get when we ‘fix’ the mental health system?

      Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson

Everybody’s getting down on Jeb Bush for his cogent “stuff happens” response to the blame game, but maybe he’s decided that given his standing in the polls, he’d be better off not blaming anyone or anything at all.  And when all is said and done, I give Baby Bro a high-five for at least having the honesty to come right out and say what the words of the other red-meat candidates really mean, namely, that when it comes to gun violence, they don’t want to do anything at all.

But I’m not so sure that the blame game is generating anything more credible from the other side.  What was Hilary’s line? “Sensible gun control measures,” whatever that means.  And from the woods of Vermont, Bernie Sanders issued a statement which began, “We need sensible gun-control legislation.”  Wait a minute.  I thought that Hilary owns ‘sensible.’  Joe, who hasn’t decided yet whether he can afford to be unemployed after January 20, 2016, pushed back on the ‘sensible’ argument to remind us that the 2nd Amendment didn’t protect the rights of someone who wanted to own a “bazooka or an F-15.” I like Joe and I’d vote for him if I had the chance.   But what the hell was he thinking?

If you want the official blame-game entry you have to turn to Nick Kristof’s op-ed in The New York Times.  And what we get here is a remarkable and novel approach to gun violence, namely, that guns aren’t safe. He comes right out and says it!  After all, the British cut suicide rates by switching from coal to gas, the latter much less lethal, hence ovens in England are safer. “We need to do the same with guns.”  Want to make guns safer Nickie-boy?  Design them so that when you pull the trigger, out comes a squirt of H2O.

So that’s where things stand in today’s great blame game.  Everybody’s got a way to fix the problem but nobody’s saying anything reality-based at all. But recall I said in the very first sentence that the real culprits of gun violence are never named.  So I’m going to name them now and it goes like this: Beretta, Charter, Colt, Glock, H&K, Kahr, Sig, Smith&Wesson, Springfield, Walther –  I’m probably missing one or two more.  These crummy little companies make the products that kill and injure 100,000 Americans every year.  Want to tell me that guns don’t kill people, people kill people?  Go lay brick.

It’s not about background checks, it’s not about mental health, it’s not even about ‘stuff.’  It’s about a lethal consumer product being cynically and dishonestly promoted as the most effective protection from violence and crime. It’s not true, the gun makers know it’s not true, and it’s time we stopped looking elsewhere for something to blame.