Bob Schwartz

Tag: assault weapons

Assault rifles are personal weapons of mass destruction (#PWMD)

Personal Weapons of Mass Destruction (PWMD)

Assault rifles are personal weapons of mass destruction (#PWMD). America fought a war in Iraq to eliminate imaginary WMDs. These WMDs are very real (250 American mass shootings so far in 2019).

That millions of Americans are supportive of and motivated by social hate—Americans from the president on down—is a difficult problem that won’t be easily fixed. Reducing the availability of assault rifle PWMDs is easier:

Assault Weapons Ban of 2019
S.66 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)
Introduced in Senate (01/09/2019)

This bill makes it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) or large capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD).

The prohibition does not apply to a firearm that is (1) manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action; (2) permanently inoperable; (3) an antique; or (4) a rifle or shotgun specifically identified by make and model.

The bill also exempts from the prohibition the following, with respect to a SAW or LCAFD:

importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession related to certain law enforcement efforts, or authorized tests or experiments;
importation, sale, transfer, or possession related to securing nuclear materials; and
possession by a retired law enforcement officer.

The bill permits continued possession, sale, or transfer of a grandfathered SAW, which must be securely stored. A licensed gun dealer must conduct a background check prior to the sale or transfer of a grandfathered SAW between private parties.

The bill permits continued possession of, but prohibits sale or transfer of, a grandfathered LCAFD.

Who Killed the Assault Weapons Ban?

Hoover Tactical Firearms
A ban on assault weapons is dead, at least for this session of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Democratic gun bill moving forward will not include it.

The political math is that 60 votes are needed to pass a bill in this new and not improved super-majority Senate voting, and there weren’t enough Democrats, let alone Republicans, to make passage possible. The political reality is fear. There are Democratic Senators who believe that a vote for anything that looks like a gun ban, however reasonable and popular, would cause them grief or worse back home and in the voting booth.

We had a ban on assault weapons for ten years, signed by Bill Clinton, allowed to expire under George W. Bush in 2004, and never revived. It was far from perfect or comprehensive, but at least it represented recognition that as a modern civilization, there are things we try not to do or allow to be done. This isn’t heaven, but we can make it a little less hell.

An earlier post mentioned that we have not seen, and as a matter of decency (we are civilized people, aren’t we?) will not see, the photos of the dead children at Sandy Hook School in Newtown. Since then, though, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing at which a vivid word image was painted by a first responder. Maybe not a thousand words, but we got the picture.

Harry Reid could tell us, name by name, which Democratic Senators did not want to have a vote on this so they wouldn’t have to be accountable. They wanted to avoid the double-edged sword, cut once politically by supporters and voters who believe that any banned weapon is one too many, then cut again by those who can’t understand why military weapons are needed by the hunter or the psychopath next door. By Adam Lanza’s mother and, in the end, by Adam Lanza.

Maybe we are asking the wrong questions of our politicians. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking whether they believe in a ban on assault weapons, or in the possibility that such a ban might reduce the number of gun deaths by even a little, and might reduce the brutality of an already brutal world.

Maybe we should be asking our politicians whether they believe in ghosts. The kind of ghosts who visit all of us, in the moments before sleep, in sleep itself. Ghosts of things done or not done. For Senators, ghosts of bills passed, unpassed, and too many times, never voted on at all. Ghosts that aren’t abstract, but that take stark, all too real form. Ghosts that look like mangled, barely recognizable angels, just wanting somebody to speak—and vote—for them.

Another Reason We Need Assault Weapons

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
The 1950s were the reel golden age of science fiction movies. Consider the shots above from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). It is the story of a rich socialite turned into a giant woman by a giant alien. She seeks revenge on her cheating husband, something made easier by the fact that she is…50 feet tall. (She is also pretty sexy, wrapped in what looks like a few very big sheets, needed because her designer socialite clothes did not grow.)

The sheriff discovers that a pistol is no match for the giant alien, and as you can see, her husband learns that his pistol is useless against her. (She is ultimately stopped when the sheriff shoots an electric transmission tower she is standing next to.) This is an old story and a lesson we should have learned by now: pistols are not effective against aliens, monsters, people turned into monsters, etc.

Assault rifles may do no better, but at least they might give you a fighting chance and a little extra time to escape. The NRA, for some reason, has failed to make this argument. But it is both appealing and rational. The chances of the government turning against all its citizens may be small, but it could happen, and the NRA believes it and promotes the possibility. The chances of alien invasion, experiments gone rogue, the sudden appearance of strange new enemies may be small, but it could happen too.

In that case, would you rather be carrying a pistol, rifle, or shotgun, or do you want some serious firepower? You know the answer.

Assault Weapons: The Art of the Art of the Possible

Bushmaster ACR
Watching Joe Biden back off the primacy of an assault weapons ban in the curbing of gun violence—following Senator Diane Feinstein’s introduction of exactly that legislation—is discouraging. And it brings to mind Picasso and Pollock, among others.

Politics is said to be the art of the possible. The motto is roughly “we fight the fights we can win.” Very pragmatic, and there is something to commend pragmatism. That won’t be much comfort, though, when well-meaning politicians have to show up at the next inevitable massacre and solemnly announce that they aimed at the possible, and even then settled for half.

Exactly what kind of art is politics?

Here’s a style of art, the kind everybody finds acceptable and can endorse. Who is going to argue about Rembrandt?

Rembrandt - Self Portrait
Then again, over time there were a number who wanted to argue about and with Rembrandt. By the time the twentieth century rolled around, artists wondered why they had to pay slavish homage to ideas that no longer suited the times. They determined that new ways were not only possible, but that they must be possible.

And so Picasso

Picasso - Les Demoiselles D'Avignon

and Jackson Pollock

Pollock - No. 5
Maybe every progressive politician who is wavering on support for an assault weapons ban needs to visit some museums with modern art; there are plenty in Washington. Then maybe they will discover what real courageous progress is. The possible is limited only by our imagination, spirit and will. That’s the real art.

Fish and Assault Weapons

Fish Head Bullet Weights
Tomorrow, Barack Obama unveils a series of proposals to curb gun violence. Among them is likely to be a reintroduction of a federal ban on the sale of assault weapons, a ten-year prohibition that expired in 2004. Many are pessimistic, believing that such a measure might pass the Senate, but will certainly not make it through the House.

There is a fair amount of discussion about whether people hunt with assault weapons, and if they do, whether they should. It’s a good question, but not nearly as fascinating as the eccentric question of whether people fish with assault weapons.

The short answer is that up until a few years ago, two states did allow fishing with guns. New York State has since repealed its law, leaving Vermont as the only state where you can legally shoot fish (in a lake, but presumably still not in a barrel—except in the privacy of your own home).

Spring hunting for pike is in fact a Vermont tradition. Here is the law:

Vermont Statutes
Title 10: Conservation and Development
Chapter 111: FISH

§ 4606. Taking fish by unlawful means

(e) In Lake Champlain pickerel, northern pike, carp, garfish, bowfin, mullet, shad, suckers, bullhead, and other cull fish may be taken from March 25 to May 25 by shooting and spearing in other than spawning areas designated under section 4140 of this title. For the purposes of this subsection, Lake Champlain includes all connected waters at the same level.

Gun experts do not generally advise shooting in water at all, for the safety of bystanders. But if you do plan to set your sites on Lake Champlain fish, it is likely that assault weapons will still be legal this spring, so nothing other than a sense of fairness, or good sense in general, should be stopping you.