Monthly Archives: February 2018

Criminalization of Assault Weapons and Limitations on Federal Powers.

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Honest, this is the last post on this topic for a while. This was originally posted on Facebook and I was asked to place it here so it could more easily be shared. This post addresses something I didn’t mention in the previous post on this subject, where I stipulated a buy-back would be necessary. This buy-back would need to be voluntary. Read on…

During prohibition criminal gangs employed submachine-guns to murder each other, hosing down innocents and targets alike. This created a public outcry against these and other weapons commonly used mainly by criminals.

But these weapons were legally purchased by citizens in good faith- the government was not legally allowed to make them illegal retroactively and simply take them. Our founding fathers came from a long history of the governments of Europe using de-legalization as a method of stealing from citizens, and they were determined not to have that happen in their new country.

So the government heavily regulated these weapons. Purchasing them would require special checks and licensing, and a hefty transfer fee when they were sold or traded ($200.) The weapons that were already in private hands were also licensed, ‘grandfathered in,’ and no other registration was possible unless or until the weapons were transferred.

This actually seems to have worked. There were other forces in operation; believe it or not gangster leaders were sensitive to public opinion, and the indiscriminate killings undermined their attempts to portray themselves as some sort of twisted Robin Hood sticking it to ‘the man.’ Regardless these weapons were used dramatically less in crimes. Score one for regulation.

But there were very few of these weapons in civilian hands- most estimates I’ve seen say something under 2,000 total. Auto Ordinance, maker of the ‘Tommy Gun’ was constantly on the financial ropes, barely scraping along from meager contract to meager contract right up until WW2. Most people did not want or see any need for owning their very own automatic weapon, and those that did could go through the difficult and expensive procedure of becoming a collector. Relatively few people bothered.

This is not England or Australia- it is still not legal for the government to outlaw and criminalize legally-purchased property retroactively. We might want to ban assault rifles, but the simple fact is the limits of the government’s powers are such that the best they could do is make further sales of new weapons illegal, or at least subject to the same sorts of restrictions as automatic weapons. Existing owners would be required to license their weapons- at no cost to themselves- but would be free to keep them indefinitely, or until they chose to sell them to a properly-licensed purchaser. This will leave somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000,000 or more of these weapons ‘on the street’ and potentially available to spree killers.

Maybe regulating these weapons will help; one hopes. But it will not remove these weapons from society- we’d better be looking for more permanent solutions, ones that address the root causes of so many young people deciding to become spree-killers.

If you want to empower the Federal government to criminalize possession of legal property purchased in good faith and seize it, it will require a some very, very serious work- like a Constitutional Convention. But think carefully- do you REALLY want the government to have that power? Do you trust them to restrict it’s use to the interests of the public good?

Addendum: Individual states are allowed to enact legislation to restrict these weapons of course, but they face the same limitations as the Federal Government. California recently tried to criminalize possession of any magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds, and the courts told them that they could not do so, as these were previously legal property, and they could not simply criminalize possession.

I neither publicly advocate nor oppose strictly regulating high capacity semi-automatic rifles and/or handguns. This post is for informational purposes. Forgive me, but I have spent enough time arguing about this issue in other venues; I am disabling comments on this post. (OK, WordPress is smarter than I am; I cannot figure out how to disable comments for a single post. Please refrain from commenting- any and all comments will be deleted regardless of whether or not they agree with me.)

Michael Tinker Pearce, 24 Feb. 2018

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School Shootings and Banning Assault Rifles

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I try to avoid politics here, but sometimes I can’t.  Any mass-murder spree is horrific and tragic, and school shootings are particularly awful. We are the only nation in the developed world that regularly experiences these tragedies. Semi-automatic military-style rifles (commonly and incorrectly called ‘Assault Rifles’ in modern parlance) are used in almost half of these mass-killing sprees.

We have a problem in this country, and it’s not guns. We have created a toxic culture that spawns spree-killers. We need to address that fundamental truth. It’s not going to be easy, pleasant or fun but it has to be done or the killing will not stop. We cannot simply dismiss this as a ‘mental health’ issue; this is inaccurate and unnecessarily stigmatizes the mentally ill.  Most school shooters have not been diagnosed with a mental illness. Oh, don’t get me wrong- they are not ‘right in the head.’ But generally speaking they are neither clinically nor legally insane.

No, they do not share commonalities like Satanism, Heavy Metal music, Goth Culture or violent video games.  Mental-health professionals actually maintain that playing violent video games provides an outlet for aggressive impulses and may actually help prevent violent outbreaks. Nothing so simple.

I am not a mental health professional or a sociologist; but you don’t need to be a pilot to recognize that a plane has crashed.  I don’t know the answers here- but I know that we need to ask the right questions before we’ll have a chance of finding out.

The simple and easy response here is to blame something, anything- to do something.  Anything. In this case to ban ‘assault rifles.’ If this were possible it would prevent mass shooters from using them. It won’t stop them from killing people; the most common mass-shooting weapon is actually a handgun, so I imagine they’ll use those. They are at least as easy to get as semi-automatic rifles.  Banning those is problematic; in Heller Vs. DC the Supreme Court ruled that individual Americans had the right to possess arms for ‘lawful self defense’ and that handguns could not be banned as a class because they were ’eminently suited to that purpose.’  Limit the weapons available, limit the number of bullets they can hold… the ideas go on and on. But banning tools is like slapping a band-aid on a sucking chest wound- beyond giving the illusion that you have done something it’s not going to help the root cause.

Not to mention that in places where people have trouble getting guns- or where the would be at too great a risk of being shot- people use bombs. ‘It’s a lot harder to make a bomb than it is to get an assault rifle’ is the standard argument. Hogwash.  I could root through my kitchen cupboards and come up with a bomb in less than thirty minutes- and anyone with internet access could do the same.  Google is a weapon of mass destruction in the wrong hands…

Did you notice that I said ‘If this were possible’ regarding banning assault rifles?  Because I am not sure it can be done with any level of effectiveness. The previous ‘assault rifle ban’ had the primary effect of making these weapons more expensive. It did not take them off the streets and it didn’t keep people from obtaining them.  Proponents of the ban point out the decrease in homicides, but in fact they were decreasing before, during and after the ban at about the same rate. The ban had no chance of being effective because it didn’t do what it said- it did not ban these weapons, merely made them tougher to import and more expensive to buy.

To have even a chance of being effective a ban would need to take away the guns that are already out there, and the logistics of that are nightmarish because we don’t know how many there are or who has them. At a (very) conservative estimate there are over 8,000,000 AR15-based rifles out there, then there are all the millions of AK-based rifles and other platforms that are in private hands… I’m going to go with tens of millions of guns that fit the current definition of an ‘assault rifle.’ That’s the legal ones, which are the only ones that you can get rid of by legislation. Legal property, legally purchased by American citizens. Can you spot the problem with confiscating them?

Yep. It’s unconstitutional- it violates some of those pesky civil rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  OK, so buy them back at fair market value. Oh, and hire people to accept them and dispose of them properly- and maybe some more police to make sure they don’t just turn around and sell them on the black market. If we can spend billions to subsidize profitable businesses and military adventures overseas surely we can spend a paltry few billion to save our children.  Of course there is precious little interest in saving, caring for or educating our children under the current regime…  OK, that was a cheap shot. Doesn’t mean it’s not true.

OK, we have established a pool of money to buy back the guns. How do we find them, who is going to do it, and what do we do if people aren’t inclined to volunteer them? Go door to door and forcibly search houses without a warrant or probable cause?  We’re going to need more police. A lot more police. Maybe we should encourage children to rat out their parents? Pay rewards for people to turn in friends and family members? Yeah, that’s totally the precedent we need in this society.  That won’t piss people off enough to cause acts of violence and rebellion.

Oh, and since those police will be looking for people with assault rifles they are going to need military grade body armor, flash grenades and what? Say it with me now… assault rifles. Not a fan of ‘militarized’ police? Tough- because that’s what it will take.

‘But law abiding citizens will turn them in!’ Yep, some will- but some will consider keeping them an act of civil disobedience; we have a long and storied history of this in America. You’re going to have to track those people down, take their guns, arrest them and put them in jail. People will get shot. Some of them will be formerly law-abiding citizens responding to what they perceive as an injustice and government overreach. Some of them will be cops. Everyone that dies will be someone’s child, someone’s parent, sibling or spouse. It’s going to be a mess.  But in the end we will get most of them.

Congratulations- but we’ll still be living in a toxic society that breeds spree killers- and we cannot ban household chemicals, fertilizer, fuel,  laundry detergent, pressure cookers, plumbing pipe, trucks and cars, machetes (which have been used as a weapon of mass-destruction in Africa,) and all the hundreds of other items that can be used to kill a lot of people in a hurry… but we will have the militarized police to try, and we’ll have to do something with all those militarized cops…

Yeah, this will end well.

Maybe it would be simpler to find ways to keep people from wanting to kill a bunch of people in a hurry… like studying and dealing with the real causes of the problem.

Let me add this disclaimer- when it comes to this sort of rifle I can take ’em or leave ’em. I’m not a crusader for them, I don’t love them and haven’t made a hobby- let alone a lifestyle- of them. My main concern with banning them is that it will give too many people the illusion that they have done something useful to address the problem without actually accomplishing anything useful.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 19 Feb. 2018

Range Report for 18 Feb. 18

A day of good news/bad news at the range. The good news is that the Walker Conversion put all it’s shots in the same hole.  The bad news is only three of the fourteen rounds that I had loaded went off. It wasn’t striking light either, as you can see in the photo-

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I’m pretty sure I screwed up somewhere and contaminated the primers- annoying. Well, that’s why I have a bullet-puller. The good news is that the bullets stayed put nicely under recoil, so the ‘chemical crimp’ is working just fine.  The brass fire-formed nicely in the chambers-

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How is it to fire? Well, recoil isn’t painful, but you know you’ve fired a gun! There’s a definite snap to it, but the gun’s 3-1/2 lb weight really takes the sting out of it. Range wasn’t very far, but consistency was easy to attain- for what it’s worth here’s the picture of the three shots that worked. Obviously I’ll need to adjust the sights a bit:

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I had also done some test-loads in .44 Colt for The Dandy using the new collet-crimp die. They were consistent- consistently underpowered, at least one of them very much so.  I’ll keep working on that.

The Steampunk Snubby has a new front sight so I wanted to test that. It’s shooting a bit high with a six o’clock hold, but I’m pretty happy with it, and with the 150gr. .361 LSWC load. It’s definitely got more pop than factory ammo, but that’s pretty weak stuff.  I ended by firing five cylinders at seven yards as fast as I could pull the trigger. Not the best shooting I have done by a long shot, but big fun!

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Finally I decided to wring out the S&W m1905 and see what I could do with it.  I rested it on my shooting bag, thumb-cocked the hammer and fired as carefully as I could. I got a one-hole group high and slightly left at ten yards, then moved the target out to fifteen yards and enlarged the hole slightly. Moved the target to twenty-five yards and things went to poop. The group expanded to four inches and was noticeably furthe.r off to the left. Huh.  Pretty sure it’s me, not the gun.

I’m not used to shooting a double-action revolver single-action, and I never shoot handguns from a rest so I decided to do what I am used to- standing unsupported double action. Given that this gun is over a century old and has a rudimentary rear sight I’m not embarrassed by the result- about a 4-1/2″ group.  Pretty sure I can improve on that, so I’ll be shooting this gun at 25 yards regularly from here out.

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The JP Sauer & Sohn single-action caused some consternation- it was not firing reliably and I thought I had more bad primers… until I realized the the primers weren’t showing any hits. Um… not sure how that could happen. I mean, the gun is pretty basic; there really shouldn’t be any way the firing-pin would not hit the primer. Unless the cylinder wasn’t rotating… yep. Bad hand spring- easy to fix. I’ll fabricate a replacement and she’ll be good as new.

So once again it was a mixed bag, but overall I came home pretty pleased. We’ll see if I can do better next time out.

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 18 Feb. 2018