Saturday, April 08, 2006

On Banning Guns

So I'm watching Shooting Gallery on TV, already in the pro-gun mindset, and, in my ramblings across the interweb, I run across a little blurb about more gun bans. It seems that Boston is attempting to ban specific guns from ownership by law-abiding citizens. Great. This time, the gun-haters are going after the Barrett .50 Rifles, the new FN Five-seveN, and the new Smith & Wesson Model 500, under the pretense that they're all "Cop-Killers." The actual article is short, and I've already summed it up, but here it is in full:

The City Council yesterday unanimously passed a petition to ban certain ''cop killer" firearms and stiffen offender penalties. The legislation will add the FN Five-Seven, .50 cal. Smith & Wesson, and .50 cal. Barrett to the city's assault weapon's ban. Possession of illegal firearms also will now carry a minimum, mandatory one-year jail sentence under the legislation. Before it takes effect, the petition must be approved by the mayor and state lawmakers.

Oh, where to begin. Well, I think I'll pick a quick nit: the article, in calling both the Barrett and the S&W ".50's" is not correct, and implies that the two firearms are of equal power. The Barrett rifle fires the .50 BMG cartridge, which is what I'm sure the average person, and these lawmakers, thinks of when they hear "50" and "gun" in the same sentence. The S&W 500 pistol uses the .500 S&W Magnum cartridge, the bullet of which is shorter, somewhat lighter, and has considerably less power than the .50 BMG, though considerably more power than just about any other repeating handgun. The ONLY THING these rounds have in common is their nominal bullet diameter. Ok, now that I cleared up that little bothersome inaccuracy, let's move on to the actual meat of the proposal and what I think about gun bans in general.

First of all, the cop-out of hanging the moniker "cop-killer" on a specific firearm is nothing more than an attempt at creating an emotional response in someone who may be equivocal on the subject of gun rights and ownership. For example, if someone stabs a cop with a steak knife, is that brand and model of steak knife now a "cop-killing steak knife?" No, of course not. The other steak knives in the kitchen drawer are still steak knives, unwittingly awaiting their implementation in the role for which they were they designed: cutting steak. They're tools that were designed by humans for humans, and their use depends entirely upon the actions of the user. If one really wants to delve into the more abstract realms of philosophy, one could make the argument that the knives do not exist until such time as they are used by one who wields them, since when they are sitting in the drawer, they serve no purpose, and have no sense of "self," as living creatures do. It's no different when those concepts are applied to firearms: they're inanimate objects, machines designed to be implemented by thinking humans. It's intellectually dishonest, at best, to say that a firearm, any firearm, is "a cop-killer." Yes, guns are designed for specific purposes, and yes, some people use firearms in heinous ways, but the key phrase there is "people use." The gun doesn't do anything of it's own free will, as it has none. If a person DECIDES that they are going to kill a police officer, then they are SOLELY responsible for their subsequent actions. The gun isn't a "cop-killer;" the person is. Yes, this is a rehash of the old cliche, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," but in all honesty, that is not a cliche; it's a truism. Why are these lawmakers trying to keep inanimate objects out of the hands of those who haven't yet committed a crime?

Let's move away from the philosophical aspects of the issue and look at the actual guns under the guillotine of misplaced political action. All three of these firearms are powerful firearms, and are designed for specific purposes. The Barrett .50 is designed for long-range shooting, and when I say long-range, I mean LONG RANGE, like 1000+ meters. It's almost 5 feet long and weighs over 30 lbs., without a long-range scope and the heavy ammunition. They're made in relatively small numbers and are very, very expensive, their price ranging anywhere between $3,000 (for a very used older model) and $10,000+, depending on the model. In civilian use, they're used in long-range shooting matches (out to a mile!) and for some hunting applications. I've never shot anything beyond about 300 meters, and I can't imagine how hard it must be to shoot a target a MILE away, which is the point of civilians wanting to own these rifles: it's friggin' hard to shoot long distance, and is more a matter of the skill of the shooter than the size of the rifle. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that Boston already prohibits the unlawful discharge of firearms within their city limits (which I have NO problem with) and it's doubtful that a lawful Barrett-owning Bostonian would want to shoot his/her rifle in the city anyway. Besides, how many Bostonians actually own these rifles? And why would a common criminal with cop-killing on his mind want one of these uberguns anyway? And why would he spend $10,000 to do it? And where the HELL is he going to put it!?! These things don't exactly fit in the trunk of your average small car, much less in a pants pocket. If a criminal does want to use one these rifles and presumably already has enough cash on hand, why would he bother buying one legally in the first place? Does the criminal really want that paperwork on file and available to the authorities?

Which brings use to the next firearm on the chopping block: the S&W M500, a weapon expressly designed to bring medium-rifle power to the hunter who'd prefer the relative compactness of a handgun. I say "relative compactness" because the smallest example of a 500 is over 10 inches long and weighs 3.5 lbs., unloaded, which is pretty daggum heavy for a pistol. The more common version is over 15 inches long and weighs over 4.5 lbs. Both versions cost about $1000, minimum, but they're so new and because their production is so far fairly limited, that price is very bottom end. Like I said, these pistols are designed specifically with the handgun hunter in mind, with one-stop shots on deer, wild hogs, and on one video I've seen, on a bison(!), or for personal protection in bear country. These are big, heavy, expensive, limited guns, and man, are they great tools to use out in the bush. But they're still small when compared to a rifle with comparable power, which makes them perfect for an urban-dwelling hunter who wants to get into the country every now-and-again and doesn't want to have to keep a long gun locked up and hidden away. For that matter, they make great guns for the outdoorsman who wants to hunt his game of choice, but doesn't want to pack a 12 lbs. rifle all over the Great Outdoors.

And now we come to the last firearm up for bannination, the FN Five-seveN, so named because of the cartridge it was designed around, the 5.7x28mm. Yes, this cartridge was designed to pierce body armor, but no, those rounds are not available to the public, unless they have a Class III firearms license, which is notoriously hard to get and is stringently regulated by the Federal Government. (Extensive background checks and possible inspections via the BATF if you want one) The rounds that ARE available to the public are conventional cartridges, meaning they are NOT armor-piercing. In fact, the only thing they have going for them is their high-velocity (for a handgun), which is great for varmint/target shooting, but not so good from a personal self-defense standpoint. In other words, the handgun in question isn't armor piercing; a specific bullet that can be used in it is, and that's already strictly regulated!

So to wrap up, the lawmakers in this specific case, and anti-gun legislators in general, are woefully un- or miseducated on these three firearms and others, and worse, so paralyzed by their "if it's a gun it's EVIL" mentality, that they're trying once again to regulate that which they personally don't like out of existence. Now I don't deny that these guns, and many others, can be and have been used to commit crimes, but again, who used them in these crimes? Law-abiding citizens? No, of course not. They were used by criminals, by definition, and those criminals should be punished. But instead of strongly enforcing or strengthening the laws against the violent actions of criminals, anti-gun lawmakers and the anti-gun lobby would rather criminalize inanimate objects, regardless of who uses them. It's the unlawful users of these guns who should be regulated and punished, not the lawful users and owners. To me, these are self-evident truths, but obviously, these lawmakers haven't gotten the memo.

One last question to all the liberal constitutional-rights activists out there: When are you going to give the 2nd Amendment as much weight as the rest of the Amendments?



  1. Your links to S&W did not work. Oh well, I know what it looks like anyway.

  2. Links should be fixed now, thanks for the heads up. Hate it when that happens.