Political Insults — Assault Weapons & Weapons of War

The most insulting letter I’ve ever received from any government entity or official was a form letter from TSA, informing me that the agent who had invited me to come back for some costumed roleplay with him was in fact only acting for my own security. Not a word about the inappropriateness of the sexual overture, just a party line about all agent actions being for my benefit.

The second most insulting letter I’ve received from a government entity or official came yesterday from Representative André Carson.

I’d written in him January about proposed firearms legislation. (Yes, that’s a four-month delay to return a form email.) Now I’m perfectly aware not everyone is going to agree with me, and I know my rep is going to have his own opinions as well, and I am quite capable of having a civilized, factual discussion. But I very much resent being considered stupid and being lied to, and either or both happened here.

For those who aren’t terribly knowledgeable about firearms, I’ll explain that a .22 round is a fairly little thing. They come 500 to a box, which can be held in your hand. While any firearm it can be dangerous if used improperly, a .22 rifle is typically used for plinking targets or hunting small game, and while it’d be darned handy should the zombie gophers rise, it’s not exactly a Big F’n Gun. In fact, it’s too wimpy even to be eligible for my shooting sport.

But it’s included in proposed “assault weapons” legislation, because — I was about to say something rather political, like “because actually learning what words mean is really hard and not in the scope of many politicians,” but that would be mean. So I’ll say “because it’s a very badly written piece of legislation for pro-gun and anti-gun alike,” instead, which is true.

So I (eventually) got back a form email from Rep. Carson, in which he stated:

“As a former law enforcement officer, I respect the constitutional right to bear arms, and believe that Congress must proceed carefully so that we do not impede on the rights of millions of responsible law-abiding gun owners.”

Great so far. But then….

…it is also true that these type of assault weapons, developed solely for military conflict, make it easier for criminals to commit widespread violence.

Soldier demonstrating gun safety by keeping th...

Soldier demonstrating gun safety by keeping the fingers off the trigger and the weapon pointed in a safe direction even while it is safetied. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Uh-huh. This rifle that shoots only rounds too small to be eligible for competition is, because it’s black and has a pistol grip, an assault weapon for military conflict. Riiiight.

Now I don’t think for a second that Rep. Carson actually read about my competitive shooting handguns and the .22 rifle in my house, because I’m sure he got quite a few emails, but it’s not unreasonable to expect him to at least glance at the legislation he’s supposed to be voting on. And either he is ridiculously ignorant of firearms — which is frightening in a former law enforcement officer and irresponsible in a voting member of Congress — or he is willfully prevaricating and assuming I’m too stupid to catch it.

Regardless of one’s position on gun control, any decisions should be made on facts, not fear-mongering, and never on outright misinformation.

I can be diplomatic and civilized in discussion, and as I was for years a gun-skeptic myself I can still understand many gun-control concerns. But freshly assured that rational discourse was going to be useless here and that no one would read my email anyway, I ran all out of nice and composed a snarky response.

As a former law enforcement officer, you should know quite well that the guns affected by this proposed legislation — including the .22 rifle in my home — were NOT “developed solely for military conflict.” Or, if I am wrong, we could certainly do the federal budget a big favor by substituting .22s for the larger calibers our forces are carrying. Would save a bundle.

While 323 dead of ANY form of violence is too many, “assault weapons” hardly seem the logical priority when a quick glance at FBI statistics show that rifles of ALL varieties — including your “military-grade” .22s as well as the popular AR-15s — account for less than HALF as many homicides as hands and feet. Perhaps we should save even more by giving troops no guns at all, just “combat boots”?

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8 (2012 is still being compiled)

I am quite sick of the deliberate obfuscation about assault weapons being “rapid-fire” (no more so than a little double-action revolver or a Nerf Blaster, all one projectile per trigger pull) and “extra lethal” (I saw a claim that they fire armor-piercing rounds — oh seriously, people).

(If you’re offended or confused by my mocking the term “assault weapon,” please see http://www.assaultweapon.info for a very quick, very informative overview. An “assault weapon” is a political term for a gun which, like nearly every other of the last century, fires once per trigger pull and happens to be black or have a pistol grip or some other scary cosmetic feature. Seriously, they’re not special in any way — including having been “developed solely for military conflict.”

Automatic weapons, which do fire more rapidly, have been restricted for decades. “Rate of fire” and such shouldn’t even be a point of discussion; it’s all just mud in the water.)

Why the proposed background-check legislation is crack

In related news, S.649 to require additional background checks (and, rather less publicized, to limit private “transfers”) would in fact make me and most responsible gun owners a felon. A “transfer” is any time someone else touches my gun, regardless of duration or purpose. My sister wants to shoot a paper target on my acreage? A friend wants to try my model before buying one of his own? Someone at the range helps to clear a jammed gun safely? All illegal without complete (paid) background checks first.

If a check isn’t completed within 48 hours, it would be automatically approved (and such waits occur even now). More checks in less time? No mistakes likely there, right?

This weekend, I’ll be teaching basic gun safety to a small group, including to people who have no interest in owning a gun but want to know how to safely unload one if necessary, etc. They’ll need to handle a gun to practice the skills. Per S.649, that would make me a felon, equivalent to a person who knowingly supplied a violent convicted felon with a gun.

I guess they should just watch a YouTube video instead?

We’ll be at a private range, on private land, where sharing guns would be a felony. To put this in another context, imagine if it were illegal to teach a new driver how to use brake and gear shift in your car, in your driveway, before he was driving a car of his own among other drivers.

This makes it rather difficult for anyone to learn basic gun safety before acquiring a gun — which seems pretty stupid, really, and counter to the whole idea of, you know, reducing risk.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve received several similarly insulting emails from a representative who clearly did not read the emails I sent her; once I’m pretty sure she actually thought I was in support of issue X when in fact I’d written to express my opposition to it. You’re right that we can’t expect them to read all of our emails, but my goodness, people, at least try and *sound* competent! *Sigh*

    • I’ve gotten the not-quite-sure-what-you-thought-I-wanted letter, too, but I chalk that up to an official just having one form letter to respond to opinions from both sides. But I can understand a different opinion; it’s the propagation of bad data which bothers me. Rifles (of any variety) do not kill thousands of people a year, and gun violence is too high but it’s also the lowest it’s been in years and years. We can make changes, but not by punishing responsible citizens.

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