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“Bump Stocks” Take a Dive

Every mass shooting incident is inevitably followed by a renewed push for stricter gun control laws, but so far none of them have brought about any significant policy changes. Sunday’s record-setting massacre in Las Vegas, though, seems likely to result in some sort of ban on something called a “bump stock.”
Despite the public’s natural instinct to do something to after a mass shooting, gun control advocates have been unable to come up with anything short of a total ban on private ownership that would have averted or mitigated the tragedy. A total  ban on private gun ownership would require two-thirds of the states ratifying a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, which isn’t going to happen in any living American’s lifetime, followed by a nationwide confiscation program, and you don’t have to be paranoid about your gun-owning neighbors to foresee how that would wind up with a lot of guns being pried out of a lot of cold, dead fingers, so the proposals have mostly been limited to background checks and waiting periods and limits on the number of bullets in a magazine and bans on certain types of guns, along with other assorted tweaks. Background checks and waiting periods are already law, though, magazines can be so quickly replaced that limits are ineffective, and the deadliest firearms have been banned for decades.
Partly because gun control advocates are proud they know nothing about guns, and gun enthusiasts pride themselves on knowing everything about them, the Second Amendment has largely survived all the debates, even when the Democrats were in charge. The longstanding attempts to re-ban “assault weapons” have faltered when the gun enthusiasts rightly noted that it’s a meaningless term, sometimes used to describe rifles that are no more deadly than your pop’s hunting rifle but have certain scary-and-military looking features, and the gun control advocates seemed not understand the difference between the now-common semi-automatic weapons and the long-banned fully automatic ones.
“Bump stocks” blur that distinction in a deadly way, though, and both sides of the debate seem to understand that. It’s news to us, as well as to many far more enthusiastic gun owners than ourselves, but a “bump stock” is a gizmo that allows one to alter a perfectly legal semi-automatic rifle so that with one pull of the trigger it fires bullets as rapidly one of those long-banned fully automatic rifles. As of now the sale and purchase of these gizmos is legal, and although actually using one is a felony the fellow who killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 others in Las Vegas also decided to break that law. Such a deranged person would have broken any gun law you might have passed with any guns he could have gotten his hands on, of course, but it seems certain that he wouldn’t have killed and wounded quite so many people if a law had deterred someone from selling him those gizmos that he used on his armory of legally-acquired weapons.
The Democratic Party in general and its gun control advocates in particular sense a rare winning issue, and the Republican Party in general and its gun enthusiasts in particular don’t seem eager to fight this battle. The Speaker of the House has signaled his willingness to ban “bump stocks,” and even the National Rifle Association has agreed the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco and Firearms should tweak their interpretations of existing law to stop people from selling the gizmos. In the past they’ve taken a never-give-an-inch stance on any gun control regulation, with a plausible argument that it might wind up with a police state confiscating guns from cold, dead fingers, but the starting point on slippery slope has been a ban on fully automatic weapons ever since they were first banned in the 1930[s after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and were more fully banned during the Reagan years, so they’re not giving much ground this time around.
Those sorts of gun enthusiasts who are preparing for a revolution against the better-armed “deep state” or the Zionist Occupying Government or a mass shooting on some public square will object that their Second Amendment rights are being violated, but we’d like to think that the vast majority of our gun-owning neighbors have no need for a “bump stock.” No one uses them for hunting, our more knowledgable gun-owning friends tell us that home defense is probably best handled with a semi-automatic hand gun with a full magazine, and for now we’re not ready to foment any armed revolution in the country. Let the gun-grabbers win this battle, as far as we’re concerned, and let a reasonably-interpreted Second Amendment win the war.

— Bud Norman

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Spinning Another Mass Shooting

As we write this there is still no explanation for why three heavily-armed people entered a southern California social services agency on Wednesday and killed 14 people and seriously wounded ten others, but the predictable cocksure speculations started as soon as the afternoon’s carnage first interrupted the regularly scheduled programming. By now it’s an all too familiar ritual of these all too frequent mass shootings for both sides of the political divide to skip past the mournful prayers for the victims and their families, or even a respectful moment of silence by the more secular sorts, and immediately proceed with the more important matter of spinning the dreadful facts for the debates that inevitably follow.
The horrible events in San Bernardino follow shortly after a mass shooting in Colorado Springs, which turned out to be a white male who chose to commit his murders at a Planned Parenthood clinic, which the leftward side of the political divide found useful for tarring white males in general and Planned Parenthood’s more principled critics in particular, but despite the hopefulness of countless “tweeters” and cable news contributors this will require a different narrative. Our policy is to not mention the names of killers, but suffice to say that the only suspect thus far identified by the authorities has a name most Americans would by now immediately recognize as Middle Eastern, and the suspicions that raises for even the most tolerant and nonjudgmental and up-to-date Americans has been been confirmed by interviews with the suspects’ family and friends who describe him as a Muslim who had become conspicuously more devout in recent years, all of which is not so useful to the leftward side of political divide. Any connection to the Tea Party or the Koch brothers or evangelical Christianity seems unlikely, so the big story over the next couple of days will be about not painting with too broad a brush or drawing any conclusions or resorting to rank demagoguery. There were guns involved, though, which  the president and others were quick to note, so of course that debate will continue as usual.
Someone with the same Middle Eastern name as the suspect was employed by the same San Bernardino city government department that was having a Christmas party at the social services agency, and it seems likely although yet unconfirmed that they are the same person, so there will be the ready explanation that it was just another case of “workplace violence” that occasionally occurs with white male postal workers and Army psychiatrists with Middle Eastern names, but it’s going to be a tough sale. There were two other people involved, making this the first mass shooting with multiple killers since two high school losers teamed up for the Columbine massacre, and one was reportedly a woman, another odd twist to the incident, and it’s highly unlikely that all three were motivated by the same animus against the San Bernardino County Health Department. The shootings also follow shortly after coordinated attacks on Paris, not so long after the murder of a satirical magazine staff in that same city, and also in the wake of attacks by armed gunmen in Mumbai and numerous cities around the world, as well as that Army psychiatrist with the Middle Eastern name shouting “Allahu Akbar” during his “workplace violence” in another memorable mass shooting, and the leftward side of the political divide will be hard-pressed to convince the rest of the country that it has nothing to do with Islam.
A shrewd friend of ours suggests it might be a case of what he calls “workplace jihad,” where the killers take out their generalized religious rage on a particular personalized target, which strikes us as the most probable explanation for the facts as they are tentatively understood, but that is also mere speculation, and we are ashamed to admit that it serves our political purposes. The debates about various kinds of guns and what to call to them and what to do about them, and about radical Islamic terrorism and what to call it and what to do about it, and about white males and men with Middle Eastern names and almost every other ongoing debate that will be tied to this tragedy all matter, though, so we will reluctantly take sides.
Those 14 dead and 10 wounded also matter, though, and so do their families and friends and all their traumatized neighbors, and so do the relatives of the killers who are revulsed by the tragedy but might be judged guilty by association, and so does everyone trying to get all along in a world that was already so dangerously complicated, so if you’re not inclined to mournful prayers we urge at least a respectful moment of silence.

— Bud Norman