Gun myths and disinformation

A friend posted a link to an article pushing gun control in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado killings, and I promised a response to that. The comment section of Facebook is not really suitable for something of this length, so I am choosing to compose my response here, and will post a link to this article in the Facebook thread.

I will begin by saying that I think it highly inappropriate to use such an event to push a personal agenda, especially at such an early stage where full facts are not known, victim’s families are suffering, and emotions are running high — unless of course, an emotional response is the aim. If that is the aim, it says much about the character and political morals of the writer.

Facts surrounding this are mostly based upon media reports, and leaks from ill-informed “police sources”. For example, initial  reports claimed than an AK-47 had been used. Hardly surprising, since the illiterate US media tend to call any semi-automatic rifle an AK-47, totally ignoring the fact that an AK-47 is a true assault weapon, capable of full automatic fire, and not readily available to the general public in the USA.

There were also claims that the perpetrator was wearing full body-armor. It now appears that he was actually wearing what marketing people call a “tactical ballistic vest ” and “ballistic leg protectors”. What that translates to in common English is a nylon (so-called ballistic nylon, a trademark of Cordura, the sort used to construct back-packs, purses, flight bags etc.) with pockets to hold magazines, flashlight, radio, water bottle etc. The leggings are typically used for thermal and abrasion protection. A throat protector falls into two categories, one is when talking about real armor, and extends the protection around the neck – most often used in scenarios such as bomb disposal, not often used outside those specific applications because it is uncomfortable and restricts movement too much. A much lighter weight version is available to protect against knife attack and or low velocity shrapnel. Gloves are to protect against things like barbed wire and cold weather and to allow (to put it bluntly) beating people up without damaging your hands and leaving incriminating evidence.

So the AK-47 turns out not to be  an AK-47 and the body armor turns out not to be anything that would stop anything beyond (perhaps) an air rifle pellet.

It now appears that the rifle actually played a minor role, that most damage was done by a shotgun and a pistol, so concentrating on the rifle appears strange.

On to examining what was actually written in that article.

Lets begin with:

I do not understand people who support public ownership of assault style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Colorado massacre.

Being pedantic, it sounds as though he doesn’t support government organizations owning AR-15s (public ownership) but is quite ok with private ownership.

He then says “assault style weapons” so his issue appears to be with the look of the gun more than anything else, he has (apparently) no issue with assault rifles, but only with rifles syled to look like them. Fuzzy thinking indeed.

The term “assault weapon” probably deserves some discussion. The term “Assault Rifle” was coined in Germany during WWII by non other than Adolf Hitler when he was shown the Maschinenpistole 43 which became the Sturmgewehr 44  (translates as storm rifle 44). Assault rifles have a defined set of characteristics:

  • It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);
  • It must be capable of selective fire;
  • It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
  • Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine rather than a feed-belt.
  • And it should at least have a firing range of 300 meters (1000 feet)

This is an internationally and industry recognized term, which is why when the US “assault weapon” ban was introduced, they used that term rather than “assault rifle” since “assault rifles” are actually already banned. This ban concentrated on cosmetic issues (what the gun looked like) rather than on any functionality characteristics. It was an end-run around the constitution, since it didn’t actually ban any class of firearms, only a set of cosmetic features.

The key here is the second bullet – it must be select-fire, which means that it must have a switch to select either semi-automatic fire (one pull of the trigger, one shot) or automatic fire (one pull of the trigger, multiple shots). Also note that it does not fire high-power rounds, so the phrase beloved of reporters and their editors (high-power assault rifle) is nonsensical.

The term “assault weapon” (as opposed to assault rifle) is tracable back to one Josh Sugarmann, director of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, who wrote a memo which said:

 “…the semiautomatic weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion ..[that] anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun – can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons

The term was deliberately coined to confuse.

Back to the article under discussion – he throws in the word “massacre” to begin the emotional wind-up.

Not a good start.

He continues:

 Despite these massacres recurring and despite the 100,000 Americans that die every year due to domestic gun violence – these people see no value to even considering some kind of control as to what kinds of weapons are put in civilian hands.

In his “recurring massacres”, he again uses an emotional term, and conveniently forgets other “massacres” that have occurred which did not make use of assault weapons, and in some cases, not even firearms.

The reference to 100,000 dying as a result of domestic gun violence is a complete fabrication. According to the FBI statistics for 2010 (latest complete statistics available) there were 12,996 TOTAL murders in the USA. Of these  8,775 were by firearm, 6,009 of them by handguns and 358 using a rifle. Putting number of murders into perspective, there were 33,963 road traffic deaths in 2010.

After a rambling discussion on the US constitution, where he carefully avoids mentioning that US federal law specifically states that the militia is every able-bodied man, and that even if that were not the case, the Supreme Court  of the US has ruled that firearms possession is an individual right, we move on to this gem:

What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve?

Where did “sportsman” come from? There is no reference to that in the second amendment to the US constitution, and what is his definition of sport? Why does he think that the only sporting use of firearms is to kill animals (seems to have killing on the brain…). Has he considered those sports where these types of rifle are actually required?

Based upon his own words, a standard hunting rifle serves the same purpose as an AR-15, if that is so, does he want to ban those too?

In the same paragraph:

Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality.

Does it fire more rounds without a reload? Well, yes, he got that part right. One might ask the question compared to what? but since he specified a “hunting rifle” we will take that as the benchmark. It may be worth pointing out that the AR-15 is a legal hunting rifle for small game in many states, but he obviously has a pre-conceived notion of what a hunting rifle is.

Does it fire further and more accurately?

Well, lets look back at the definition of an assault rifle: “It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle”  Hmm… so it doesn’t shoot further than the benchmark “hunting rifle”.

For comparison, here is a 5.56mm bullet (used by the AR-15, compared to a 7.62mm round as used in full-power “battle rifles” (as well as many hunting rifles). It is also worth noting that military sniper rifles (that is, rifles specifically chosen for range and accuracy) are almost invariably versions of standard hunting rifles, most often a Remington 700, and are bolt action, not semi-auto.

“More lethal payload”

The 5.56mm (or .223 if you insist on using inch measurements) is significantly smaller, with significantly less powder behind it. One of the original arguments made for using 5.56 in a military rifle was its DECREASED lethality – more likely to wound than kill, and that wounded soldiers absorb much more military resources than dead ones do.

A quick application of Google will find numerous stories of the US military on the ground in the Middle East complaining that the 5.56 round is underpowered and not lethal enough. Those that have the ability to choose their own weapons often use the M16 predecessor, the M14, which uses 7.62 ammunition.

So this paragraph is complete, unadulterated garbage. Someone talking through his hat, simply reciting the mantra of gun control groups.

The article only indirectly touched upon the other factor that is a gun-ban favorite: Magazine capacity.

An unattributed “expert” claimed that the 100 round magazine (found practically full in Aurora) would enable someone to fire 50 to 60 rounds in a minute, I don’t know where this “expert” comes from, but I can tell you that with marginal practice, I would be able to fire in excess of 60 rounds in a minute using the small 20 round (30 round is standard) magazines. Whether I would be able to hit anything is a different question, but the same applies to the 100 round drum. There is a reason why these are not used by the military (and its not all related to their tendency to jam). There is also a reason why the current version of the military M16 does not have full auto fire as an option – only a three round burst – that being that full auto fire is notoriously inaccurate and ineffective — even when used by trained professionals. It may look good in films, but then so does Harry Potter’s wand.

For those that think that pulling the trigger around once per second is as fast as you can go and that reloading is slow, take a look at the following video, using the slowest firearm around — a revolver:

This person has also fired 8 rounds from his revolver in one second – that’s 480 rounds per minute.

When gun-ban proponents accuse others of not being willing to engage in discussion, the reason is that they are immune to fact, immune to logic and continue to push an argument based upon falsehood and emotion.

There is no rational discussion with these people.

As for what you need to defend your house, lets finish with a slightly humorous take on the subject: