On Ignorance

I really need to stay away from reading the comments — particularly Facebook comments — on articles and posting on things about which I know a bit.

Whether it’s the flat earthers that infest the NASA Facebook comments, to suburban housewives who think silencers completely eliminate the sound of gunfire, I can only deal with so much BS in the day.

What takes the cake, though, are those that are saying that the shooting in DC will (or should) somehow be a “Come to Jesus” moment for Congress so it will pass some gun control bills which will make everyone safer. Somehow. For reasons.

On what world would they think that would be the outcome? You have legislators (one of whom had his 10-year-old son at the field), staffers, and others who were the victims of a violent madman. Had it not been for the immediate, decisive action of two armed “good guys”, they all might have helplessly perished in the time it took for the police to arrive…and you expect the lesson they learn from this event is that making more people defenseless against violent criminals will somehow make things better?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I can’t grok that at all. It’s by far the most ignorant thing I’ve read in a long time.

The correct answer is for people to take some goddamn responsibility for their own lives and safety. But that takes effort and thought of Unpleasant Things, so people won’t even consider it.

Sure, members of Congress will likely get some improved security, at least for a while, but us ordinary folks don’t have the luxury of having police or armed bodyguards to protect us. We need to be able to have the means to effectively protect ourselves wherever we are. Anything less —  and especially attempts to curtail what little we have — is simply monstrous.

Tactical Observations

Today’s shooting of Congressional members, staff, police officers, and others in DC (as well as the workplace shooting at a UPS center in San Francisco) prompted me to come out of my frantically-writing-my-PhD-thesis self-imposed eremitism and point out a few observations:

  1. The bad guy starts with the initiative. They choose the time, place, and manner of their attack. Thus, they hold all the cards when the shit hits the fan.
  2. Immediate armed resistance is crucial to taking the initiative away from the bad guy. The Capitol Police officers on protective detail responded immediately and in a coordinated way, were able to suppress the shooter, draw his attention toward them (and away from unarmed, defenseless people), and hold his attention until they were able to neutralize the threat. (“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”)
  3. Being skilled in martial arts or having short-range weapons (e.g. baseball bats) are not bad things in and of themselves, but are essentially useless when the bad guy is armed and out of your immediate reach.
  4. Being unarmed in a gunfight means you lose. You may make it out alive, but that’s a matter of luck.
  5. There’s only two types of people guaranteed to be present at a crime: the perpetrator(s) and the victim(s). Even for an extremely high-priority emergency (bad guy shooting members of Congress in broad daylight, in a public place in the DC metro area), the police are still minutes away. You need to be able to provide for yourself as best you can until they show up and, even then, they need time to evaluate the situation and act.
  6. Cover and concealment are not always available. Still, be constantly aware of where cover and concealment are, and how you can get there from where you are if the need arises.
  7. Hits from a rifle are not always lethal or incapacitating. (I’m curious if the shooter used FMJ ammo. CNN says he had an SKS, but we’ll see if that’s actually the case in the fullness of time.)
  8. Although most shootings involve only a handful of shots, not all are so lucky. You don’t need to be Rambo, but having a spare mag or two won’t hurt.
  9. A gunfight is not likely to be a stand-up, bad-guy-at-7-meters, in-open-view, with-good-lighting type of affair. Train accordingly.
  10. You or others around you may be injured in the course of a gunfight. Train accordingly (e.g. off-hand shooting, shooting while immobilized, etc.) and ensure you’re equipped and trained to effectively provide first aid.
  11. Having good training and good coordination with others (e.g. a partner, family members, etc.) is crucial.
  12. Having a gun is not a magical talisman that will protect you from being shot.
  13. Gun-free zones aren’t. Every UPS facility I’ve visited requires visitors and employees to go through metal detectors and remove anything from their pockets whenever they enter or leave the facility. This didn’t stop the bad guy and didn’t help the victims.
  14. Gun control groups are ghouls.

Suppressed guns aren’t quiet, they’re merely “less loud”

Recent media hysteria about the Hearing Protection Act and suppressors in general has, as expected, brought up overt claims and slightly-more-subtle implications that suppressors reduce the sound of gunshots to Hollywood-esque levels, and that absent the loud sound of gunshots, criminals could commit their dastardly crimes without detection.

To make it painfully clear, this is unrealistic. Unsuppressed gunshots are extremely loud, and are capable of causing hearing damage immediately with only a single shot.A suppressed .308 Winchester rifle with subsonic ammunition

A suppressed .308 Winchester rifle with subsonic ammunition meters around 121-137 dB, the quietest of which is comparable in loudness to a typical siren on an emergency vehicle (~120dB). Sirens, as you no doubt are aware, are intended to be exceedingly loud and easy to locate. Other common sound sources that produce sounds with that level of intensity are chainsaws, rock concerts, rocket engines, jackhammers, and small firecrackers. All of which are both loud and easy to locate.

Suppressed guns firing low-power, subsonic CCI Standard Velocity .22 LR ammo meter between 117 to 128 dB.

In the US, OSHA considers 140 dB to be the safety cutoff for impulsive noise (like hammering, blasting, etc., in contrast to continuous noise). One could exceed OSHA standards and cause hearing damage by firing more than a single heavily-suppressed .308 Win round per 24 hour period. Thus, even though suppressor marketing departments advertise anything with <140 dB total sound as being “hearing safe”, and firing suppressed firearms is less dangerous to hearing than firing unsuppressed, it’s still slightly damaging to hearing to fire even suppressed shots with no additional hearing protection.

To summarize:

  • Firing unsuppressed firearms without hearing protection is immediately and permanently damaging to hearing.
  • Firing suppressed firearms without hearing protection is right at the threshold of being damaging to hearing, and it’s recommended to wearing additional hearing protection when shooting anything other than .22LR or other low-power cartridges.
  • To the shooter, the loudness of suppressed firearms without the shooter wearing hearing protection is comparable to the loudness of unsuppressed firearms as heard when wearing hearing protection.
  • Suppressed firearms are still extremely loud, and provide essentially no reduction in the ability of people to detect the presence of a shooter. There are essentially no benefits for a criminal to use a suppressor, other than potentially damaging their own hearing less.
  • Suppressors are a form of hearing protection for a shooter, just like ear muffs, and serve to reduce the sound intensity at the source, thus providing benefits to everyone within earshot.
  • Those opposing suppressor ownership are misinformed at best and dishonest at worst.
  • Suppressors are fun as all hell, and their use should be strongly encouraged.

Quote of the Day

Despite having a ridiculous amount of firearms, Americans kill Americans at a higher rate with methods OTHER THAN A FIREARM than citizens in most European countries do. Think maybe it might be more complex than guns?

Maybe a lack of social safety net, an utterly underfunded mental health system, a culture of violence, a crippling cycle of poverty and lack of options for an underclass of Americans, and the failed war on drugs might have something to do with it.

– User “Statistical”, in a comment on Ars Technica.

You think? No, it clearly must be the guns…

I’m shocked: NPR runs reasonably-balanced article about AR-15s

The media seems to be going into spasms of anti-gun hysteria, all focused on the AR-15. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started claiming that AR-15s are responsible for nails in your tires, cracks in the wall, mosquito bites, and that annoying itch on your nose that only starts once you’ve picked up something heavy.

Imagine my shock when I saw an article at NPR saying, in essence, AR-15s and similar rifles are pretty ordinary, common guns that average people own for normal, non-mass-shooty things.

They seem to love quoting anti-gun UCLA professor Adam Winkler, but even he had this to say:

“These are widely available in gun stores all across America. They’re incredibly popular firearms among hobbyists and gun enthusiasts…They’ve really caught on, just because of their military styling and because of their ease of use and customization. They’re very highly customizable. You can put on your own component parts to it, take things out and easily put new things in. So some people have likened it to the iPhone of guns.”

[…]

Despite its popularity, the AR-15 is not widely used in violent crimes. The rifle’s size makes it difficult to conceal, so most criminals tend to choose something smaller, like a handgun, Winkler says. Even most mass killings are carried out using other types of weapons such as handguns, he says.

Wow. They even quoted the Gun Owners of America website about why people like such guns.

Of course, they couldn’t help quoting the anti-gun tabloid New York Daily News, nor the ambulance-chasing attorney representing Sandy Hook parents in their lawsuit against gun manufacturers, but the bulk of the article is talking about how modern firearms are popular and normal.

Did I roll out of bed and find myself in some sort of bizarro opposite world?

Weapons of War

Of the myriad firearms I own, exactly two are “weapons of war”: a Korean-war-era M1 Garand and a Swiss K31.

I don’t know the history of the former, but the latter was definitely issued to a soldier (from Canton Glarus) and not just stored in an armory somewhere.

At the time they were issued, they were both standard equipment for their respective militaries, and guns similar to my M1 were used to kill vast numbers of armed, dangerous men. Today, they’re considered “safe”, “traditional” guns that aren’t considered to be particularly dangerous.

My AR-15s, on the other hand, have never been issued to any military anywhere on earth. They were made specifically for the commercial market. Yet, somehow they’re considered “weapons of war”, too dangerous for ordinary people to own (cops are ok, though!), and should — in the eyes of some craven politicians — be banned from private possession.

Strange, that.

Nobody wants to take for your guns…

…until someone does something bad, they they drop the pretense and start talking about “banning weapons of war”, confiscating them, and instituting more gun control policies that wouldn’t do a thing to prevent criminals from getting or using guns.

So, yeah. They do want to take your guns. Quelle surprise.

Maybe they don’t plan on coming to your house and directly taking them from you now, but they’re willing to play the long game and plan on taking them eventually (particularly with the no-grandfather clauses that don’t let you pass your guns on when you die or the no-sale clauses that prohibit you from selling or transferring your guns to others).

Everyone’s an Expert

It’s amazing how many people I know that are experts in firearms, legal policy, comparative religion, hostage rescue tactics, and anti-terrorism.

Here I was thinking they were ordinary people at ordinary jobs, but after a terrible event they all seem to declare knowledge such things.

Go figure.

Shooting at gun-free, campus-carry-free UCLA

What appears to have been a tragic murder-suicide took place yesterday at UCLA.  Terrible. I can particularly relate, as I myself am involved in academia, am a father, and am only a few years younger than the victim.

As you likely know, California has some of the strictest gun control in the nation, concealed carry permits are rarely issued in Los Angeles, campus carry is strictly forbidden, and UCLA is a gun-free zone. Once again, it turns out that declaring a place to be “gun-free” doesn’t accomplish anything, since bad people doing bad things will simply ignore those policies. Big surprise.

Instead, the whole campus goes into lockdown only to discover that many of the doors don’t actually lock from the inside. Worse, many of the doors open outwards, making it difficult for the students to barricade them: several news reports show students using electrical cords to tie doors to chairs and tables that are bolted to the floor, using belts to secure hydraulic door closers, etc.

While I applaud the ingenuity of the students solving a problem under pressure, the fact that the doors can’t be locked from the inside is absurd.

Next, some minor criticism of the cops and their response. I don’t mean to armchair quarterback, but, to use a biology reference, the response of the cops seems more along the lines of an allergic reaction rather than a beneficial immune system response. Tons of local and federal (federal agents as first responders at a state university? That seems a bit odd to me.) SWATed-up cops swarmed the campus. They did door-to-door checks of rooms on campus to ensure they were secure, but it seems that they failed to announce themselves as police first, to the terror of students and staff in the rooms who only saw unknown heavily-armed men jiggling door handles trying to get into room. When you have overwhelming force, it can’t hurt to be polite and at least announce yourself as police.

When the police make students line up on their knees with their hands on their heads before being searched and allowed to leave may be practical from a safety standpoint, but it presents a chilling, disturbing image that sits very poorly with me.

Anti-gun folks are already using this incident as an example of the risks of campus carry. On the contrary, this is an example of the folly of gun-free zones and the benefits of campus carry.

One of the commonly-expressed concerns about campus carry is that a student upset about a particular topic or grade will threaten or shoot a professor: it’s clear that this can happen regardless of state, local, or campus rules prohibiting guns on campus or in certain areas, let alone laws against assault, threats, murder, etc. It should be evident that such policies serve only to leave ordinary, non-criminal people defenseless in the face of violent criminals.

Still, carrying is not a panacea: it’s certainly possible for a bad guy with the element of surprise to get the drop on someone, but after that things become much harder for the bad guy if they are intent on causing mass casualties  — instead of potential victims hiding helplessly in rooms, they can arm themselves and present a much more effective defense in the event they’re attacked. Why anyone would be opposed to this is beyond me.

Lastly, anti-gun folks often say that “guns don’t belong on campus”, that somehow the presence of concealed firearms carried by “good guys with guns” will upset some campus-specific qi and make the campus more hostile, and that guns won’t solve anything. If guns in the hands of good guys aren’t a good thing or if guns don’t solve anything, why call for armed police in such a situation? Guns are already present on campus — whether lawfully carried by campus police officers for purposes of good, illegally carried by criminals for nefarious purposes, or by honest-but-technically-law-breaking people unwilling to risk their safety by going unarmed — and barring the occasional act of criminal violence, the academic environment seems to handle it just fine.

This incident should be a call for action in support of campus carry and the removal of useless, dangerous gun-free zones. Call your legislator today.