Tragic Irony

Over the last day or so, I’ve been having a civil discussion with a gentleman in Germany about violent crime in the US and how — in his opinion — our lack of gun control contributes to said crime.
He went on to say that Germany’s relatively strict gun control makes violent crime much less common than in the US, particularly in the context of school shootings.
Just today, however, there was a tragic school shooting in Germany. In the gentleman’s own words, the shooting “sure takes some wind out of my sail saying those things happen because there are too many guns…”
Dammit. I hate it when things like this happens.

Obama says “don’t stock up on guns”

From the Chicago Sun-Tribune:

As gun sales shoot up around the country, President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that gun-owning Americans do not need to rush out and stock up before he is sworn in next month.
“I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the second amendment,” Obama said at a news conference. “Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear. I said that throughout the campaign. I haven’t indicated anything different during the transition. I think people can take me at my word.”

Why don’t I believe him? Oh, that’s right, his own words say otherwise:

Obama and Biden would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment… support closing the gun show loophole…[and] support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.

I’m a lawful gun owner. A new “assault weapons ban” would likely affect the majority of the guns I own and use on a regular basis. The Tiahrt Amendment keeps ATF trace data from being misused for misleading politicial purposes (even the ATF supports the Tiahrt Amendment). The “gun show loophole” has nothing to do with gun shows or loopholes — it’d be a ban on private person-to-person sales.
Does this mean I do have something to fear?

Silencers are also Illegal

A threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor
or silencer. A silencer is useful to assassins but clearly has no
purpose for sportsmen. Silencers are also illegal.

(Emphasis in the original.)
From Mass Produced Mayhem, a pamphlet published by the Brady Campaign saying why “assault weapons” are evil and should be banned. This particular part is located on Page 21, as part of a list of “combat features” that certain guns have that “have no sporting value”.
While the entire document is pretty much bunk, this particular bit stands out to me due to my ownership of several firearms with threaded barrels and a silencer.
Silencers are not illegal. In case the bold print wasn’t enough, let me repeat: silencers are NOT ILLEGAL. They are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and by state laws. In a few states, ownership or use of silencers may be banned outright, or so heavily restricted that they are effectively banned. However, most states either have very light regulations or defer to federal laws.
The process to legally acquire one is the same for acquiring any other NFA-regulated item: payment of a $200 tax, addition to the NFA registry, local police approval, federal (ATF) approval, a detailed background check, a full set of fingerprints, etc. All in all, it takes about a month to get all the paperwork sorted out.
That said, what does the Brady Campaign hope to stop if they banned guns with threaded barrels? Hypothetically, if silencers were illegal, what would a ban on threads accomplish? It would already be illegal to own silencers…would making their mounting point “more illegal” somehow reduce the already extremely-rare (to the point of being unheard of outside of movies) criminal use of silencers?
Silencers have plenty of perfectly legitimate purposes, both for sportsmen and ordinary shooters. For example, a hunter could use a silencer so as not to alarm other game animals within earshot (thus being polite to other hunters by not scaring away their game). A hunter might also find a silencer useful if hunting in lands that are within earshot of communities, so as not to annoy neighbors. Not needing to carry bulky earmuffs (which reduce one’s perception of the surrounding areas, and thus limit the ability to detect game animals) is beneficial, as well as reducing the risk of hearing damage. Indeed, in many areas in Europe, the use of suppressors is encouraged for sportsmen and hunters for these very reasons.
Ordinary shooters find silencers to be quite handy as well: I find them excellent for teaching new shooters, as there is no loud noise emitted when the gun is fired. This allows new shooters to get introduced to the sport without developing flinching and other negative behaviors. Arizona gets quite hot, and earmuffs can make one’s ears quite uncomfortable (hot, sweaty, etc.), so a silencer is beneficial by making earmuffs unnecessary while keeping noise at safe levels. Many guns are extremely loud, and by using a silencer, I can reduce the noise emitted by my guns, so as not to annoy fellow shooters at the range, those living near the range (granted, the range where I shoot is extremely remote, and nobody lives around it for miles in all directions), and so on. It’s simply a matter of being neighborly.
Silencer-using assassins are all but unheard of outside of hollywood movies. Those few assassins that do exist are likely to be trained and operated by governments…governments who don’t really give a damn about (or are exempt from) US firearms laws. While high quality silencers require the use of a machine shop, the knowledge and equipment needed is minimal and an amatuer could construct a workable, durable silencer in the time of a few hours. Threading a firearm barrel is even easier. Flimsy, novelty, less effective (but by no means less regulated) silencers can be made with homemade equipment and no machine shop in an hour or two.
That said, this proposal isn’t about the legality or illegality of silencers, it’s simply about their mounting points. I’m curious if such a law, if implemented, would ban the use of quick-disconnect lugs or other non-threaded mounting devices for various muzzle accessories?

Oh, hell.

Address Gun Violence in Cities: As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn’t have them. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

From here. As an aside, does it disturb anyone else that there’s already a “change.gov” website for the president-elect?
Hmm, let me see if I can sum things up:

  • Open up gun trace data for political purposes (read: lies), as police already have access to trace data for bona fide law enforcement purposes.
  • Ban on private sale of firearms. (There is no “gun show loophole”.)
  • Mandating “smart guns” that don’t exist and probably won’t work.
  • Banning scary-looking guns, permanently.

That sounds remarkably like the list of talking points at the Brady Campaign.
It looks like all my friends who claimed Obama was a friend of the Second Amendment were wrong. I hate to say “I told you so”, but…well, I told you so.
Look, I agree that violent crime is reprehensible. I agree that violent criminals should have no business owning a gun. I agree that we, as a society need to work to reduce violent crime…but putting these restrictions on law-abiding citizens has no effect on crime. California’s banned the private sale of firearms, and it’s done nothing. There was a ban on scary-looking guns for ten years, and it did nothing.
Rather than pushing for these stupid feel-good measures which have been tried over and over and over (and have inevitably resulted in no change in violent crime rates) and which only affect law-abiding citizens, why not actually try to address the root causes of violent crime?
Update: Hat tip to Sebastian. It was bad form of me to not credit him first.

Why?

I can understand why people in positions of power might want to disarm those who they lord over, lest the less powerful people revolt.
I can understand why victims of violent crime might think it a good thing to disarm everyone except the police and military, so they (and others) don’t get victimized again.
I can understand people who genuinely believe that “guns = violence”, and think that by lessening the number of guns, they can lessen violence.
I certainly disagree with such positions, but I can understand why someone might hold them.
What I don’t understand are people like the Brady Campaign and the VPC.
It’s not the money, as most of it seems to go toward various lobbying efforts. It’s not the fame, as they’re rarely mentioned in publications, and most people don’t seem to really care as much about them as they do about some bimbo from Hollywood. Even if they succeed, they’re not personally going to be in a position of power over others. It’s not the pursuit of truth and justice, as they intentionally make misleading claims. (When’s the last time a .50 BMG rifle shot down a commercial airliner? How often do criminals use AR-15s to commit crimes, rather than cheap, disposable, often stolen handguns? How often do criminals buy their guns over-the-counter at gun shops or gun shows?)
Why do they do it? What’s in it for them? What motivates them to wake up every morning, go into work, and try to ban guns? Assuming they succeeded and all guns were banned, what then? What would they do?
Coming from my side, I’m working to defend a right that’s rooted deep in history, a safe, fun recreational activity, a means to defend myself and my family, and, if the need is dire, to defend against tyranny. I have a day job (two, in fact, in addition to being a full-time student), and don’t work to protect my rights full-time. If the pro-gun side succeeded in their goals (not that anyone can succeed in defending a right, but let’s just assume one could for the sake of the exercise), my life would change very little. I might have a celebratory range day and maybe buy a new gun, but otherwise nothing major would change.
At the risk of tooting my own horn, I don’t consider myself to be an unintelligent man, but I honestly can’t see why they do it.

Thought of the Day

Does anyone know what happened to this gun?

I wonder if it was destroyed or somehow escaped back into the market.
If the latter, I’d find it amusing to buy it, pose like that (only with my finger off the trigger), and send a photo to Dianne Feinstein. Preferably with a few dozen other people standing around me with similar guns, in similar poses.

Boogeyman

Fark recently showed a headline about how the NRA just endorsed C-rated McCain over F-rated Obama, and the submitter worked in some bias implying that the NRA is basically a republican tool.
As is usual for Fark threads relating to political issues discussions on the internet, a whole bunch of crap started flying around the comment threads almost immediately.
Some choice bits, paraphrased:

  • The AHSA opposes the NRA. Since the tiny AHSA represents ordinary people (only they don’t -AZR), as opposed to the 4+ million-strong NRA, this clearly means the NRA is a bunch of extremists.
  • Scary looking guns (“assault weapons”) = machine guns.
  • References to male reproductive organs, mostly related to relative size as a function of number of guns owned.
  • Claims that Obama is pro-gun, has always-been pro-gun, and supports the right to keep and bear arms.
  • Claims that the VPC is actually better than the NRA, as the VPC wants to prevent gun violence.

While there’s a lot of partisan mud-slinging in the thread, a bunch of outright falsehoods, and so forth, there’s also a remarkable number of people who are calmly providing facts, references, and citations showing that the NRA has a long history of endorsing any reasonably-electable candidate (i.e. Democrats or Republicans, except in small elections) that is pro-gun, regardless of the letter that comes after their name.
I find it rather amusing that for anti-gun people, the NRA is some sort of extremist boogeyman, a tool of the republican party, and someone who wants to arm anyone, anywhere, anytime, with any gun.
For pro-gun people, the NRA seems to be considered to not be doing enough, too willing to make compromises, and while generally doing the right thing (promoting gun safety, helping range operations, etc.), not being pro-gun enough.
It’s more troubling that the AHSA is being quoted in media as being representative of moderate gun owners, rather than being a front for anti-gun groups. At least the NRA and other pro-gun organizations are clear about who they are and what they stand for. The media should be widely denouncing the AHSA for being devious and sneaky.
In this particular case, there’s no conspiracy involved: the NRA is concerned with guns, and McCain is more pro-gun than Obama. Thus, it makes sense that the NRA would endorse McCain. The fact that the NRA endorses more republicans than democrats is more a reflection of the fact that republicans tend to be more pro-gun than democrats, rather than any sort of political bias with the NRA.
In short, nothing to see here, move along.

Foolishness

The University of Arizona has just released their annual “Campus Security Report”, describing all the various crimes that took place on campus last year, as well as a bunch of other information.
One of the most foolish things I read in the document was this:

UAPD, in conjunction with ASUA, have available and distribute a combination whistle, light and key chain. The program is intended to give people another method of drawing attention in the event of an emergency. If you feel threatened, or are injured and need to summon help, and you cannot call for help via a cell phone or regular phone, blow the whistle. If you hear a whistle, please call 9-1-1 and report that you are hearing a whistle being blown, and the location from where the sound is coming.

Somehow I suspect a whistle/light/keychain will not be a terrible effective method of preventing crime.
I suspect that if they simply repealed the “weapon-free zone” policy for those holding carry permits, they’d notice that people would be better able to protect themselves if chose to do so. At least they’d have a better chance than if they simply had a whistle.
Another choice quote:

NEVER GO ONTO THE LEDGES outside your window. It?s a long but very quick trip to the ground.

Science, it works.

Absurdity and Machine Tools

Before today I’d never touched a machine tool in my life. My experience with tools was limited to power drills, screwdrivers, wrenches (socket and otherwise), and — dare I say it — a brace and bit. Basic hand tools used for basic around-the-house purposes.
Well, the lab wanted everyone to become familiar with the lab’s machine shop in case we needed to fabricate things for various experiments. I chose to try out the milling machine, and milled a tuning fork from a piece of aluminum stock. I certainly won’t be winning any awards, but the tuning fork does produce a steady note when struck. It only took me two hours, and about a third of that was figuring out how to work the machine and later removing melted aluminum from my cutting bit when I screwed up. Not bad for a total rookie.
Now, if a total rookie could fabricate a working tuning fork in a matter of hours, how long would it take for someone to make one of these? Granted, the factory ones were stamped, not machined…but it still would be pretty simple. Milling a link from a piece of stock steel and trimming back an AR-15 bolt carrier to the SP1 profile would take less than a day, even for a total newbie.
(Granted, doing so would be extremely illegal (that tiny piece of metal is actually considered a “machine gun” by law), and I would never attempt it — I legally own an NFA item and several “ordinary” firearms and would never do anything to risk my right to own them. I also have a rather serious allergy to jail and rather like being on the ATF’s good side. Don’t do it. Really. It’s a Very Bad Idea.)
Amazingly enough, buying all the stuff to make one is cheaper than buying one legally:

  • AR-15: $800
  • Milling machine: <$1,500 (not including cutting bits)
  • Steel: <$20

Round up to $3,000 just to be on the safe side.
A legal, transferable Lightning Link costs $8,000+, will be 22+ years old, and likely well-used.
Does anyone honestly think that a cost of a few weeks wages will stop those with criminal intentions from making machine guns? I certainly hope not. One can even alter “ballistic fingerprints” and remove microstamps using only simple hand tools like a file. The fact that these laws are either in place or being considered is absurd.
Once again, the law restricts the rights of honest folks, yet does essentially nothing to impede criminals.
I long for the day when people realize that laws and the justice system are reactive, not proactive. The mere existence of a law does not restrict anyone from behaving badly. It simply allows for them to be punished for their actions. One cannot preemptively stop crime by passing more laws.