Tuesday, October 1, 2019

On Gun Violence

This article has been submitted to the Waco “Tribune-Herald” as a possible guest column.  Whether or not they choose to use it,  this article needs to be seen.  This is what the issue looks like when you ditch the politics,  the party agendas,  and the lobby money.  This issue has gotten lost in the glare of the impeachment inquiry,  but it is still very important to resolve.


I’m taking on gun violence,  but know this up front:  screw the politics,  just use your plain common sense on actual facts!  Ignore the lobbyist,  social media,  and party-hack trash (from both sides). 

Just look at the real facts,  and decide for yourself.  Then vote.  And quit electing (and re-electing) party hacks who value party advantage above the common good.  True for both parties.

There are four gun control proposals seriously being considered currently:

            Expanded background checks – something with wide public approval.

            Red flag laws – also something with wide public approval.

Bans on high-capacity magazines and "assault rifles" – something with majority public approval but also with some very serious opposition.

Mandatory buy-back (confiscation) of "assault weapons" – something currently with substantial public disapproval (at least in Texas),  to the point of risking armed revolution (and rightly so according to the writings of the signers of the Constitution).

There is not yet much talk yet about the changing nature of the mass shooting threat,  although there needs to be!  In prior decades,  these mass shooters were mostly “crazies” in possession of guns,  by whatever means.  Some examples include the Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza,  and the Columbine High School shooters Klebold and Harris.

In the last few years,  more of the mass shooters (or bombers) have been political or religious extremists,  nominally sane,  but motivated by extremist propaganda to do violence.  Restricting gun acquisition for “crazies” does not address this new threat!  Examples include the El Paso shooter (far right),  the Dayton shooter (far left),  and the Tsarnaev brothers (religious) who bombed the Boston Marathon.

Things not under consideration, but which should be included at the very least:

The guns are already out there,  we must deal with that!  We cannot “get them back” without provoking armed revolution (and rightly so,  since the documented purpose of the Second Amendment was to arm the populace in order to make the threat of armed revolution credible,  so that the government would behave better).

Defending “sitting-duck target” gun-free zones properly – a thing which worked “just fine” in 19th century frontier towns.  This has some nuances that make compliance with a gun-free zone easy and convenient.  Its successful history of application is totally forgotten today,  especially on both coasts.

Doing “something” about the extremist media outlets that call for (incite) violence,  which is the motivation for the (not-nominally-insane) “domestic terrorists”.  This has received almost no attention at all!

Determining the “right way” to look at prohibiting things deemed a public menace,  something with a long history in all the states of these United States,  including Texas,  despite the propaganda you have heard so much.

Many people are aware of the 1934-vintage ban on machine guns.  Because of the triple combination of firing rate,  stopping power,  and magazine size,  of the Thompson submachine gun,  this weapon in private (and therefore crime gang) hands led to unacceptable death rates among the public.   

This problem generated wide support for the machine gun ban still in effect today,  which is based only on the exact mechanism-of-repeated-fire,  unfortunately.  It needs updating.

This is just applied physics that you cannot credibly argue with:  you have to use that triple consideration when looking at so-called "assault rifle" and “big magazine” bans.  You must consider all three effects simultaneously,  without so much regard for the exact mechanism of repeated fire (that takes care of bump stocks and trigger cranks). 

We can always debate the exact numbers,  but these are roughly a firing rate exceeding about 2 or 3 shots per second (however obtained),  a bullet big enough and fast enough to have “1-shot-stopping power”,  and a magazine capacity exceeding about 10-to-15 rounds. 

Any weapon considered for a ban must exceed all three criteria simultaneously to be a credible mass death threat!  Period!  Just forget about banning those guns which do not meet the three criteria simultaneously.  There’s no point to that.

The firing rate criterion comes from the fastest a human can pull the trigger on a semi-automatic gun of any kind:  about 2-3 shots per second.  Those cannot generally be aimed shots,  but if you are firing indiscriminately into a crowd in a gun free zone,  you will hit lots of people regardless.   That’s just a single component of the actual threat it poses.

“One shot stopping power” is a combination of bullet size and muzzle velocity.  The old Thompson submachine gun fired “45 caliber ACP” ammunition.  These bullets were fairly slow (just barely supersonic),  but made up for that by being quite large (0.45 inches diameter and relatively heavy). 

30 caliber weapons like the AK-47 and M-1 Garand have smaller bullets (0.30 inch diameter and somewhat lighter) that are quite a bit faster:  well over Mach 2 muzzle velocity.  The AR-15-type weapons fire a 223 caliber (0.223 inch diameter) bullet at muzzle velocity speeds around Mach 3+. 

All three of these weapons have roughly about the same “stopping power”:  one shot to the chest puts a man down.  He might or might not be immediately dead,  but he will not get up! That’s what “stopping power” really means!  Your typical 22 caliber rifle or handgun does not have that,  not even with “22 long rifle” ammunition.  A 44 or 45 caliber pistol has it,  but not so much a 32 caliber or a 9 mm. 

For hunting larger game,  you need the stopping power,  but not the firing rate or magazine size.  For smaller game,  you don’t need the stopping power either.

For sport shooting,  you do not need stopping power,  but a higher magazine capacity is useful.  In some cases a higher firing rate is also useful. 

For self-protection (such as home invasion),  stopping power and firing rate are essential,  big magazine size not so much.  If you haven’t stopped him with 10 or 15 shots,  he’s already killed you.  It’s that simple,  and that stark.

Weapons of war require all three characteristics simultaneously.  You need a high firing rate (preferably a machine gun but not absolutely required),  high stopping power,  and a really big magazine.  That’s how you identify a real weapon of war.

By the way,  there is a huge fundamental difference between military and civilian (hunting) ammunition.  Military ammunition is required by international law to be steel-jacketed,  so the bullet does not appreciably expand or fragment as it passes through the body,  although it is tumbling. 

It still does lethal damage at the one-shot stopping power level,  but does not feature the giant exit wounds and massive organ destruction typical of hunting ammunition. 

Civilian hunting ammunition is not jacketed and may even feature a hole in the nose (“hollow point” or “cross-cut”) that facilitates really-rapid expansion and massive-fragmentation.  This is to ensure a very fast kill by the truly enormous damage inflicted passing through the target animal’s body.  Such was internationally outlawed for the battlefield. 

So,  for the same caliber and muzzle velocity,  civilian hunting ammunition inherently has higher stopping power than military ammunition!  You need this super-enhanced stopping power for hunting,  and for self defense,  but not for sport shooting.  Unfortunately,  this kind of ammunition is what the mass shooters have been using,  generally.

In considering such bans,  it is critical to be sure public acceptance dominates by far over any public resistance,  before implementation.  The 1934 machine gun ban had that general approval.  The old “assault weapons” ban did not,  and was allowed to expire for political purposes. 

The real fundamental unknown here is exactly how to deal with extremist media provoking or inciting violence.  This is very definitely a free speech issue. 

You must be very careful of improperly restricting free speech,  but on the other hand there are very real limits to any “Constitutional right”.  For one,  your right to swing your fist ends before you hit my nose.  For another,  we do not allow public utterance of lies that kill or injure people (example: yelling “fire” in a crowded theater,  when there is none).

That second example is the template I propose:  “public utterance of lies that kill or injure”.  It has to be a lie,  and it has to run the risk of inciting the killing or injuring of people in some way.  There is a huge volume of exactly this kind of stuff out there on the internet and on social media,  that no one can deny!

I am proposing that we-as-a-country locate extremist sites and media by appropriate searches,  screen for those that provoke or incite violence;  and then shut those down as fast as they can be found.  And,  that we prosecute authors and operators of these extremist lies.  This WILL require appropriate legislation from Congress!

My Summary Recommendations in order of priority:

Defend your gun-free zones adequately (there are perfectly good reasons for them).  We can debate about who exactly is responsible for doing this.  But,  the 19th century model requires properly trained peace officers,  arriving at the scene of a threat within about 60 seconds,  and able to outgun the threat. 

It also requires that there be an easy way to check-in legal weapons upon entering the gun-free zone,  and that these checked weapons are easy to retrieve upon leaving.  That literally IS the well-proven 19th century model.  It’s not perfect,  but it worked rather well,  and should make a large difference in the mass shooting toll.

Enacting some sort of “red flag” laws reduces crazies getting guns,  but this does NOT address the (supposedly-sane) extremists at all!  By itself,  this will be increasingly ineffective,  as the threat shifts instead to extremists.  But the “crazies” will always be with us at one level or another,  so this is definitely worthwhile,  as ex-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords can testify. 

We must take down extremist media that incites violence,  and prosecute its authors and operators.  This requires some new legislation.  Such actions reduce the motivation for extremists.  This is a new threat,  and we can (and should) debate exactly how we want to do this,  without infringing upon free speech.  That debate has yet to start.  It is already overdue!

Any bans on firearms or components should address rate-of-fire,  stopping power,  and magazine size simultaneously,  not separately!  Any such “ban” must have predominant public support before implementation.  You have to ditch the high-dollar politics and lobby propaganda to do this successfully.

The private sale (and similar) background check loopholes are a much smaller effect,  but closing them might help a little.

Doing separate bans on bump stocks,  “assault” weapons,  and large magazines as separate items CANNOT work!  There’s no point to those as separate proposals.  

Note that none of this does anything about the main cause of most gun deaths:  ordinary street crime (including gang violence) with handguns,  not so-called “assault” weapons.  There's not much can be done about this until the root causes of people resorting to crime have been dealt with.  That’s a far different topic.


The following list is earlier related articles on this topic.  This latest article may (or may not) supersede these earlier articles.  The list shows date and title,  plus the search filter keywords associated with each.  To see one,  use the navigation tool on the left of the page.  Click on the year,  then the month,  then the title.  As you can see,  I have long been active on this topic. 

2 June 2018,  “Yet Still Another School Shooting”,  bad government,  current events,  guns,  idiocy in politics

24 February 2018,  “Yet Another School Shooting”,  bad government,  guns

2 October 2017,  “Machine Guns in Las Vegas?”,  current events,  guns

21 June 2016,  “What The Gun Violence Data Really Say”,  bad government,  current events,  guns,  idiocy in politics

7 October 2015,  “Oregon Mass Shooting and Gun Control”,  bad government,  bad manners,  current events,  guns,  idiocy in politics

31 May 2014,  “On Calls for More Gun Control”,  current events,  guns

20 September 2013,  “Gun Control?  No Way!”,  bad government,  current events

5 February 2013,  “Real Problems With the Proposed Gun Control Legislation Items”,  bad government,  bad manners,  idiocy in politics

20 December 2012,  “On the Tragedy in Connecticut”,  current events,  idiocy in politics

14 December 2012,  “School Shooting in Connecticut”,  current events

13 January 2011,  “On the Shooting Rampage in Tucson”,  current events

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