Empire State of guns

Anthony Rek LeCounte Political Commentator
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“We can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense, and that’s what we’re going to do.” – Andrew M. Cuomo

There is a political hero in New York. Tuesday night, he spoke truth to power and abided by his conscience in demanding the best for his constituents. He rose humbly above the abattoir din of political games to speak truth we all needed to hear. His name is Greg Ball, and he is a suburban Republican member of the New York state senate.

I’ll let him speak for himself.

On that Tuesday night, Andrew Cuomo celebrated the signing of the most stringent gun laws in the country. Some measures, such as better background checks, new mental health policies, and safe storage requirements, are sensible. (Whether or not they’ll “work” is another matter.) Less sensible measures ban certain cosmetic features of popular long rifles (which killed a grand total of five people statewide in 2011) and force owners of common “high-capacity” magazines to sell them out of state or face a misdemeanor.

On Wednesday, President Obama announced that he will follow the lead of gun-control interests in talking a big game about gun violence while offering “sensible” bans on “military-style” accessories. Because, presumably, fewer children would be dead in Newtown if only the shooter didn’t have a pistol grip and flash suppressor or had been forced to use the extra magazines (see: Columbine) and handguns (see: Virginia Tech) he brought with him. The president’s disappointing show might have been worth it, however, to witness unrepentant gun criminal David Gregory pontificate on MSNBC about the need to enforce tougher gun laws — like the kind he ignored.

It must be nice to be rich, liberal, and well-connected.

At any rate, I’ve previously noted that the category of “assault weapon” is invidiously clever political fiction. If you don’t understand why there is no such thing as an “assault weapon,” then stop and click on the preceding links. Go through their material, as though saving lives through knowledge and effectively reasoned action is of paramount importance to you, and come back.

I’ll wait.

Assuming we’re now all on the same page, the operative point is quite simple. As David Kopel succinctly puts it:

“Today in America, most handguns are semi-automatics, as are many long guns, including the best-selling rifle today, the AR-15, the model used in the Newtown shooting. Some of these guns look like machine guns, but they do not function like machine guns.”

In case you’ve come away from all those facts surprised or uncomfortable, you are probably wondering: Why, if “assault weapons” are not essentially different from other guns, are they favored by recent mass shooters? I’ll answer that question by way of another: Why are sedans (or a given type of sedans) the favored cars of homicidally reckless drivers?

Is it because certain sedans are speedway-style racecars that have no place outside a NASCAR track? Is it because some of them have too much fuel in a single tank? Of course not. The very idea of blaming certain cars, accessories, or fuel levels for criminal stupidity is contemptibly absurd. The reason sedans are commonly used in reckless driving is because sedans are the car of choice of most drivers, responsible or otherwise. Likewise, the AR-15 is the rifle of choice for most Americans, law-abiding or otherwise, so they tend to be used in mass shootings.

Now that you appreciate all these bits of clarity on “assault weapons,” I invite you to consider a related matter. It is certainly understandable for ordinary citizens with busy lives not to understand the complexities of the laws and facts on guns — especially when their leaders and media clearly do not. But why on Earth haven’t those leaders and media bothered to understand something they claim is so important? Nearly all the major journalistic enterprises — from Business Insider to The Washington Post to The New York Times to NPR — continue to conflate civilian “assault weapons” with military-grade, illegal-for-civilians assault rifles. The Post even imagines that “assault weapons” are “the most powerful” on the market.

We’ll pause so the deer hunters may laugh. Compose yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.

Speaking of leaders, you would think a high-profile, major-policy task force for the commander-in-chief of the greatest military in history would have ascertained the rank futility of citing any cosmetic “style” in preventing violence. Better yet, you would think the president who chided a former opponent’s military understanding with a quip about “horses and bayonets” would know the difference between popular civilian weapons used for, among other things, killing vermin and actual military-grade assault rifles — capable of burst mode or fully-automatic fire — used on the battle fields to which he sends our troops to die. I suppose he couldn’t be bothered.

I have no idea which of these “elites” are cynically deceitful and which are merely staggeringly incompetent. Hanlon’s Razor and reflexive charity would oblige us to opt for the latter view for most. But given that a simple Wikipedia search would reveal at least the basic concepts we’ve discussed — and these people are supposed to be reasonably informed for a living — Hanlon’s charity must transmogrify into Grey’s Law: any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. Thus we return to cynicism and active deceit.

To be fair, I’ve heard a few gun-rights advocate go on about “assault weapons” and “assault rifles” on national television, even while defending the same. Of all people, they should certainly know better, and it’s not unreasonable for ordinary folks on either side of the aisle to assume as much. But in the end, the major editors, pundits, and lawmakers should always do their own homework, and there is no excuse for their not having done so. So we must assume most of them did and chose to ignore it. If they were unbiased, they would at least accurately present the terms. But they do not.

Perhaps the mainstream media doesn’t want you to understand how pointless proposed bans are. I can only wonder why.

Anthony Rek LeCounte is a Yale-educated conservative. He blogs at Token Dissonance.