Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Semi Automatic Rifle Proposal

The United States of America has a gun violence problem. People are injured or killed via guns at a much higher rate here than in any other western nation. At root this is because there are so many guns here, owing to our very lax gun control laws and resulting in nearly one gun for every citizen. These facts make getting guns easy, both legally and illegally. Some of those many guns will be used for nefarious reasons and even if it is a tiny minority, that still accounts for our very high gun violence rates.

In recent years and with alarming frequency America has suffered some highly publicized mass shootings. Most recently a man killed over fifty people and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas. A single man armed with semi automatic rifles modified to fire very rapidly did that, not a team of highly trained killers, a single man with no history of such behavior and at the time of this writing no known motivation.

It is a sad truth that in a society as large as ours there will be some small number of people who want to commit mass murder for twisted or unfathomable reasons. I cannot pretend to have any deep insights into the minds of these men or ways in which to preemptively redirect their energies in less destructive ways. Though I do hope there are people far more intelligent and well informed working on that. However, I do think there are ways we can make it far more difficult for them to kill so many people. It is time to severely restrict access to the kinds of firearms that are capable of the volume of fire that can allow a single man to kill so many people in such a short time.

I propose that semi automatic, magazine fed rifles and carbines should no longer be available to consumers. There should be a voluntary federal buy back program in place that will buy such weapons from their present owners to be destroyed. That such weapons that have already been sold can continue to be owned and shot by their present owners, but cannot be sold or given away to anyone else, and must be turned in to be destroyed within one year of the death of their present owners if said owners didn't already take advantage of the federal buy back program.


This would do little to reduce small scale gun violence in America and I don't claim that it will. Robberies and other such crimes tend to be committed with the use of handguns, not semi automatic rifles. Likewise this is unlikely to have much affect on gun suicides. But what this restriction is intended to do is reduce the body count of mass shootings like what just happened in Las Vegas by reducing the availability of weapons capable of sustained high rates of fire. Over time, this restriction will virtually eliminate such weapons from civilian ownership in America.

Monday, August 14, 2017

White Supremacists in Virginia

It wasn't that long ago that people (outside of tiny fringe groups) would have been too ashamed to march openly in favor of white supremacism. I was in college when the OJ Simpson trial and verdict stirred up a lot of racial tension and I have no doubt that there were plenty of white people who harbored racist views. But they did not march and they were not open about these views in public, because they rightly knew that to do so would have made them pariahs. Not anymore, when young, angry, openly racist, openly white nationalist, openly NAZI sympathizing, white men can march on a college campus carrying torches without shame or fear of social consequences. I find this deeply disturbing.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is an Assault Weapon?

What is an assault weapon? Competing and sometimes mutually exclusive answers to that question seem to be driving a lot of debate and misunderstanding between gun control advocates and gun enthusiasts. Discussions about this can often end up being dismissed as a fight about what a gun looks like or how a gun labeled as an assault weapon is really just the same as other guns that share its caliber if not its design. I think that kind of thinking is missing a bigger picture.

So here is how I draw a distinction between assault weapons and sporting guns, an assault weapon is a gun designed to be a modern weapon of war or is directly derived from a modern weapon of war and therefore shares a significant number of parts with current military weapons. It isn't the magazine capacity, caliber, or shape that makes an assault weapon different from a sporting gun. It isn't judging a gun by some sort of checklist of features that if it has too many of them, it then gets an assault weapon label. The answer to me is in why it was designed, for what original purpose, and its relationship to military weapons that should matter.

A hunting or sporting rifle might have the same caliber as a current military rifle, but the hunting gun has a very different evolution of design. It cannot be remade with the replacement of a few parts into modern military assault rifle. Whereas an assault weapon like an AR15 is in almost every way, exactly the same as a front line, modern, military rifle, except that it cannot fire fully automatically without replacing a few small parts inside the action. It is the similarity of design, capability, and the sharing of parts with the military versions that makes such a gun an assault weapon.


I personally own a rifle that fires the same ammunition as the main assault rifle of the US military, 5.56mm or .223 caliber. My rifle shares nothing else in common with the Army's M4 carbine. Mine is a bolt action rifle that requires the action be manually operated between shots to eject a spent case and chamber a fresh round. It cannot fire in a fully automatic way. It cannot even fire in a semiautomatic way. I cannot possibly use it to spray 30 or more bullets in just a few seconds or hundreds of bullets in a minute or so. Because my rifle was never designed to put out that kind of firepower or to kill dozens of people in a few seconds, the M16, AR15, and M4 were and can. So, I'm not bothered by restricting their use to the military, along with many other powerful, deadly weapons of war.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Judge Gorsuch

Well, I think we've met our next Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch. From what I've read about him, he is very much like Justice Scalia who's seat he will take. So, he'll be very conservative on a wide variety of issues and the opportunity to lean the court further to the left has almost certainly been lost. I know that many will consider this unfair, given that the only reason President Trump is getting this chance to replace Scalia is because Republicans blocked President Obama's nominee for nearly a year. And, although I agree, it isn't going to matter. Democrats will not return the favor. There are a few reasons for that.

Democrats aren't going to be able to block this nomination for years waiting for another President or shift in power in the Senate. It's one thing for Republicans to hold things up while the Presidential primaries and general election played out. It is quite another matter to force a Supreme Court seat to remain vacant for at least two years and maybe four. Democrats just won't garner enough public support to maintain that kind of resistance for that long on the hope that they'll retake the Senate and the Presidency during the next four years.

Blocking Gorsuch could mean spending all of their public support and then not having enough to block whoever President Trump nominates next, someone who could be far less qualified or even far more conservative. President Obama nominated centrist in the hopes that by not insisting on a strongly liberal nominee that the Republicans would go along with things and the Court would move a little left. Instead of a centrist President Trump has nominated a Scalia clone that would keep the Court similar to the way it was before Scalia died. The Court is not going to move left under a Republican President and Senate, but at least Gorsuch isn't a swing further to the right.

Lastly, Democrats won't stubbornly block filling the Supreme Court because they are actually concerned with governing and keeping the essential functions of government in operation. Unlike some Republicans, Democrats aren't trying to create dysfunction as a justification to shrink government down to the point where it could be drown in a bathtub. By and large, Democrats believe in good governance and do not want to be accused accurately of acting in bad faith. They just aren't on the whole philosophically inclined towards long term, obstinate disruption for the sake of it. Because that sort of thing doesn't resonate well enough with their base. A base who often interprets government shutdowns and gridlock as failures not tactics.


None of this is to say I am happy about this nomination. There are a number of issues in which I disagree with Judge Gorsuch, based on his past rulings. I have no reason to expect that he will, once seated, move to the left. And so given his age, he will likely be a reliable conservative voice on the Supreme Court for decades to come. But going forward, it is the other seats on the Court that matter. Which means the 2018 and 2020 elections are very important. Democrats must gain and hold a majority in the Senate and retake the Presidency or the next Justices replaced will move the Court far to the right.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

To my US Rep on Immigration

US Representative Darin LaHood
1424 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515


Representative LaHood,

I am writing to you as one of your constituents to implore you to speak out. President Trump has gone too far with his executive orders on immigration and it is not enough for only Democrats to oppose him. Republicans like yourself must stand up to his behavior as well. It is not just unconstitutional for the President to issue immigration restrictions that are blatantly discriminatory against religious groups, but it is contrary to the very bedrock principles that have made our country a shining beacon of hope, equality, and freedom – principles that when we fail to live up to them are great stains on our national honor.

In the dark days leading up to World War Two, America turned away from its shores Jews who were fleeing for their lives from the Nazis. It was done out of racism, fear, and misbegotten ideas of American purity. Many of those refugees who were turned away ended up murdered in Nazi death camps. America was wrong then, to our everlasting shame, and we would be just as wrong to allow President Trump to turn away refugees of any faith fleeing for their lives now.

We stand at a point in history where we can chose not to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can still be a beacon of hope, equality, and freedom. But we must act, regardless of party or political leanings, to prevent the Trump administration from subverting our laws and best traditions – from turning away people who are running from genocidal monsters. Your constituents are not so hardhearted as to condemn another group of refugees in need our compassion to deprivation and death. I hope you aren't either. So add your voice to the millions of other Americans who are opposing these immigration restrictions.