Richard August: RI Lawmakers Are Off-Target in Gun Debate
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I know about guns from both ends.
I think I was 14 or 15 when I went to a friend’s house in the neighborhood where I grew up. His parents were working and he was home with his younger brothers. They were fraternal twins and everyone knew that Peter was OK but Paul was a little crazy.
Soon after I got there Paul went upstairs and returned with a 9 mm Walther pistol his father had brought back from WW II as a souvenir. (The military let you do that back then.) Paul showed us the loaded magazine that he had removed and then replaced it in the gun. He released the slide and we knew a round had been chambered.
Paul had a strange look in his eye when he curled his finger around the trigger and pointed the pistol at my chest. For the next several minutes I talked Paul out of doing anything else and he finally returned the Walther to its hiding place. I never told anyone else about the incident.
The Best Offense
A police chief in a small California town made national news when he proclaimed that guns cannot be defensive. He said his officers carry guns to project power and their authority.
My wife and I had married on Labor Day 1967 and we lived in an apartment in a nice section of Hartford. My job with a CPA firm required that I work evenings when we started a bank audit.
I had previously obtained a concealed pistol permit first from my local police chief and then from the Connecticut State Police. I didn’t have to declare a reason why I needed a “pistol permit”. I passed both background checks and it was valid for five years.
When I came home from the Army I had an additional commitment for active reserve duty. The commander of the National Guard unit to which I belonged decided to have an evening session where our wives or girlfriends could learn to shoot handguns in the armory range. My wife attended and still remembers the advice given by a policeman who was in the unit: “If you shoot a bad guy in the house and he staggers outside to die, drag him back into the house before you call the police.”
I came home from a bank audit late one night and found my wife sitting on the couch with my .38 Smith & Wesson revolver next to her. She explained that someone had tried to break into our apartment. She had gotten the gun and hollered that she was armed and would shoot “if you come through that door”. The would-be intruder ran away. I found jimmy marks on the door jamb that corroborated her story.
Guns cannot be defensive?
A Six-Second Difference
The killing of Trayvon Martin brought much attention to Florida’s “stand your ground” law. The fact is that since that law was enacted the number of violent crimes with firearms in Florida has decreased by 22 percent!
What cannot be determined is how many lives have been saved in the hundreds of fewer cases of violent crimes because the perpetrator couldn’t be sure whether his potential victim would be willing and able to use deadly force to protect herself.
“A-thousand one, a-thousand two, a-thousand three.” Three seconds; that’s how the Army taught me to count seconds on the grenade range. And that’s how long it takes me to change magazines –and I don’t practice very much.
Much is being written and said about high-capacity magazines, i.e. those capable of holding more than a somewhat-arbitrary 10 bullets. I said that I could change magazines in three seconds. A person who practices can do it in less than two. In other words, it would take me about six seconds longer to fire 30 shots than someone with a magazine holding that many rounds.
Does anyone really believe that six seconds would make a difference in a mass shooting scenario?
Others, including California Senator Diane Feinstein, New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Rhode Island State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell, claim that what they term “assault rifles” are only meant to kill people and are not used for hunting. This is simply not true.
There are many “AR-platform” rifles designed and used for hunting. In fact, the very same rifle can have a hunting and tactical configuration. It’s just that the tactical version looks scarier. I showed examples when I appeared on the State of the State TV show. (My interview can be accessed on http://vimeo.com/channels/365354.)
An assault rifle is, by definition, one that fires a reduced-size bullet and has selective-fire capability, i.e., it can fire semi- or fully-automatic. Senator Feinstein asserts that assault rifles with high capacity magazines can simply “mow people down”. She has seen too many Hollywood action movies.
Don't believe me? In his book American Sniper former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (who was recently shot to death by a Marine with PTSD whom Kyle was trying to help) with 150 confirmed kills wrote: "The only time you really used full auto is to keep someone's head down -spewing bullets doesn't make for an accurate course of fire." And this from recon Marine 1LT. Nathaniel Fick in his book, One Bullet Away: "The M-16 shoots either semiautomatic single shots or three-round bursts. Bursts are usually a waste of ammo since the muzzle rises after the first shot and the next two pass over the target."
Gun critics often refer to assault rifles as “powerful”. They are not. The .223 bullet is designed to wound, not kill, a person. In an interview for the book The Soldiers’ Story, Vietnam In Their Own Words Marine Cpl. Tom Mitchell, describing the house-to-house fighting in Hue says, “And when you’re trying to wield weapons, especially the M-16 (military version of the AR-15)…there was no punching power... So a lot of us started stealing shotguns, especially from the Army”.
The Fight Comes Home
Freshman representative Linda Finn (D-Middletown) sponsored a bill that would require registering firearms with local police and paying a fee of $100 per gun. She says it would allow police officers to know whether a gun may be present when they go on a call. Yet there’s no indication why this should be a local issue or why someone would have to reregister their guns if they move to another community.
More importantly, the Rhode Island Constitution says simply that a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. There is no qualifying language. Forcing a person to pay a fee to exercise a right guaranteed under the Constitution is, well, unconstitutional.
In a Tweet message Rep. Finn who authored H-5372 requiring gun registration asks, “So what do we do, throw our arms up and take no action?” That’s precisely what legislators should do rather than pass a law that is probably unconstitutional and will do absolutely nothing to prevent another tragedy like Newtown.
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