We had a massacre. 58 innocent lives lost, more than 500 injured. One evil sonofabitch dead at his own hand, but not before causing terror and unimaginable heartache. Like all Americans, those of us at the Liberal Gun Club are horrified and angered by what happened at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, and our hearts go out to the families of the victims. The Red Cross needs blood, consider donating.
When the news of this attack broke, there was much speculation, a lot of armchair quarterbacking, and tacticool analysis, much of which turned out to be wrong, of course. People analyzing the sounds of the events, folks saying it sounded like a belt-fed machine gun, others speculating about multiple shooters. At least as of this writing, it was one guy (the aforementioned evil SOB), with a bunch of rifles outfitted with what, until now, was thought of as a completely useless accessory – the bump stock. A few years ago, someone realized they could take the range trick of using the recoil and a wooden spoon or even your finger, and achieve a high rate of fire from a semi-automatic rifle, to the point where it is nearly indistinguishable from a NFA-restricted machine gun.
We laughed at it. It’s an expensive way to burn through ammo. It’s less accurate than a shotgun beyond its pattern. It burns the rifle up through sustained use. It’s dumb. But it also was a finger in the eye of the ATF, who eventually ruled that since it didn’t modify the internals of the rifle, it was not an accessory that turned it into a machine gun as defined under the law. They wrote a letter, and gun guys rejoiced that they now, sorta, could have machine guns. Yay. Until Vegas. Now everyone is saying it should be banned.
Maybe it should. I think that banning it removes the arbitrary nature of the ATF decisions on items like these that skirt the spirit, if not the word, of the NFA. According to current ATF ruling, the glove thing is bad but the bump stock is ok, and that’s arbitrary and inconsistent. The net result is nearly indistinguishable to the layperson from automatic fire. Regardless of whether you want the NFA, GCA and or FOPA, they are the law. One of the many complaints about the ATF is they are arbitrary, and they “make” laws via fiat. Congressional action on the subject would put that power back to where it belongs, with Congress. That is right and proper.
Lets talk a little about bans and efficacy, then lets talk a little about Congress, specifically Congress in 2017:
We have long held that most of these bans and restrictions won’t do much, if anything, to address either mass shootings or anything broadly labelled as “gun violence.” Our talking points are based on that understanding, we think laws that ban things arbitrarily are bad. Data and analysis are good.
Strangely, it seems people are starting to say that. Even the vaunted FiveThirtyEight, that darling of the left, that data driven machine, seems to have reached the conclusion that bans don’t work in the context of these United States. They might work elsewhere, but as they admit:
You could, theoretically, cut down on all these deaths with a blanket removal of guns from the U.S. entirely — something that is as politically unlikely as it is legally untenable. Barring that, though, policies aimed at reducing gun deaths will likely need to be targeted at the specific people who commit or are victimized by those incidents.
This moved at least one of the researchers to go further
Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.
Even the Wall Street Journal Editorial board seems to have gotten the memo:
More gun laws won’t stop mass shootings by determined killers.
(sorry, the rest is behind a paywall, but you get the picture)
The GOP Congress of 2017
It shouldn’t be lost on folks that this is a Republican Congress and a Republican president. These are folks that ran on platforms endorsed by the NRA. You’d think any such action would be dead on arrival. “Shall not be infringed” is a call to action, Molon Labe is the battle cry. The NRA consistently claims the Second Amendment is limitless – how else would its base prevent liberal snowflakes from killing them all in their sleep during the upcoming race riots?
Except, it seems, that a handful of days after Democrats started calling for control, both the House and the Senate have begun to signal that they might be ok with banning bump stocks. If Congress passes a ban on bump stocks, I will bet you real money that the President will sign it just like that other conservative, Second Amendment supporter, Ronald Reagan, signed FOPA in 1986. Even the NRA is cool with at least some restrictions on bump stocks, and it’s Obama’s fault anyway. The more cynical among us suspect that this is a canny political move on their part – supporting some sort of restriction on bump stocks allows the GOP and NRA to use an item most gun owners don’t care about to neuter critics who claim they never support any gun control measures at all. They can use this to claim that they have in fact done something about “gun violence” while actually ignoring root cause mitigation and laws that would, in fact, reduce violence in our Country.
As I think is obvious, we will see the bump stocks added to the NFA, banned all together or some other equivalent action. This would indeed bring the devices in line with the spirit of existing law. Consistency in law is good. But at the end of the day, what really changes? As we’ve discussed previously here, ban the thing, another event happens. Now what? Even the media may be beginning to understand that blanket bans on tools won’t address the things that politicians tell us they will address- the root causes of violence.
Now that some of these outlets are starting to get on board with root cause mitigation and micro-targeting as being actually useful in addressing the causes, maybe we can talk about working on some solutions we’ve posted about previously.