They’re Coming For Our Guns!

248804_4104125484334_1457656116_nI try very hard to understand the far right, but the extreme gun people are beyond me. 

If you can buy the gun on the top, but can't buy the bottom gun, who cares? You still have a gun. 

UPDATE: Megan McArdle responded to this post at The Daily Beast. She writes, "I'd turn that question around: if it makes no difference, then why have the law? " 

UPDATE2: Media Matters says that these guns are very different. And, for the record, I didn't create this image. I found it on Facebook. I have no idea where it originated. 

55 thoughts on “They’re Coming For Our Guns!

  1. Obviously, guns are just great so people get over exited. The concern I’ve seen expressed is that if a ban on largely cosmetic features can stand, any grounds could be used next time.

  2. This is great practice for me as I head into Thanksgiving weekend. Note to self: when hearing an argument such as this (for example coming from one’s cousin-in-law), the right response is, “I know a lot of people feel that way. Would you like some more pie?”
    Sad but true, I’ll take a gun conversation over an abortion conversation any day. Fingers crossed I avoid both this holiday.

  3. The bigger question is why ban the lower one? Feinstein doesn’t even know why she’s banning specific items. Look for her interview when she was asked what a barrel shroud was and she replies “it’s that shoulder thing that goes up.”

  4. The bottom one is more comfortable for some kinds of shooting (notably turkey hunting). But more to the point, why ban it? If you don’t get guns, that’s fine. But if you don’t even know why someone would prefer a pistol grip, why get involved?
    There are people who buy guns just to have guns. But there are also people who buy guns because they enjoy shooting them. If someone prefers using the pistol grip because it’s more comfortable or more accurate, so what?

  5. “I know a lot of people feel that way. Would you like some more pie?”
    I’m glad our politicians are talking about the subject though. Perhaps this will be a side effect of the bifurcation that we’re seeing in the electorate, that some folks will be immune enough to the gun lobby that they can voice some opinions that are lost in the national discussion.

  6. I never heard of a special shotgun for turkey. Maybe fewer people are hunting these days because they think they need to drop hundreds on a special gun to shoot across forty yards.

  7. Your response to odinbearded is technically called, “changing the subject.” I don’t hunt turkeys, but clearly there is a hunting magazine indicating that some people have a preference for a certain type of gun. So his point stands — if there is no functional difference between the two styles from a public safety perspective, and some people prefer one style over the other, regulating against that style is form over substance at its worst.

  8. I’m currently on Season 4 of trying to hunt down the one-winged turkey that killed my family and framed me for their murder. It is getting harder and harder to stay one step ahead of the police lieutenant who is tracking me, while keeping up with the killer gobbler.
    I almost had it at the end of Season 3, but my aim was a little bit off. If only Senator Feinstein hadn’t prevented me from using the pistol grip, I would now be avenged.

  9. To not change subjects, I think pistol-grip shotguns are sold primarily based on visual appeal with specific reasons added later, that the assault weapon ban is mostly about signalling on both sides, and that treating turkey hunting like it is rocket science is for the same sort of tool who buys $6,000 golf clubs.

  10. I once attended an auction. The antique firearm section was great people-watching.
    For the collectors, the point of buying such firearms was possessing the object. It seemed to me a decision made on aesthetic, rather than functional concerns.
    Or the peculiar desires associated with collectors (poor souls!) After all, it’s much harder to kill a deer with a Beanie Baby collection, but all collectors want to own the rare exemplars of the object.

  11. I’m pretty sure that if we replaced “assault weapons ban” with “partial birth abortion ban” we could have the exact same conversation, with the participants reversed.

  12. You can feel free to think what you will about pistol grip shotguns. Many people actually do find the grips useful. I’m more of a traditionalist, but having used one, I can see why some would want it.
    The original question was why shouldn’t we ban a particular iteration of a gun. To which the default answer should be that we don’t ban things we don’t understand just because we don’t like them. I’ve yet to see a single reason why the modifications displayed above should be banned. Other than a cultural bias against guns and gun people in general. But as Megan McArdle pointed out in her article, bans aren’t simple and they aren’t free. It costs money to enforce them.
    So the question that needs to be answered is why should we spend money and resources to prohibit something that is useful to some and has no particular downside.

  13. It is an attempt (a successful one) to troll the pro-gun people into making arguments that make them look absurdly inflexible to people who don’t care much either way. To people who basically like guns, it also looks like the gun lobby is now entirely captured by gun makers.

  14. I clearly know zippo about guns and grips and all that. So, I learned a lot from this chat. I had no idea that anybody would really care about gun #2. Both guns seem identical to me. You guys make perfectly logical arguments about the futility and the cost of gun control.
    I stole that picture from a pro-gun friend on Facebook, btw.

  15. I’m not a gun person, but from my internet observations as a rule, gun guys know a lot about guns, non-gun people don’t know a lot about guns, and in practically any conversation on technical issues, an opinionated non-gun person is going to wind up looking really stupid. Also, one discovers that media coverage of gun stuff is consistently terrible. Note, for example, how every crime with a rifle is described as involving a “high-powered” rifle, even if it is nothing of the kind.
    I think every newsroom should contain one gun nut, just to ensure technical accuracy in news stories involving firearms.

  16. Another issue is that having badly framed, poorly thought-out laws reduces respect for the majesty of the law and compliance in other areas. One of my favorite examples is the Texas law (a result of the War on Drugs) that forbids us from having lab equipment without registering it with the state. Theoretically, if you have lab ware in your home you also have to be willing to allow the Texas police to inspect your premises. (This came to our attention because my husband takes home science education very seriously and it was rather shocking to discover that possessing an Erlenmeyer flask required registering with the state and allowing police inspection.)
    Some of the phrasing is so unfortunate that the filter in your coffee machine probably qualifies as a violation.

  17. I spent more than a decade between the early 1990s and the early 2000s being very worked up about gun rights — subscribing to newsletters by groups to the right of the NRA, commenting in forums, and nearly being a single-issue voter.
    The expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban ended my advocacy. The AWB had been a perfect example of a law that accomplished nothing to prevent gun crime or affect gun availability, while inconveniencing law-abiding collectors, peaceable (if a bit paranoid) rednecks, and a subset of target shooters. It matched the ratchet-effect pattern that we saw with the war on drugs and now are seeing with the war on terror, so fit into the more paranoid advocates’ narrative of increasingly irrational and intrusive laws. Once it expired, I found myself pretty happy with where the law stood, and much more confident that voters and legislators had good sense.
    Most of the reason for the AWB’s totemic significance lay in its uselessness. Most people who understood what the AWB actually banned opposed it; most people who supported it had no idea which firearms were illegal or legal before its passage and how it changed that boundary line. (The other two logical quadrants being populated mostly by nutso extremists who either thought machine guns should be unregulated or sincerely believed that folding stocks were half the cause of early 1990s gang violence.) To reasonable people informed on the subject, the Feinstein quotes have the same ring as a Creationist legislator moving more NIH funding into faith healing would to an RN, or Texas’s fundamentalist dentist/State Board of Education president’s social studies textbook revisions would to a historian. Discovering that people who don’t like something you care about are ignorant of the basics is a shock, and are part of what make these trivial laws symbolic.
    [Disclaimer: I’ve never owned, fired, nor wanted to own any of the guns affected by the AWB.]

  18. It isn’t going to be prohibited for now. Republicans control the House. The blue dog Democrats are gone (mostly) so the Senate Dems can use the issue to seek votes with less of a downside than during the Clinton years.

  19. So ok, pro-gun folks who don’t think machine guns should be in civilian hands, give us some boundaries. Because to me it looks like the argument here is “This boundary has some arbitrary elements; therefore, there should be no boundary.”

  20. One voice for “anything that’s not a machine gun is fine and dandy.” Any others?
    Let us presume for the moment that “machine gun” is an airtight category with no boundary cases.

  21. It’s been a few years since I was up on this, but I’ll try at the risk of being rusty. For the last 80 years, guns have fallen into three legal categories. Avoiding jargon, these categories were:
    1) Guns that went “bang-bang-bang-bang” when you pulled the trigger once. Call them fully-automatic, machine guns, or assault rifles — they’re regulated based on the multiple-bullets-per-trigger-pull function. These have been very tightly regulated since the 1930s, as a result of the gangland shootings under prohibition. Getting one of these may be harder than purchasing dynamite or a commercial driver’s license.
    2) Guns that went “bang” once each time you pulled the trigger. This includes the vast majority of guns in the US, from double-barreled shotguns to hunting rifles, to .22 caliber ‘plinkers’ to high-power target rifles to revolvers. It also encompasses guns which require some simple cocking/reloading action between shots, whether that’s a cock of a lever on an old-west rifle or replacing a cartridge in a single-shot target pistol.
    3) Muzzle-loaders requiring a complicated series of steps between each shot. (My own flintlock pistol requires a suitcase full of equipment and a sturdy table to reload it, a process that takes between 2 and 20 minutes.) These are less regulated than cigarettes, and can be bought mail-order by anyone over 18. [*]
    This strikes me as a very reasonable way to categorize fire-arms. The Assault Weapons Ban prohibited some fire-arms in the second category (pull-bang-pull-bang) which had aesthetic features making them resemble restricted, pull-bang-bang-bang guns.
    * (Some antiques were grandfathered into this category, so you can buy non-muzzle-loading lever-action rifles by mail if they were manufactured before 1898. The cheap ones I’ve seen advertised were sold as British Army surplus after the Boer War, used by the Ottoman Empire during WWI, then handed down to Nepal — I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with one.)

  22. Doug, I’m going to make two assumptions here. If I’m wrong, please correct me. First, you are in favor of restrictions on guns. Second, you’re not a gun person.
    Proceeding from those assumptions, no reasonable dialogue can take place. We don’t have to “presume” that machine guns are an airtight category. They are. There is a very specific definition for ‘machine gun’ that has no overlap whatsoever. This is the crux of the entire argument. If you want to ban or restrict something, doing so out of ignorance makes for truly terrible laws. And putting the onus on those who generally oppose restrictions is simply taking the easy way out.

  23. You can make a semiautomatic that is very easy to convert to an automatic (e.g. Tec 9). Those were ruled illegal eventually, but the definition isn’t without hard cases.

  24. Please, MH. First, we’re not talking about semiautomatic weapons here, since the assault weapons ban doesn’t ban semiautomatic weapons. Second, you can make a car that very easily converts into a boat, too, but what has that to do with anything?
    You don’t really know much about this topic. And that’s fine. But that’s not a reason to veer off the topic so frequently.

  25. There is, at the margins, a slight increase in ones ability to hit with precision using a rifle with a military stock and pistol grip, but that is not the primary reason for them. The primary reason is to improve the handling or “control” of a firearm.
    To be as clear about this as possible, so called “assault weapons” are designed and built to be used by troops ranging from poorly to well trained in everything from calm parade ground marching to the utter chaos of combat. The pistol grip and other “military” features are designed with this in mind.
    With a pistol grip you can control recoil better, you have a better grip on the rifle, and you can (should you need to) keep the rifle up online while doing something with the non-firing hand (for example opening or closing a door, pushing another person out of the way, dragging a wounded person etc.)
    You make a small gain in “accuracy” (which technically is the wrong term) by the firearm being more “ergonomic”. Older style rifles force the shooter to sort of get into the gun, which isn’t a big deal for most folks, but if you’ve got arthritis, or have other physical ailments this can be uncomfortable to impossible. So-called “assault weapons” are more forgiving. Yes, some are less accurate (in the technical sense) than a good bolt action, but frankly most folks are no where near as good as a moderately accurate AK, much less a top of the line bolt gun.
    In short, it’s not the pistol grip that improves “accuracy” (especially on a shotgun), but it DOES contribute to the ability to put the shot where you want it, and NOT where you do not want it.
    And ultimately that’s the point, right?

  26. You’re probably right.
    And you have no idea why, do you?
    In both cases it’s about protecting the “innocent” from predation by stronger, more organized, more violent or just plain malignant folks.
    In the case of the AWB you have millions of folks like me, who have never been convicted of a felony, never committed an act that most people would consider a “real” crime, and who merely want to own and shoot firearms with certain features. Sometimes they just like to shoot, but more often these days they want a talisman of protection against looters, both feral and federal.
    In the case of partial birth abortion you induce labor in a woman who is carrying a baby who is almost always capable of surviving outside the womb, then as the head crowns you puncture the skull and suck out the brains.
    I don’t think 1st trimester abortions should be illegal.
    I’m on the fence about 2nd trimester.
    But at some point the fetus becomes a baby.
    By the 6th month, IMO It’s a baby.
    So yes, you’re exactly right. If you changed the terms of the discussion to “partial birth abortion”, yes, most of us would flip sides. And be almost entirely consistent about it.
    (I will add that I am against the feds getting involved in health care except in the most abstract and “setting of standards” sort of way. I am especially opposed to medicad and medicare.)

  27. “And putting the onus on those who generally oppose restrictions is simply taking the easy way out.”
    Putting the onus on people who defend the status quo, with thousands of annual deaths, is putting it exactly where it belongs.

  28. Anybody with arthritis so severe that they can’t shoulder a 12 gauge is going to find the recoil of a pistol grip shotgun painful. I don’t think it is a good idea to make it easier to shoot without “getting into the gun” (aka looking down the length of the barrel to see where the shoot will go).

  29. Saying “nearly all the weapons banned by the assault weapons ban are semiautomatic weapons” isn’t the same thing as “all semiautomatic weapons are banned.” Come on — you know that! That’s like saying I’m banning all orange fruit because I don’t like fruit, you pointing out that that doesn’t mean that all fruit are banned, and me responding that “Well, all thing things I’m banning are fruit!”
    You seem to have backed yourself into a corner. The basic point is that the assault weapons ban doesn’t do anything for public safety — both empirically and logically. Empirically, there’s no evidence that murder rates dropped as a result of the ban. And logically, because the ban didn’t do anything other than prohibit certain cosmetic features that anyone committing a crime wouldn’t care about at any rate. The law is purely a “feel-good” measure that makes some people feel like they are doing something, while imposing a cost (both monetary and to personal freedom) on others, while not actually doing anything to advance the objectives that the ban was ostensibly designed to advance.
    You really haven’t addressed any of those points. Instead, you’ve just tried to split hairs, change the subject or throw out red herrings (“well, semiautomatic weapons can be easily converted to full auto” even though the ban doesn’t do anything about that, etc.)

  30. Except, of course, for that Constitution issue.
    If you want to change the Constitution, advocate as much. But you can’t legally even think about stepping on Constitutional rights without a really really really good reason to do so (and, even then.)

  31. I haven’t been backed into a corner because you’ve not come near to anything I’ve said.
    You said: First, we’re not talking about semiautomatic weapons here, since the assault weapons ban doesn’t ban semiautomatic weapons.
    On any reading of that, it is just wrong and I responded as such. The word “all” isn’t in there nor is it implied by context.
    Also, I never said anything about assault weapons bans having anything to do with public safety. I don’t think they do and never said anything about that. I did say that pistol grip shotguns are stupid for hunting. That is very reasonable ground.

  32. The 2nd Amendment starts with the phrase “A well regulated militia” and yet nearly all actual military weapons are illegal to sell to anybody without a special permit and this has been upheld by the court over nearly 80 years now. The status quo is not an unreasonable starting point if you want craft gun laws, but it is hardly support for basing gun law on a plain-language reading of the Constitution.
    The reason that the AWB keeps coming up is that it is politically advantageous to various politicians because they can use it to make people think of military-style weapons in the hands of criminals or whatever.

  33. “Putting the onus on people who defend the status quo, with thousands of annual deaths, is putting it exactly where it belongs.”
    Shouldn’t we then do an analysis of the types of guns actually involved in crime and accidental deaths? I’m thinking that “assault weapons” are not actually very prominent as a cause of “thousands of annual deaths.” Garden variety criminals prefer lighter, less conspicuous weaponry.

  34. You’re probably right.
    And you have no idea why, do you?

    Most good, well-mannered debates begin with the assumption that your opponent has no idea what she is talking about.

  35. So, what weapons were used in our most recent mass Unders, in Aurora in the movie theater, at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, in Arizona, at the army base?

  36. “So, what weapons were used in our most recent mass Unders, in Aurora in the movie theater, at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, in Arizona, at the army base?”
    Guns. Which is why I think Amy P is making my point rather than refuting it.

  37. It isn’t as if an analysis of the types of guns used in crimes is going to convince many gun control opponents that a certain class of guns should be banned or gun control supporters that handguns are just super. The former make primarily constitutional arguments and the latter aren’t going to ever say “That’s an acceptable number of shooting deaths for us to stop at.”
    The Democrats are going to keep doing this type of law because nearly everybody who objects isn’t going to vote for them anyway.

  38. Guns. Which is why I think Amy P is making my point rather than refuting it.
    Yes, but were they black guns, grey guns, or those cute pink guns. If more people are killed by grey guns, you can’t ban the black ones. That would be counter-productive, or something.
    It’s like when I was trying to cut a chicken last night, and I couldn’t find my favorite cutting knife. I could have just went to my second choice knife, but instead I just let the chicken sit there.

  39. About five years ago, I remember reading a pretty interesting exploration by pro-gun author Clayton Cramer in which he speculated on what the most effective way to reduce gun crime would be if the 2nd amendment didn’t exist. As I recall, the crime statistics he looked at suggested an entirely different approach from the current situation of controlling access to different types of guns. Homicides are highly localized, and a policy of search-and-confiscation of anyone with a criminal record (especially of spouse abuse) and young, sexually frustrated men would eliminate the majority of homicides. Of course it would be wildly unconstitutional on other grounds, and there’s no guarantee that gun homicides wouldn’t be replaced with non-gun homicides, but it was a refreshing counter-factual.

  40. “Hey, I really want to know, and was hoping to find a list somewhere.”
    I’d like to know, too, for real. There’s got to be a general pattern in the kind of gun associated with different crimes and criminals. Take for instance the UT bell tower shooter or JFK’s assassination, where long-distance accuracy was the driving consideration.
    On the other hand, if I were robbing a liquor store or similar, I’d want something easily hidden and not too heavy, with long-distance accuracy being of relatively minor importance.
    The trend I would expect to see is that in crime, handguns are associated with garden variety gotta-pay-the-cable-bill criminals, while rifles and such are used by lone nuts. And given that lone nuts are relatively rare, I would expect that handguns are involved with more deaths.
    (Dear FBI, this is all strictly hypothetical.)

  41. They don’t split it out by assault weapons or whatever, but it is easy to find handgun vs. long gun vs. other. See here. Handgun deaths have declined from back in the day by are still the most common in homicide. Most gun control efforts back in the day focused on handguns.
    Interestingly, at about age 65 the odds of being murdered by somebody using a gun are about equal to the odds of being murdered by somebody using some other method. Just in case anybody thinks aging give us nothing good to look forward to.

  42. That was not Feinsitein, who as a CHL holder has a bit of gun knowledge.
    That was Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose name I find every time this issue arises by googling “shoulder thing that goes up.”

  43. I did some googling. The common gun in the most recent shootings is a “Glock semiautomatic handgun.” Holmes, the Aurora theater Shooter, used a gun that the internets say would have been banned under the old (and new) assault rifle law. I found a list of guns in a Chicago Tribune article, but can’t stomach reproducing it.
    The majority of gun deaths in the United States are suicides (more than half). Decreasing access to guns would unquestionable decrease the frequency of these gun-related suicides. It is a recent area of active research, but the current consensus on attempted suicide is that it is usually a symptom of mental illness (75%, with mental illness & alcoholism), and only a fatal symptom (i.e. successful) when effective means of death are available (50% of suicides are firearm induced). 83% of gun-related deaths at home are suicides.
    And, no, people who are going to kill themselves do not kill themselves regardless of the methods available. The data is conclusive on that subject. One could add the caveat “people who are serious” but that only solves the conundrum with a tautological definition (only people who die were serious).

  44. This seems germane.
    “Michael Dunn, of Satellite Beach, Florida, was in Jacksonville this past weekend for his son’s wedding.
    “Jordan Davis, 17, and some other teens were sitting in a SUV in a parking lot when Dunn parked next to them and asked the youths to turn down their music.
    “Jordan Davis and Dunn argued over the music, then Dunn, who is a gun collector, pulled a gun and shot eight or nine times, hitting Jordan twice, reports the Orlando Sentinel.”

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