Guns don’t scare people. Scary guns scare people.
“Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons,” the president said Wednesday afternoon, “and a 10-round limit for magazines.” People fear exotic firearms, so it’s easier for a politician to frighten the public into supporting prohibitions upon the ominous appearing.
But the guns Americans assault other Americans with aren’t “military-style assault weapons.” It turns out that the most frightening firearms — the ones with giant butt stocks, menacing muzzles, and elongated clips — also prove the most difficult ones with which to commit undetectable crimes.
So, as shocking as it may seem to people who’ve replaced thinking with emoting, criminals rarely roam the streets with weapons the length of four-year-old children. Bad people generally prefer something more discreet. Real-life villains don’t come straight from central casting. And the weapons they use almost never come from Die Hard’s prop department.
An annual report released by California attorney general Kamala Harris called “Firearms Used in the Commission of Crimes” shows that the guns that scare us and the guns that kill us aren’t one in the same. The most recent report details that handguns constitute 90 percent of firearms used in California crimes. What California calls “fully-automatic weapons” comprise less than one percent of firearms used in California crimes, with all guns classified as “assault weapons” under California law constituting just five percent of firearms used in crime.
The most popular firearm among Golden State criminals isn’t an M16 or an elephant gun but a 9mm pistol. Of the murder cases examined by the attorney general’s office, zero involved fully automatic weapons. Almost all of them involved handguns. Somebody tell the state’s senior senator.
In Obama’s Illinois, FBI statistics show 377 gun murders for 2011. Of the 370 gun murders for which a type of weapon has been identified, 364 were handguns, 5 were shotguns, and just one was a rifle. Even assuming that the single rifle used in that Illinois murder were one of those military-style weapons the president seeks to ban, then assault rifles would constitute less than a quarter of a percent of all Illinois murders. By way of comparison, Illinois murderers used fists and other body parts to kill seventeen people in 2011.
Banning so-called assault weapons once again won’t make us safer. But this debate is about feelings, not reality.
Why else would the president of the United States surround himself with children, and quote from their letters, in launching a major policy initiative? It’s surely not for the expertise they lend. The pictures conveyed, like the misleading language used, would be better suited for a dystopian-novel demagogue than the leader of a living republic.
This closely follows the 1994 assault weapons ban that fixated on cosmetic features, prohibiting magazine-loaded rifles that exhibited, among other items, bayonet mounts, flash suppressors, and pistol grips. It’s all about the scary.
Since the debate itself isn’t merely superficial but has the added quality of being about superficial concerns off on the periphery, might a sensible compromise be reached sure to bring happiness to gun owners and gun grabbers?
Gun manufacturers should agree to ditch the metallic grays and blacks for day-glow, pastel, and full-spectrum Crayola. An AR-15 that more closely resembles a Skittles package just might win Dianne Feinstein’s imprimatur. Those angular, phallic designs must go, too. Try something more curvy, huggable, and nonthreatening. The cold steel is certainly a turnoff. Why not incorporate soft, warm fabric?
If you think these suggestions silly, you’re not paying attention. The entire conversation is cartoonish and farcical.
Gun control has little to do with crime control, as the fixation on “assault” weapons rarely used in actual assaults attests. It’s about making people who can’t tell a Kalashnikov from Mikhail Baryshnikov feel better.
So, gun nuts, just get it over with and wrap the stock in shag carpet and paint the barrel turquoise. A sparkly, polka-dotted gun is better than no gun at all.
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