Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Guns don't kill people"? Countering The Rationalizations and Memes Employed By The NRA

"This weapon, the AR-15, was actually the weapon the military was trying to use - instead of the M 16- in Vietnam, because it was more lethal." - Joe Scarborough yesterday morning

Even as one hundred activist students - survivors of the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High -  march to the Florida state capitol today, they have to know they will be confronting hard- headed lawmakers. Especially on the Reepo side, i.e. those who sold out their brains long ago to the NRA for a few campaign bucks.  The kids, part of the newly activated #NeverAgain movement, with allies across the nation, will have to be able to counter the specious arguments that will be hurled back at them.

This begs the question of why, apart from campaign largesse, it is so difficult to change minds. Well, one reason is the penchant of the NRA to trot out  glib rationalizations and facile arguments,  with which it seeds the susceptible  brains of so many.

How effective are these canards and rationalizations? A poll reported this morning on CBS shows that the nation is nearly evenly divided on an assault weapons ban - among the few things that would actually work to limit mass shootings - ask Australia!   The poll showed only 50 percent support such a ban and 46 percent oppose. WHY do so many oppose it? I submit because they are victims of one or more NRA mind viruses that have infected their brains and spread by the minions of the NRA.

For example: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".

Which is one of the most popular because it catches so many would-be opponents off guard. They are then left to flap gums, i.e. "B-b-but y-you can't say that!!"  As opposed to offering a powerful retort,  for example:

"But if you had taken that AR-15 out of that kid's hands and replaced it with just a kitchen knife would he have still killed so many?"  In other words, the weapon used also factors in, just as the use of an accelerant by an arsonist to burn down an apartment bldg. That accelerant - like the AR-15 or any other assault weapon -dramatically increases the body count. This isn't rocket science and you don't need a Mensa level IQ to get it.

This tack effectively puts  them on the defensive. Of course, then the usual reply - again thanks to the NRA - is: "So what?  You now want to ban all kitchen knives too?"

NOOOOOO... But you fail to process that there is a logical difference between a prosaic, everyday implement that can sometimes be used as a weapon, and a military style rifle that is specifically designed to kill. In this case, a rifle that was once earmarked for possible use in Vietnam to make killing easier than the older model M16.  In other words, Roscoe, how many mass killings have been done by knives? It is easy to mock the notion of "knife laws" but when you hold their feet (and brains) to the fire on a logical basis they are the ones usually spluttering.  

Or maybe not. CBS interviewer John Blackstone tried to do that with the couple ( James and Kimberly Snead)  that took  in  Nikolas Cruz, even confronting them about allowing him to have a case of "five or six guns"  including the AR-15 assault rifle. The guy - a total dope - was nonchalant,  telling Blackstone when asked about this, "It was his right".  His right?! A nineteen year old twerp whose brain is still forming? So these Sneads  also appear to be brain- jacked idiots who perhaps had imbibed too much NRA hog swill.   Confirmation? When Blackstone asked James Snead  if he felt differently about it now after the massacre, he replied, "No, not at all." In other words,  this guntard would let another kid into his home to have his own gun case too. It is morons like this that confirm again the need for parental (or guardianship) licensing tests, and  blacken this country's name and make us all look like damned fools.

It was two days ago that I came across another favorite NRA trope that I've seen in various guises. It appeared on my Facebook home page, and it clearly showed why banning assault weapons is often made to appear ridiculous. The canard was compliments of a nephew who is part of my "Friends" group. It went like this:

"A DUI driver gets rightly blamed and prosecuted for killing 3 people in a crash he caused. A guy shoots up 17 kids with an assault rifle -  and the rifle gets the blame.  Typical liberal logic."

Most of us have to admit this "reasoning"  is mind blowing in its simplicity and precisely for that reason is dangerous, because it can lull those without critical thinking skills to accept it.  This is what I call an example of sophistry often employed by those who'd seek to defend the purchase and ownership of a weapon which - as Joe Scarborough notes at the top - was actually considered for use in Vietnam because of its lethality. In other words, its staunch defenders are full tilt embracing the right to own and operate a weapon that is specifically dedicated to slaughter the enemy in a war theater.

Now, let's take step back and process merely what the old fashioned M 16 could do as reflected in this image after a whole village was wiped out by Lt. William Calley's platoon in the Mai Lai massacre:

Dozens of men, women and children were slain in that rogue exercise engineered by the war criminal Calley and it is surely difficult to process how a more lethal scenario could emerge. But - if the AR- 15 had been used instead it would have snuffed out  the few surviving villagers.. Yet that weapon - at least ownership of it - is what the assault weapons' folks defend.  WHY?

Let's go back to the specious argument posted on Facebook and see why it is specious.  Consider the case of the DUI - such as occurred in Denver barely a month ago-  when three members of a family were wiped out of existence by that inebriated driver. He was surely to blame as his blood alcohol level was later found to be 0.3. There is no issue on who was to blame, and the car was merely the instrument for the killing. However, the extent of the death was self limiting by the capacity of the car.

In the case of an AR-15 (or other assault rifle) there is no self limiting factor - and a gunman (like Nikolas Cruz) could move at will - say floor to floor, room to room- slaughtering as many as his trigger finger speed and aim permit.  Now, this is crucial  - the ability to do that is a function primarily of the weapon,  not just the mobility of the gunman. Again, leave him with just his "fists" - as my AR-15 owner pal put two days ago, i.e. "more people are killed with fists than guns" - and I promise you 17 do not die.

Hence, the AR-15  example is qualitatively and quantitatively distinct from the DUI deaths.  For sure, the gunman is also to blame - but his choice of instrument must also be factored in, to the extent of contributing to the body count. In other words, it's the combination of shooter and weapon that's most important. Or to use the words of journalist Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, writing in the Broward Sun-Sentinel:

"This combination is a threat to our way of life in America."

As I posted in a response comment, take the AR-15 out of Cruz's hands and substitute a knife -  whatever one you  choose- and 17 don't lose their lives. You can take that to the bank. What has been done is to replace one of the most lethal weapons with a much less lethal one. In the first case, the weapon,  a cousin to the M16, is expressly designed to kill and do so with maximal efficiency.  Moreover, it is expressly designed to kill people, not hunt prey. As blogger David Lindorff put it:

"An AR-15 is not a hunting weapon. In fact there’s a reason it’s called an “assault rifle.” As a hunter, unless you’re an atrocious shot and are hunting random flocks of small birds, you certainly don’t need to be able to fire powerful ammunition of two bullets per second — the rate at which experts say an ordinary person could be able to pull the trigger."

By contrast, the knife  -- no matter how sharp or large- must usually be wielded by an assailant in an up close and personal manner. It isn't like taking aim from 20 or more feet away and dispatching victims with the touch of a trigger.  To kill seventeen people  even in the same room - the assailant would have to work demonically, stabbing from one to the other, and there is no assurance any given slash would be a fatal one  say like an  AR-15 bullet fired into a chest.  Even if it took only 3 seconds per stab, this  is much longer than firing 2 rounds per second. And you can't assume the people will just stand there like dummies and let you do them in, oh no. They will react and more than likely several will gang up to take the assailant down

This is the first point that the assault rifle lovers must be forced to admit, that it is far more difficult to kill with a knife than an assault weapon. Now, the FLA AR-15 owner in his response cited a stat where he said: "you're more than twice as likely to be killed from being kicked or punched than being shot".

Which merely goes to show how statistics can be used to disguise the nature of a threat if not carefully considered.   What was my retort? Well, I said I would gladly face any flying fists or feet rather than an AR-15 (or AK 47) any day. If he believed he'd sway me to accepting that owning an AR-15 was ok because I'd more likely get offed by a latter day Bruce Lee with a karate kick, he was mistaken.

His argument actually derived from then Texas AG  Greg Abbott's 2013 Facebook post. But that post did not include homicides the FBI attributed to handguns (6,220), firearms whose type was not stated (1,587) and "other guns" (97). Those numbers mean handguns were used in 72 percent of all firearm murders in 2011 and slightly under half of all murders using any kind of weapon that year.

These sort of stats have also been used by assault rifle defenders to argue that the risk of being shot  by an assault rifle in a mass shooting is so freakishly small it is not worth fretting about.

But the exact same logic can be applied to terror attacks by Islamic extremists.

It was  columnist Gideon Rachman of The Financial Times  who first pointed out that the number of Americans killed by terrorists since 1960 is "about the same as the number killed over the same period in deer accidents". For example, cars careening into a deer and being driven into a ditch.  The probability turned out to be roughly 1 in 18,000.

But look at what we are dealing with, despite the rarity of terror attacks!  TSA searches of bags etc.  at all the airports, alerts, blockages of roads and mobilized tactical and other police forces after each terror attack. So why this huge reaction difference if the odds are so minuscule?  Because we treat the threat of a terror attack - say on a plane or in NYC on New Year's Eve -   as a code red security threat that must be dealt with accordingly.  So my question is, "Why not treat mass shootings ALSO as terror attacks?"

If we adopt the arguments of the assault rifle lovers  i.e. that mass shootings are just a "distortion" of overall gun deaths, then why do most of them also support the anti-terror strategies?  I mean if the odds of being killed in a terror attack are 1 in 18,000 and the odds of being murdered in a mass shooting by a homegrown nut wielding an AR-15  are 1 in 11,000  why not adopt the same threat response for both?

There is only one logical reason for the difference in response: the rank and file of the AR-15 defenders and NRA gun lobby fear the Islamic extremists who carry out terror attacks more than the white boys who do mass shootings.  This is why I stated in a tongue- in -cheek manner that if most or all of these mass shootings were done by Islamic extremists (or black gang members)  you'd see action on gun control faster than a  tachyon's flight..

Look, the gun insanity will not stop until our population of assault weapon owners are forced to confront these contradictions and provide coherent explanations. Also,  why they continue to support a loophole in the gun laws that enables any extremist to buy an assault weapon,

Added to the gun debate there is added confusion now that Russian bots are evidently entering as well. As reported in the NY Times:

One hour after news broke about the school shooting in Florida last week, Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia released hundreds of posts taking up the gun control debate.
The accounts addressed the news with the speed of a cable news network. Some adopted the hashtag #guncontrolnow. Others used #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting

Those automated Twitter accounts have been closely tracked by researchers. Last year, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, in conjunction with the German Marshall Fund, a public policy research group in Washington, created a website that tracks hundreds of Twitter accounts of human users and suspected bots that they have linked to a Russian influence campaign.

The researchers zeroed in on Twitter accounts posting information that was in step with material coming from well-known Russian propaganda outlets. To spot an automated bot, they looked for certain signs, like an extremely high volume of posts or content that conspicuously matched hundreds of other accounts.

All this shows me we have  a lot of work to do in order to combat and counter the NRA sophistry. We now also need to be aware many of the assault rifle defenders may well be Russian bots  seeking to stir up even bigger shit storms.

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