Friday, November 17, 2017

Jon Caldara Tries To Use Skewed "Gun Math" To Defend AR-15s And Other Semi-Automatics

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Jon Caldara is at it again, in his recent (Nov. 12) Denver Post op-ed ('The Assault Weapon Attack On Math') in which he attempts to diminish the impact of semi-automatic weapons based on the much more prolific stats of killings by other means.

He first cites the 374 "killed by rifle" last year -but points out it is only a small fraction of the 11,004 total killed by "firearms". In other words, 10, 630 were killed by handgun - not rifle So his argument is the media attention to semi-automatic weapons is skewed. He then goes on with:

"Shouldn’t there be over four times the media coverage on the 1,604 people killed with knives last year? Some 472 were killed with blunt instruments like clubs and hammers, some of which had polymer, not wood, handles. And nearly twice as many people were killed with hands, fists and feet?"

Err no, because you are mixing chalk and cheese. Human homicides - given the variety of circumstances (and potential weapons available)-  will always show a diversity of usage, of instrument. But that diversity of assorted killing instruments does not refute the fact that semi-automatic (and  automatic) rifles are an anomaly in terms of the Second Amendment.  By that I mean the authors could no more have imagined such weapons than they could imagine Space Shuttles.

The informal fallacy employed by Caldara is the ignoratio elenchi fallacy also known as irrelevant conclusion. This is the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid, but fails nonetheless to address the issue in question. The issue in question here before us is whether semi-automatic or automatic rifles are truly allowed under the provisions of the 2nd amendment as originally interpreted.  More on this later.

Even on its own logical terms, Caldara's arguments can be challenged, say in terms of  "the proportion of the mode of killing dictates media and legal attention."  Hence, if the proportion of kills by an assault rifle is low - say compared to other modes of killing - it should receive less attention (including legal) and the others more. Never mind more people can be killed at one time, as we beheld in Vegas.  But if this argument were solid, then - in the arena of air accidents- the FAA would do little or nothing in the way of investigation after plane crashes in which 50 - 60 were killed (say matching the numbers mowed down in the Orlando and Las Vegas mass shootings.)  But the fact is they take such plane crashes very seriously and go over everything - including recovering black boxes. This despite the fact that in the tragic sphere of accidental deaths many more people (37,000) are killed in auto crashes each year., or lightning strikes - as Caldara references.

The takeaway is that single events in which many dozens of people are killed bespeak such anomaly that they cannot be ignored or minimized. This is even more crucial when human motivation is behind the mass killing, i.e. in the case of use of semi-automatic or automatic rifles -  weapons putatively allowed under the 2nd amendment. This is exactly why Australia, after its April 1996  Port Arthur, Tasmania massacre, bought and destroyed more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms. This was in a scheme that cost half a billion dollars and was funded by raising Aussie taxes.  In other words,  they took this mass shooting deadly seriously. They didn't diminish its import by false analogy or conflating with other types of killing, e.g. by knives, fists, etc.

Recall that  FDR's Solicitor General framed the argument to the Supreme Court thusly:

"The Second Amendment grants people a right that is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only exists where the arms are borne in a militia or some other military organization provided by law and intended for protection of the State."

The SC decision was unanimous in agreeing with that take..

While this sane interpretation prevailed for several more decades, it started to unravel by the 1970s. Then various Right wing groups coalesced to challenge gun control based on spurious "private gun ownership" interpretations, and successively overturned laws in state legislatures.  This despite the fact then Justice Warren Burger had clearly stated this later interpretation was "one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

Well, it's good Justice Burger didn't live to see the arrival of semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks and the claim that the 2nd amendment provides for the ownership of those too! A cockeyed notion that has been pumped by the NRA ever since, more recently with the batshit crazy ad that "your man card is reissued". If you need an AR- 15 to be a man, then decidedly you've a long way to go to reach that phase.

Caldara also tries to muddy the waters regarding the use of semi-automatics vs. automatics  as when he writes:

"There’s no better example of the media’s ability to emotionally bait an issue out of all mathematical proportion than that of “assault rifles". Lett’s clarify again what most reporters don’t, likely since it runs counter to their anti-gun bias. Very, very few people own assault rifles. They are nearly impossible to get due to the limited supply and regulatory burden to get one. An assault weapon is capable of firing several rounds of ammunition with one pull of the trigger. What is falsely reported as an assault rifle is just an average semi-automatic rifle, where only one round is fired with every trigger pull. "

This bit of sophistry ignores a number of hard facts, and hence makes it easy for those not rifle savvy to gloss over his claims. For reference let me quote part of a WSJ article dealing with the AR-15 (Caldara's semi-automatic rifle) published on 12/9/15. It noted:

"The AR-15 re-cocks itself immediately after firing. The only thing keeping the gun from firing again on its own is a sear, a piece inserted in the gun that stops the cycle from continuing. By replacing the sear and a few other key components, an AR-15 can be made fully automatic."

Note then that although Caldara glosses over it, the AR-15 is not any old  single shot rifle, certainly not like the bolt action rifle I used to own and fire when I lived in New Orleans. In other words, it took time - measured in seconds - to work the bolt action to fire again, it did not "immediately re-cock itself after firing"  There IS a qualitative difference. My argument is that if any Founders could be brought back to inspect either type of rifle - and how it works - they'd more surely side with my old bolt action as the one allowed under their  2nd amendment, but not the AR-15.
In Murdock, FL, ca. May, 1986, with an AR-15. 

Once more I am not an anti-gun nut. I have owned and used rifles and fired off shotguns as well in target practice.  (Including in 1968 in New Orleans when testing the "jet effect" nonsense peddled by JFK conspiracy deniers). However, I've never owned anything semi-automatic, or with multi-capacity clips.  This is all by way of full disclosure.  My sticking point here is how the Founders themselves would have interpreted semi-automatics like the AR 15 under the 2nd amendment.

Unlike the whacko contingent of gun owners, I also don't believe the 2nd amendment gives people the "right" to own rocket propelled launchers, bazookas, .50 caliber anti-aircraft guns, or military assault type weapons - capable of mass slaughter. The Second Amendment authors - inhabiting a world where single load muskets were the rule - would have been flabbergasted to see the extent to which their amendment had been misconstrued today, such as by the NRA and their denizens.

As for Caldara's nitpicking about the difference between semi-automatics and automatics, let's just say it is tweedledum vs. tweedledee. As Stephen Paddock showed, one only needs to include a LEGAL bump stock to effectively transform a semi-automatic into a functional automatic. One doesn't  need to be a genius or legal guru to understand the enhanced efficiency and lethality when a bump stock is affixed to a normal semi-automatic.

The argument that the new high powered rifles - such as AR-15s, and Bushmaster .223s are entitled to be owned as a "right" is just plain bollocks. No, you can own a true single shot 30.06  bolt action as a right, because it's a legit rifle with which to go out hunting. You can own a .22  bolt action as a right, and it does a nice job of killing small game especially if you use hollow points.  But you don't need semi-automatic weapons, or AK 47s

Even  though I don't believe the 2nd justifies such powerful weapons, I do acknowledge our laws have been distorted over decades and realize that  - once the horse has escaped the barn- it is difficult if not impossible to get it back in. Thus, I am not for banning such guns, but properly regulating them, using a national registry system such as adopted in Australia and similar to what we already have for auto vehicle ownership. Thus you receive your gun owner ID with photo, and registration number (with serial nos., of all weapons) entered in a national (or state) database and computer -connected to the Homeland Security fusion centers across the country.

Once any mass shooting then occurs, the fusion centers will instantly be able to pick up on the serial number(s) of the weapon(s)  used, the perp and his background. No fuck ups as with the military not reporting certified psychos to the FBI for the current national database.  At that point of infraction in the new system,  the perp is facing justice - if not meted out at the scene - and his gun license permanently revoked.  I would also assert licenses need to be revoked for reckless actions, such as target practicing on trees  (near camp sites) as occurred near Pike National Forest several years ago.

That father, shot in the head, would still be alive today with his family had stringent registration requirements been in effect. Those would have deterred the gun crazy lunatics from firing their Bushmasters in a forest- near camping grounds.

See also: 'What Jon Caldara Gets Wrong About Assault Weapons':

No comments: