The Daily Parker

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Q&A with a gun owner

Earlier this year I asked a friend if he would answer a couple of questions about his experience with firearms. Rich P. is a competitive pistol shooter living in Connecticut. He and I have agreed about some things and disagreed about others since we were first-years at university. I thought he'd have a reasonable presentation of firearms regulation that differs from mine, and he did not disappoint.

I have edited his responses only for Daily Parker site style and by adding links for context. Otherwise I have copied his responses in full.

How long have you been in competitive shooting? How did you get into it? How much safety training did you get? Do the ranges or competitions where you shoot have specific training or safety requirements?

I have been shooting competitively for 16 years. I compete in both Bullseye and USPSA-style matches. Bullseye is very much what you see at the Olympics: slow fire at targets generally 50 feet away. USPSA matches are more like simulated combat where you are shooting and reloading all on the move, while navigating through a structure and around barricades all the while engaging numerous targets.

I got into competitive shooting with the intent to use it as a training aid. Putting yourself on the clock adds just that little bit of extra stress which aids in helping you learn how to function under pressure.

Safety is paramount on any range I’ve ever been. To become a member of my club you first have to attend a mandatory four-hour safety meeting where all applicants are taught our club safety rules. We then take the applicants to the range and have them shoot a bullseye match with a senior club member standing behind them to help and instruct. After that applicants are required to attend three business meetings and three activity nights. At the business meetings applicants are constantly evaluated by senior members. Basically we’re looking to see if the applicant can work within club rules and they don’t have a screw loose, so to speak.

My club offers different styles of gun matches. Once the applicant chooses his style of match he is then taught all the ins and outs of that style. Monday nights are the most difficult and demanding. This is the USPSA match I mentioned earlier. The applicant will be taught how to properly load and unload his weapon, muzzle discipline, drawing from the holster and most importantly how to do all of the above without putting holes in his feet.

Every match I have ever shot has had some kind of safety briefing.

We’ve had our differences over gun control in the past. For example, you expressed frustration once that taking your guns from Connecticut into New York was a problem because the two states have different rules on magazine sizes. Do you encounter regulation differences between states today, after Heller?

Other then securing my individual right to own a weapon, Heller has had very little effect in a pro-gun sense. In Heller, Scalia wrote that weapons in common use are protected under the Second Amendment. There are over 7 million AR-15s in private hands. I would say that is the very definition of in common use but numerous states still maintain an Assault Weapons ban in defiance of Heller.

Does your state require firearms or owners to be licensed? If so, how difficult is it to get one? Should it be harder or easier? How would you change the licensing requirements?

Connecticut has two levels of gun licensing. To just own a gun and go plinking on weekends a Connecticut resident has to have a gun license and a second license to purchase ammo. To get the gun license there is a written test and a fee. To get the ammo license requires a fee and a current license. I went to the next level, which is a concealed carry license. To obtain that requires close to $300 in fees and mandatory 8 hour class. The upside is Concealed Carry License (CCL) holders do not have to obtain the ammo permit. The license is good for 5 years and can be renewed for a fee of $75. The whole process to obtain a CCL is about 4 months. During that time I had to photographed, fingerprinted, and take the course I explained earlier. I found the process thorough but not to much of a burden. That said with the amount of info I had to turn over if I ever broke bad it would take the cops about 5 minutes to pick me up because the state knows everything about me. There would be nowhere to hide. I don’t think there is anything I would change to the existing licensing schemes.

It’s hard to define “assault weapon” but let’s call it a large-capacity, lightweight, semi-automatic rifle designed primarily as an antipersonnel weapon. For example, the AR-15’s designer intended it to replace the M-14 for American infantry units, and said he couldn’t imagine any civilian needing one. Should we regulate or even prohibit these kinds of weapons?

I don’t believe AR-15s should be banned. Semi-automatic rifles we’re available to the civilian market close to 40 years before being adopted by the military. A lot of people think it was the other way around. I’ve spoken with many anti-gun people and they all operate on this simplistic thinking that if you get rid of the weapons there will be a reduction in crime. What they don’t realize is if they change the law only the law abiding will follow. The criminals will keep theirs and the result will be a disarmed populous in even more danger from a now even more aggressive criminal class.

On top of that anti-gunners are not going to stop with just banning the AR. I have had anti-gunners say straight up banning the AR is a good start but in the end they want everything gone. For seventy years, from the 1934 Taylor Law [I think he meant the National Firearms Act of 1934—TDP], to the 1968 Gun Control Act, to the 1986 [Firearm Owners Protection Act], to finally the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, government has been trying to solve the problem through infringement on rights and property and obviously that is not working. Time for something else.

What infuriates me the most is the lying of the current administration. Saying the 2nd isn’t an absolute is pure bullshit. The 2nd is there as a check on overreaching Federal power. It has absolutely nothing to do with hunting. If I hear one more stupid joke about a deer wearing Kevlar I’m going to lose my mind. At the time of The Revolution private citizens could own warships, get themselves a contract with the colonial Congress and then go privateering hitting British ships at sea. Also spreading fear and telling people that a 9mm round will blow a lung out of the body is offensive to people who know what they’re talking about. Now would I want to be hit with a 9mm round, oh hell no. That said putting that level of disinformation into the world is helping no one.

Anti-gunners also talk about the success of Australia and their gun buy back program. First off how can the government buy back something that wasn’t theirs in the first place? Also they call it a buy back but what it really was a voluntary gun confiscation. If an Australian citizen choose not to sell his guns to the gov’t then he was thrown in jail. Twenty years on we find the Australian gov’t moving people into camps against their will because of a disease that is 99% survivable. Politicians get all kinds of strange ideas once gov’t has a monopoly on force.

Do you identify with a political party? Did you support one of the candidates in the 2020 election?

To your last question I am currently a registered Republican. I was a Democrat until my mid thirties. I voted for Clinton twice and Al Gore in 2000. Having to go through the recession in the early 90’s caused by Bush 41 there was no way in hell I was going to vote for his idiot son Bush 43. Hell I even voted for Hillary Clinton when see ran for the Senate. What I found later was I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.

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I'll follow up with Rich soon, and I'll have some things to say about a few of his specific points. I'm grateful for his participation.

Plan for Sunday: read, write, nap

However, to get to Sunday, I have to finish a messy update to my work project, rehearse for several hours tomorrow, figure out a marketing plan for a product, and walk Cassie for hours.

I also want to read these things:

And tonight I'm going to watch Neil Gaiman's Sandman on Netflix, which has gotten pretty good reviews.

Meanwhile and elsewhere

In case you needed more things to read today:

There are others, but I've still got a lot to do today.

Responses to taxing ammunition and magazines

On Tuesday, when my white-hot rage at right-wing gun nuts and the politicians that support them had cooled a little, I proposed taxing ammunition and magazines as one of a set of options available to states to reduce gun violence through economic friction. After sharing a link to the post on social media, I got a response from an experienced hunter I've known for years:

"Military style weapon?" The Henry lever action rifle, maybe the most popular deer rifle ever used, was designed as a "Military weapon". Almost every long gun in a hunter's safe was a Military style weapon at one point or another. The 30-06 that I use for deer hunting is a gas operated, semi automatic rifle with a muzzle brake and detachable box magazine. Just because it has a walnut stock and engraved receiver i guess it is not a "Military style weapon". If you are serious about banning guns, say you want to ban all semi automatic rifles. Otherwise what are you talking about?

In my opinion we should be focusing on the people not the firearms. How about enforcing laws that are already on the books, strengthening background checks laws, and keeping guns out of the hands of people with serious mental illness. Fund the FBI so they can actually do the background checks, and require it in all 50 states. Prohibit gun purchase or possession by anyone with a history of violence, in all 50 states. Implement red flag laws that take away firearms from people who threaten mass shootings, are a danger to themselves or a danger to others. Require purchasers of semi automatic rifles to be 21 or older.

There is no feasible way to ban a "style" of rifle. Manufacturers will just modify the firearm, just like they did in 90s after President Clinton signed the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. Sales will go up, just like they did then.

He adds:

Sport shooting is more common among gun owners than hunting. Some people just own a firearm for self defense. As far as hunting goes, I have several magazines for all of my hunting rifles in various sizes. The size depends on the game I'm pursuing and where I'm pursuing it. Deer is the most common thing I hear people talk about, but is not the only thing we hunt in this country. If I was hunting coyote, wolf, feral hogs, and most small game I'd prefer a larger magazine. If I'm hunting in bear country, you can bet I'm putting a larger magazine in my rifle and pistol.

I agree with some of what he said, as I responded:

The experience in other countries with similar laws and histories (Australia, Canada, UK, NZ) shows that removing certain kinds of guns from the equation reduces gun violence. I'm happy to make a distinction between hunting and everything else.

The argument that your hunting rifle is "military-style" isn't helpful. Sure, your gas-powered semiautomatic .30-06 (7.62 mm) rifle is essentially an M1 from WWII. Along the same lines, at one point the weapons of choice for armies worldwide were big sticks and rocks.

Even conceding that you shoot deer with a hunting version of a 1940s M1, you still don't need a .50-caliber cannon for that purpose. Or a 50-round, 9mm Thompson submachine gun, which predates the M1 by a couple of years. I mean, since early Gatling guns in the 1860s, we have had firearms that have *no* conceivable use as hunting or sporting weapons, with more destructive power than is safe to permit in private hands. Just as there are reasonable civilian uses for most types of explosives, we still don't let private citizens own tactical nukes or plastics.

Of course we need to look at the people who want to own guns, the same way we need to look at the people who want to drive cars. But no one gets an AR-10, and no one gets a tank. Maybe we make an exception for licensed ranges where people can fire AR-10s and drive tanks, but they don't get to take them off the property.

Getting back to my original proposal, is a $1 per round tax on your 7.62 ammo going to hurt your hunting? Really? It'll cost you $2 more to bag a deer. But maybe if the little shit who shot up the parade on Monday had paid a $90 tax on his ammo along with a $400 tax on each magazine, the cost would have been just enough for him to forget about it.

Finally, I have to say, it's frustrating trying to argue for a moderate position on this or any other issue when no one will accept any compromises. You know firearms, N. You know the difference between an AR-15 and a Winchester Model 70. Could you shoot up a crowd with the Winchester? Sure. But you'd never do as much damage as you would with an off-the-shelf Armalite.

I don't want to ban guns or stop legitimate sportsmen from hunting. I just want to make it very, very difficult for people to get weapons like the one that made 2-year-old Aiden McCarthy an orphan on Monday.

We're going to keep having this argument, but the fact remains, we're the only country in the world where this keeps happening.

A suggestion to reduce gun violence that can pass the current Court

To absolutely no one's surprise, the little shit arrested for murdering six people in Highland Park, Ill., yesterday turned out to be a 22-year-old white kid with a violent social media history. And of course he bought the gun legally.

Every society has its psychopaths and angry young men. But most societies acknowledge this, and make it really hard for those assholes to buy guns. Here, we make it easier to buy a gun than to buy a car. That's just insane, but politically hard to change.

Right now, with the current right-wing Supreme Court and Senate, we can't pass meaningful gun safety laws. But I have an idea. Let's make it harder to get military-grade weapons through taxation.

What if Illinois added use taxes for ammunition and magazines? Any ammunition of magazines purchased in or brought into Illinois must have a tax stamp. Failure to show the proper stamp multiplies the tax by 10. Tax rifle ammunition at $1 per round, pistol ammunition at 25¢ per round, and shotgun ammunition at 10¢ per round, reflecting the social costs (externalities) of each. And tax magazines at $10 per round for the first 10 rounds and then $100 per round after.

So if you really want that Glock 9mm pistol with the 17-round magazine, filling it will cost you $800 in magazine tax and $4.25 in ammunition tax. But if you simply must have that AR-15 with its 20-round mag, then it's $1,100 for the magazine and $20 for the ammo.

This tax won't really bother legitimate hunters as hunting rifles tend to have 5-round magazines ($50 + $5), and a good hunter won't waste rounds on a deer. And, of course, there would be exemptions for law enforcement and Federal agencies. (Illinois has a huge Navy presence, for example, and the state can't tax them.)

Is this nibbling at the edges? Of course; obviously we need to ban these weapons entirely. But I think it would pass the current Court. And if it adds enough friction to purchasing military-style rifles to deter just one mass shooting a year, it will have saved lives.

Thoughts?

Six murdered in Highland Park

A "well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free State" just killed 5 people (update: now 6 confirmed dead) for no discernable reason in Highland Park, Ill., the next town over from the village I grew up in. I should note that Highland Park has one of the earliest and strictest gun prohibitions on record in the Chicago area, but cannot enforce these restrictions because a trade association bent on enriching its member manufacturers and retailers has convinced people living in rural areas that we city folk shouldn't decide for ourselves what constitutes appropriate gun regulations.

The body count of today's shooting—5 dead (so far), 16 wounded—suggests the shooter used a military-style weapon. I have had a firearms license for 28 years and I've got good pistol training. And yet I have never heard a good argument for anyone to have a military-style weapon like this.

Current Guard, military, or reservists can, of course, get these weapons—if they go to their base or post armory and sign them out according to regulations. Really: not even a full general officer or Navy admiral has any authority to get an assault rifle from an armory without showing cause. So if our own military keeps these things locked up, why can't a city?

One Daily Parker reader speculated that this may have been an anti-Semitic attack, given the demographics of Highland Park. I really don't care what the asshole's motivations were. I just care that he's hunted down, tried, and locked up for the rest of his life. (Illinois has a "guilty-but-mentally-ill" law that can keep someone who shoots up parades from rejoining society as long as it takes to treat them, even without a criminal conviction.)

Fuck you, Clarence Thomas. Fuck you, the lot of you reactionaries who think a  bunch of suburban moms being shot to death at a parade celebrating our country's self-governance is an acceptable price to pay so Wayne LaPierre can stay rich. Fuck you, everyone who thinks that having more guns in the area would have prevented this, given the huge police presence already in place around the parade route.

It's time Illinois passes gun safety laws and enforces them as long as possible. And it's time everyone who isn't a right-wing nut-job demand adequate gun-safety rules for the entire US.

One bit of good news

About an hour ago, President Biden signed the first significant gun safety law we've passed in 30 years:

The bill provides grants to states for “red flag” laws, enhances background checks to include juvenile records, and closes the “boyfriend loophole” by keeping guns away from unmarried dating partners convicted of abuse. It will also require enhanced background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and funding for youth mental health services.

The bipartisan gun legislation sped through Congress in the month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Democrats unanimously voted in favor of the bill along with more than two dozen Republicans in the House and the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"When it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential," Biden said. "If we can reach a compromise on guns, we ought to be able to reach a compromise on other critical issues, from veterans health care to cutting-edge American innovation to so much more."

I don't think the President is quite correct in that conclusion. And while the law doesn't do some things we desperately need to do, like ban military-grade weapons for most civilians (including civilian police forces), it's a start. If you recall how long it took to get car safety rules passed, even incremental steps will help.

Thursday afternoon round-up

A lot has happened in the past day or so:

Finally, let's all congratulate Trumpet, the bloodhound who won the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last night. Who's a good boy!

My houseguest has departed

After four nights, five puddles, four solid gifts, and so much barking that the neighbors down the block left a note on my door, Sophie finally went home this afternoon. I also worked until 11:30 last night, but that had nothing to do with her. It did cause a backup in my reading, though:

Finally, army dude-bros in several countries have gotten into arguments over online tank games and, to win those arguments, have posted classified information about real tanks. The defense authorities in the US, UK, France, and China are investigating.

Friday, already?

Today I learned about the Zoot Suit Riots that began 79 years ago today in Los Angeles. Wow, humans suck.

In other revelations:

Finally, it's 22°C and sunny outside, which mitigates against me staying in my office much longer...