We’re Having The Wrong Argument

This is a picture of a SiG MCX.

It’s a highly efficient modular tactical infantry weapon, designed to be easily modified so as to be the proper gun for any situation.  It’s lightweight, reliable, and deadly.  Oh, and a homicidal maniac used one to kill fifty people in Orlando the other day.

At the moment, the nation is sick and tired of hearing about guns and shootings.  We’ve had enough, and if the problem doesn’t get solved, We The People are about to fire a whole raft of Congressmen and Senators.  And the lawmakers in question know this full well, so they’re making a lot of extra noise about it this time around.

In fact, so very much noise is being made that I think we’ve lost sight of what exactly it is that we’re talking about.

This discussion began because of horrible killings in an Orlando nightclub.  If we make any changes, pass any laws — if we do anything at all because of this, it had damned well better be in order to keep this from happening again.

So what went wrong in Orlando?  How could this happen, and what should we change?

OK; the facts of the case:  Some guy, who happened to be Muslim, decided to kill a lot of people at a nightclub.  In particular, it’s a nightclub that catered to gay people and it was Latin night; these probably had something to do with why he chose it but makes the event neither more nor less tragic.

So he bought a couple of very efficient guns and a lot of ammunition, planned things out, and when he figured the time was right he went in and started shooting.  Eventually, he had a standoff with police, made a phone call claiming to be a part of ISIL and Hezbollah (who are fighting each other), and got himself killed.

Taking things in order, then:

  • He was a Muslim.  So what?  Are we going to ban all Muslims now, maybe lock them up in concentration camps?  Frankly, there’s over 3 million in the United States; if they all wanted to shoot the place up, I think we’d have noticed.
  • He bought two weapons and a large amount of ammunition.  There’s millions of weapons presently in the hands of U.S. citizens, and enough ammo to fight several wars.  Again, if it were just gun ownership that was the problem, it would be apparent, in that we’d all be dead.
  • One of the weapons was particularly deadly.  It’s not widely known because people aren’t talking about it, but the SiG MCX is a new design, just released.  They developed it because the ATF decided that the earlier model, the MPX-C, was too obviously a semiautomatic submachine pistol, and those are banned.  So SiG made the stock modular and lengthened the barrel a little, and presto!  The new design was just a hair over the limits prescribed by law — while still being, for all intents and purposes, a glorified submachine pistol.  Notice that nobody is talking about this part.  Heck, half the news media thinks we’re talking about an AR-15 or an AK-47.
  • The other weapon was a handgun.  There’s millions of handguns in America; most are owned for personal protection.  On the other hand, most gun suicides are done with a handgun, and the same holds true for most gun homicides.  As such, it’s pretty pointless talking about gun control without discussing handguns.
  • The killer passed his background checks.  He also underwent psyche evaluations in order to hold his job as a security guard who worked on government contracts.  He was clever and smart despite being nuts; generally they call that a “high-functioning psychopath”.  There’s no test known that we could have used to know what he’d do in advance.  Look, background checks work fine; they prevent a lot of crimes.  Just not this one.
  • The killer was on the terror watch list.  So are an awful lot of other people.  It’s not as though everyone on the list is a terrorist; some people get watched because their job requires them to fly all over the country.  This guy went on vacation to the Middle East.  He was interviewed twice by the FBI and they decided he wasn’t a threat.  It’s not the fault of the list, which worked like it was supposed to; it’s most likely not the fault of the agents who questioned him.  Psychopaths can be charming and personable, I hear.
  • The shooting took place in a gun-free zone.  Every bar in Florida is a gun-free zone.  This is designed to keep belligerent drunks from shooting one another, not to prevent this sort of attack.  There’s no reason to change this law; it’s still a good idea to keep guns out of the hands of drunks at bars.
  • The shooter fired a large number of rounds in a very short time.  Part of the reason for this is the high-capacity magazine in his MCX; part is the modular stock, which gave him a tighter radius of fire — like a pistol.  Not many crimes are committed using long rifles; the long barrel and stock make them clumsy at close range.

There are an awful lot of other facts about this event that we could drag in; his father is apparently certifiable, for instance, and the shooter credited ISIL despite never having joined.  For the purposes of this discussion, these are not germane.  We’re trying to pinpoint places where the system failed us, or where people might be at fault.

The Right Discussion:

First and foremost, an argument is the wrong way to solve things.  Half of all married couples already know that; the other half is getting divorced.  The moment we drift beyond polite and reasonable discussion, we’ll stop being productive — so let’s discuss, not argue.

So here’s some things to start off with, that all of us can probably agree on.  (Well, almost all of us; there’s some people out there who think we should be allowed bazookas, and other folks who believe every gun is evil.  We won’t convince them, so let’s lock them all out of the room while the adults are talking.  Discuss, not argue, remember?)

  1. Everything worked, but people died anyway.  Look, we can’t prevent every crime, not and remain even a partly free society.  It’s not a happy truth; it’s not comforting — but it needs to be said:  We probably couldn’t have prevented this one.  That’s no reason to presume the system is broken.
  2. The SiG MCX should probably have been banned.  For all intents and purposes, this isn’t a rifle but rather a glorified machine pistol, and we have laws against those.  We need to take a hard look at those laws and figure out what we missed.  More importantly, we ought to foster a climate where our citizens don’t view this sort of law as an inconvenience to be got around but rather something reasonable that we should all obey willingly, even gladly.
  3. The AR-15 and other semiautomatic rifles have nothing to do with Orlando.  I’ve put together an easy guide you can use to tell them apart.  Bear in mind, I’m not saying we shouldn’t discuss them; I’m saying they’re irrelevant to this discussion because they weren’t used here.  Neither were poison, or hand grenades, or high-performance automobiles — all deadly, and none used in Orlando.
  4. High-capacity magazines and short or removable stocks are elements that need to be discussed, especially when combined in a single weapon.  There’s a reason we outlaw sawed-off shotguns and machine pistols; there’s a reason we don’t sell machine guns.
  5. We need to discuss handguns.  Since most crimes are performed with handguns, if we’re talking gun control, we should talk handguns, and particularly high-capacity semiautomatics like this guy used.  This isn’t minor; it’s not something that will be solved overnight — not without a lot of pain and heartache, at least, which means we should take our time and do it right, and not necessarily expect an immediate solution.  This starts by having all sides be willing to talk about it.

Put these elements together and you can have a positive and reasonable discussion on the issue.  Start dragging in irrelevant subjects like the meaning of the Second Amendment or whether all Republicans are evil or all Democrats are stupid and you’ll end up having a fight.  If we fight, we won’t solve anything — and that means we all lose.

NOTE:  After some discussion and feedback, it has become apparent that another step is of vital importance.  Most of my data in these articles has come from or through the CDC, but their funding for gun violence research has largely been eliminated.  Since any debate without data inevitably devolves into argument, restoring that funding should become a priority.


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