Solutions Require Knowledge and Experience not Politics and Feelings
Obama has sworn to Never Let A Crisis be a Wasted Opportunity
I need to spell out why I feel qualified to make any statement below. I am certified as a firearms coach/instructor/trainer by USA (Olympic)/NRA (world's largest firearms safety training organization) CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) 4-H, and the State Of Georgia DNR. I have coached dozens of youth shooters and trained or improved the shooting of numbers of highly qualified police officers and others. I know guns, shooting, and safety. I also have teachers in my immediate family so I am fairly up to date on what is happening in schools, at least locally.
I do not want to belittle in any way the tragedy that happened recently in Connecticut. Those beautiful innocent children had done nothing to deserve what became their fate. I pray to God for their families that they may eventually find peace. I cannot imagine the pain and anguish.
It is my sincere intention to spell out some ideas that may help in developing a national dialog to work through a proper response that provides for the safety of our children - in school, in the movies, at sporting events or just traveling down the neighborhood street. I also hope that those ardent supporters of removing guns from individuals will at least hear me out before they click delete.
Define Assault Weapon
One of the most commonly used terms in light of the recent shootings has been the term "assault weapons." Whoopie Goldberg, in describing them on her role on The View ineptly described them as able to grind things into something unrecognizable. Keep in mind, Whoopie has an armed bodyguard and keeps a loaded 12 guage shotgun by her bed, but doesn't want anyone else to have either. But to her point on what describes an assault weapon, so does her 12 gauge shotgun, and a lot faster.
Most news media suggest any rapid firing rifle is an assault weapon. If that gun is black, it is definitely an assault weapon. If it has the word auto somewhere in its description, it is an assault weapon, even if that is preceded with semi-. If it "looks" military or complicated, it is an assault weapon. The size of the bullet and how fast that bullet moves - rarely a consideration but recently the idea of an AR15 Bushmaster as being "one of the most powerful rounds available" makes it an assault rifle - even if that is totally bogus.
So when you are hearing the discussion about what an assault weapon is, keep these concepts in mind. There are a number of mechanical means for making a firearm work. Basically, in a modern firearm, a cartridge containing a projectile (bullet) a propellent (gun powder for the most part) a primer (something to set off the powder) and a casing (something to hold all this stuff together) so to keep this from being too long, we'll refer to this as a cartridge. The cartridge must be loaded into the firearm before it can fire. In some guns, the mechanism is called a break action because the gun literally breaks open and you can see down the inside of the back of the barrels. Cartridges are inserted in each barrel and then it is closed. If you ever saw an old western movie, you may have seen someone with an old shotgun where they break it open and load in two bullets - hence the term double barrel. Today, almost all international and domestic skeet, trap and sporting clays events are shot using double barrel shotguns - but the barrels are stacked one on top of the other now referred to as Over/Unders.
Obviously you can only shoot one, or in the case of the double barrel, two times before having to open up the gun, remove the spent rounds and reload, then close the gun to be able to shoot again. With a bolt action, there may be a magazine or clip where follow-up rounds are kept stacked and spring loaded. As the bolt moves back, the spring lines up the cartridge in the clip with the front of the bolt which then moves forward pushing it into the chamber. Now the gun is ready to fire if the safety is switched off. In order to shoot a second time, the bolt must be drawn first up, then back the length of the cartridge so the empty may be ejected. The spring pushes another round up in place to be picked up as the bolt moves forward and the gun is now ready for the next shot. This is the second slowest reloading process behind the break action.
The pump or slide action works in a similar but different manner than the bolt and can be fairly fast. Most pump actions are shotguns, however there are several rifle calibers that have pump actions. As the pump which is also the forward hand placement, comes back, a spring action pushes a round to be loaded into a space below the chamber, as the pump is moved forward, the cartridge is lifted up and aligned with the chamber as the bolt continues forward the cartridge moves into the chamber and is ready to fire when the safety is off. Most shotguns have the capacity of 3-5 rounds.
The next action removes the requirement of the forward hand to pull back and push forward as gases are used to do that work for the shooter. Each time the trigger is pulled, some small amount of the gases used to push the bullet down the barrel is bled off to push the bolt back, allow the spring to push a new round into place and again ready for the trigger to be pulled and start the process all over again. This is a semi-auto. A skilled shooter can shoot a pump action faster than a great number of the semi-auto rifles and shotguns. A sear is in the space of a semi-auto that stops the cycle after each shot. That sear is not there on a full-auto allowing the firearm to shoot as long as the trigger is depressed. This can be very fast.
So now we have break action, pump or slide action, bolt action, and semi-auto. Yes there are lever actions to - and function much like the others just using a lever to move the bolt between rounds. Would you be able to decide something was an "assault rifle" just because it was one of the actions described above?
How about if the gun looks mean? What is mean and is it the same to everyone? Does the presence of a wood stock make it look less menacing? Keep in mind, most of the military rifles imported from Russia and China come here with wood stocks, such as the famed AK-47 7.62X54 and the Norinco 7.62X39 SKS. The numbers indicate first the diameter of the bullet in millimeters and then the length of the cartridge that holds the powder. Keep in mind, the AK is pretty much the NATO .308 where our rifle of choice since 1903 then 1906 was the .30-06 which is a 7.62X63 - a much more powerful round and a favorite for deer hunters.
So would bullet size make an assault weapon? The AK-47 is the same diameter as the favorite deer cartridges of .308, 30-06, 300 Weatherby Magnum, 300 Winchester Magnum, 300 UltraMag, etc. The favorite rifles for hunting big game in Africa or Canada are larger diameter bullets. From 338 up to over .500 inches in diameter, that is 10 millimeters in comparison, would that make an assault weapon? Keep in mind, the two powerful machine guns the military uses are the .50 cal and the 20mm cannon, both full auto and the .50 can reach out a mile to a man-size target. So after all that discussion, the bullet used by our military for the most part...introduced during Viet Nam, the 5.56mm or .223 caliber is the one. Not the most powerful bullet in the world by a long shot. Keep in mind, the diminutive .22 rimfire is the round of choice by criminal underworld. It is small, can be relatively quiet and you can carry a lot of ammunition in your pocket. Power isn't always what is of concern.
So now we realize that it doesn't matter what caliber or how big the cartridge is would determine if a gun is a so-called assault rifle. It doesn't matter what action it is - because all actions have been used from pump shotguns to bolt action rifles in these school shootings. It doesn't matter if they have wood on them - that is what the famed AK-47 comes to the US with. What makes an assault rifle? The answer is if you use a spoon to beat someone to death that spoon becomes an assault spoon. If you use any rifle to commit a crime, you used an assault rifle.
Who Needs Them?
After deciding what an assault weapon is, then the question used to be why would you ever need one. That is usually followed by, "I don't need one and cannot imagine why anyone else would." Of course that isn't reasonable logic when anything else is up for consideration - a diamond ring for example, I don't need one and have no idea why anyone wants one.
So we have to go back to the definition first, which we were not able to logically identify, but for the sake of discussion only, let's design a black gun with attachments that include a flashlight, a laser target identifier, maybe a night scope, the ability to fire fairly quickly so let's go with semi-auto and a 20 shot clip in .30 caliber. Who would ever need that? Well, you might not, but some folks like to go hunt wild hogs in the dark. Hogs, in many parts of the country, have become the master of destruction of crops, woodlands and compete with veracious appetites with native game animals. These animals run in groups up to 30 or 40 in a group and can be aggressive. Having a 20 or 30 shot clip isn't ridiculous. Who is to say the hog or coyote hunter can't have what is needed for this job? What about the person who lives in an area that is fairly remote - far from police protection. If he calls 911 it is on a cell phone and that is if he can get a signal. His only protection for his self and his family is this weapon. Is it still an assault weapon?
Then there is a statement that there should be limits on what an individual can purchase - that they should not be able to buy automatic rifles like they use in the military. Well there are a couple of restrictions already in place for law abiding citizens. First, to own a full auto rifle known to most as a machine gun, there is a serious high level expensive background check and a large fee for the tax, the firearm is registered and can only be fired in the presence of the owner using what is quite expensive ammunition. I recently saw several full auto firearms on sale from $19,000 up. Not your average Saturday Night Special (a term from earlier anti-gun groups describing cheap handguns). I guess I'm saying there are limits already and where there aren't the limit is the pocketbook - unless you are a criminal. Of course if you are a criminal, there are no limits and you just take whatever you want in whatever number you want from those who don't have a semi-auto handgun or revolver to shoot back with.
There ought to be a law is the most commonly used line by most anti-gun activists. The truth is, a law probably already exists. Any person might step back and also think - do people who routinely break the law - care if there is another law? But too often, that logic is not a part of the hysteria.
Logic vs. Feelings
Calm and logic rarely win political and emotional debates. That is unfortunate in too many cases, particularly those involving firearms. Rational thinking rarely is seen from politicians and television grand standers like Geraldo Rivera (Jerry Rivers when he had his own TV show and it was less fashionable to be Hispanic). Geraldo went out and joined the NRA a couple days ago so he could get a membership card just to make the point that if the NRA didn't succumb to his wishes he would burn his glistening new card on the air (in hopes to get others to do the same). I listened to him state, much like the hippocrit Goldberg, how the AR15 is able to "spray" bullets all over the place. The AR15 is a semi-automatic rifle that LOOKS like the military version M-16 and M-4 which have full and burst auto capability. You must pull the trigger every time with the AR15, not just pull and hold - so spray is not exactly what happens - but when you are grand standing, it sounds good, even if it isn't true.
So straining away the hysteria, grand standing and emotion from the debate, the questions are real. The need to make our schools safe and keep our children away from in discriminant harm is pretty universal. Keeping our families safe from harm while in our homes, at our places of worship, at our workplace, or traveling should be reasonable and fair to consider. Who is responsible for keeping us safe? Do we need to depend on government all the time? Police and Sheriff departments can do so much. Security guards, cameras, alarm systems, locks, and laws are used to deter those who may be tempted to try to harm someone. Obviously these things don't always work, right? If they did, we would not ever have to think this through again.
Right vs. Privilege
One more point must be brought up before we can go on. Getting a drivers license is so we can enjoy the privilege of driving a car or truck. That privilege can be taken away from us simply by a Judge who determines we have not respected some part of the laws of the state and must pay a price. No Judge can just decide to remove a Right granted by the Constitution. So when someone says something about regulating gun ownership just like getting a driver's license, it is not the same thing. The Supreme Court recently handed down a decision that specifically noted the right of an individual to keep and bear arms. That is the law of the land. Responsibility comes with that right. Keep in mind, responsibility comes with the First amendment too. Often times, responsibility isn't considered a part of any right - and that is unfortunate.
What are the answers? We have a number of places to go to answer the questions - first we have to consider if we really want to open that box.
What is the end game? How do we know when we won? What are the goals? If the goal is to go for 12 months, at least one time, with no school shootings, that at least gives us focus we need to begin to attack the problem. So review all of the past school shootings and see what is in common. What was the level of school security at the time. What was the level of planning required? How many people participated in pulling it off? Were there any, and I mean any, warnings that may have been identified and are they common? Who were the shooters? What possible significant relationship is there between all of the shooters? Can we identify any contributing factors - societal, school problems, emotional issues, drugs, parental issues, video games, bullying? Keep in mind, there are millions of kids, and for that matter adults, that watch/play really gory video games that never go on a shooting rampage. Kids always have parental issues, emotional issues, girlfriend/boyfriend issues, bullying and name calling issues. So why are there individuals that take it differently that end up going off the deep end.
I have more than a few friends who are having to deal with children that are facing a lot of challenges. I said something harsh on FB regarding my feelings about providing a place for people who's kids are growing up that just do not fit into a natural place in society. I had a response from one good friend saying to me that I just convicted her son to a life in prison. I didn't, and I pray that she keeps him from that, but it could be that some people are going to either have to find a way to get their loved one committed or face being the mother of the next Columbine shooter. Which would be worse? Something must be developed to provide a life for these kids who are schizophrenic or bipolar and unable to maintain safety in the general society.
If we are focused on schools, providing an armed school resource officer makes a lot of sense. He/she becomes a part of the school student body. When something is going on in the school, the school cop can be there to take care of it - and the kids begin to develop a positive relationship with a police officer. If a cop is needed, he is one minute away, not one mile away in traffic.
Alarms, cameras, locks (electronic and physical), all have a role. Why aren't we paying for these in our schools if we are truly interested in keeping our most precious valuables safe?
I know I have rambled a lot. Gun control has been an issue and will be for a long time to come. My hope is we won't be silly and over complicate gun laws on law abiding citizens in the hope that future slime bags will respect the law and not hurt anyone because there were new laws past. We need to know who is buying, fair enough, but isn't it more important that legal, law abiding citizens are the ones that are allowed the option?