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Politics & Policy

Note on Gun Non-Debate

A man grabs a gun displayed at Shore Shot Pistol Range gun shop in Lakewood Township, N.J., March 19, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Forgive me for revisiting that Gail Collins New York Times column I examined yesterday, but I think it is important to understand the extent to which this kind of ignorance and bigotry shapes the gun-control conversation. Here’s a selection from the comments section on that column. Comments sections are a mixed bag, at best, but this particular remark bears the endorsement of both Gail Collins and the New York Times:

This bears all the features of the worst of our contemporary discourse.

  1. Beware the One-Armed Paper-Hanger: “As a gun-owner in Oklahoma,” he begins, as though this gave his remarks some special standing. And, for some people, maybe it does — “Hey, look, even those rubes in Oklahoma agree!” But that is the most childish kind of thinking. And, as the rest of the comment reveals, this plea for special standing is a cover for basic ignorance.
  2. “An assault rifle is not for hunting; you might as well call it fishing when you throw dynamite in the river.” The first thing to note there is that the Second Amendment is not about hunting — it does not say anything about a “well-regulated hunting party.” But, in reality, so-called assault rifles — meaning semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines — are very commonly used in hunting, both in the United States and around the world. In fact, the AR-style rifle is probably the single-most-common hunting platform in the United States, used on everything from small game to predators to mountain sheep. This is not a new development — Colt was marketing its AR-style rifles as hunting tools as far back as the early 1960s. And the fastest-growing hunting pursuit in the United States is hog-hunting, in which AR-style rifles are used more than any other firearm. In fact, because the traditional 5.56mm chambering for the AR is considered — take note, gun-grabbers — insufficiently powerful for hogs and other large and tough game, there is a whole new world of more powerful hunting cartridges designed specifically for the AR platform, some of them engineered specifically for hog hunting, which is why they have porky designations such as .300 HAM’R and .458 HAM’R. You cannot say, “We don’t want to ban hunting rifles, we only want to ban AR-15s,” because banning AR rifles means banning the most common hunting rifles in use today.
  3. “The kick of dangerous rifles is posing at the range imagining you’re Rambo . . . loudmouth swaggered [sic] who scare people at Braun’s [sic].” That kind of sneering really gets to the heart or the issue — this is not a crime-policy debate, but a culture-war exercise. It’s not “these guns,” it’s “these people.” All rifles are “dangerous rifles” — they are designed to kill things — but, while you will see the occasional goofball at the firing range, you don’t see a lot of Rambo antics. (And, besides, wasn’t his thing archery?) Most firing ranges require that rifles be fired seated from a bench, and most of them prohibit rapid firing of either rifles or handguns. You see all kinds of people at the range for all kinds of reasons: Hunters and sports shooters sighting in scopes, precision shooters trying to improve their shots a quarter of an inch at a time, people familiarizing themselves with new firearms, and people keeping in practice for self-defense. It’s hard to pose as Rambo when you’re wearing giant earmuffs. But it is easy to be an ignorant snoot.
  4. “Horrified by the removal of all restrictions on buying and carrying weapons here.” It is — and this still matters! — not true that all restrictions on buying weapons have been removed in Oklahoma, or anywhere else in the country. Oklahoma couldn’t remove all the buying restrictions even if it wanted to, because these are a matter of federal law, not state law. As far as I know, no restrictions on buying firearms have been removed in Oklahoma. And even though Oklahoma has “constitutional carry,” that does not mean that it has removed all restrictions on carrying weapons. It has the restrictions you would expect: The people who cannot legally buy a gun cannot legally carry one, there are many places where you cannot carry, etc. In Oklahoma, there also are restrictions on what kind of handguns can be carried. Businesses, churches, and property owners can prohibit weapons on their premises. Etc.

I would like to emphasize that what is at issue here is not a difference of opinion — these are questions of fact. Gail Collins and the New York Times have a duty to these facts, even on the opinion page. Crime and firearms policy are serious issues, and they deserve to be taken seriously. This kind of thing is a public disservice.


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