June 28, 2004

More On The Deadly SKS used in Alabama

Take a look at the previous post on the three oficer's killed in Alabama with an SKS.

Now there's another article with a bit more detail. Not about the shooting, but about how people feel about the SKS.

"Law enforcement leaders in the Mobile area say they're concerned about the availability of assault weapons after three Birmingham police officers were shot to death by a gunman with an SKS rifle last week.
The three Birmingham police officers were wearing standard bullet-resistant vests when they were killed while trying to serve a warrant at a home that neighbors say was known as a drug den.
Brett Oates, a Birmingham city spokes man, said it's believed that an SKS assault rifle was used and the bullets penetrated the officers' vests."

At least they used the more accurate "bullet resistanct" instead of the more common but misleading "bullet proof" to describe the vests. But note that it's merely believed that an SKS was used.

"The SKS is readily available in Mobile-area gun stores, according to some local store owners, though at least one said it should be outlawed."

Banning. Yeah, that'll work. & let's go after the root cause of this police interaction that lead to the officers' deaths: let's ban drugs as well.

"Larry McCoy, owner of Larry's Gun Shop on Pleasant Valley Road, sells the Chinese version of the SKS for $200. The rifle, originally developed in the Soviet Union in the mid-1940s, is a gas-powered, self-loading, semiautomatic rifle that usually holds 10 rounds, according to www.hk94.com, a Web site with information about firearms. Semiautomatic is defined as a weapon that fires once with each trigger pull.
'I think it's a fine rifle,' McCoy said. 'I think most people buy them to hunt with, but you can use them for self-protection."

(Note: I edited the quote to make the link hot)

Now please remember that Mr. McCoy says hunting is one of the uses of an SKS.

"The owner of Rowell's Sporting Goods in Semmes, on the other hand, said he does not sell the SKS.
'I think it should be outlawed unless they are used by police or the military,' Keith Rowell said. 'There is no (civilian) use for them. It is not a gun you can hunt with. It's a gun you shoot somebody with."

Keith Rowell will never see a dime from me. Not that I do a lot of trading in Alabama, but should the occassion ever arise then for his family's sake I hope he's got enough income from the Fuddites to not miss my business.

There is no hand held or shoulder fired weapon I can think of that should be "military or police only". The main purpose of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. constitution is to ensure the populace is armed equally to the military. Cops are included with the military precisely because at the time of the Constitution's ratification & for many years after the military were the ones who enforced the laws on the state & federal levels. The roles were split over here after the 1870's but at the time the military was the equivilent of the police.

Now as for the civilian uses for them there are several. Not the least popular of which is informal target shooting. Plinking as it were. But hunting is not to be discounted. It'd make a decent varmint guns (think coyote medicine) and with the right cartridges it'll do fine on deer as it's ballistically a little less powerful than the .30-30 Winchseter cartridge of lever action fame.

"Like many deer rifles, the SKS fires a .30-caliber bullet. The SKS round is 7.62 mm, or .308 caliber. However, the weapon's cartridge is shorter and less powerful than many commonly used hunting rounds, such as the .30-06 caliber."

Now given a choice I'd take the .30-06 over anything else for most hunting in North America. It's a damned fine cartridge. However it's possibly a bit much for most of the hunting needs of americans - especially in the thicker woods back east. For the deer hunts in heavily forested areas where 100 yards is a long shot then a .30-30 Winchester is just fine. & since the late 1800's I'd imagine it's a toss up between the .30-06 & the .30-30 winchester as to which one has provided more venison. The .30-30 is quite a bit less powerful than the .30-06 but only slightly more powerful (& I mean slight) than the 7.62x39mm cartridge fired by the SKS.

So It's not necessrily a weaker round than the majority of hunting cartridges out there, unless you'd discount the .30-30 as not being a popular deer hunting cartridge.

& to nitpick the 7.62x39mm does not have a .308" bullet diameter. It's .311". Only the Ruger Mini-30 has a .308" bore diameter despite the 7.62x29mm chambering. A .003" difference in diameter won't cause a dramatic effect downrange, but it can spike pressures int he chamber if you try to stuff a .311" bullet into a .308" hole. But I'll leave the arguments over that to the fans of the 7.62x39 & the Ruger Mini-30.

"The guns are built with a 10-round capacity, but can be modified to take a 30-round, banana-style magazine, McCoy said. If you have not been convicted of a felony and pass the FBI background check, you can walk in, buy an SKS and walk out with it the same day, McCoy said, noting he doesn't think the gun should be banned.
'I don't think the gun jumped up and shot,' McCoy said of the Birmingham shooting. 'It's the felon behind the gun. It doesn't matter what kind of gun' they use."

Did you catch that? Lemme repeat:

"I don't think the gun jumped up and shot...It's the felon behind the gun. It doesn't matter what kind of gun" they use."

If there were any doubts before, you can be certain now that this story didn't appear in the NYT.

"Dan Crenshaw, owner of The Gunman on Schillinger Road, said he doesn't stock the SKS but will special order it for customers.
'It's a common gun; a lot of people get them to use for hunting because they're inexpensive' and the caliber is similar to what's found in a deer rifle, he said.
The SKS's military-style ammunition, which is also used in the Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifle, is inexpensive, said Crenshaw, who owns two SKS rifles."

Hmm, that's two people who claim there's a legitimate hunting use versus one who says it's not good for anything other than police or military use.

But wait - the quisling has more to say:

"But even if someone buys an SKS or AK-47 for protection and leaves it in his home, there is always the danger that someone will break into the home and steal the gun and use it in illegal activities, Rowell said."

I think Mr. Rowell misunderstood the Brady Law. It merely imposes a background check requirement before sale to a civilian. It doesn't mean you have to adopt Mrs. Brady's flawed use of logic.

I wonder if Mr. Rowell has a car? I'd assume not since someone could steal it & use it for illegal purposes. I certainly hope he doesn't own crowbars or kitchen knives or anything else damgerous that could be stolen & used by a criminal.

Now if I was to do some trading in Alabama I think I'd know where to spend my cash & where to decline spending my cash - even if I had to pay more than I would at Wal-Mart (assuming they had the same items).

But let me ask you this: which one would you rather give your money to:

A: "I think it should be outlawed unless they are used by police or the military...There is no (civilian) use for them. It is not a gun you can hunt with. It's a gun you shoot somebody with."

B: "I don't think the gun jumped up and shot...It's the felon behind the gun. It doesn't matter what kind of gun" they use."

C: "It's a common gun; a lot of people get them to use for hunting because they're inexpensive' and the caliber is similar to what's found in a deer rifle, he said.
The SKS's military-style ammunition, which is also used in the Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifle, is inexpensive, said Crenshaw, who owns two SKS rifles."

D: either B or C

E: (the Kim du Toit option) Both B & C

"Chief Cochran echoed Rowell's feeling on the rifles.
'They're very dangerous weapons, they're powerful weapons and they're not the weapon of choice for hunters or anything like that,' Cochran said. 'They're simply powerful weapons for self-defense, but likewise can be used for killing. They're war weapons."

Everything is a dangerous weapon if it's in the hands of someone intent on doing harm. A baseball bat is dangerous in the hands of a street thug, just as anything I can grab hold of would be a dangerous weapon if I had the need to defend myself.

But the good Chief is saying they're powerful weapons, but somehow not powerful enough for hunting. This despite the article making mention of their suitability for hunting as well as their inferiority to other hunting cartridges such as the .30-06. He even says they're powerful enough for self defense but discounts the hunting use of them.

As for the weapons of war - the only weapons I have hunted with that has not been used in a war is a side by side shotgun. & side by side shotguns similar to my were used as weapons of war. I have a bolt action rifle that (presumably) went to France in 1918 with a Doughboy & I have a semi-automatic rifle that (again, presumably) went to either the paciific or europe with a G.I. in the 1940's, possibly to Korea with a G.I. in the 1950's & spent a bit of time in the Dutch army until it was repatriated. Matter of fact, int he 1920's the government - yes our govewrnment - had a program selling surplus rifles (i.e. weapons of war) & they were in turn used to put venison in many an ice box. Those Spirngfields, Enfields & Garands all make fine big game firearms despite their being weapons of war.

& a note; self defense usually involves the possibility of killing. A firearm cannot be good for self defense yet not good for killing. The difference between killing & self defense is the situation, not the outcome. So the last part of his statement is quite odd when you look at it closely.

"Mark Barlow, chief deputy of the Mobile County Sheriff's Department, said he thinks the SKS should remain available to people who can legally obtain it. 'We're always concerned about assault weapons coming into the possession of people who shouldn't have that type of weapon,' he said."

Deputy Barlow seems a little more reasonable, but I do wonder if he's saying that anyone who can legally obtain it now is okay, or if he's implying there should be some sort of permitting process for certain weapons. Given that being paranoid is what I do best, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt (although I could go into a long rant about the practices we have concerning who "legally" may own firearms).

"Prichard's Chief Brown believes no one in public should have access to the assault rifles.
'They are easy for criminals to get their hands on,' he said, adding that one of his officers arrested a suspect Sunday night who had drugs and an assault rifle with about 70 rounds of military-type bullets."

I wonder if he means a guy with 80 kilos of coke was busted before he could bring his weapon to bear, or his officer pulled someone over & found a roach (small part of a marijuana ciigerette) in the ashtray with an SKS in the trunk?

The article quotes some things from an NRA website, more or less saying that "assault weapons" are not that commonly used in crimes.

"SKS rifles don't show up in the average crime, Cochran agreed.
'It's too big to carry and hide; you just can't run around the streets carrying them around,' Cochran said of the SKS. 'The only time where you're going to see that is where it's hidden in an automobile or in a house."

So they don't show up often in crime & when they do they're usually in a car or in a house. Yet he thinks they should be banned.

The article goes on to mention 4 incidents where either an SKS or an AK-47 was used or suspected of being used. It also mentions thta Alabama passed a law mandating that mental health records be sent to the NICS system to be factored into a decision to approve or deny a firearms purchase.

But I'll quote one of the incidents as relayed by Chief Brown:

"Brown said one or more AK-47s, assault rifles similar to the SKS, were used in the December 2001 ambush on Prichard police officers at Queens Court. A stray bullet from one of the rifles struck 6-year-old Kearis Bonham in the head, killing him.
The barrage of bullets left holes in the police car "you could put your thumb through, and that is an indication of what the bullets can do to human flesh," Brown said.
Prichard police never found the AK-47s used in the Queen's Court ambush.
'We are in a war,' Brown said, 'and we don't have the protection and firepower they have."

First of all, an AK-47 is thrown intothe debate that had centered on the SKS. Yes, they are similar. They both fire the same cartridge & both use a gas operated mechanism to fire semi-automatically. However the AK-47 looks much scarier & comes stock with a detchabale magazine & pistol gripped stock. The SKS comes with a fixed magazine & a non-protruding pistol gripped stock. Now you can add things to an SKS to make it more like an AK-47, such as a detachable magazine or a stock with a protruding pistol grip but you could also add a five round non-detachable magazine & out it in a stock similar to many other semi-automatic hunting rifles.

I won't go into an argument on why the SKS is different than the SKS because of cosmetics or add on features available for either. I will point out that the AK-47 is already banned in its full automatic form under several federal laws (all of which defy the constitution) & in its semi-automatic form under the "assault weapons" ban (again, which defies the constitution) unless it was made before 1994.

The Chief mentions the AK-47 because it conjures a much more firightening image than an SKS will. But note that the never found the AK-47 in question. So there's no proof that it was an automatic AK-47 (governed by federal law since their creation), a semi-automatic AK-47 (governed by a federal law since 1994) or a firearm similar in appearance to an AK-47 (governed by federal law since 1968). All he knows is that they should be banned because a criminal used one or one similar to it & that goes for the SKS as well.

As for the part about being in a war & they don't have the firpower or protection criminals do... bullshit. Your average criminal is not going to be any more well armed than what's available to any cop. whether the deprtment sees fit to arm a cop to the hilt is another matter & has nothing to do with what should be legal & illegal for civilian possession. Criminals will get firearms. No way around that. Cops have the advantag though in that they can spend more time training at less expense than a criminal can. I do not think that since the days of Bonnie & Clyde there;'s ever been a shoot-out between criminals & cops where better trainign would have been useless against the criminals choice or arms.

& as for protection, I wonder how many criminals he knows of that walk around with rifle cartridge rated bullet resistant vests. while not a pleasant option for everyday wear, they are available to the cops just as much if not moreso than the criminals.

The article gives a decent summation of the bulet resistant vest situation, although if space weren't an issue a more in depth treatment could have been given.

"Prichard Chief Brown said officers in his department wear standard bullet-resistant vests that are not armor plated. Heavy armor isn't practical for patrol officers and Prichard doesn't have a SWAT team.
'They protect against small arms fire,' Brown said. 'There is nothing out there (except full body armor) that will protect you from the assault rifles, which use the same ammunition that the military uses."

Actually there is something that cna offer a bit of protection against those extremely powerful (but not powerful enough for hunting) SKS cartridges: training.

No, I'm not saying you can be trained to be bullet proof. & I'm not going to say that training will make you see the guy waiting in the bushes for the cop to come along. What training will do is show you the best reaction to make under the circumstances. It'll show you what you're up against & how to deal with it. A bullet resistant vest will be helpful, but it's no substitute for adequtate training.
there is no training that will stop the bullet you didn't expect from hitting you, but training (if done properly) will kick in once that first shot is fired & possibly save you or your partners from subsequent hits.

Overall I was impressed with the article giving differing sides a voice. There were a few things which could have been presented better but on the whole it was an unbiased piece*. Unfortunately that guarantees the writers won't be getting a call from the Times in the near future.

What you can expect is for articles on this topic to pop up more & more frequently as we near the sunset of the "assault weapons" ban. & odds are those articles won't be nearly as fair in presenting the arguments.

*(when I say I was impresssed I'm not saying the article gave all the sides it could have given or all the information necessary to discuss the topic at hand. It's that relative to what other papers would have done with the story it was an unbiased piece.)

Posted by Publicola at June 28, 2004 09:54 PM

Good post.


Posted by: James R. Rummel at June 30, 2004 07:29 PM
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