April 17, 2007

Politics Of The Virginia Tech Massacre

There are two aspects I wish to discuss. Of course one is the political side of things as this will be used as a rallying cry by the anti's in the next few weeks &/or months. The other is the pragmatic side of the incident & what it tells us. I'll deal with the practical things in another post. This one will be about the politics.

First, Prof. Volokh posts about whether or not it's appropriate to discuss matters of policy so soon after a tragic incident. I've heard a few pro-gunners say we should show some respect for the dead & not stoop to the level of the anti-gunners who jumped on this as a talking point almost immediately.

I don't see how it's disrespectful to talk about the policy & political issues as long as it's done in a tasteful way. Those calling for time before the fight begins - I simply don't understand how waiting will help, or how jumping right in will hurt. it's the substance of what's said, not the timing that matters most. Yes; the families are in mourning & to some degree we all should be. I'm not saying we should take that away from anyone. But by waiting we accomplish nothing, except perhaps getting a late start on trying to discuss the issues surrounding the incident & come up with solutions. Not that I think a sudden response is always best, but there's no harm in talking about options.

That out of the way, the VPC & the Brady Campaign are already making mention of this to further their goals. Bitter notes that the Brady Campaign even redesigned their fundraising graphics for the incident. & don't think that it's only the domestic anti-gunners who are latching on to this incident as an excuse to call for more gun control in the u.S.:

"Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday decried the negative 'gun culture' in America after the deadly shooting spree at a U.S. university, holding up tough gun laws in his own country as the answer."

The idiot doesn't stop running his mouth there:

"We showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country."

When I want advice concerning gun control from an Australian I'd ask Mick Dundee, not some asshat who judges an entire culture based on the actions of one person. Especially when said asshat isn't even that friggin' confident in his own plan:

"But Howard told reporters: 'You can never guarantee these things won't happen again in our country."

But they keep wanting to do it again, only harder:

"Australia's small Greens party called on Tuesday for a further review of the nation's gun control laws, saying the latest U.S. shooting involved a multiple-shot pistol and there were an estimated 250,000 handguns in Australia.

'We really need to go back and look at the laws in Australia which permit handguns to be available, and that includes handguns with up to 10 bullets in the magazine,' Greens Senator Bob Brown told reporters.

'We Greens are saying let's remove the potential, as far as we can, for a repeat massacre by somebody wielding a multiple-shot handgun,' he said."

& that's what will be heard around here for a while.

Gun Law News has a good summary of HR 1022. essentialy it's a much stricter version of the federal "assault weapons" ban that expired in 2004. The wording of the damn thing is so bad it's either laughable or notorious but instead of focusing on the entire bill we should look at the magazine provisions. Of note is this section of the text (which I found at this link):

"SEC. 7. STRENGTHENING THE BAN ON THE POSSESSION OR TRANSFER OF A LARGE CAPACITY AMMUNITION FEEDING DEVICE....`(z) It shall be unlawful for any person to transfer any assault weapon with a large capacity ammunition feeding device."

& this section:

"SEC. 9. BAN ON IMPORTATION OF LARGE CAPACITY AMMUNITION FEEDING DEVICE...`(2) It shall be unlawful for any person to import or bring into the United States a large capacity ammunition feeding device.'."

It seems they screwed up in Section 7 & merely banned transfer of a firearm with a "large capacity ammunition feeding device", not transfer of the device itself. But section 9 clearly bans imports of magazines.

Details of the Virginia Tech massacre are still a bit sketchy, but I've consistently heard that the murderer possessed two 9mm handguns while he murdered defenseless folks. The last count I heard was 32 dead (not including the punk) & 28 wounded, though I didn't hear how many were shot or suffered injuries trying to escape.

Assuming 32 dead & 28 shot that's 60 rounds he would have had to fire. between 2 pistols he'd have had to reload at least once per pistol (I did hear several times he had numerous spare magazines on him). If it was a Browning or Glock or Beretta or something similar, we can presume around 18 rounds per magazine.

To the anti's that's going to mean they push hard & harder for the magazine portion of HR1022. They may possibly alter the language of the bill to make the magazine provision stricter.

When HR1022 came out I didn't think much of it. Every year since the 30's some crackpot has introduced some dreadful gun control bill that's sat in committee because no congress in their re-electable mind would vote for measures so extreme. With HR1022 I saw it as just that - an unpassable bill. In fact I discussed this with a pal & he concluded that it was a test bill. The idea being that they'd put a bill up with what they wanted & see which provisions were objectionable, then refine the bill a time or two until it had a chance of passing. Think of it as father or grandfather of what would become the next "assault weapons" ban. I agreed with him & to a point I still do.

With this massacre though - it changes the game a bit. They have a helluva lot of press backing them now. For example, this was from a blog on ABCNews.com posted at 2:30 on April 16th of 2007:

"High capacity ammo clips became widely available for sale when Congress failed to renew a law that banned assault weapons."

& the obligatory quote from the anti-gun lobby:

"When you have a weapon that can shoot off 20, 30 rounds very quickly, you're going to have a lot more injuries,' said Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence."

Granted, it's a blog, but it's a blog backed by ABC. But to give another example here's an Op-ed from the NYT:

"...What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss."

(h/t Ankle Biting Pundits, who gives it a good thorough fisking)

Clayton Cramer mentions that mass murders committed without a firearm don't get the attention from the MSM that firearms related crimes do.

& Michelle Malkin has a post up just about the media bias towards gun control as they cover the Virginia tech massacre.

I would also presume that of all the stories you may read about the Virginia Tech massacre if there are any quotes from a pro-gun or anti-gun organization, odds are that they'll give more space tot he antigun org (in fact, it's anecdotal but of the articles I've read there have not been any pro-gun orgs quoted while at least 3 different antigun orgs have received some print).

My point is that with this rallying cry & the MSM back-up that the push for more gun control will be a bit faster & harder than expected. What I think will happen is one of the following:

A hard push to pass HR1022 as is

A hard push to pass HR1022 with harsher language concerning magazines

A hard push to pass HR1022 with weaker over-all language but strengthened magazine related provisions

A hard push to pass a stand alone magazine restriction (possibly infused with some ammunition restrictions)

Which direction it goes will depend largely on what type of pistols were used. Any magazine that holds more than 10 rounds will be viewed as a 'high capacity" magazine & used as the focal point for whatever gun control package that can be pushed through congress. I know of no 9mm pistols that hold less than 10 rounds, except for the P-08 Luger, Walther P-38, Lahti L-35, SIG P210 & similar early to mid 20th century designs as well as a few very compact pistols such as the ASP, Kahr K9 & the Kel-tec PF-9.

It's possible he used one of those I mentioned & it wouldn't be too surprising if one of the pistols he had on him was a compact model like the Kahr or Kel-tec. But don't count on it. We might as well assume it was a 9mm with at least a 15 round capacity magazine. & that's what they'll harp on while pushing a gun control package full of nasty & unrelated provisions.

For our side what will we do? Not much of anything. The real progun groups, such as GOA & JPFO along with the regional & local groups, such a RMGO & VCDL will try to put things in proper perspective (& VCDL seems to be on the case already) but except at the local level they usually don't have enough muscle to get much accomplished (note: usually is the word I used - every now & then they can get something decent pushed through - they just don't have the resources necessary to be as effective as they should be). Meanwhile the NRA will lay flat on its back, curl up & kick at the enemy assume a defensive posture & prepare a compromise negotiating team for the gun control law they "couldn't stop" but "kept from being worse than it could have been".

In other words the smaller groups with the brains & balls lack the muscle, & the group with the muscle lacks the balls & the brainpower. We'll end up playing defense again & hope that'll be enough.

Oh, & we'll give the other side a few days head start because we're trying to be respectful.

Actually it might not be that bad on our side. With the internet come some improvements in this type of thing, & mounting an effective defensive campaign is a lot easier than it used to be (well at least prior to 90 days before a general election or 30 days prior to a primary or something like that).

But we have to know what's going on. "Eternal vigilance" & all that. I could very well be wrong in my speculation about what the anti's will do with this, but it seems to be pointing in that direction. It'd be a good idea to keep a very close eye on not only them, but congress & especially the senate. Well i mean watch them more carefully than usual. A legislature unattended is worse than leaving your child alone in a shopping cart - no one is going to kidnap the legislature (unfortunately).

The press will do all it can to push the anti propaganda & try to soften up the people, while the anti gun lobbyists will use the press saturation of the incident (along with public opinion polls & such) to steer them towards passing a gun control package to their liking (or maybe just a stand along measure to prove to them that gun control won't hurt them in the polls).

All we can do is watch, & raise a lot of hell with our congress-critters when we see something shaky. I wouldn't go too far out of my way just yet, but I wouldn't be opposed if you dropped a friendly note to the NRA & your congress-critters telling them that compromise on any gun control measure is unacceptable.

But stay tuned. & by all means let me know if you see anything that I don't.

Posted by Publicola at April 17, 2007 04:21 AM | TrackBack

"I know of no 9mm pistols that hold less than 10 rounds, except for the P-08 Luger, Walther P-38, Lahti L-35, SIG P210 & similar early to mid 20th century designs as well as a few very compact pistols such as the ASP, Kahr K9 & the Kel-tec PF-9." - Publicola

Hk P9s, Walther P5, A number of earlier S&W M39 models, most 9mm 1911 variants [yes, they still make those], several pre-2001 Berreta and Astra models and some Taurus clones of the Berrettas, a number of major manufacturer models of 9mm made during the Clinton AWB that were manufactured and sold with 10 round mags, a couple of IAI modles IIRC, the Detonics in a couple of models, several others.

Heya - you want a list of handgun variants, ask a gunnut with an extensive collection of Gun World and Guns & Ammo Annuals, and a stack of Janes. ;)

Point being: they're out there. They're just not quite as common right now as the "Wonder 9" hi-cap models.

Posted by: Ironbear at April 18, 2007 09:24 PM