By Bruce A.
I would have to take serious issue with this statement. I have seen no
evidence to support it. Having seen certain polls by major polling
organizations and the questions they ask, I must say that they inspire no
confidence. Anyone can get any results they want by asking leading
questions, and that is what most polls do -- construct questions to get a
certain result. I have seen polls with more open, unbiased questions and
know it can be done, but have seen no major, well-publicized ones on this
The Voices of Semiautomatics
Most Americans seem to want semiautomatic weapons banned,
One can get indications about how people feel about gun control in general
by the way they vote, but it's not always clear cut, because there are
other issues involved in elections. But judging from the November, 1994
election, the one which led to the recent House vote to repeal the
semi-auto "ban" in Clinton's Crime Bill of 1994 (and which Clinton himself
blamed on the NRA, indicating that the
voters were supporting what the NRA stands for), I would have to say that
the voters did not speak loudly to ban semiautomatic weapons.
The term "semi-automatic"
does not say much about a gun except that each firing loads another round
into the chamber, as long as there is ammunition in the magazine. There are semi-automatic hunting and target
shotguns, defensive pistols, plinking pistols (not terribly accurate, but
fun with tin cans and such), target pistols, sporting rifles, target
rifles, military-style rifles, and so forth. Some handle low-powered
ammunition, some take high-powered hunting rounds, many something in
between; some consume specially-designed target ammunition, some
special-purpose defensive ammunition designed not to penetrate walls if
the target is missed, to protect bystanders; and numerous other
Yet this man was able to walk into a store and purchase a weapon
that has no real utility other than the shooting of a maximum number
of people in a short time.
Skeet and trap shooters who can afford it pay a lot of money for
finely-made, manual-loading double-barreled shotguns, but many who can't
afford that use semi-automatic shotguns which are just fine for the
purpose, and use them for nothing else.
Most semi-automatics are
assuredly not designed with killing people in
mind. Even the military-style rifles, some of which are highly accurate,
are more designed to be used for target shooting. The M1 Garand of World
War II vintage, the Springfield M1A, and the Colt Sporter (essentially,
the AR-15, civilian version of the M-16), are used in thousands of
Tournaments each year and the National Matches at
Camp Perry, Ohio. Many, many folks use these rifles for recreational
target shooting and plinking. Their original design was quite accurate.
The fact that the design was originally done for the military is
coincidental to their most common use.
Although I'm not a hunter, I know from associating with others that many
semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are suitable for hunting and were
designed with that purpose solely in mind. So saying that, as a
category, semiautomatics have "no real utility other than the shooting of
a maximum number of people in a short time" is more than just a little inaccurate,
it is simply wrong.
Could you tell the difference between one of these "strange, belligerent
people" (if they, indeed, were such, and acted that way all of the time)
and any other person who was not going to kill someone, but who was just
having a bad day, or just had a flat tire or a fight with a spouse or lost
a bunch of money in the stock market? I doubt it. Were they really
insane or sociopathic? Many sociopaths reportedly seem like some of the
most affable people around, to most people who know them.
You are talking about store clerks. As long as they fulfill their legal
responsibilities, they have done their job correctly and need feel no
guilt. Should the clerk at the drivers license bureau take the initiative
of denying me a drivers license because he or she thinks I might get drunk
and then drive, based upon what the person sees of my personality? Should
someone selling fishing poles deny me one because, judging from my
personality, the person thinks I might fish out of season? These people
should be doing the jobs prescribed for them and no more. It's not their
responsibility to judge people.
... Most of the perpetrators were strange, belligerent people; it
is hard to imagine that, while purchasing their weapons, they were
able to give the salespeople the impression that they were stable,
Quite so. And while your thinking is provoked, think about this:
In the future, when you read a news account of a mass murder by
semiautomatic weapon--a killer who walks into a public place, such
as a schoolyard, fast food franchise, campus, law office, or train,
and kills people--look down in the tenth or twentieth paragraph of
the newspaper article. You will certainly find somewhere the
information that the gun was purchased in a store.
This is very thought-provoking. We all know the famous NRA bumper
sticker that "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."
One interpretation of this is as follows: They get theirs illegally;
we buy ours legally for self-defense; when you take ours away, they
will still have theirs.
Prepared Testimony of Dr. Suzanna Gratia
Before the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee
January 25, 1995
Making a means of defense unavailable to people, whether by category of
weapon or by waiting period or by prohibition costs lives, because the
outlaws do indeed have guns. The latest research (by Florida State
Gary Kleck, the preeminent researcher in the field,
and published in the January, 1996, issue of the Journal of Criminal Law
and Criminology) indicates that guns are used some 2.5 million times a
year in self defense. His earlier study (in 1993) indicated that the
number of defensive uses of firearms is 4 times greater than the number of
criminal uses; and that in some 3/4 of the cases, the gun was never fired.
In these defensive uses of guns, in only .1% of the cases is the criminal
killed, and in only 1% of the cases is he or she wounded. In addition to
this, the US Department of Justice sponsored a survey that showed that 40%
of felons had decided not to commit at least one serious crime out of fear
that the intended victim was armed, and 34% said they were shot at or
otherwise scared off when the victim had a gun.
On Dec. 17, 1991, in Anniston, Ala., a restaurant patron defended
himself and saved the lives of nearly two dozen others held hostage by
two armed would-be robbers. The reluctant hero, who was legally
carrying his .45 caliber fire arm, stopped both assailants before they
could complete their crime or injure any innocent customers.
On Oct. 16, 1991, in Killeen, Texas, an armed homicidal maniac
methodically killed 22 people and then himself, facing no resistance
from the scores of potential victims, including me.
That tragedy will be forever etched in my memory. My parents were
brutally murdered, and I was helpless to protect them [even though she
had a gun in her car, because it was illegal for her to bring it into
So, as tragic as the shootings you refer to are, they do not tell the
whole story. Basing a political position to ban some class of firearms on
them is not a good approach, for carrying it out would most likely make
And he probably would not have killed so many people if even one person
had been carrying a gun, but the
laws of the State of New York prevented
this. Some would say "why should people have to carry guns to protect
themselves?" Well, why should a person look both ways before crossing the
street? Wear seat belts? Not stand on the top rung of a ladder? Not
stand under a tree during a lightning storm? Keep a fire extinguisher in
the house? The answer to all of these is that there are dangers in the
world that cannot effectively be legislated away, for one reason or
another. Trying to do so would imprison all of us in a web of regulations
and cause much more harm than they would help. With regard to crime,
including nuts with guns, the police cannot be everywhere, and they have
no legal responsibility to help you, individually, anyway. At some point
people must take some responsibility to protect themselves from the
existing dangers in the world, even while trying to do what they can to
make society better.
... The Long Island Railroad killer might
also have run amok with a knife, if the law had denied him a gun, or
he might have used an ordinary psitol if unable to buy a
semiautomatic. He probably would not have killed as many people, in