By Bruce A.
Evidently, either Mr. Heinz hasn't fired many shotguns, or the ones he has
been firing have had very short (illegally short) barrels. Shotguns
aren't called scatterguns for nothing, but the pellets don't scatter quite
that fast at close quarters, at least not with legal, 18+ inch barrels.
At greater ranges, more than one person could be hit from one blast, but
remember that as the range increases to where there would be a really
broad pattern of shot, the energy of the pellets would be decreased. They
can be devastating at close range, but deliberately hitting multiple
targets like he says is not really very likely.
You Know Nothing About Guns
As for your blowing off the comparison between shotguns and
semi-auto rifles, you completely and utterly missed the point. In
any close environment, a shotgun will kill three or four people with
each pull of the trigger, more than compensating for the slower rate
of fire. You don't even have to aim it, just point it in the general
direction of your enemy.
Lets talk about accidents. There has been a lot of smoke about this, but
not many facts. The data is a year or so old and comes from the NRA
Firearms fact sheet for 1995.
What about those widely touted 5 day waits? What about mandatory
safety courses (which would also help limit another major problem-
many gun fatalities are accidental).
NUMBER OF Approx. 200 million firearms,
GUNS IN U.S.: including 65-70 million handguns
GUN OWNERS IN U.S.: 60-65 million,
30-35 million own handguns
LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH IN U.S.
National Center for Health Statistics
ALL CAUSES 2,169,518
Heart Disease 720,862
Motor Vehicle 43,536
Poisoning (solid, liquid, gas) 6,434
Drowning (incl. water transport drownings) 4,685
Suffocation (mechanical, ingestion) 4,195
Fires and flames 4,120
Surgical/Medical misadventures* 2,473
Other Transportation (excl. drownings) 2,086
Natural/Environmental factors 1,453
Chronic pulmonary diseases 90,650
Pneumonia and influenza 77,860
HIV Infections (AIDS) 29,555
Homicide and legal intervention*** 26,513
Cirrhosis and other liver diseases 25,429
* A Harvard University study suggests 93,000 deaths annually related
to medical negligence, excluding tens of thousands more deaths from non-
hospital medical office/lab mistakes and thousands of hospital caused
** Approximately 60% involve firearms.
*** Approximately 60% involve firearms. Florida State University
criminologist Gary Kleck estimates 1,500-2,800 self-defense and
justifiable homicides by civilians and 300-600 by police annually.
This puts things into perspective a little bit. To add a little bit more,
the accident rate for cars and guns was the same in 1910, but now, the
automobile accident rate is about 30 times that for firearms. Both have
declined since about 1970, gun accidents far more dramatically. The
NRA is the primary safety training
organization for firearms, and has been
instrumental in this decline in firearms accidents. NRA voluntary firearm
safety programs have helped reduce the accidental firearm fatality rate
67% over the last 50 years, while firearms ownership has risen 140%, and
handgun ownership has risen 200%.
Moreover, to quote an NRA document, "The National Rifle Association
strongly believes that any instance of children dying due to firearm
related accidents is unacceptable. That is why we have invested
considerable effort and resources to develop the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety
"Created in 1988 with the help of child development and education
specialists, the Eddie Eagle program was initiated by the NRA to meet the
need of educating young children in the fundamentals of firearm safety.
Since its inception, over 6.1 million children have been educated in what
to do if they come in contact with an improperly stored firearm. The
message is simple, direct, and easily understood: STOP! Don't Touch.
Leave the area. Tell an Adult. To date, the Eddie Eagle Program has been
implemented in over 5000 independent schools and school systems and over
1500 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states. The materials have been
adopted by Cub Scout troops, churches, 4-H and other community groups.
"Accidental deaths of children involving firearms continue to decrease due
to public awareness and programs such as the Eddie Eagle program. It is
imperative that we allow this downward trend to continue."
It is curious and sad that the only real opposition to implementing these
gun-safety programs directed at children comes from the gun control
community. It is, unfortunately, analogous to those who oppose sex
education for young people, even though that has been demonstrated as very
effective at reducing teen pregnancies.
This is a very good point, but probably not to prove what you intended.
The phenomenon you are describing has a name: "spray and pray." The
private gun market tends to follow the police market. Semi-automatic
pistols were not really popular with the public until they started to be
adopted by police forces, who had earlier perceived that they were
relatively under-armed, compared to criminals. (I don't know if this
perception had a foundation in fact.) The Glocks and other semi-autos are
not significantly less accurate than revolvers at the distances generally
involved in police shoot-outs. So why does this happen? Unfortunately,
police training has not, in all cases, kept up with the equipment. There
is nothing innate about any weapon that forces an officer to just shoot
and shoot. They didn't with revolvers, and they need not with semi-autos.
This is a soluble problem. They need to be trained about the value of shot
placement and the dangers to bystanders of "spray and pray."
Michael Heinz email@example.com
Jonathan Wallace responds:
... I mentioned that there is some controversy in
New York right now about Glocks. We armed the police with them a
couple of years ago, and now it seems the police are firing more
bullets indiscriminately and hitting more bystanders.
... But, as it happens, I had been at Red's Indoor Range
that morning, firing Smith & Wesson and Taurus .357's, and this
helped me reach the common sense answer. When you are firing a six
shot revolver, you are going to place your shots very carefully.
When you are firing a Glock or any other pistol with a magazine,
your tactics might just be to sweep the street.
So what about the civilian owners of these semi-autos? I haven't heard of
it being a problem, but the situation is a little different. Civilians
who find themselves in situations where they need a firearm for defense
don't necessarily react like cops. The fact that they usually prefer not
to shoot is well documented -- they say they are armed, they display or
brandish a weapon, sometimes they merely show the criminal a picture of a gun,
and let the thug draw his own conclusions, but they generally fire only when
the have to. It is usually at close range, so spraying an entire street
is rarely an issue. They don't pursue a criminal; it's not their job.
Once the danger is past, they are legally required not to shoot, and
they usually don't want to, anyway. They just want the situation to be
Kleck's research shows that only about 2% of civilian self-defense
shootings involve innocent persons mistakenly identified as criminals,
while the rate for police is 11%.
Why do civilians act this way? First, because of legal restrictions, they
are sometimes carrying a weapon illegally, but do so because they feel
under threat (better to be tried by twelve than carried by six) and
therefore, they don't want to shoot more than necessary and only in the
direst need. Second, if they are carrying legally, they have often either
been through a training course or have taken the initiative to find out
what they need to know. They also are aware that if they screw up, they
are in deep shit, and don't have fellow officers to cover up for them, as
happens too often with the police. They know that they can lose their
permit to carry if they are not careful.
And what about the bad guys? I don't spend much time on them, because
everything they are doing is illegal, anyway. If they cared about
anything, they wouldn't be bad guys, so they might spray bullets around.
But despite the headlines, they don't use a very big part of the guns
extant. Every year in this country, 99.8% of all guns (99.4% of handguns)
will NOT be used in a crime. When you are adding restrictions to
firearms ownership or limiting the types of arms available, you are
chasing this .4% by punishing the rest. That doesn't sound right to me.
Does it sound right to you?
The only gun that is inherently "dangerous" is one that has a defect in
design or manufacture that makes it do unexpected things, like blow up, go
off unexpectedly or something else of that kind. The other dangers are
caused by the shooter, not the gun, and that is what needs to be
So some guns are more dangerous than others.
As I mentioned earlier, these weapons, the ones that potentially have
militia use, are specifically the ones protected by the Second Amendment.
A law banning
guns that could be fired more than a certain number of times in ten
seconds, or by application of less than a certain scientific measure
of pressure, would clearly not offend the Constitution.
You will not only hear it there, but you will read it in gun magazines,
and for good reason. If you want to be prepared to defend yourself,
don't you want the means you intend to use for that purpose to be effective?
If you use the wrong kind of ammunition, a bullet aimed at someone
threatening you could pass on through and hit an innocent person. And a
bullet like this is less likely to stop an attack than one which
causes more injury. A further potential result is that you won't stop the
attack with that shot and the criminal could continue to do harm to you or
to someone you love. The whole idea is to stop a deadly attack with the
absolute minimum amount of firing of a weapon, and the keys to this are
good shot placement, a suitable caliber of weapon, and effective
ammunition. Anything else, and you are risking harm to either intended or
unintended victims of an attacker.
They are sold and kept today
also largely for the killing of human beings, though wrapped in the
justification of our legitimate right of self-defense. Stand in any
gun shop, as I did that day in Texas, and you will hear
conversations about the comparative stopping power of different
calibers of ammunition, typically interlaced with graphic
descriptions of the effect on human organs.
It's too early for there to be much information on possible "dangers" of
the concealed carry law in Texas, and in other states which recently
adopted similar laws, but there is quite a bit of information about
the situation in Florida, where that type of "shall-issue" concealed carry
permit law has been in use since 1987. (Much of this information comes
from the NRA-ILA
Research & Information Fact Sheet.)
Though I find the proposed Texas concealed carry law
to be rather scary, the one thing I like about it is that it will
require some kind of training and licensing,
In case you are inclined to be swayed by the recent
incident, initially played up in the press, where a person was killed by a
licensed firearm carrier after a traffic accident, I have been told that the
facts are that after the accident, one driver, a big fellow, started to pound the hell
out of the smaller, other driver, and then the smaller driver shot the big
bully to prevent further damage to himself. The gun was not used out of
anger over the accident itself.
- Citizens to whom carry licenses have been issued have proven themselves
to be more law-abiding than the general public. Of 303,213 licenses
issued as of 9/30/95, only 52 -- 0.017% -- have been revoked because
license holders committed firearm-related crimes, including those
occurring in situations in which a carry license would not have been
required to have a gun present.
- During the spate of killings and robberies of foreign tourists in
Florida, criminals were asked why the tourists were chosen as victims.
The common answer was that the criminal could be sure that, unlike
residents, the tourists would not be armed.
- In the period since the 1987 CCW (concealed carry of weapons) law was
implemented, Florida's homicide rate is down 27%, the firearm-related
homicide rate is down 34% and the handgun-related homicide rate is down
38%, while the overall US rates have risen 8%, 28% and 43%, respectively.
Is this differential caused by the concealed carry law? No one knows
for sure, but it is certainly clear that the law has not caused the
explosion of violence that the law's opponents were predicting.
- Florida's Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement, James T. Moore, wrote a memo on March 15, 1995, to the
Governor, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State in which he
stated "From a law enforcement perspective, the licensing process has not
resulted in problems in the community from people arming themselves with
- As of September 30 of last year, Florida issued 303,213 carry licenses
in a state of some 14 million, so only a small percentage of people are
choosing to carry concealed weapons, but since the criminals don't know
which ones, I think one can infer that they will be more careful in
attacking people, all people.
- Criminals rarely apply for concealed carry permits, but they do
occasionally. Through Sept. 30, 1995, Florida has rejected the carry
license applications of 702 persons with criminal records and has revoked
188 licenses mistakenly issued to persons with criminal records.
This does not make me in the least uncomfortable. First, the people to
whom you're referring are on the board of directors, and are not executive
officers, so their impact on day-to-day activities of the organization is
minimal. Second, they were elected, not appointed, so despite anything
you find to be objectionable, there must be enough about them which is
positive to have induced people to vote for them. Third,
as I mentioned earlier, I think that your characterization of one of them
"fantasizing out loud about the murder of Mrs. Brady" is false, so I have less than
full confidence about the accusations about the other guy. And fourth, I
think that there is room in the world for people with all kinds of ideas,
even ones which you or I might find objectionable. It's a person's
overall contribution which really matters. Few people are completely
innocent of having no nasty thoughts, and no deeds in their past that
others might not like. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"?
I know this is a cheap shot, but I can't help it: The only
gun-related article I've written to which you never replied is the
one about gun rights advocates--including an NRA board
member--fantasizing out loud about the murder of Mrs. Brady. Another
NRA board member is the publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine,
which formerly carried murder-for-hire advertisements, and co-owns a
publishing house that distributes murder manuals. How do you feel
about the leadership of the organization to which you belong?
As for "cheap shots", one good turn deserves another. Pardon me if I'm
wrong, but as someone who seems to have generally progressive ideas, may I
assume you voted for Bill Clinton in 1992? Even if not, as the main
politician supporting gun control legislation in this country, he is one
or another kind of leader of a movement of which you are a member,
formally or informally. You're stuck with that, like it or not. And how
do you feel about him
There are still some awful things in that bill, but it's way better than
your leader Clinton wanted it to be. I'm usually no fan of Orrin Hatch,
but he was right on the money when he said recently "I remember
years ago when the conservatives voted to increase wiretap
authority and the liberals raised concern about it, and now
it's the liberals who want to expand the authority ..."
(NY Times, 4/18/96, p. A10)
- Blowing health care reform for people in this country for years
by proposing an unworkably complex program, just so he could support his
pals in the insurance industry? (Remember Zoe Baird, $50,000 per
month legal counsel for Aetna, whom he wanted to put in charge?
She must really understand the average person.)
- Bearing ultimate responsibility for the deaths of 85 men, women and children
and the killings of
Randy Weaver's son, dog and wife after his guys in the BATF and
FBI ambushed Weaver
after they tried to entrap him?
- Supporting the efforts of his appointees and political cronies, like New
York's own Charles Schumer, in trying to subvert the Congressional
hearings on those incidents, hoping that what was covered up
would stay that way?
- Trying to push through the legislation on the Clipper Chip, so that the
government would be able to more easily spy on citizens' computer
- Being a principal and vocal backer of the so-called Anti-Terrorist Bill
that, until the worst provisions were removed due to the lobbying of the
ACLU, NRA and other civil liberties
organizations? Clinton's bill contained highly objectionable provisions.
Recent amendments to the original legislation:
- deleted provisions of the original legislation that would
have given the government new powers to investigate non-criminal
- preserved current protections against widespread,
- blocked the use of secret evidence to deprive persons of
- deleted the language allowing punishment of gun sellers
who "should have known" a gun would be used in crime.
(Under existing law, prosecutors have to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that the seller knew the gun would be used
- blocked study of putting potentially dangerous "taggants"
in black and smokeless powder; and
- changed the proposed "armor-piercing ammunition" study --
from a study that might have provided easy grounds for the
Clinton Administration to push a "performance-based" bullet
ban, to one that will reveal the truth. That truth is, in
the last decade, no law enforcement officer has been killed
because a projectile fired from a handgun penetrated the
protective material of a bullet-resistant vest. The study
will also reveal that law-abiding gun owners' rights would
be seriously undermined by a "performance-based" ammunition