Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not Like Hollywood

We've all seen great bar fight scenes in movies and TV: Somebody orders the wrong kind of drink or looks at the wrong woman the wrong way or says the wrong thing, and suddenly fists are flying, people are hitting each other with chairs and bottles and rolling around on the beer-soaked floor.

How come nobody ends up dead in these brawls? Well, part of it is Hollywood magic, of course: Prop chairs and bottles and careful stunt choreography allow storytellers to create fights far more violent looking than could be squared, in real life, with the fact that everyone dusts off and walks away at the end.

But part of it might just be that, barring a few Westerns, these fights don't involve people pulling out guns and blazing away.

Unlike real life.

Three dead and one more in critical condition. Because... why? Why, again, do people need loaded concealed weapons in a bar? I always thought dart boards in bars were a bad idea — encouraging people who have been drinking to throw sharp objects around in a crowded room? — but guns?

Changing carry laws hasn't really been part of the national conversation we've been having about gun regulation in the wake of Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, etc. But maybe it should be, eh?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Swords-and-Knives Delusion

In the various arguments about gun control that I’ve had over the last several years, typically (and tragically) in response to the latest horrific mass shooting, one line of argument keeps recurring: Invariably, someone on the anti-regulation side of the argument makes the self-evidently (but trivially) true observation that there are other ways besides guns to kill people, followed by the assertion (self-evidently ludicrous, in my opinion, but oddly persistent nevertheless) that a determined killer can do just as much mayhem with other kinds of weapons – knives, swords, and other edged weapons are often specifically mentioned – as with semiautomatic rifles and pistols. Strange as it may seem to people who haven’t been involved in these sorts of arguments, I’ve had online acquaintances actually brag about their weapons training, and about how efficiently they could kill with knives, if they happened to be the sort of person interested in killing efficiently.

Well, new information emerging about Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooter Adam Lanza suggests that he was, in fact, a determined killer who seems to have planned his attack well in advance, and that his personal arsenal of weapons included, in addition to a variety of guns and a large quantity of ammunition, numerous other weapons including “at least nine knives, three Samurai swords, … and a 7-foot, wood-handled pole with a blade on one side and a spear on the other.”

And yet… when Adam Lanza left his home to go out on his killing spree, all of the weapons he took with him were guns, three of them semiautomatic, and when he entered Sandy Hook Elementary, the “tool” he used to slaughter 26 people in less than 5 minutes, using more than 150 bullets, was a military-style semiautomatic rifle fed by 30-round magazines. Despite other options at hand, and plenty of time to think it through, this “determined killer” chose a high-rate-of-fire, high-capacity firearm as his weapon of choice.

Now, I obviously don’t want to suggest for even a picosecond that Adam Lanza was some kind of genius… but then, it doesn’t take a genius to know that this “blades are as good as bullets” version of the more general “guns don’t kill people…” argument is utter horseshit... does it?