At the time of writing, it’s been over a week since the night of October 1st when so many lost their lives or were grievously wounded by a terrorist’s actions. The motives for such a murderous attack are as yet a matter of speculation, as are the methods by which it was carried out. To expound broadly on this attack is probably impossible until more is known, and it is unlikely to yield any politically significant discovery which would stoke one political party or another to action, and so it has largely dropped off the news cycle. Nevertheless, this terrorist attack has provided ample fuel to two groups, the conspiracy-minded and the anti-gun left, who have blitzed our social media with everything from masonic imagery to absurdly inaccurate animations of “bump stocks”, as the media has taken to calling them.
I’ve gotta be honest to the conspiracy people – I think you’re full of it not because of your skepticism, but because of how easily you fit even more absurd explanations into the vacuum it creates. Look, there are some weird things going on with this attack, I get it. A lot of people were saying from the start that there had to be more than one shooter, and I tended to agree. Later the police came out and said they believed more people were involved, that they were operating under the assumption that he had accomplices at some point, which somewhat vindicates them. There are a lot of facts like this that don’t quite add up or build a picture of a very enigmatic figure, which tends to encourage the tinfoilers to come out of the woodwork.
Myself, I think it’s entirely possible that this guy was some kind of gun-runner, intelligence agency asset, or worked with some very nasty and very well connected people generally. I also think it’s entirely possible that someone with enough commitment and resources could pull it off himself, but the lack of obvious motive confounds this line of reasoning. ISIS claimed the attack as well, and they have a surprisingly strong track record of not making these claims spuriously – they almost always have at most a third degree of removal from the attacks they claim. Suggesting as-yet-unknown motives or connections is not, to me, insane conspiracy theorizing. This was a man with a very secretive life and a lot of resources. Already we’re looking at revelations of multiple arms caches, a long planning process, access to hotel infrastructure such as freight elevators, and evidence of accomplices suggested by his car leaving the garage during a time when his keycard was used to access his suite. Certainly, there are going to be things revealed that we do not know now, many of which may suggest a more far-reaching plot. For now it remains a convoluted and difficult, if morbidly entertaining, thought exercise.
Addressing the latter isn’t something I relish. If, like me, you’ve been staunchly on the pro-Second Amendment side of the debate since your youth, you’re rightly tired of explaining the same simple concepts to clueless people every time there’s a shooting. I don’t oppose the left “politicizing” a tragedy, as oftentimes tragic events do indeed have political ramifications, but I do oppose the idiocy surrounding the idea of banning Bump Fire stocks or reintroducing the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban.
Firstly, there is no definite indication that the gunman used a Bump Fire or similar device, while from my own experience and information gathered from knowledgeable people, there is significant doubt that such a device – prior to this event, universally viewed as unreliable and gimmicky – could have produced such deadly results in terms of rate of fire and accuracy. Police reported that he had some guns modified with these devices, but did not indicate whether it was one of these that was used in the attack. While the stocks may produce an automatic rate of fire, they’re not great for accurate target selection at a distance, certainly not while maintaining an automatic rate of fire, and unlikely to allow successfully feeding as many as a hundred rounds with no malfunctions, as evidenced by the many video and audio recordings of the shooting. It seems more likely that a heavier automatic weapon was used for the shooting, although it is not impossible that someone highly proficient with a Bump Fire-type device could have created the same horrible effects. Whether or not the Bump Fire stock goes the way of other banned devices will be of no major concern to me, however, so let’s move on.
Ah, the Assault Weapons Ban. The name must give liberals the warm tinglies, after all, who could be for Assault Weapons? Right, the made-up political term the Democratic lawmakers who came up with the thing assigned to the firearms that fell within their absurd definitions. Nowhere in firearms nomenclature is the phrase Assault Weapons ever used, except perhaps in describing the kit of specialist units meant to assault defensive fortifications. This might include flamethrowers, satchel charges, submachine guns, etc., all well outside the purview of the AWB. However, by conflating the term with the dreaded Assault Rifle, Democrats planted a seed in the left’s politics which has proven highly resistant to all efforts to uproot it.
So, what’s an assault rifle exactly? Ok, well technically it’s a select fire rifle in an intermediate caliber, meaning in basic English that it’s capable of automatic fire, bigger than a pistol, and smaller than a heavy machine gun or rifle. That makes an AR-15 not even technically an assault rifle, because it doesn’t fire automatically, even though it’s similar to a weapon which does. The AR-15 was, however, an Assault Weapon. Why? Because it had a telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a flash suppressor, and a bayonet lug, four out of five characteristics which made an otherwise legal rifle an Assault Weapon. The functionally equivalent Ruger mini-14, because its mechanism was housed in a more traditional rifle stock, would not count, although both were semiautomatic .223 rifles of similar length, weight, accuracy, and fire rate. The legislators tended to ban common gangland weapons and those in common use by organized crime, but failed completely to address how the banning of these weapons would significantly harm their ability to operate and use violence. The impact of the AWB was, depending on who you ask, small to nonexistent. The tendency among the gun-clueless to believe that these weapons posed a severe public safety crisis was demonstrably false, and yet for everyone who today laughs about past hysterias like “reefer madness” or the “dangers” of violent video games, you’ll still find people who believe that assault rifles are commonly used in firearms homicides and should be banned, without hardly knowing what one actually is.
So look, first of all the AWB isn’t going to matter more than a fart in the wind in terms of stopping violence. Just like manufacturers made the Bump Fire stock to allow for simulated full-auto fire, manufacturers in AWB America are rapidly going to churn out weapons compliant with the largely cosmetic demands of the bill. You also have the problem of existing guns, as the Constitutional prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure still applies to a bill which was largely passed under the auspices of the Commerce Clause. Confiscation is out of the question both in political reality and legal standing. You also have people who simply won’t give a damn and will continue selling parts kits and the like which other individuals who don’t give a damn will illegally assemble while flipping the bird to the Feds. Just like in the original AWB, this could very well lead to an out of control ATF enforcement arm sparking widespread violence, somewhat defeating the point.
Second of all, the only way it would make any kind of difference – in this case a negative one – would be by banning semiautomatic firearms entirely, leaving legal gun owners with bolt-action rifles and shotguns. Making an exemption for handguns would similarly be done out of complete ignorance and desire for cosmetic action over real decisiveness, as it is handguns which are used in most firearms homicides by a long shot. Not only would this be political poison, especially with Republican control over the government, it could very well spark armed resistance from an increasingly divided and radicalized citizenry, something we must begin seeing as a legitimate possibility. The political divide between gun owners and non-gun owners, running conservative and liberal majorities in almost every U.S. State, plus the widespread knowledge of the geographical and demographic concentration of gun violence and illegal firearms, seem to necessitate an extreme partisan divide should the Democrats along with any particularly spineless Republicans attempt major gun control legislation. The facts on the ground dictate that this issue is untouchable and that Americans will not be disarmed, at least not any time soon.
While the victims of such a heinous crime are owed decisive action in unraveling the enigmas surrounding the attack, the desire among liberals to disarm, to whatever degree, the American people, is not deserving of respect or overmuch consideration. Across the world, in societies disarmed by their governments years or decades ago, violent homicide is no stranger and in many places is on the rise. With terrorist attacks rocking Western Europe at the same time as political violence erupts on our side of the pond, we at least can rely on the fact that we are well-equipped to weather the storms gathering on the horizon.