And Gun Rights Advocates Know It
It was a stunning display of audacity, to say nothing of the callousness. And it occurred shortly after nineteen school children and their teachers were gunned down in a classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012.
As the country sat waiting in anticipation of how the NRA would thread the needle between its defense of gun rights and the safety of America’s children, then CEO Wayne LaPierre finally addressed the nation.
But instead of threading the needle, he shoved it into the eyes of the American public, by saying, “The best defense against a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” And that was it. That was the crux of the NRA’s defiant response.
And it worked.
It killed any momentum the anti-gun lobby had gained in congress and throughout the country as a result of the tragedy. Which meant that the only tangible result of the whole stunning episode, was the predictable increase in gun sales, especially of assault weapons like the one the shooter used in his killing spree. And that allowed LaPierre’s aphorism to become perhaps the most often heard refrain in the gun control debate in the country.
Or at least it was until Uvalde, and the pitiful nature of the “good guys’” response, especially as detailed in the DOJ report which came out last Thursday.
The main focus of that report is of course the dysfunction and incompetence of the police at the scene. And there was plenty of it to document – systemic dysfunction, bureaucratic dysfunction, and personal incompetence, along with a whole lot of cowardice and stupidity as well, especially in the aftermath. But at the heart of that report, buried deep within its troubling detail, was a much broader message – and one which no one seems to want to address.
And that deeper message is the plain, common sense fact, that it would have been suicidal for the initially responding police officers, armed with nothing more than their standard issue vests and service pistols, to confront a man with an AR-15 assault rifle who was hiding in a closet waiting to ambush them inside a room full of school children.
Of course we all know by now, that in an active shooter situation that is their job. It is the job of police to confront the shooter as soon as they enter the building. And as the DOJ report makes clear, they are not to wait for backup or additional equipment.
But to my knowledge, no one has offered a demonstration of how that confrontation could be successful in a situation like the one the officers faced that day, without the kind of training, body armor, shields and other equipment which are in general use by SWAT teams around the country – such as those from the US Border Patrol, who did eventually enter the room and kill the shooter.
Which means that for LaPierre’s platitude to be of any value, every police officer in the state would need to be trained and equipped like those SWAT team members.
And Texas Governor Greg Abbott knows this. Which may be why he and his Attourney General have failed to prosecute a single one of the hundreds of police officers who were on the scene that day, and why they seem to be doing everything they can to delay, if not prevent, any potential indictments. Because they know what the defense of those officers would be.
In one form or another, the initially responding officers will testify that, given their training and equipment, it would have been suicidal for them to enter that room and confront the shooter, and that it likely would have resulted in the deaths of more children.
And as a result, during any prosecution, the public discussion would likely center around what the state would have needed to do in the months and years leading up to the incident, in order for LaPierre’s “good guy” fantasy to become a reality. And that discussion would probably conclude that SWAT training and equipment would need to have been provided for every police officer at every level, in every county and city and town in the entire state of Texas.
And given that studies have shown that police officers generally arrive at mass murders too late to be of much consequence, that type of training and equipment would also need to be provided for teachers in every school in the state.
And besides making teachers the first target of every school shooter, that kind of effort would bankrupt the State of Texas, just as surely as LaPierre’s corruption has bankrupted the NRA.
Which among other things means there is no way Abbott and his administration can justify the insane lack of firearms regulations in the state. And there is no way they can even suggest to Texans, that given its gun laws, the state has done what it needs to do to limit, in any way whatsoever, the possibility of an incident like Uvalde from happening next year, or next week, or next hour.
And that reality might lead to an investigation of the Abbott administrations legal liabilities as a result. It might also force the country to ask, “How could those laws be consistent with a common sense reading of the US constitution, or with the kind of rational thinking that is supposed to accompany by such matters?”
Because the reality is that arguments coming from that perspective seldom are. Just as that kind of inconsistency is also present when we hear conservatives like Abbott rail against the way historical figures are treated by the “woke mob.” According to those who share that view, important figures of the past should not be judged by 21st century cultural standards. And there is certain wisdom in that. But by that same reasoning, why should we now be forced to live by 18th century technological standards, such as those in the US Constitution which regulate firearms.
Yet those are the standards Americans now live by when it comes to the kinds of firearms available today, the lethality of which the country’s founders could hardly have imagined. And that is certainly true of assault weapons, like the ones used in Sandy Hook and Uvalde – and the vast majoity of other mass murders. Which illustrates another of the specious, yet often-quoted assertions by the NRA.
That one goes something like this, “There is no difference between assault rifles and semi-automatic hunting rifles of the same calibre. And the only reason you liberals don’t like them, is because they look more dangerous.”
Either that, or they simply claim there’s “no such thing” as assault weapons (as a separate class of firearms). In other words, they’re basically saying it’s a distinction without a difference. Which, simliar to LaPierre’s “good guy” assertion, has carried the day for several decades. But the assault weapons claim is just as ludicrous.
Because those “cosmetic” distinctions do make assault rifles quite different, and in ways that make them much more lethal instruments of death – as any red-blooded mass murderer will tell you. Which is why they all prefer to use them in their killing.
The first supposedly cosmetic difference, as can be seen in the image below, is the metal structure around the rifle barrel. That’s called a barrel shroud. And it’s there to keep the operator from burning himself. Because if you fire a rifle at a rate of several rounds per second, which assault rifles are capable of doing, that barrel is going to get very hot very quickly. And the main reason that is not a concern with hunting rifles, is that no self-respecting hunter is going to fire that many rounds that quickly.
The second and perhaps most obvious “cosmetic” difference, is the assault rifle’s pistol grip – which allows the operator to “aim” more quickly and shoot from a more effective stance – such as from the hip. All of which gives him more efficient ways to kill massive amounts of people at short range. By contrast, a shoulder-fired rifle offers a narrower kill zone, and the shooter is much more vulnerable to being attacked from behind or from the side – mainly because he has a much narrower range of vison and focus. So in relatively close quarters, it’s simply much safer and easier for an unarmed bystander to tackle someone shooting a shoulder-fired rifle. And mass murderers know this. That is why the vast majority of them choose assault rifles to do their killing.
Of course a pistol can be used in much the same way. But a hand gun has a smaller bullet, which fires at a much lower velocity. And as a result, it does much less damage to the victim.
So to sum up, mass murderers use assault rifles to do their killing, so they can safely fire more rounds more quickly, and spray bullets over a wider area using a much deadlier round – all while being less vulnerable to attack of any kind. It’s that simple. And it’s all based on the fact that assault rifles are built with one purpose in mind. And it’s not to hunt rabbits and deer. They are designed and manufactured to kill lots of people very quickly, and with little skill or effort required by the shooter.
And I find it hard to believe that anyone who has studied the matter closely does not understand this. So I suspect it is either cowardice or willful ignorance, which is causing lawmakers like Abbott to fail to appreciate the specious nature of the NRA’s “arguments.” It is cowardice to know the kind of damage assault weapons can do, especially to children – yet refuse to ban them or to even speak out about them, because of fear of political retaliation. And it’s willful ignorance for those, like Governor Abbott, to seek to make them more readily available to their citizens, in an effort to please gun manufacturers and the morally, and now financially bankrupt NRA.
Which to me means the level of cowardice of Abbott and politicians like him, pales in comparison to that of any of the police officers who stood trembling outside that Uvalde classroom.
It also speaks to an understanding by Governor Abbott of his potential legal liabilities, thanks to his failure to provide an effective law enforcement response to the incident in Uvalde. And in light of Abbott’s populist demeanor and the understandable public outrage, his administration’s failure to prosecute any of the police officers who responded that day seems an attempt to hide that failure.
Or is he simply stating that no one was at fault in Uvalde, because in a state with such insanely lax gun laws, nothing rational can be done that would in any meanigful way, even begin to protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens – its children?
And the most depressing aspect of the whole sorry episode, is that it might make Uvalde the go-to model for prospective mass murderers in the days and years to come.