Monday, February 19, 2018

Rebuttal to viral AR-15 blog post

The most recent mass shooting incident down in Florida has predictably reignited the gun control debate.  As part of this debate, a blog post from a former Soldier arguing passionately that we don't need AR-15s has gone viral.  Here's why I think it's wrong.

Her first argument is that these are a distinct category of rifles from those intended to shoot deer or paper targets, because AR-15s are intended to shoot people. That's true - but it's also true of MOST firearms, including ubi
quitous handguns like the Glock. The most persuasive arguments in favor of legal firearms are those revolving around self-defense, which requires a capacity to shoot people. We don't need defense from deer.

Her second argument is that they are a distinct category of rifles due to the "high capacity magazine, ease of loading and unloading, almost no recoil, really accurate...great from a distance or up close, easy to carry." Set the magazine capacity aside for now because it's a different argument (we could regulate max mag capacity without banning AR-15s, or vice-versa). Is she proposing that we should only be allowed to own firearms if they are difficult to reload, difficult to carry, inaccurate, with lots of recoil? That might inconvenience responsible owners, but it won't much reduce lethality for assholes spraying bullets into a crowd. What should the maximum acceptable weight, accuracy and convenience level of civilian firearms be, and why?

Her third argument is that we don't allow Soldiers to open carry M4s on military installations, and this results in fewer shootings there. While this is true, there are a whole lot of restrictions on the liberties of individual Soldiers in a volunteer Army, designed to reduce accidental injury, which the civilian population would never accept. We may achieve lower rates of drug use, motorcycle accidents, or complicity in human trafficking than the population at large due to mandatory requirements in those fields. That doesn't make such rules fair or constitutional to impose on people who've never signed up for it.

Her fourth argument is that we should restrict AR15s guns for the same reasons we restrict anything else that "can pose a danger from misuse," like cars, booze, fireworks or exotic animals. This conflates accidental misuse by good people with intentional misuse by bad people. AR-15s are no likelier than any other firearm to cause accidental death. We ban Formula 1 race cars because there is no way to drive them safely on civilian roads, and ban commercial-size fireworks because there's no way to use them safely in civilian neighborhoods. Neither holds true for AR-15s.

Her final argument is that hand-carried assault weapons are useless against modern militaries. That may come as a surprise to the sandal-clad Afghan insurgents that have kept our advanced modern military in a stalemate for 16 years, or to residents of what's now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. But it doesn't need to be that bloody either. Whether defending from individual criminals or government subjugation, defensive gun use is most valuable for its deterrent effect. It's fair to say that shouldn't be a priority if you think that's some far-fetched dystopia, but she should at least acknowledge that the competing priority exists.

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