There comes a point in every gun control debate when certain people feel the need to establish their Real American bona fides and distinguish themselves from the wimpy know-nothing-about-guns mainstream media types from New York City. The funny thing is, these certain people are also from New York City, or worse, Washington, D.C. With so many people calling for more gun control after the Newtown school shooting, we had three such examples Monday.
The National Review's editors, for example, declare that any discussion of gun control happens "largely" because the media is dominated by city liberals. Really!
The practical consequence of living for nearly two-and-a-half centuries under the almost universally benevolent protection of the Second Amendment is a society in which there are hundreds of millions of guns, in which 47 percent of families and nearly as many Democrats as Republicans own guns, and in which the dissent over the sacrosanctity of gun rights is heard largely because of the overrepresentation in the media of the coastal, urban Left.
There are a few problems with this. First, I'm not sure where NR got its data on how many families own guns (Update: perhaps this Gallup poll), but according to University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, it's 32 percent of households. Second, there is a regional divide about gun control, it's not as stark as it sounds. Stricter gun laws are the least popular in the South, but a full 46 percent of southerners support them. In the Wild Wild West? ABC News finds 60 percent support stricter gun laws, while just 39 percent oppose them. Third, do we really think The National Review has some sort of claim to a finger on the pulse of heartland American culture? They are based in New York! Their offices are a mere 1.1 miles from the offices of the dreaded New York Times. Jonah Goldberg, the first National Review Online editor, is a native New Yorker. Kathryn Jean Lopez grew up in Chelsea! They are the coastal, urban Right.
Here's The Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney displaying his extensive gun knowledge to argue that The New York Times is clueless about guns. He takes issue with the Times calling the AR-15, which Adam Lanza used in Newtown, "the civilian version of the military’s M-16." Carney writes:
The M-16 is a machine gun, that throughout most of its history – and certainly in popular understanding – has been a fully-automatic weapon...
AR-15s that are legal to buy do not have the three-shot burst that the military’s current M-16s have. They also don’t have the automatic-fire option that most people associate with the M-16.
Why does Carney use the curious phrase "that most people associate with the M-16"? Because most M-16s don't have a fully automatic setting anymore. It wastes ammo. Carney notes this, and notes the Times notes this. So Carney's problem is not with the Times, whose reporting was accurate, but with the American public, whose idea of the M-16 is maybe stuck in the Vietnam era. That would seem to undercut Carney's main point, which is that uppity east coast media types don't get guns the way the American people get guns. If Carney's assumptions are correct, then the American people don't get M-16s either. (Carney is right that the term "assault weapon" is essentially meaningless.)
But of course the very best gun nut pandering of the week came from libertarian blogger Megan McArdle, who said at The Daily Beast that gun control is mostly pointless, so we should teach children to run toward mass shooters, because their bodies will overwhelm their attacker. This has been widely mocked in the liberal Internet:
I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.
I would imagine this idea comes from movies, in which highly-trained killers are incapable of hitting their target when the target is the hero. Or perhaps when she was little, McArdle's dad told her, as mine did, that Butch and Sundance really survived all those Bolivian bullets at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I also found this passage from McArdle's column quite telling:
The rifle Lanza used, an AR-15, is a relative of the M16 rifle which was standard US military issue for decades, though apparently it is now being phased out. However, unlike the M16, it is not capable of delivering automatic (spray or burst) fire; it is semi-automatic, which means you get one bullet per trigger pull. The civilian version is normally used for target shooting and varmint hunting; my understanding is that it is not really big enough to humanely take down a deer.
Here we are meant to believe that McArdle possesses some truer knowledge of the gun world that the prissy MSM does not. But the idea that an M-16 or AR-15 "is not really big enough to humanely take down a deer" is crazy. It makes these weapons sound like toys. The M-16 uses 5.56mm rounds. They will not blow off a deer's head, if that's how McArdle thinks hunting works. But they do a terrible amount of damage to living bodies, because they don't break apart. One might go in your thigh and come out your belly, pinging around your insides in between. (Some civilian AR-15s are made for softer .223-calibre rounds, but many are made for 5.56 rounds.) And, more important, Lanza wasn't using the AR-15 to "humanely take down a deer." He was using it to inhumanely take down humans. It worked.
The pro-gun lobby likes to make its case on cultural grounds, preying on MSM paranoia that they just don't understand the rest of the country. It's quite effective! It is also false.
Update: Many hunters who use AR-15s use models chambered for .308 ammunition because some states require it as more humane.