Bullets, bliss and gun lobby B.S. - Macleans.ca

Bullets, bliss and gun lobby B.S.

Martin Patriquin on the dizzying euphoria of shooting guns and the bloody-mindedness of the NRA


I like shooting guns.

I was a kid, maybe 10 years old, watching and waiting as my grandfather tossed glass jugs upstream into the St. Francis River near Lennoxville. I’d shoot and I’d miss. No matter: I felt the rifle flinch against my shoulder, hear the clap of the .22 bullet exploding out of the barrel, the smell of gunpowder in my nostrils all at once. The day I actually hit one of those jugs, watching something smash from afar and knowing I did it, was pure bliss.

Twenty-five years later, Las Vegas. I was at an off-strip shooting range, an AR-15—the same gun used in the Newtown massacre—against the same shoulder. Bigger gun, bigger high: it was a boom, not a clap, and the spent shells peeling out of the chamber were about the size of my ring finger. The bullets I fired ripped through a paper Osama target at the other end of the gun range. In Las Vegas, a city that lives on the promise of narco-pleasure, this was as close to a sure thing as you can get: for a nominal fee, put very real bullets into a fake Osama, over and over, as fast as your trigger finger could manage.

Only after did it occur to me that maybe no one should be able to possess such a thing unless they were a cop, or a soldier—someone who might actually point it at a real Osama, if you will. But that was much later, in a cab back to the strip, when the euphoria had drained off.

So when second amendment rights types talk passionately about their guns, up to and in the wake of the dozens of America’s many mass killings, I get it. I get the obsession over fire and noise, the feeling of something very powerful in your hands, the giddy, gleeful sense you get from obliterating whatever it is you are aiming at. I get it that gun owners don’t only like firing their weapons, but talking about them, touching them, handling them, modifying them as well, with the same nerdy gusto of your average car enthusiast. Consider this Guns & Ammo blurb about a modified AR-15:

The boys at Moss Pawn and Ga., took a Smith & Wesson Muns in Jonesboro, G&P15 and pimped the ever-loving crap out of it, fitting the carbine with nine 30-round magazines — seven on the bottom, two on the side for storage — three lasers, three red-dot sights, a magnifier, four flashlights and a contour camera. All together, this behemoth weighs in at 23 pounds fully loaded. Hefty, sure, but it gets they [sic] job done.

And this is the greatest feat of America’s gun lobby. It isn’t its ability, against all credible evidence, to manipulate government into maintaining or loosening liberal gun laws. It isn’t its ability to play victim every time another mass shooting rolls around, or to pass the blame to something else—video games, immigrants, the lack of prayer in classrooms.

No, its real feat has been to take what is intrinsically amazing about guns, the power they give coupled with the dizzying euphoria of making something go kaboom from afar, draping it in the American flag and selling it to the country as something far nobler—a nod to the country’s bullet-ridden history, its rugged individualism, its wariness of authority of any kind. And the lobby has gone even further, convincing its members that government wants to get in the way of their precious little fantasies, and not because government might want to prevent its citizens from killing one another. No, it’s because government is tyranny, pure and simple.

Writing about July’s “Dark Knight” shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Guns Magazine’s David Codrea wrote how “enemies of the Second Amendment sense an opportunity to buck political timidity preceding the November elections, and to strike a crippling blow to the right to keep and bear arms.” Thankfully for gunowners, this paranoia is self-serving, because the natural solution to such a threat is to buy more guns. And buy they will: as Guns & Ammo recently trumpeted, gun sales reached a new high in November, following the U.S. presidential election.

This paranoia has also made for boffo political capital. According to opensecrets.org, the (very flush) National Rifle Association has outspent gun control lobbies by more than 10 times, including nearly $18 million during the 2012 election cycle. That 89 per cent of the NRA’s money went to Republicans in gun-happy states isn’t much of a surprise; what really speaks to the NRA’s lobbying chops was what the group managed to get done thanks to those who didn’t get any money.

President Obama didn’t get a cent from the NRA in 2012. In fact, the group gave nearly $9 million to anti-Obama groups. Despite this, and despite the fact many in the gun-rights movement consider him to be some sort of Kenyan-born antichrist/Muslim, Obama has “signed into law more repeals of federal gun policies than in President George W. Bush’s eight years in office,” according to Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

And as the New York Times recently reported, the Justice Department shelved background-check initiatives drawn up in the wake of the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. About the only gun-related legislation passed in the wake of a congresswoman getting shot in the head was by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who in May 2011 made the Colt Single Action Army Revolver the official gun of the Grand Canyon State.

Here’s a prediction. After its self-imposed blackout, the gun lobby (the NRA, especially) will be back as always, as it was in Columbine, as it was in Aurora, as it was after Virginia Tech, as it was after Giffords. And it will peddle the same formula of “more guns and fewer background checks,” along with the usual spiel about the necessity of a firearm on every belt. And as a result a nation will hesitate before it does the right thing—if it does anything at all. That’s pretty impressive for a movement founded on the power and sheer pleasure that comes with making stuff go kaboom. Pretty bloody, too.


Bullets, bliss and gun lobby B.S.

  1. I imagine the psychological effect described by Patriquin is even more pronounced in the mentally unstable, making the gun an especially likely weapon of choice for mass killing.

    • What makes it the weapon of choice for mass killing is that the killing can be done rapidly and from a distance.

      • You mean, exactly like could be done with an IED, if guns weren’t available?

        • Do suburban housewives stockpile IEDs legally? Can you take your disturbed son out to build IEDs legally? No? Then your comparison is false.

        • Could be done, but that requires a lot more effort and planning, so you’d likely see a lot fewer. Plus they’d be a lot less ubiquitous than guns are in the US, so a helluva lot less people would be killed or wounded by kids and idiots picking up an IED and playing with it and having it go off by accident.

  2. The police spokesperson said there were no bullets around the classroom because i guess they expand on impact and stay in the body, even a child. I heard a hunter somewhere say these type of bullets are no good for hunting because they destroy the meat and hide.

    So I guess these bullets are for killing people, not hunting. Don’t know about target shooting. Martin?

    But still, how can anyone defend this? Sometimes there just aren’t two sides to every issue.

    • Your hunter misinformed you.

      • Exactly. There are bullets that expand so much they’ll destroy meat, but hunting with bullets that don’t expand at all is wholly unethical.

        • nevermind the safety factor in hollowpoints (the “balloning” type of bullet) in that they deform and do not ricochet. You miss your food, you’re not likely to kill someone with a bounce.

    • The .223 is one of the most common rifle shells there are. Common for varmints and target shooting.

  3. Firstly, it’s not just the NRA or the “gun lobby”. A sizeable majority of Americans are in favour of the second amendment.

    Secondly, it’s not just about guns. The second amendment is about self-defense. That is why automatic weapons are banned but not all guns are banned, because it’s about self defense. Naturally a gun of some sort is needed for self-defense of one’s abode when an intruder happens to have one.

    Finally, study after study after study has shown that there is more gun crime in places where guns are banned (eg Chicago) than in places where guns are not banned (eg Houston). When gun bans are put in place, gun crime goes up. Why this is so difficult for people to understand, I will never know. But it’s true. The reasons are obvious.

    • Which is why the US has less gun crime than Japan, right? oh wait..

      The second amendment is *not* about self-defense, and it never was. That’s the whole point of the “militia” portion. Remember when the 2nd amendment was put into place, the US had just won a civil war against Britain (with help from the French, but they don’t like to remember that bit very much) and there were a lot of concerns about British Loyalists (of which there were still quite a few) getting into places of power and disarming the people to make it easier for Britain to return.

      Even if the 2nd amendment was about self-defense “arms” in it could simply be redefined to less-lethal weapons such as tasers, etc. After all, if “arms” can be defined in such a way as to not include fully-automatic or high-ordinance weapons, it can be redefined yet again.

      • Wrong. A taser is useless when you are defending yourself against someone with a gun. Self defense is self defense, period. And your revisionist history is pure fantasy.

        • You may want to do some research into how a taser works. It’s actually *more* effective then a gun.. especially against someone hopped up on adrenaline or any other sort of drug that dulls pain.

          And as for my history, I’m sorry, you’re wrong again.

          You see, the problem you’re having is I actually do research, I don’t just base my knowledge off of the movies.

          • Not if the person attacking you is too far from the taser. Not if there’s more than one person. With a completely normal handgun, such as the one I carry, I have 16 shots before reloading. With a taser I’d have nowhere near as many.

          • If they’re too far for a taser, you can run. If there’s more than one person, then neither handgun nor taser is going to help you because while you’re Annie Oakleying one of them, you’ve just pissed off their buddy who is presumably as well armed as you are.

          • And how good a shot are you? How many innocents would you put at risk while playing gunslinger with your opponent?

      • It is about self defence. The “militia” is the people and when they talk about arms being well regulated they meant on good working order. The government is changing the constitution to fit their needs.

        • Okay, before asserting what the 2nd amendment means, you might do well to actually.. you know.. read it.

          Because it doesn’t refer to arms being well regulated, for one.
          Here, I’ll quote:
          “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

          I mean, come on, I’m Canadian and I can do that. What the hell is your problem?

          Anyway, as you can see, militia certainly doesn’t mean the same as “the people” because they use that term separately. If they meant the same thing they would have used the same term to avoid just such confusion.

    • I agree with you 100%. Guns are protection. There is a great documentary (unfortunately I can’t remember the name) that makes a great point. If the government were to ban guns and asks citizens to hand over their guns, the only people who are going to hand them over are the ones we don’t need to worry about because they are law abiding citizens. If someone is going to rob you or shoot you for any reason the areaalready willing to break the law… so what’s one more for them to break in not handing over their weapon? Think about that one! Also a good point is that schools in Japan have guns at the front of the classroom in a safe, so if a gun man gets in they are done before the students are. Teachers there also cary unconsealed firearms while on field trips. No one is messing with them or there students.
      In the words of Iced T, if everyone had a gun would you want to be the only one without one?

      • I don’t know where you got that little tidbit about Japanese schools, but that’s not even close to true. I lived there for nearly a decade, and my wife worked in the elementary schools. She said that she has never heard of anything like that, and looked at me like I was crazy when I asked. And NOBODY in Japan walks around with unconcealed weapons, especially teachers on field trips. You are clearly just making things up to advance a point which doesn’t have any factual support.

    • So by your logic, Canada’s crime rate should be waaaay higher than the States… yet the opposite is true. And we should have seen a sharp spike after the long gun registry was brought in.

      Nice evidence-based theory you have there… Maybe there are other reasons for the US stats you quote?

      • The reason they do studies is because it is not as simple as you so blindly assume.

        • Seems to me I’m not the one doing the assuming. Haul out the studies that conclusively demonstrate that there is a genuine correlation between banning guns and rising crime rates.

          Usually, from what I’ve seen in the US, guns are banned when gun crime rates are already skyrocketing, so it would make sense that, at least in the short term, crime rates would remain high in those cities after a ban. That would also fit with the difference between US cities with gun bans and Canada’s stats. So bring on your evidence… and from a source other than the NRA please.

  4. Guns done kill people people kill people ….maybe if the us would limit the magazine capacity like herebin canada shit like this wouldnt happen so often ..

    • People just need to learn to take care of themselves. The government can’t do it. We need to stop being babies and looking to them to save us. There will always be crazy sick people. If we were armed it would be a deterrent for people who want to try to rob the little old lady walking down the street. I’d they do go after they deserve to be shot plain and simple. We need to protect ourselves I am all for arming our citizens and making sire they are properly trained to handle and care for a gun.

      • Nonsense….the frontier has been gone for over a century.

        Stop playing ‘cowboys and indians’

        • So because the frontier is gone, I shouldn’t be expected to take care of myself? The police took 20 minutes to get to Sandy Hook. What do I do in the meantime, even if the killer had only had a knife?

          • In a civilized society in the 21st century you shouldn’t need to ‘protect yourself’

            In a civilized society in the 21st century you don’t have massacres du jour.

          • Once we get to this society you dream of, let me know. I haven’t yet seen a society where individuals don’t sometimes need to protect themselves. So long as rape, robbery, kidnapping, and assault happen fairly regularly, people will need to defend themselves.

          • Well as long as you consider that normal and acceptable you will continue to experience it.

      • Nancy Lanza apparently shared your beliefs.

      • If we were armed there would be more accidental shootings; there would be more people pulling their guns in anger; the body count would escalate rapidly. You think the huge difference in per-capita gun deaths between us and the US (or just about anywhere in the world and the US) is entirely because of our good natures?

        Or do you think our lower gun-related death rate is something to be ashamed of?

        • Every gun control advocate says that, and every one is proven wrong. That has been the common wail of every gun control person every time another state has legalized concealed carry, and it hasn’t ever proven true.

          • OK; compare the differences between the US and Canada. Two very similar countries; gun control being one of the few major differences. How do you explain the huge gap in per-capita gun-related crimes and injuries? Simple: fewer guns.

          • So go ahead; prove me wrong. Bring on the studies (not NRA propaganda please).

    • That should be “Guns don’t kill people; people with guns kill people.”

      • Some people with guns kill some people. Some people with guns protect other people. The vast majority of people with guns harm no one.

        • Some people with guns have unstable family members who take their guns from them. A good argument for better regulation, I think.

    • Explain how a person who intends premeditated murder is stopped by a mag capacity law? Since the law doesn’t apply to the police or military and probably armed security guards there will always be a good supply of magazines for certain firearms.

      • It won’t stop premeditated murder. But it will limit the body count.

        • It will also limit my ability to defend myself if the need arises.

          • Happily, it will also limit your ability to cause even more carnage by accidentally shooting someone while living out your Clint Eastwood fantasies.

    • But guns sure as hell make it easier to kill people. Try killing 20 kids and 8 adults with a knife…

      • I am definitely not pro-gun but Keith do you know that there have been a rash of attacks on children in schools in China by men welding knives. During the latest attack (on the same day as the Newtown shooting), the man managed to stab over 20 kids. Now you have to register to buy machetes and big knives there.

        • And each of those 20 kids will live to tell the tale. So I’d agree it’s harder to do the same kind of carnage with a knife that you can do with a gun that fires 45 rounds a minute without the need to reload.

          • Unfortunately, this was not the only incident in China. They have had several knife attacks in schools leaving 21 dead and 90 injured.

          • Oh I know. But I still maintain that guns in the same kinds of situations have the capacity to kill more people in a shorter time. No citations unfortunately. But there is a reason our armed forces no longer use swords.

        • Note I said easier. I never said doing so with a knife was impossible; just far less likely. You can kill people with just about anything if you set your mind to it, but if you have to get up close and personal it becomes a much harder task.

          As a health care worker, does your ER see more accidental shootings or more accidental stabbings? We all have knives in our homes and occasionally accidentally cut ourselves, but we seldom end up wounding or killing others with them by accident.

          • Unfortunately some people are happy to get up close and personal….since 2010 in China in schools 21 have died and 90 have been injured in similar knife attacks.
            As for what is seen in the ER….people are much more likely to come in with a stabbing than an injury from a shooting although shooting is become more and more common (gang related/illegal, non-registered guns). No, the stabbings are not by accident exactly although I am sure that during disputes people rarely intend to let things get that out of hand. There aren’t a whole lot of accidental shootings either…every few years there is a hunting accident but otherwise it is very rare.
            I think the truth about Canadians v. Americans is that we believe we live in a safe country and therefore we are quite laid back. We aren’t shooting at people who are walking at night in our neighborhoods. Therefore, we aren’t shooting our own children who are sneaking back into the house. We just aren’t very hypervigilant when it comes to crime and fear of being assaulted. A really good example of differences occurred during the Calgary Stampede. A policeman from the US and his wife was approached by two young men during the day in a Calgary park. They asked him if he had been the stampede and he told them to get lost. He felt completely threatened and wished his gun. He wrote a letter to the newspaper saying as much. He was ridiculed because the Chamber of Commerce had people in the park giving away free tickets to the stampede that day. What he saw as a threat, we saw as being friendly. Very different perceptions.

          • Good point on the difference in perception. But I wonder: is the prevalence of guns in the US a cause or an effect? i.e. do they perceive threats everywhere because there are so many armed individuals, or is everyone arming themselves because they see threats everywhere? (This may well be a chicken-and-egg kind of question…)

      • IEDs are fairly simple to construct, and make it even easier, and both Aurora and Connecticut would have been much more deadly had the kill used them.

        • IEDs are not legal. There aren’t IED shows where people can sell each other IEDs with little or no paperwork. There is no one defending the right to build as many IEDs as they want in their basement. The kindest thing I can say about this statement is that is a bad analogy. And that is being exceptionally kind indeed.

          • Killing people isn’t legal either, you’ll recall. The point is that someone that has decided they want to kill in large numbers can easily find a way to do so, even if laws are passed to take guns from the law-abiding. Guns make it easier to kill people, as KeithBram originally pointed out, but so do a host of other things criminals can use. Disarming those who choose to obey the law anyway doesn’t mitigate that fact.

        • I think I’ll stay well away from you… given this and your other posts, it’s clear you do waaaay too much thinking about killing others for my peace of mind…

          • You’re welcome to stay wherever you want, of course. What I’ve spent my time thinking about, however, is liberty, including gun control and its ramifications, and the closely associated matter of killing people, whether justifiably or otherwise. It’s an interesting hobby, given that so much of the gun control lobby clearly hasn’t thought about it at all. Witness the constant claims that various weapons “have no sporting purpose” and the ill-founded assumption that that might matter at all, or that government should presume to dictate what a supposedly free individual does or does not need, or perhaps the arbitrary dictum that 10 rounds per magazine is safer or more standard than whatever amount the firearm was actually built to hold.

          • In modern society, guns have little purpose beyond killing others. A
            very small percentage of the weapons sold in the US are sold for hunting
            – and handguns and automatic weapons are not used for hunting.

            I’m assuming from your posts that you are American – either that or you
            have no respect for Canadian laws and regularly break them.

            As for liberties – the American viewpoint that protecting property by
            taking a life strikes most Canadians as barbaric. It is definitely the
            antithesis of Christian teaching – yet many of the most ardent gun
            freaks also claim to be Christian. It baffles me how a nation that
            claims to be so God-fearing can have such a love of guns, violence and
            death. It astonishes me that a nation that so praises liberty has the
            highest incarceration rate in the world.

            Somewhere along the way the American dream went off the rails. The lunatics rule the asylum – and the NRA is their official voice.

  5. The second amendment was written in a day when the musket the citizen could buy was the same as the ones the army used, and it was state of the art technology — so the idea of the citizen soldier was viable. With the technology available to the armed forces today the thought of a grass roots “citizen army” achieving any kind of victory over the government of the day is ludicrous — but it’s the core of the second amendment hysteria of the red neck pro-NRA right wing.

    • Tell that the the Israelis who went to Lebanon, Americans to Iraq and NATO to Afghanistan. The entire “support the Arab spring” is predicated on poorly armed civilians being able to stand up to a government.

      I doubt very much there will be a rebellion of any consequence in the US during my lifetime but the history of war since 1945 shows that guerrillas can beat governments- not all the time but certainly enough to make it their chances far from ludicrous.

      • Then why aren’t U.S. citizens allowed to own tanks or missiles? If the ability to overthrow a tyrannical despot your main argument for allowing people with no military training to own (and this case, apparently keep unsecured) semi-automatic guns in their home then why not go the whole hog and argue for the freedom to own a fleet of fighter planes?

        • Many of us have. Others would, if there weren’t much more important problems to tackle, like gun-free schools.

          • So you’re totally ok with your neighbours owning military equipment. With no rules about how that equipment should be maintained or secured. No rules about how often they should be assessed for their fitness to keep those weapons. No rules about the kind of training they need to use them properly. Sounds like a lovely neighbourhood.

          • I’m ok with assuming my neighbors are responsible people. Assuming, as you apparently do, that they are murderous, reckless, dangerous, or just stupid, and cannot function without government oversight must be a much worse neighborhood than mine. For whatever it’s worth, I know, without need for assumption, that my neighbors are, in general, well armed. I also know they behave responsibly, and my neighborhood is the better for it.

    • It’s awfully infantile to imagine that the authors of the Constitution wouldn’t expect technology to progress.

  6. The NRA makes a good whipping boy. I doubt the author knows much about it. Yes the NRA is against laws that limit ownership for lawful purposes. It has fought gun bans and backdoor prohibitions. It has fought tax measures designed to make shooting unaffordable to all but the rich. It also is the main provider of firearms safety courses and hunter education. It also runs scores of courses for law enforcement annually.

    The difficult truth for the author may be that the homicide rate has been going down in the US since the 1970s. Despite the NRA, more and better guns, cheaper prices and CCW laws Americans are generally safer than anytime since the counter-culture burst on the scene.

    • The homicide …..and general crime rate….has been going down in every country since then.. However there are still more Americans being shot than anywhere else.

  7. Guns are for cowards

  8. Guns are for cowards

  9. Give every American a handgun and in a few decades, the population will dwindle from over 3 milion to 1. Just one. The last one standing.