The following is the follow up interview done with Cris E. It occurred both after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as aftera visit to a local gun range that he took me on.
Although we still do not agree on all points, the interview is really worth reading through its entirety. We have to all be willing to hear opposing views and learn from them, even if they are hard to listen to/read. The responses below really have made me think about my own viewpoints and perception on the issue of gun reform. The issue is very nuanced and complicated and we must make an effort to understand all perspectives if we are ever going to make any progress. I will write more in the future, but for now please read and feel free to comment.
1.) Have your views on gun reform changed since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida?
Most definitely. It’s woken me up to a very stark reality. Watching the amount of vitriol against law-abiding gun owners based on the actions of a deranged individual has driven me to join the NRA as well as the GOA (Gun Owners of America).
When you see individuals chanting that “the NRA has blood on its hands”, blaming all gun-owners for the tragedy, calling the NRA a terrorist organization, lumping them in with the Nazis and the KKK (who fully favored gun-control on Black people), I’m not going to stand by and watch as these deranged individuals grandstand on the graves of 17 dead children to push a political agenda that will infringe upon another vital American civil liberty and result in laws that will not attack the root of the problem, instead serving only as a Democrat bragging-point and allow them to later turn and say “we haven’t gone far enough yet” when the proposed laws end up having no effect. The Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 would have no more effect on crime than the pointless and ineffectual 1994 ban did. What it would do is create a legislative baseline. Democrats will later turn around and say “the ban did not reduce crime because it was not far-reaching enough in scope; we need to pass more gun control legislation to keep fighting gun-crime”. It’s a pattern that exists in all countries that have passed harsh gun control laws. According to gun-control advocates in their respective countries, gun-control has not gone far enough in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, or any country without the right to keep and bear arms codified in a bill of rights. Yet these countries already have laws that would constitute severe violations of our Second Amendment. I’ve heard enough of the gun-control rhetoric that you can assure me all you want that you’re not after my guns or my rights or that “you respect the Second Amendment, but...” to know that even where gun-control favoring individuals do honestly believe that, your side of the aisle contains just as many people who say “fuck the Second Amendment, it’s outdated” or “it meant muskets, not ARs” or “it meant for the police and National Guard”. I also know that once you have the level of gun control you want and think is appropriate, you will never take my side when your farther-left comrades demand more. You might not stand in vocal support with them, but you certainly won’t stand with me against more gun control.
I refuse to watch the same laws that have done nothing to prevent crime in Detroit, Chicago, etc. needlessly forced upon the entire country.
2.) You mentioned in our previous written series of questions the following:
“Anyway so back to assault weapon banned features, I'd love to see my local representative explain what each of those features does, why it makes the weapon more dangerous, and for obvious ones like a grenade launcher or bayonet lug, the crime statistics indicating that bayonets and grenades pre-ban were responsible for so many fatalities (any?) that they needed to be banned features. I also wonder why bayonet lugs and grenade launchers make a semi-auto a banned gun, but don't worry, it's all cool to stick them on a pump action rifle.”
Could you explain those things to the proposed local representative and any readers of this post? Because I agree that many gun reform advocates aren’t knowledgeable enough on the jargon of the guns and laws they are aiming to change, including myself.
It’s not about the jargon, I was being facetious because grenade launchers and bayonet lugs are features the NY “SAFE” Act bans, but which are not used in crime. If my Rep., Eliot Engel, field-stripped and reassembled an M16 blindfolded while talking me through the process, I’d probably get a chuckle out of it, but it wouldn’t change the reality that it’s not about the specifics of the hardware. It’s a philosophical difference. He would rather I not have a gun. If he could help it, I wouldn’t have a gun and most people wouldn’t (not to include his own armed security). Most people can’t afford armed security but they can afford a gun and some ammo. I would rather as many responsible people as possible took charge of their own personal security. That’s what matters. You may not know that the police have no duty to protect you as an individual – they are not there for your individual security. The SCOTUS decision of Warren v. District of Columbia is quite an enlightening read in that regard. I will probably never need to use a gun in self defense and hope never to have to. But that doesn’t mean that I have any less right to personal security than a celebrity or public official who can afford, on their own or on the tax-payer dime, to have other people constantly at the ready to do violence on their behalf. I always say, as soon as all the anti-gun politicians eschew armed security, I’ll be more than willing to talk gun control.
More on the humor, it’s funny to watch people make idiotic statements like CA State Rep. Kevin De Leon trying to explain what a “ghost gun” is and spitting out a nonsensical and factually incoherent gun-terminology word salad, Michael Bloomberg saying that pistols need the trigger to be pulled each time as the main difference between rifles and handguns (not even close), Joe Biden advising people that the insanely illegal, dangerous, and irresponsible act of firing a shotgun in the air from your porch would scare off intruders and makes a shotgun better than an AR-15 for home defense, or CNN’s Stephanie Ruhle talking about handgun bullets being too slow to be effective against someone armed with an AR-15. It’s funny until you realize that these people are policy-makers and influencers. These people are pushing policies from a position of total ignorance, so what could their agenda be? It certainly is not to create intelligent and targeted policies that are respectful of Americans’ right to bear arms while reducing criminal access to firearms. They’ve demonstrated time and again that the goal is to reduce everyone’s access to all guns as much as possible and hope that it thereby leads to fewer criminals using guns in crimes. They don’t care if that also means fewer law-abiding citizens have guns to protect themselves or care that it will affect law-abiding citizens far more than criminals.
It was also entertaining watching a “#oneless” video where Karen Mallard, running for Congress in Virginia as a Democrat in favor of strict gun control, attempted to destroy her husband’s “AR-15” by cutting the barrel. By doing so she was unknowingly committing a federal felony since rather than destroying the rifle like she thought she was doing, she created a highly regulated type of rifle called a “short barreled rifle”. This type of rifle is completely illegal in many localities, but where not banned under local law is strictly regulated under federal law similarly to how machine guns and silencers are regulated. This person wants to dictate firearm policy while being dangerously ignorant about current firearm law. I doubt she will be charged with a felony since it was clearly unintentional, but hopefully she comes out of the inevitable ATF questioning a little less ignorant about the current state of firearm legislation.
3.) Would there be any compromises you would be willing to make? Like are there reform ideas that even if they don’t appeal to you, you’d be willing to cede ground on? If so, what makes them less important?
I wouldn’t say compromise. There are policies I support like actual enforcement of current gun laws which are so poorly enforced (as we can see through the abject failure of every level of law enforcement that led to the Parkland shooting or the Air Force unit’s failure that led to the Sutherland Springs shooting). That’s not compromise because I think most anti-gun folk would agree with enforcing our current laws. I also support restraining orders to temporarily take firearms away from someone whose immediate family/intimate partners may be a threat to themselves or others provided that due process rights are respected in the process. I support the Fourth and Fifth Amendments as sternly as the Second.
As for policies proposed in the wake of Parkland, no, I see no compromise possible with people who think banning a rifle called the “AR-15” would be a useful policy or banning standard capacity magazines because they’ve determined that anything over 10 rounds is “high capacity” or who are fine with having an 18 year old tote a gun in their defense, but are not willing to allow them to own a firearm of any kind. Like I showed you at the range, it’s possible to reload. There goes the usefulness of magazine capacity laws. Beyond that, I can do the same thing with 12 small box magazines of 10 rounds as I can with one scary-looking drum magazine of 120. Good luck regulating magazines which are just boxes with springs.
Besides, compromise involves a give-and-take. How many gun-grabbers do you see saying “well, we’ll give you national reciprocity or silencers in exchange for bump-fire stocks”? Your side has no interest in compromise, so why should I? If I saw gun-control advocates willing to compromise, I would be fully willing to, but I increasingly see them taking a harder line and demanding one-way concessions from gun owners. Hence I demand a harder line from the NRA and the GOA.
4.) Do you think that gun laws should be federal or state based?
I’m all for federalism. I’m fine with NYC having oppressive gun laws as long as I can choose to live elsewhere, though I won’t give up in fighting for the civil rights for those people. It’s like if the Patriot Act were pared back to only apply in cities or with marijuana slowly being decriminalized in states across the country. It would be a great improvement over the status quo because fewer people’s rights are being trampled, but not ideal.
5.) Why do you think America has such a high mortality rate with guns? Do you dispute the research that the abundance of guns contributes significantly to this rate?
Why do Honduras, Brazil, and Mexico have such a high crime rate with guns? Do you think their gun control laws aren’t strict enough? Why do Japan and Korea have such a high rate of suicide by leaping from tall buildings? Should they ban skyscrapers?
We’ve debated the statistics and you can link to our Facebook conversation where we threw around studies and facts, including that one study you cited that comfortably used “counter-factual” (aka bullshit cut from whole cloth) analysis to reach its conclusions. Anti-gun studies love to do a few things that are disingenuous. They lump in suicides with crime under the umbrella of “gun violence” which is incredibly dishonest, they often lump in justified shootings, including by police, as “gun violence”, and they ignore where these phenomena occur.
When it comes down to it, suicide is a different issue than gun crime. The suicide rate is not overall higher in places with with readier access to guns (gun-suicides are higher obviously). Since most anyone can contemplate suicide at some low point in time and since a suicidal person can commit the act equally well with a machine gun as with a musket, there’s only one blanket solution you really are talking about when you bring up suicide as a gun control issue and that’s to take away access to any gun to anyone. That doesn’t solve the problem of mental health and suicide, but you don’t hesitate to use those people to pad your numbers. The issue of suicide and mental health is damn complex and I don’t think anyone is immune from entering that dark valley where the entrance to the abyss is located at some point in their lives. Yes, I can agree that at that point in time an individual should be kept far away from their guns, their knives, their pills, and all other means, but that’s a patch, not a fix to a problem that’s deep in a person’s soul. It shouldn’t be used to deprive someone of any of their rights once they’ve backed away from those depths.
When it comes to gun deaths, Democrat gun-control policies don’t really address gun-crime. The media has a field day covering the deaths of 17 children and the tears of White mothers, then using it as the launching point for Democrat gun-control policies. They have the soccer-mom tears, they’ve got that tactical-looking AR-15 that they can cast as the bad-guy, and they have their child-soldier proxies ready to jet around the country spreading the gun-control gospel. Where was the media-frenzy on Feb. 1, 2018 in Southside Chicago when the victims weren’t suburban kids, but included urban teenagers across several different shootings? They didn’t get a day of action. Tell me how many Black or Hispanic teenagers have been shot this year. Tell me what your assault weapons ban would do to help them. I’m not giving away any of my guns or a law-abiding citizen’s right to buy that same gun in the future because your side of the aisle has no interest in seriously tackling the crime problem and would rather use blanket solutions that infringe on the highest number of people’s rights while not addressing the underlying problems that are at the root of the vast majority of gun crime.
I don’t take people seriously who act like mass-shootings with AR-15s are the defining gun violence issue of our day. Per the FBI’s statistics, fewer people are killed by all rifles combined, including AR-15 style rifles than by any of blunt objects, knives, and bare hands, each taken individually. Yet where are the marches for young Black men that are the #1 leading victims of firearm homicides by pistols? Where are the solutions that will help them? Seventeen surburban kids are shot dead in a school with a legally purchased rifle and there’s a national call to action to make sure it never happens again, yet these same people didn’t stir a finger for seven thousand, eight hundred and eighty one Black homicides in 2015, most of which were committed with illegally obtained or possessed handguns, and not one gun-control policy proposed as a result of Parkland would help them. Going out to vote for a Democrat, most of whom are doing just as much (nothing) as most Republicans about fixing the issue doesn’t count. The sanctimonious hypocrisy is absolutely fucking staggering.
If you want effective gun-control that will reduce gun homicides by the greatest amount, let’s talk about stopping illegal gun trafficking. Talk about stopping straw-purchases. These can be done by enforcing current gun laws. Talk about the urban culture that derides school and education as something “White”. Talk about why Black and Hispanic kids that want to study and speak English or Spanish without a ghetto slang get made fun of in the hood for “talking like a White boy/girl”, something that growing up, any Black or Hispanic kid who didn’t talk with a ghetto slang was accused of. Talk about why in a public school system, the worst teachers work where the best teachers are needed most. Talk about how a tiny minority of individuals in specific communities are responsible for the vast majority of gun crime and how the main victims are the people who are forced to live in those war zones, the vast majority of whom want nothing to do with the criminal element that predates on them. Talk about a culture of government dependence and hopelessness of advancing within a system that truly does allow people of every color to succeed if they show up with the drive and the confidence that it’s possible, as evidenced by the fact that Nigerians and Indians, who are as dark as they come, are some of the wealthiest national groups in the United States, ahead of White, native born Americans. Let’s talk about the causes of gang-violence in cities and how to reduce it, including brutal sentencing for repeat offending gang-members, deportation of immigrant gang-members whether a sanctuary city or not, and true rehabilitation in prisons so that a person’s sentence doesn’t continue when they’re released and prisons themselves aren’t gangland recruiting stations with a literally captive audience. Your bullshit “no one needs an assault weapon” mantra isn’t going to fix those problems. The best you can hope for with THAT solution is that the next Parkland is committed with a truck, or a bomb, or a pump shotgun, each of which could have been used to kill more with proper execution. That’s a poor trade for a cornerstone civil right.
5.) Would you agree to limitations on certain groups having access to guns (such as those with mental illnesses?)
Yes, felons can’t have guns unless they’ve petitioned to have their rights restored. People who have been committed can’t have guns. [Here is a link to ATF Form 4473 for information who is legally permitted to purchase a gun: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/docs/4473-part-1-firearms-transaction-record-over-counter-atf-form-53009/download. When writing this question (or reading to the reader), did you even know who is and is not permitted to buy a gun legally?
6.)What are your feelings on requiring training courses for those who own certain types of guns?
What would that do other than introduce more government bureaucracy? Let’s say you’re against AR-15s. Do you want to then make sure that everyone who has one can first reliably hit targets out to 200 yards rapid-fire or 500 yards slow-fire with one in order to have one? That they know how to clean and maintain one so that it functions reliably 100% of the time when they use it? Or do you really think a homicidal maniac buying one to shoot up a bunch of people will sit in a gun-safety class and say “wow, I don’t want to shoot anyone anymore, I can shoot at targets or deer instead.” I’m all for training, but that’s your individual responsibility when you decide to arm yourself because you are responsible for the consequences of what you do with your gun.
“Training” requirements like NY has for handguns serve one purpose. They’re purposely designed as one more hoop to make someone jump through before buying a gun. NY requires a class in which you don’t ever even touch a handgun. Yeah, I’ll bet you learn a hell of a lot about “safety” in that class. It’s something intentionally done to make it more expensive and time-consuming of a process to acquire a gun, not to have any positive outcome. At that point, just flat out tell poor people they don’t have the right to self-protection. Not only does their neighborhood have a police response time of “maybe later”, but if they want to have a gun to protect themselves they’ll have to pay hundred of dollars extra to do so.
7.) What are your opinions on the power of the NRA, a common point of contention between gun reform advocates and gun rights advocates?
The NRA isn’t a point of contention. Gun-control advocates complain about them, yet have nothing wrong with the Brady Campaign, Everytown, or Mothers Demand Action. You don’t like the NRA because they try to protect our Second Amendment rights while you try to strip them. I don’t like the aforementioned gun-control groups. That’s not contentious. The NRA’s job is to be tough on keeping our gun-rights in the face of loons using labels like Nazis, terrorists, killers, etc. and threats of violence against gun-owners. All that said, the NRA is more willing to compromise than any of the gun-control groups I mentioned. That’s why I’m also a member of the more hardline Gun Owners of America. If you don’t like the NRA, you’d absolutely hate the GOA. It’d be nice if there were no money in politics, but don’t sanctimoniously pretend like your side doesn’t dump equivalent millions of dollars into the gun-control debate.
By the way, stop trying to sterilize your viewpoint with the label “gun-reform” advocate to sound more high and mighty than “gun control”. It’s sneaky, manipulative language. “High capacity magazines” as a descriptor for a magazine that was designed with over ten rounds as the standard capacity and an arbitrary number of 10 assigned as the limit, “assault weapons” for semi-automatic weapons that are functionally no different than hunting rifles or the rifle you shot, but have a certain “tactical” look, etc. Good on gun-grabbers for manipulating language in the public conversation so well in your favor, but don’t try that shit me with it. You’re a reformer in the same sense that the “Temperance Reformers” of the 20th Century were.
8.) What is your opinion on having teachers armed?
I’m for security in schools, hired for that specific purpose. Schools should be protected at least as well as courthouses and government offices are. Ideally by men like Deputy Blaine Gaskill who stopped the Great Mills High School shooting in Maryland instead of cowardly pieces of shit like those Broward County deputies that cowered outside as they heard gunfire in the school.
As far as any other comments, know this: you can support these half-measures you call gun-control, gun-reform, or whatever feel-good title you want to give it all you want, but your ability to cover up for deeper, societal failings by trying to ban certain types of guns or all guns or by trying to create administrative barriers is an illusion now more than ever. The violence in our Latin American neighbors to the south highlights this fallacy. You can cherry-pick your European countries, but even there violence finds a way by other means.
Even assuming the extreme were possible, that you could ban every gun tomorrow and have every American turn in their estimated 300 million guns, we’re in the age where information is at your fingertips. With one trip to the hardware store you could go any make a simple shotgun for less than $50 whether it’s legal for you to do so or not using commonly available items in a day. If you wanted to make a better gun (AK-47 for ex) it would take longer and you’d have to buy a shovel, but the technology is scalable. If you banned ammo and got every single shell off the street, it will bring your cost to make that simple shotgun fire to over $50, probably. With the combination of the Internet, CNC machining, 3D printing, and as technology advances, your ability to keep the hardware away from those who want it is disappearing. An Internet tutorial means that you don’t need to be an master gunsmith, a manufacturer, or really any more than a tinkerer to make a safe, working gun. Even the estimate of 300 million guns in this country is far too low with the number of homemade guns that have already been made and are uncountable and untraceable**.
Despite the confrontational tone I’ve taken on this issue given this rhetorical context, we should be optimistic about the problems rather than apocalyptic. We can drastically reduce gun crime (and crime in general) by working together to create a society that makes it unnecessary. We need to improve education, end the drug war, make drug addiction a public health concern, create opportunities for poor communities, fix the prison system so that we can fully reintegrate those who we can and punish those we can’t instead of maintaining them as criminal academies and ruining offenders’ entire futures at the second the “guilty” verdict is read, (all topics I feel comfortable in talking real policy on) and come up with solutions to our mental health issues (that’s an issue I have not even the beginning of an idea about what should be done). Our country’s gun problem is a problem of social ills which we have been successfully fighting. Despite media hysteria, gun crime and crime in general has been decreasing across the country whether in areas with strict or lax gun laws. Mass-shootings don’t worry me because I know that gun-deaths are on the decrease and as they become rarer, media coverage of them will necessarily become more outraged and overblown. It is the nature of the media that the rare and the worst of human nature drives ratings more than the positive. Mass-confiscation of guns doesn’t concern me because it isn’t going to happen. There will never be a time in my life when my gun rights are stripped away, even if I live a long one and even if there were nothing but Democrat administrations for the rest of it. This debate is becoming so vitriolic even as the terrible factors that drive it are continuously improving. Talk to people in real life, because it’s so much different than behind a screen. When Danielle and I had a conversation, face to face, we realized that we both identified a lot of similar problems, but may not have agreed on each solution. Our conversation went away from gun control as we discussed larger, underlying problems.
In closing, I just say this: Cherish your civil rights. Your personal right to self-defense and to be an armed barrier against government tyranny are among them*. Freedom is more easily given away than taken back. Exercise your right to speech, expression, to privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure of property. Arm yourself if you wish. If you wish not to, don’t. You have a choice and that’s what it comes down to. Personal liberty.
**fun fact – it’s perfectly legal to make your own gun in Canada too as long as all the other relevant gun laws are followed
*if you think it’s a crazy notion that an armed rabble of civilians can take on the most powerful military in the world successfully, I have some British colonists, Filipino guerrillas, Vietnamese rice-farmers (twice), and Afghan poppy-farmers (twice) you should read up on