Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Weapons of Mass Murder

Since plenty of people drive their cars while inebriated, should we do away with Virginia's laws against drunk driving? Since rapes occur every day, in spite of laws prohibiting rape, why not also take those laws off the books? Since some bad citizens toss cigarette butts, gum wrappers and beer bottles wherever they please, without regard for anti-littering laws, what good are the laws?

OK. I'll stop stretching the opening point, which is: Only children or outrageously selfish adults, who live to do as they please, would ask such questions.

That's because most thoughtful grownups have enough experience with life to recognize that the inability of laws to prevent all instances of bad behavior is hardly cause to eliminate the laws.

Most of us know the laws against the doings in the first paragraph routinely prevent millions of bad things from happening. They deter some people who simply don’t want to get caught and punished, while they set standards for others who recognize them as clear expressions of the community's sentiments.

Therefore, we say: Please don’t drive drunk, you’re more likely to hurt somebody. Never rape, it is immoral. And, littering is so disgusting and selfish that all modern societies prohibit it. Whether the laws against such antisocial behavior are always obeyed doesn’t stop them from branding it for all to see as wrong.

Societies need a collective sense of right and wrong.

Then there are the ideologues and shills for arms merchants who defend the private ownership of military weapons -- such as assault rifles -- by saying Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of people in Oklahoma City without using bullets. Or, Jim Jones murdered his flock with poison Kool-Aid. Or, some other headline-making mass murderer used something other than an assault rifle.

So what!

No one thinks outlawing assault rifles will put an end to all bullet-caused murders. What it would do is make it more difficult for the next madman to kill a bunch of people in a few seconds, especially if he uses a large magazine. Renewing the ban on assault rifles would make them harder to get, so it would improve society‘s odds.

If it stops 10 madmen -- and yes it’s always males -- from getting a hold of an assault rifle, it might not prevent every one of them from going on a murder spree. But it would stop some percentage of them, because it’s obvious the mass-murderers’ top tool of choice is not a bolt-action rifle or a revolver.

Nor is it a bomb made out of fertilizer.

We, who choose not to own and fire assault rifles, can only guess at how much a potential murder spree guy might be emboldened by holding one tight as he imagines himself charging into an elementary school.

The more assault rifles there are in private hands, the more likely it is that you, your kid, or your dog is going to get shot by one of them. God only knows how many rapid-fire killing machines of this ilk are stashed on private property, waiting for the right crazy thief to steal them. And, after he does, it won't be just your dog or mine that will fall victim.

No, every damn dog in sight will get mowed down; slaughtered by way of a soldier's weapon designed to give a bad marksman the ability to kill every creature in sight with a flash of whim.

Isn't that exactly what a weapon of mass destruction is designed to do?

Hey, I don’t want tanks full of nerve gas or nukes in briefcases to fall into private hands, either. Even if the laws of the land can’t guarantee no bad actor ever will ever get his hands on them, oh yeah! I still want the laws against civilians possessing them enforced as well as can be done.

The proper enforcement of those laws helps to improve our odds. So would a ban on assault rifles. Bill Clinton might say, "It's arithmetic."

Anyway, don't tell me all the rapid-fire-armed murderers who have gone postal in the last few years would simply have switched over to bombs, or poison, if they couldn't have gotten a hold of their favorite tools.

Here's why I say that: Every bit as much as the grisly results, those shooters who fired indiscriminately into crowds wanted the thrill of shooting. They weren't bombers or poisoners. They were shooters. That's THE angle in this noisy brouhaha the ideologues and shills don't want to talk about -- the thrill.

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