If Newtown “Changed Everything” So That Now We Can Talk, Let’s Define Our Terms


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Joe Scarborough on CNN; Michael Bloomberg and aide at press conference

Time to talk: Joe Scarborough on CNN; Michael Bloomberg at press conference.

I’m reaching out to our gun-rights advocates here, because I think you have some things to teach those people who aren’t.  The reverse is also going to be true, but I think that what you have to teach is more straightforward: that is, what we’re talking about to begin with.  We’re talking about guns; you know guns; you tell us what we’re talking about. I’ll be referring to gun-rights advocates by the term I have learned to use for them (although some people here may reject it: “RKBA” proponents.  (The reference is to the Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms.”)

Newtown has, according to at least a couple of U.S. Senators and Joe Scarborough so far, “changed everything.”  (See this story from Think Progress for discussion on the point.)  I don’t see why it logically should have done what Blacksburg, Tucson, Aurora, etc. did not — except that we really hate seeing little children murdered (a good thing for us to keep in mind in other contexts, by the way) — and I have some doubts about the sincerity and persistence of these conversations, but let’s take them at face value.  After continual “now is not the time to talk” moments, it seems that maybe this is the time to talk — and I think that perhaps we’re less well-equipped to do so then we might think.

I’ve had enough conversations about the individual right to possess firearms over the past 6-1/2 years (dating back to my involvement in a U.S. Senate campaign in Nevada) that begin with a skeptical question over the term “assault weapon” to know that that’s a good place to begin.  Our senior Senator is about to present the country with legislation on “assault weapons”  — so … what’s an “assault weapon”?  The answer I’ve gotten from Team RKBA is that there is no such thing as an “assault weapon” — and that suggests that this is therefore a good place to start defining terms.

Rather than a clear distinction between “assault weapons” and “other weapons,” RKBA activists have stressed to me that there are automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, single-shot weapons — we’ll want to make sure that everyone knows what these terms mean before we start throwing them around.  Within these categories may be lots of overlap (small changes may convert a weapon from one category to another) as well as lots of distinctions (in terms of, for example, ability to fire large magazine clips, time taken to reload, and in general the amount of damage one can do in one second, ten seconds, a minute, three minutes, ten minutes, and so on.  (I give a range of time so that among them we’re not simply talking about number of bullets fired per second, but also factoring in things like time, ease, and certainty of reloading.)

One thing that I think that those on the “gun control” (is there a better term out there as well?) side don’t know nearly as well as the RKBA side does is just what the Assault Weapons Ban that was in place between 1994-2004 actually did.  From watching her on TV, Sen. Feinstein seems to know quite well and claims to have discerned important lessons from it — I’d like to see if we can all be on the same page there as well.

I could take it from there — but not as well as some of our RKBA commenters can.  I invite them to put their thoughts on what gun control advocates don’t know relevant to the RKBA debate — I don’t mean opinions about constitutional arguments, I mean facts that ought to be inarguable — and I’ll put the most lucid of them up here.  Then maybe we will be better prepared to talk.

One word of warning (which of course Vern can override): I’ve been very inclined towards inclusion when it has come to various comments in the previous items we’ve had about the Newtown shooting and the issues deriving from it.  I’m going to be less inclusive here.  If you can’t be on your best behavior, at least try to keep it above average.

That said: RKBA activists, what bothers you about what facts we on the gun control side generally don’t know?


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Runs for office sometimes, so far to offer a challenge to someone nasty who would otherwise have run unopposed. Someday he might pick a fight intending to win it rather than just to dent someone. You'll know it when you see it. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. A family member works part-time as a campaign treasurer. He doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he hated. He does advise some local campaigns informally and generally without compensation. If that changes, he will declare the interest. He also runs a less frequently published blog called "The Brean," for his chosen hometown, where he is now fighting with its wealthiest and most avaricious citizen-donors. This just seems to be his way.