Posted in Rants on December 17th, 2012 by Ed

I am sick of writing this post. I am sick of responding to this type of event. I am sick of revisiting this issue every three or four months. I am sick of accepting that there is nothing we can do.

There are so many different directions to go with this. I'm overwhelmed by choice.

I could point out the staggering banality and complete disingenuousness of the common refrain that it's "too soon" to talk about policy solutions or it "politicizes the tragedy" to point out how this keeps happening over and over again while we do nothing because gun fetishists argue that "gun control" doesn't work (as opposed to the status quo, which clearly works well).

I could focus on the fact that the entire pro-gun argument falls to tiny pieces when you take away its straw man version of the opposition: that gun control will not end violence and killing, therefore it is not worth pursuing. No one has any illusions that man's urge to do violence to his neighbors can be legislated away. No one argues that more "gun control" will end gun crime. I think most of us would appreciate less of it, though. Maybe a mass shooting every 9 months instead of every 3. That would be pretty cool.

I could point out how selfish, misguided, and delusional it is to think that your wants, disguised as your own selective interpretation of your rights under the 2nd Amendment, are more important than other people's right to not get shot in the fucking face while sitting in a movie theater or in a classroom.

I could go with the "responsible use" canard, as if the fact that you can use something responsibly is evidence that it should be legal. You know how to handle guns safely and properly? Me too. Here's a medal. Thousands and thousands of people can't. Therefore it might be in our interest to look more closely at what we make available to them.

I could vent endless, eye-curdling word rage over your new-found concern with "mental health", an important issue that you care about only as a red herring to distract everyone from your precious guns. So you believe that the government can't stop you from owning an AR-15, but it can somehow FORCE people to undergo psychological evaluation and then force them to accept treatment, including medication? That's a curious interpretation of state power. Oh, and "mandatory mental health screening" in schools has been tried in a few places and rejected for what it is – a thinly-veiled effort to distribute surveys written by pharmaceutical companies ("Do you feel sad sometimes?") to get as many kids on Prozac and Adderall as possible. Next.

I could note how staggeringly disturbed you are as an individual if your response is "Well if more people were armed, they could shoot back!" as though it is a solution that a sane person would prefer. Armed vigilantism runs into the insurmountable barrier of reality: the attacker is prepared, and you are not. He will shoot you before you have a chance to shoot back. You are not tightly coiled and ready to pounce like he is. And when the live bullets are flying, you will be too shit-scared to use your weapon effectively in all likelihood. Again, if your idea of a rational response is "Well, let's arm teachers!" you need some of the mental health care you so suddenly value. Badly.

I could point out how ridiculous it is to think school security is an answer unless we're going to turn schools into military bases with three layers of defensive perimeters. Someone prepared to die doesn't have much of a problem shooting his way past locked doors and secretaries.

No, I will let all of that go for the moment. Instead, here is a concrete proposal, of the kind that I often receive criticism for lacking.

No one's going to take away your precious guns, not even the ones that fire military rifle ammunition like the .223/5.56 NATO caliber semiautomatic rifle used in this shooting. I know how unpopular that idea would be, because you believe you need these things. Or you simply want them, and you believe that your wants are more important than other people getting shot in the head. Instead, how about this:

1. A nationwide ban on the sale of any rifle magazine larger than 15 rounds. Aside from your convenience (reloading less often at the range) or your Rambo fantasies, there is absolutely no reason you need a 30-round magazine. Yes, a spree shooter could simply carry twice as many 15 round magazines to make up for the lack of 30-round clips. But every time he stops to reload, precious seconds for police to respond are gained. Opportunities arise for your favorite imaginary person – the heroic bystander armed with a concealed weapon – to intervene. Additional seconds for potential victims to run away will be purchased. A chance for a teacher to bonk him over the head with a textbook might come up. Or if nothing else, the shooter will be unable to fire quite so many rounds quite so quickly. A life here or there will be saved. Maybe there will be 22 victims instead of 28. That sounds like a worthwhile tradeoff for your very minor inconvenience, no?

2. Grandfather anyone with an existing 20+ round magazine, but institute a national buy-back program, no questions asked, for any older models. $50 per mag, well in excess of the sale price (approx. $20-30 for basic magazines for most common civilian rifles) escalating to $100 for certain models that retail for higher prices.

3. Pair it with a national buy-back program for any semi-automatic or illegally converted fully automatic weapon. No questions asked. No proof of ownership needed. Just walk into a police station, hand it over, and get a check for $____. If you'd rather keep your weapons, fine.

4. A mandatory training course, including a basic psychological evaluation, for anyone who chooses to buy semiautomatic rifles. We make people pay for months of Driver's Ed before they can get in a car. You can take five classes before you're granted access to your toy. If you don't want to take the course, fine. Buy a different kind of firearm.

5. Mandatory life in prison for straw purchases. Right wingers seem to think that harsher penalties deter drug crime, right? So let's stop pussying around with moms who buy guns for their 18 year old kid because Billy can't pass background checks on his own.

There you go. The only real restriction this creates is that you can no longer buy new 30 round magazines. If you're that desperate for one you could probably buy a used (albeit pricey) one. What would any of this accomplish? Well, it might take 10% of the semi-auto guns out of circulation. It would rapidly diminish the number of 30-round mags available. It might do something to take this kind of tragedy, which no society can eliminate completely, and at least make it A) less common and B) less successful when an assailant does decide to go on a rampage. No one's takin' yer guns.

Now go ahead and argue that your right to purchase a brand new 30 round magazine, as opposed to a 15 round one or used model, is so fucking sacred that people should keep dying so that you can enjoy it. I think 48 hours have passed, so the time is right. Go for it.