Every newspaper in America, if not the world, gave the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of half a dozen other people by a creep named Jared Loughner page 1 coverage. However. the specific tool that Loughner used for his work of killing. was less widely reported.

He got them all — and wounded a dozen more — with his 9-millimeter Glock.

What is a Glock, and what is it designed to be used for? It’s a rapid-fire weapon that can accommodate a 30-bullet clip, and it has only one real use. It’s of very little value for hunting or for Grandma to keep under her pillow to repel burglars. What it is good for is the killing of groups of human beings by a single shooter, and for nothing else.

For that reason, it was outlawed by federal statute until 2004, when that law expired and our Congress, cowardly as it always is when it comes to offending the National Rifle Association, failed to renew it.

Since no conventional rifle or pistol could have murdered so many so fast, it is entirely due to the work of the National Rifle Association that most of this current crop of victims are dead.

I think it is self-evident that Jared Loughner did not particularly wish to kill, for example, Christina Taylor Green. After all, she was only nine years old and could have done little to offend him. The only reason she was in the group that Loughner fired into was that she had just been elected to her third-grade student council. She wanted to see how politicians operated.

I don’t know how many readers of this blog belong to the NRA, but if any are present now I’d like to ask a question:

Are you proud of yourself today?

56 Comments

  1. wygit says:

    Huh?

    I’ve owned a 9mm Glock 17 for almost 20 years. I purchased it used at the gun range where I used to shoot.
    When were they banned by Federal law?
    I don’t know why it is any less useful to Grandma for keeping under her pillow than any other gun, nor how it differs from a “conventional pistol or rifle” in it’s ability to murder so many so fast.
    It’s no more rapid fire than any other semi-automatic handgun.

    What the heck are you talking about?.

  2. Stefan Jones says:

    Oh, man, you just peed on the third rail of American Politics!

    Nothing, ever, would convince an NRA member that any regulation of any firearm, accessory, or ammunition is justified.

    Useless, senseless massacres are only seen as justification for more people to carry guns . . . everywhere, all the time.

    I’m not saying this as an NRA supporter, just as someone who has seen countless observations like the above — no matter how moderate or sensible — get met with an avalanche of fiesty comments in opposition. Utterly predictable comments, which given that this is an SF-related blog will include something about armed societies being polite societies, and something along the lines of haven’t you learned nothing from the Weapons Shops of Isher?

  3. wygit says:

    But please, since I’ve never posted here before, let me also say that I’ve loved your writing since I started reading science fiction in the 60’s.

    “Man Plus” is still one of my favorite all time novels.

  4. Grego says:

    I am proud of my right as a US citizen to keep and bear arms. I am proud of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, at least the ones that are left. I am proud to be able to see past a recent tragedy to support what I believe is the greater good. Yet I am not an NRA member.

  5. Paul Robichaux says:

    Let me be clear: the Tuscon shooting was unconscionable. I am saddened and sickened by the loss of life and health suffered by so many at the hands of, quite literally, a madman.

    Having said that, I’m afraid there’s a terrible amount of misinformation in this post.

    The only Glock pistol that is capable of rapid fire– that is, firing more than one bullet per activation of the trigger– is the Glock 18. It is rare; it is not legal in the US, and its parts are not interchangeable with those of its siblings, the Glock 17 and 19.

    The Glock 18 is prohibited under the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA of 1986, which amended the Gun Control Act of 1968. The net effect of these two bills is to prohibit private ownership of any fully-automatic weapon that was manufactured after 1986, and to heavily regulate the private ownership of fully-automatic weapons manufactured before that date.

    The 2004 sunset of the so-called assault weapons ban had nothing to do with this case, as the Glock 18 wasn’t banned by the 1994 assault weapons ban in the first place.

    The weapon used by the Arizona shooter is quite literally no different from the weapon carried by tens of thousands of US police officers and owned by hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of law-abiding private citizens.

    Rather than rail at the NRA, you might well ask why no one– parents, officials at Pima Community College, the law enforcement officers who apparently had multiple contacts with the shooter– didn’t take any action when it became clear that he was mentally ill. That’s the real scandal here: inaction by those who knew him best and could have intervened before this tragedy took place.

  6. Walt says:

    Glocks are a popular police gun and they usually only shoot people one at a time.

  7. Brody says:

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

    But its much harder without a gun. Guns like the glock should not be available to anyone with out good reason.

    No one needs a pistol like this for day to day life and the ready availability of such weaponry make your country less safe, not more safe.

    There will always be gun crime, but you can reduce the gun crime by reducing the number of guns.

    A whack job is way less dangerous without a weapon.

  8. Chris says:

    Are you aware that virtually any magazine loaded handgun can use an extended clip and that they exist for most of them? The gun itself isn’t any particularly special, just a standard pistol. Your usage of the term Glock as a particular handgun demonstrates some pretty solid ignorance. That’s like saying that someone was killed by a Ford. Your usage of the phrase “Conventional rifle or pistol” is purely useless because you can shift around the definition of Conventional to mean Exactly anything that supports your requirements.

  9. DJMoore says:

    A few points:

    “Rapid fire” is pretty much meaningless. Glocks are semi-automatics, or autoloaders, which simply means that you fire one round for each trigger pull, as opposed to full-autos, or machine guns, which fire continuously until you release the trigger. The slow alternative is bolt action or muzzle load, which require manually placing one round in the chamber for each shot fired.

    Any semi-auto or revolver will fire as fast as you pull the trigger.

    The Glock was not banned by federal statute. Large capacity magazines were.

    A magazine swap can be executed in a second. I learned to do that in less than six hours of desultory practice over a week or two, and I am far from graceful or athletic.

    Look up some Jerry Miculik videos; he’s demonstrated firing six rounds, reloading, and firing another six rounds, on target, in just under three seconds, with a revolver.

    Large cap magazines are a minor convenience, but they do not hugely increase a gun’s killing capacity, whatever the heck that means.

    Now let’s look at the important thing, the people.

    The NRA is not funded by gun manufacturers. It’s funded by membership dues and donations from law-abiding gun owners. (I am not one of them.)

    There are tens of millions of us law-abiding gun owners, and we own hundreds of millions of firearms. To call the number of us who have never fired on another human being an “overwhelming majority” is to grossly overstate the case; in fact only a few hundredths of a percent ever do. It is safer to have guns in your household than a swimming pool. In comparison with deaths due to cars (and excluding disease and old age) everything else is pretty much down in the noise. See the online WISQARS database from the Centers for Disease Control.

    Concealed carry holders have a better safety record than police officers; they have more to lose from a mistake.

    The increase in the number of states issuing concealed carry licenses over the last twenty years has coincided with a drop in violent crime. There is a (very rough) positive correlation between the strictness of gun laws in a given U.S. jurisdiction, and the violent crime rate. No cause and effect can be assumed, but at the very least, arming citizens does not result in a Dodge City bloodbath, something that is always been predicted, but never comes to pass.

    I’m going to give you one link: The Armed Citizen. This project scans news reports for accounts armed self-defense by citizens. It’s worth tracking for a week or two. There’s usually three or four every dang day. Guns protect the law abiding. They are tools, not talismans of evil.

    Now, down to the nitty grit of the Loughner shootings. I’ll say only two things:

    One of the guys who took Loughner down had a concealed carry permit. He was armed that day. When other people ran away, this guy moved towards the sound of the gun. He stayed cool enough to not draw his weapon and fire in a crowd, but his weapon gave him the confidence to act, knowing that he could use it if he had to.

    The father of Christina Green, the girl Loughner murdered, has said in a couple of different interviews that acts like this are the inevitable cost of living in a free society, but that he prefers it to the alternative. Read that again: he prefers the murder of his beloved daughter by a madman to raising her to live under tyranny.

    Please feel free to accuse every other household in America of harboring accessories to Loughner’s crimes, even though most of us have never committed a violent crime ourselves, even though, law permitting and circumstances requiring, we’d use our guns to protect folk like you, who work to leave us all defenseless against crime and tyranny. But please, do so from facts, not blind ignorant prejudice.

    And have the courtesy to accuse us to our faces, and not via paper masks like the NRA.

    OK, back to you, Fred.

  10. DJMoore says:

    Oh, and by the way:

    Yes, I am proud to be an armed American. I consider it my duty as well as my right.

  11. Chris says:

    Hi Fred,

    I’m not a gun owner and I am generally a big fan of your blog, but most of your arguments in this post seem pretty weak.

    First, the guns that are the best for killing people are precisely the guns that are best for self defense. This is why so many police and security professionals carry just this sort of gun. Which gun would be better for Grandma to be holding if home invaders attacked her?

    Second, assigning blame for what Loughner did to anyone else is just dishonest. There are plenty of responsible gun owners, and making it legal for them to own the guns of their choice is not the same as killing people. If a politician were to repeal a hypothetical ban on kitchen knives, would he then be responsible when one was used in a murder? Are those who repealed prohibition responsible for every death from over drinking or cirrhosis?

  12. jsallison says:

    Yes, of course, blame the tool. There’s an islamic saying to the effect that a running man can slit a thousand throats in a night. Shall we outlaw Victorinox knives as well?

    Would you mind defining a ‘conventional’ rifle or pistol, while you’re at it?

    “I think it is self-evident that Jared Loughner did not particularly wish to kill, for example, Christina Taylor Green.”

    *I* thinks it’s self-evident that this loser did not particularly wish to kill, for example, any of the folk he killed, except, possibly, the congresswoman, but he did wish to kill. <- that’s a period.

    He went there to kill people, she’s people. Sounds like a non-sequiter on your part to me.

    Mr Pohl, the more I find out about the inner you, the more I question the time I’ve spent, enjoyably until now, expending the coin of the realm on consuming your product. Perhaps it’s time I stopped.

  13. wolfwalker says:

    Unfortunately, Mr. Pohl, your knowledge of firearms falls a bit short of the facts.

    “It’s of very little value for hunting or for Grandma to keep under her pillow to repel burglars.”

    Actually, ‘something for Grandma to keep by her bed for home defense’ is something the average 9mm pistol is pretty good for. The 9mm is perhaps the most common pistol cartridge in the world, with dozens if not hundreds of 9mm handgun models available. The Glock 19 that was used by the rabid worm in question is little different from any of the others. It doesn’t shoot any faster, nor any more accurately, nor is it any more lethal when it does hit.

    “For that reason, it was outlawed by federal statute until 2004,”

    No, it wasn’t. The 1994 ‘assault weapons’ ban did not outlaw the Glock 19. It did forbid the manufacture of new large-capacity magazines for semiautomatic handguns, but ‘pre-ban’ magazines were still readily available, if a bit higher in price.

    Please take a moment to do some research in original documents. You’ll find that the above is quite accurate.

  14. Chris says:

    I love you, your writing, and for the most part your politics. I consider myself to be largely a left-leaning moderate (some moderates dislike my fairly radical anti-corporate stance, however, and, for disclosure, I am pro-gun). You are making a couple of factual errors here, though, one of which affects your argument. I conjecture that the subject doesn’t interest you much, and you haven’t had a chance to research it at this time to correct that.

    The Glock, and semiautomatic pistols like it, has never been banned by statute in the US. You are confusing the pistol with the so-called “assault rifle” ban, which expired, but which had no effect on pistols when it was in force.

    On a more trivial note, the magazine capacity of Glock pistols ranges from 6 (for the .45 Glock 36) to 33 (for the 9mm Glock 18; this one can potentially be extended to 35 rounds, but this is very unusual), but is more usually 13 to 17, mostly in the 9mm caliber. All models also have 10 round or lower capacity magazines for those states with legal limitations on the magazine capacity.

  15. Chris Taus says:

    Blaming, violating or desecrating the Constitution is not the answer. Investigate this matter fully before action is taken… do not punish the many for the actions of a few.

  16. nurbles says:

    This comment is ONLY in regard to the “so many so fast” comment above…

    I’m not in the NRA but I’m curious how the Glock is so special. It may be a “great” gun, but I believe that 9mm and .357 magnums have been around for a long time with magazines holding up to 20 rounds. And if the guy was limited to only 6 or 7 rounds, he could’ve just brought two guns, one for each hand. With a tight crowd like he was shooting in, it was hard to miss.

    And, not that it helped her, but the Congresswoman who was shot is also reported to own a Glock herself. Apparently all Democratic politicians aren’t against such things.

  17. Robert Nowall says:

    Why is it that “solutions” to the “gun problem” always involve taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens?

  18. valdemar says:

    Fred, your arguments make perfect sense to me. Unfortunately I am British. Other Western countries recognise that you can’t have crazy, inflamed political rhetoric and make guns available to every nutjob. Americans seem to be living in a fools’ paradise on this matter. The idea that more guns = more security is absurd. Look at all the Third World countries where the murder rates are horrific – they are awash with guns. The US is going the same way.

    The founding fathers of your republic were obviously thinking of the right to bear arms that could fire a maximum of two shots before reloading. To take a rational 18th century measure and interpret it as a sacred duty for every household to have an automatic weapon makes no sense. But I know this is all just pissing in the wind. You’re right but you can’t win this one.

    I really enjoy this blog, and your fiction is superb. Thank you.

  19. Jack D Stephen says:

    Speaking as someone who lives in a country where gun owning is quite highly regulated (and shootings are not a daily occurence) – and which, incidentallly, is not noticeably run by tyrants – it is the concept of a “gun problem” that is strange. By definition anyone carrying a gun on the street – concealed or not – would not be law-abiding.

    “Apparently all Democratic politicians aren’t against such things.” That sentence as written means, “Apparently no Democratic politicians are against such things.”

  20. Lars says:

    \"…he prefers the murder of his beloved daughter by a madman to raising her to live under tyranny\"

    I\’d like to hear an explanation of why Mr. Green felt that he faced such a harsh choice. Perhaps one of those who have been posting here can explain why it is that there is no middle ground between being ground under the heel of a dictator and running the daily risk of being gunned down for no greater offense than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  21. Ken says:

    I’m not a gun owner, nor am I up on the latest laws, but if the gun shop that sold him the gun thought he was acting strangely, even though his background check was clean, why did they have to sell him the gun? Couldn’t they have called the cops and said this guy needs a mental health evaluation before well sell him one. Also, is it still true that at gun shows anyone can buy any gun on the spot with no check whatsoever? If so, that’s got to stop. I have no problem with law abiding citizens owning and carrying guns, but a few more roadblocks and checkpoints between guns and the crazies seems like a no brainer.

  22. Chuck Kuecker says:

    Fred, I’ve read many of your works and enjoyed them immensely. It saddens me to have to say this.

    I am an NRA Life Member and a gun dealer. I sell tools like this to people who pass the federal and state background checks. In Wisconsin, I also have to pay the state $13 to call into their “Handgun Hotline” that duplicates the FBI’s E-Check system, and make my customer wait 48 hours before picking up his tool of freedom.

    In your first paragraph, you make the mistake of blaming an inanimate object for the actions of a madman.

    A gun is a tool. If this creep, who has been named quite too often, used a ball-peen hammer for his massacre, would you be calling for “hammer control”. Of course not.

    The Glock is a dependable tool for self-defense. The Second Amendment is not about hunting – someone as intelligent as you are ought to be able to figure that out.

    I own two Glocks, a 10mm Model 20 and a 9mm Model 19. When Wisconsin joins the other states that do not illegally prohibit their citizens from carrying concealed, the 9mm will be my gun of choice. The 10mm sits next to my pillow, ready for the unlikely event that my home is invaded.

    Neither gun has ever invited me to go on a killing spree.

    Do you really want to live in a world where you need to prove your sanity in order to protect yourself?

    You really ought to check your facts before making statements like these about a subject you obviously have not researched.

    Any good hunting rifle could have murdered people as quickly and as finally, as could any magazine-fed handgun ever produced. Glock is a bogeyman because some ill-informed Congressperson back in the 1980’s decided it was a “plastic gun” that “could not be found by metal detectors” – both wrong statements that got snatched by the liberal media as sound bites to be repeated ad-infinitum. This size of pistol was designed to enable people to conform to the new concealed carry laws then being enacted across the sane part of America.

    Freedom has a price – part of that price is to accept that the world has evil people in it that can never be protected against without destroying that freedom. If you want to live in a state that prohibits all danger, I recommend that you try Great Britain – they’ve gone as far as to prohibit self defense, lest the criminal gets hurt.

  23. Charolette Neizer says:

    To every person who is arguing for more invasive handgun laws in light of the tragedy in Tucson, might I extend this meager tidbit: If guns kill humans, then pencils mis-write words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people pudgy ! Remember: View the individual responsible for their deeds, not the inanimate objectthey decide to misuse.

  24. Kat says:

    You know, there’s Kennesaw, Georgia where it’s against the law to NOT own a weapon. They have only had one murder in that town since the law has passed, and that person was a drifter.

  25. Steve Oerkfitz says:

    Looks like you opened up a can of worms here. Lot of people just love their guns. Allowing law abiding citizens to have guns to not going to change. No matter how much Palin and her ilk spew on about it. No administration is going to take on this issue. The drawback is that this makes it easier for criminals to get guns. Most guns used by criminals are obtained from break ins and theft from legitimate owners. There was even a group on the east coast that were following cars with NRA bumper stickers to find out where they lived. Waited til no one was home and broke in. More profitable and easier to carry out than tvs and stereos.

  26. Miles Archer says:

    If I recall correctly, the debate on this gun was that it was mostly plastic and therefore wouldn’t trigger metal detectors. There is nothing more deadly about this gun than any others. Many smaller guns, like a .22, would have been more deadly for the poor congresswoman shot in the head.

  27. Charlie Martin says:

    Sure thing, guys. Glocks cause schizophrenia.

  28. Perry says:

    The notion that banning guns would magically reduce crime is one of those “simple, obvious, and wrong” ideas that seems to spread through our society. Like the notion that banning liquor would reduce societal problems (see prohibition), the idea that banning drugs would reduce societal problems (see the current drug prohibition), the idea that “greedy profiteer” can be stopped merely by imposing price controls (which always causes shortages, etc.), the idea of banning guns is the sort of simple and obvious solution that a ten year old child would come up with and yet which would only cause problems far worse than the one we started with.

    Then again, so many of us are seduced by such notions that I wonder for the fate of humanity. The simple and obvious “if people are poor why don’t we just take money from rich people and give it to them?” resulted in the deaths of almost 100 million people in the 20th century, and yet that and the dozens of other failed experiments have failed to deter people from facile, incomplete and “obvious” solutions to humanity’s ills…

  29. Jim Flanagan says:

    Well Fred, now you’ve done it. You’ve found out why no one can oppose the NRA and the gun lobby. Your statement was not a legal document and has been diced and dissected. They have popped out of the woodwork and done everything but answer your basic questions:

    Why are 30 cartridge clips legal (I know, they won’t answer, they’ll say it’s not a clip or it holds 31 or 29 cartridges)

    And, are they proud of themselves ( once again, they’ll say they are defending the constitution, or it was because of the NRA that nut job didn’t kill 40 people, or its all the fault of Obamacare, or the HeeChee made it happen)

    There are reasons for people to own firearms. I don’t begrudge many of my neighbors who hunt, in some cases as an important part of their diet. A neighbor and a friend is a gunsmith who can build a flintlock from scratch. I also understand why people should be allowed to keep a gun in the house or store for protection. Owning a semiautomatic pistol WITH a 30 shot clip is just plain stupid.

  30. Chookie says:

    The Australian constitution and founding myths are different from those of the USA, and we always had tight control on handguns (a consequence of being a convict colony). Nonetheless our society is based on pioneer myths and immigration, and a British colonial period, so we are not entirely dissimilar.

    After a dreadful massacre in 1996, our conservative Prime Minister brought in stricter gun control laws. We haven’t had a massacre since. Moreover our gun homicide and even suicide rates have declined (see http://www.crikey.com.au/2008/09/09/what-john-howard-could-teach-the-us-about-gun-control/, written by a respected researcher from one of our best universities). And we don’t, by the way, live under tyranny here.

    Now I don’t think that your hideous gun death rates would be solved *entirely* by a more sensible approach to gun ownership. But fatuous remarks like “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” need to be challenged: what makes your gun death rate 104 times ours? If it isn’t the easy access to guns, then you have some sort of vast moral failure going on. Which is it?

  31. Joseph Crockett says:

    Dear Mr. Pohl,

    I totally agree with the sentiment of your post. And the reponses are pretty typical of what I’ve seen around the internet; ranging from the reasoned to the vitriolic.

    I used to pretty staunchly anti-handgun (I’ve always supported gun ownership for sportsmen). My opinions changed during the Bush administration as Cheney’s Machavellian machinations made me fear the government for the first time in my life. I developed a little bit of healthy paranoia.

    That being said there are restrictions that I see as common sense. No guns for felons, a waiting period and background checks seem no-brainers. I also don’t see the need for private ownership of assault rifles or fully automatic weapons or anything that holds more than ten shots. I don’t think it’s going too far to expect a gun owner to demonstrate that they can safely handle the gun that they own; i.e. hit what they aim at and store it safely.

    I also gotta say that open carry laws make me really uncomfortable (I will never, EVER go into a bar in Tennessee!) and I would not feel safer seeing a private citizen walking around armed at a public event. A couple of years ago, a Pennsylvania soccer mom with a conceal permit caused a stir by openly carrying her gun to her kid’s games. She was shot dead by her husband a year later.

    But tragedies like this one do provide a opportunity to examine our system and find out how it failed. Its inadequate to say that these things just happen or that they are the cost of “Freedom”. We need to know how someone so obviously unstable was able to get his hands on a gun and with such devasting consequences.

    We definitely need the 2nd Ammendment; in my opinion, to protect us from our government (state and federal), more so than each other. The Framers included the 2nd Ammendment (with the well ordered militia phrasing) to protect the states from the remote federal goverment which they distrusted; predominantly because of their experience with British. They certainly could not envision a world where a single individual could potentially kill hundreds with a single weapon.

    I understand the concept of a slippery slope. But the truth is that we do restrict freedom of speech and religion. You can’t go down to the town square and start shouting that we should kill all the rich people and take their stuff; whether you have intent to do it or not. If your religion advocates polygamy or sex with minors you can’t do that either. These “restrictions on rights” have been rightfully upheld in the courts without constitutional ammendments.

    Essentially, we have all rights up to the point when they begin to infringe upon the rights of others. The Constitution ensures “Domestic Tranquility” and the Declaration of Independence which is one of the four documents that form the Organic Laws of the United States guarantees “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. These are impossible unless we can walk down the street without the fear of being shot.

    I don’t think that most gun owners believe that having people walk around with M-16’s and sawed-off shotguns, in bars, schools and city streets is a good idea or a fundamental right. I don’t think that that is he kind of country they envision for themselves and their children. I know that seems hyperbolic, but I say it to stress the fact that we NEED to debate this complex issue and set aside absolutist concepts. Responsible GUN OWNERS (and not the NRA, which is a tool of the gun manufacturers and NOT a grass roots organization interested in protecting the rights of citizens) need to come up with solutions to preventing things like this from happening again.

    Sincerely,

    Joseph Crockett

  32. Pat says:

    Robert Nowall, do you think that Americans are just naturally four times more homicidal than citizens of the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Ireland?

  33. Bill Goodwin says:

    Accuracy notwithstanding, there seems to be a lot of arguing going on about the trees, and very little about the forest, if you see what I mean.

    Unexamined assumptions abound on both sides of this conversation. You can’t get away from that…it’s Godel’s Theorum raising its ugly head. But we often go on shouting even after it’s become clear we’re on different pages.

    One of the most common unexamined assumptions is that there’s a clear cut distinction between law-abiding citizens and “criminals.” Another is that statistics are the bottom line.

    But what IS the bottom line? Is the point to make us safer, or saner? When we condone uninhibited traffic in instruments of murder between “good” people, might we foster an atmosphere where murder is more likely to enter the minds of “bad” ones?

    Then again–if we curtail freedoms, maybe we make people more edgy and aggresive.

    Then again–maybe people who mind gun control so much are just the paranoids we don’t WANT owning guns.

    And so on. It’s not as if there’s an answer. If global warming is a substantial threat to the well-being of future generations, maybe the most humane thing is to give every citizen a free gun at the age of ten, and put ammunition dispensers on every street corner. The population shrinks drastically and the planet is cured. One thing’s sure: you’d have a devil of a time taking back such freedoms.

    My opinion? Well, I’m sure it would’ve been a bad idea to arm that chimp who mauled its owner’s friend…so I have to balk a bit at the idea of encouraging 300 million of its closest relatives to step up to the counter and buy.

    And it would sound pretty absurd to say, “If you make rape illegal then only criminals will be rapists,” so why do we keep hearing it about guns?

  34. wolfwalker says:

    Jim Flanagan asked:

    “Why are 30 cartridge clips legal?”

    Why not? It’s not like it would have changed anything if they weren’t.

    A standard magazine for a Glock 19 holds 15 rounds. So 1 “high capacity” magazine equals 2 standard magazines. Do you know how fast a practiced shooter can change magazines, especially if he doesn’t care about catching the empty one?

    “And, are they proud of themselves?”

    Of the vermin that was carrying illegally and killed 6 and wounded 13 in a planned, premeditated attack? No. May he rot in jail and then burn in hell.

    Of the armed citizen who was carrying legally and ran to see if he could help stop the shooter, and (like most trained CCW’ers) did not draw his weapon because he wasn’t sure yet if he had to … yes, of him, I am proud. Bravo Zulu, sir.

  35. Ryk E. Spoor says:

    Well, Mr. Pohl, I am not a member of the NRA (though I know MANY such, given many of my social circles), and I will neither confirm nor deny that I have any firearms on my premises.

    However, (A) the gun used in these shootings is no more “rapid fire” than any other. (B) The shooter was a lunatic; lunatics have killed many people with other weapons. (C) Despite all the desire to blame the guns for so many killings, the fact is that a gun is also the only practical equalizer for a smaller, weaker person against a larger, stronger person. A two-meter tall bully with a gun isn’t much more dangerous than a one and a half meter old grandma with the same gun. One of the enthusiastic gun owners that I know is a very nice mother of three, a fairly small redheaded woman who would be unable to fight off even an average-sized man in a physical confrontation; she is licensed for concealed carry, and does so, because she is then able to go pretty much anywhere she wants to without worry about being unable to defend herself.

    The NRA, as far as I know, does not support or condone misuse of firearms; statistically, those who have legally licensed firarms and are properly trained in the use of firearms are LESS LIKELY to commit crimes with them than the general population, so as an organization dedicated to the legal use of firearms it would seem they perform some level of preventative function already. But, as a private organization with no law enforcement power (thank God), it cannot be held responsible for actions taken by other people, especially nutcases.

    I’m quite aware that those on the other side of the pond think the whole debate is silly or frightening, but in the USA, it’s part of our fundamental background and freedoms; we debate which way to interpret that freedom many times, but I have no patience with the inflammatory rhetoric of EITHER side. The government is unlikely to decide that all of us need to be completely disarmed in preparation for martial law (as the more extreme gun-nuts would have one believe); at the same time, owning a gun doesn’t turn a mild-mannered geek into a ravening killer, waiting for the moment he can pull the trigger in the middle of a shopping mall, as the anti-gun fanatics like to pretend.

    The fact is that there are, almost certainly, MORE GUNS THAN PEOPLE in the USA. If owning them was inherently dangerous, if those who owned guns were much more likely to kill people, we’d have a much smaller population. Instead, people getting killed by guns are the EXCEPTION — a RARE exception — to the rule. We hear about these kind of events because they are, in fact, rare and noteworthy (and in this case, because a public figure and several others, including a child, were killed at the same time, even MORE noteworthy). You don’t hear the stories of the person that someone attempted to mug and, by simply SHOWING the firearm, caused the other to withdraw; you don’t hear about the person who owned and target-fired weapons for 50 years and then died a quiet death in his home; you don’t hear, in short, about the millions of times that a gun is NOT fired and used to kill a person, because that’s the normal condition; you take your gun, you put it on, and you don’t think about it any more than you do about your cell phone, and you use it far less — in fact, you’re perfectly happy if you never use it outside of practice at all.

    But for people like several of my friends — a small woman, a person I know who’s a disabled (as in, has to use a wheelchair or, possibly, walker) gun owner, etc. — having that weapon is the key to feeling as safe as *I* do when I walk down the street. I don’t HAVE to carry a gun to feel reasonably safe; I’m a full grown and reasonable sized adult man with no obvious vulnerabilities, I don’t look like potential prey to a criminal. Other people are not in that fortunate position.

  36. Robert Nowall says:

    …Robert Nowall, do you think that Americans are just naturally four times more homicidal than citizens of the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Ireland?…

    I’d have to check, but I think there are at least four times as many Americans than there are citizens of the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, and Ireland.

    How ’bout the murder rate of Switzerland, where everybody walks around armed to the teeth?

  37. Bruce says:

    Interestingly, Republican state Senator Joe Negron of Florida is bragging about submitting a bill developed in consultation with the NRA. It would bar local modifications to state gun laws to the extent that “The bill would also seek the removal from office of those who try to impose restrictions that go beyond Florida’s current gun laws and would prohibit public money being used to defend those same people and boards.”

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/fl-negron-gun-laws-20110114,0,6846885.story

  38. mark says:

    As everyone has pointed out, the Glock is not and was not illegal. It’s the high capacity mags that I believe Pohl is referencing. They’re the point anyway.

    The NRA and rabid gun righters can sputter outrage all they want, but the simple truth is that smaller magazines would have limited the damage from this shooting.

    I speak as a gun owner, and possessor of concealed weapons permits in two states. I’ve carried for years, including a Glock, at one point.

    While I can understand why you might want a pistol for self-defense, I do not understand the vast quantities of ammo people want the right to carry.

    Why exactly does anyone need to carry more than a magazine or two of ammo? And why would you need 60+ rounds of ammo? I would love for the NRA to go through their voluminous records in the Armed Citizen, and pull out two stats:

    1) instances where the armed citizen had to reload their weapon and keep firing.
    2) instances where the situation was resolved with one or no bullets being fired.

    I would expect that they will find very, very few legitimate instances of the first, and a huge number (90% or more) of the second.

    “Any good hunting rifle could have murdered people as quickly and as finally, as could any magazine-fed handgun ever produced”
    Oh, come on! BULLSHIT! Hunting rifles are barred by law from having more than 5 rounds. Many are bolt or lever action. This statement is ridiculous.

    Let’s have a contest: give one person a typical hunting rifle, and another a semi-auto handgun with 30 round magazines. Who can fire more rounds? I will bet a large amount that the person with the handgun will probably fire off 3 full 30 round magazines before the hunting rifle finishes its magazine.

    If Jared had a hunting rifle, he never would have gotten close. If he sniped from a distance, he might have gotten one or two before everyone ran for cover. If he had a handgun with a 10 round magazine, he would have only fired 10 shots (not 31) before being overwhelmed and disabled.

  39. Chris says:

    In New Zealand it would not have been possible for this man to buy a gun. While it is not impossible to buy a handgun illegally, the number of times such guns have fallen into the hands of the deranged is so small that I cannot recall when this last happened. We are not free of deaths by guns, and some determined people still get them illegally. But for the vast majority, there is no need to have a gun for protection because we do not adhere to a constitutional provision from the 18th Century permitting people to have guns. So most people here heard the news, and wondered what sane society would let someone too mentally ill to join the army but mentally fit to buy a gun useful only for efficient killing. I know about the arguments cited above. But in New Zealand we reject the level of violence that goes with easy ownership of guns, and very few people are killed by guns as a criminal act or by someone mentally ill. The evidence and logic are compelling.

  40. Todd Mason says:

    What’s at least a bit interesting to me about the responses to the shooting, as opposed to those above to Frederik Pohl’s post, is particular how there’s a trend in the WASHINGTON POST (and in the recent writings of Jack Shafer, former editor of the DC CITY PAPER, now a columnist for the POST-owned SLATE) to somehow link the loon’s actions to his supposed love of Philip K. Dick. Surely, him listening to the Sharon Angles of the recent scene surely could have nothing to do with action, when the old debbbil Crazy Bugeyed Stuff can perhaps be blamed…after all, GOP bloviators and other professional pols are among the POST group’s best friends, just had lunch with them yesterday…

  41. Andy K says:

    Dear Mr. Pohl – You’ve asked key questions that the stock answers do not address. People with guns kill people they know (clearly and consistently demonstrated in USA statistics). If you want to kill people you know, get a gun. If you want to kill strangers, get a gun. So sad that people cannot come to grips with simple truths and hide behind talking points. The abuse of the Constitution must stop – the framers did not mean for anyone to own nukes and other arms, so there are some limits. The only debate is about reasonable limits. The NRA has gone extremist in their arguments and must be proud today.

  42. John Boland says:

    I know better than to offer facts to counter strongly held belief, but what the heck.

    The main effort of the NRA hasn’t been to legalize high-capacity magazines but to push at the state level for right to carry laws. In that, they’ve been enormously successful. (Quite unrelated to the NRA’s efforts, for years the most liberal right-to-carry state has been Vermont: no permit needed; yet the place is pretty civil.)

    I live in Maryland, which has some of the most restrictive carry policies and cumbersome handgun-purchase rules in the nation. While the hysteria was being fanned over an outlier episode in Tucson, in Maryland’s Price Georges County, which abuts gun-restrictive D.C., thirteen people were murdered in the first thirteen days of 2011. In Baltimore, the political crowd was high-fiving because our 2010 homicide total dropped to about 225 (I don’t remember the exact number). But 2011 opened with several killings in a day, and last week four crazed cops pumped about 20 bullets into one of their own who was in plain clothes at a disturbance outside a black club.

    Now, in fact, you can legally carry in Maryland only with a permit issued by the state police. For civilians, those permits are issued mainly to people who transport large amounts of cash, and to people with political roles or connections. But this is an extremely violent state and a city where many cautious people restrict their movements after dark. Most of the gun crimes are committed with illegally owned weapons wielded by juveniles and prior felons. They don’t need 30-round magazines.

    That’s the reality of daily life. Outliers like Tucson are, by definition, no more important than lightning strikes. And 30-round magazines are a footnote to the lightning stats.

    My NRA membership lapsed five or more years ago. Perhaps I should re-up.

  43. Jerome says:

    Mr. Pohl, I really enjoy your blog, it was long-overdue introduction to your books.

    I come from a seriously liberal/socialist background, I voted for Obama, and I have owned a variety of firearms.

    I am all for keeping guns away from crazy people. Complaining about high-capacity magazines simply betrays a lack of knowledge about firearms. Anyone willing to practice can reload in seconds.

    In 1994, there were 32,426 firearm deaths in the US. That same year in Rwanda, the number of people killed approached 100,000. What’s interesting, is that the Rwanda killings were NOT by guns; they were killed by machetes. Anti-gun folks don’t care about those people. England brags about its low gun crime, they never mention their skyrocketing non-gun murder rate.

    The AZ shooter could have just as easily plowed his car into the crowd and done a lot more damage. The problem starts and ends with Jared Loughner, not the NRA, not the brand of firearm he used.

  44. Pat says:

    Robert Nowall, are you suggesting that the size of a country is directly related to its homicide rates? I was, of course, comparing per capita murder rates. It would have been idiotic of me to have compared total numbers. Perhaps you think that having more land per person also causes more murderous impulses?

    Might I suggest you read the section “Carrying Guns” on this Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Switzerland ? You will notice some significant differences from American practice.

    The Swiss have efficient police who all want to find the actual perpetrator rather than any suspicious passerby they can frame. Knowing you are likely to be caught and tried by a system that retains the respect of its citizens must have quite a deterrent effect.

  45. grs1961 says:

    Perry said: “The notion that banning guns would magically reduce crime is one of those “simple, obvious, and wrong” ideas that seems to spread through our society.”

    Funny that – in Australia, which was not a big gun-owning country anyway, and where personal ownership of hand-guns by the general public was *never* allowed, lots and lots of guns were banned after a particularly nasty shooting incident in Port Arthur, Tasmania – and subsequently the number of deaths and injuries by shootings *and* ARMED ROBBERIES WHERE THE PERPETRATORS WERE CARRYING FIREARMS OF ANY SORT decreased.

    Stick that in your “if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns” pipe and smoke it.

  46. Zonkon says:

    grs1961 – what you’ve got to realize is that the people who you are arguing against think that people like Australians, who don’t carry or see the need to own guns, are basically uncivilized mud people. They believe we live in a hyper-violent society where our daughters are raped, our freedoms infringed and our society nears collapse. You can’t argue against this. As far as they are concerned we are a bunch of brain washed socialized medicine using savages. That the sane amongst us want to escape the hellholes of Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin and Canberra for the safe streets of Dallas, Austin or Houston.

    grs1961 – things make a lot more sense when you consider that the average FOX news watching American considers places like Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to be on par with places like North Korea when it comes to civilization.

    You can’t argue with an insular people who know nothing of the world outside their borders. That the majority of us live in safe civil society is, to them, clearly a lie. The idea of a safe civil societies without gun ownership makes as much sense as Brussels Sprout Ice Cream. Of course those of us outside the fishbowl know from observing American media analytically that the lie is that the United States is a safe civil society.

  47. Robert Nowall says:

    …Robert Nowall, are you suggesting that the size of a country is directly related to its homicide rates?…

    Of course, you are comparing homicide rates in the United States to availability of guns…let us compare rates of countries where guns are available with those where they are not…let us also compare rates within area of the United States where rigid unconstitutional controls exist and where they do not…

    Let me add another statistic about crime rates in the United Kingdom over time. Early in the 20th century, “breaking and entering” happened at a low rate…then guns were taken out of the hands of law-abiding citizens…and “breaking and entering” rates skyrocketed. Could it be that the criminals were emboldened by knowing they wouldn’t be shot when they broke-and-entered?

  48. A.R.Yngve says:

    As a Swedish outside observer of American cultures, I have only one this to say about Americans and their obsession with guns:

    The Passionate Gun Love has almost nothing to do with rationality (“We need Gun X Because Y”) and almost everything to do with national mythology (i.e. the Armed Settler/Cowboy, taming the Frontier).

    Handguns were the tools with which North America was taken from the previous tenants. It is then natural for a people which conquered with guns to keep their guns, out of the deep-seated fear that someday, some other people might come and Steal Our Land.

    Of course, it would be hilariously ironic if someday this actually happened: “Move over, Earthlings! Into the reservation! It is Manifest Destiny that we, the Xorg, tame this wild America — and we’ve got the disintegrators! Scram!”

  49. Dn Sakers says:

    Thank you for writing this essay and asking the question you asked.

    If there ever comes a time when you and I disagree on a moral question, I will immediately give heavy thought to revising my position.

  50. pst314 says:

    Mr. Pohl, what would you consider the maximum acceptable size of a magazine?

  51. alx says:

    The U.S. need stricter gun-control laws, period. The arguments of whether Frederik Pohl was incorrect in calling the gun used in Arizona a “weapon of mass-murder,” or whether the glock is capable of rapid-fire, or whether “people not guns kill people,” those arguments are so obviously silly, superficial, and rhetorical that I won’t even bother answering them.

    But I will bother mentioning a few facts such as the one that a seriously unbalanced young man purchased a gun with great ease and killed 6 people with it, including a 9 year-old, in the span of a few minutes — not a new occurrence in America, land of the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres, the Binghamton N.Y. shootings, and the Clifton church killings, and a land where three cops were shot-dead by one Pittsburg man on a simple domestic disturbance call (look those up, they were “big news” once).
    And here’s another fact: it remains that the United States have the “highest rate of firearm deaths among 25 high-income nations,” including the dubious honor of having an overall firearm-related death rate among children under the age of 15 twelve (12) times higher than that among children in 25 other industrialized nations combined (go to the C.D.C. or the W.H.O. websites and get a sense of things for a change; here is fine too: http://www.lcav.org/statistics-polling/gun_violence_statistics.asp#13).

    So kudos America! Keep living with your head firmly planted where the sun don’t shine and keep wrapping yourself in your silly immature arguments, such as the one of being “proud” that that truly amazing, living-document that the U.S. Constitution is allows you to own the sort of guns you have absolutely no need for; I guess you also would have been proud of your in-your-mind-sacred-unalterable Constitution when it permitted slavery, forbade women from voting, and allowed U.S. presidents to serve more than two terms.

  52. pst314 says:

    \"As a Swedish outside observer of American cultures, I have only one this to say about Americans and their obsession with guns\"

    You don\’t know enough about Americans or American history to comment. What you wrote has extremely little to do with American history and a great deal to do with the shallow stereotypes that so many Swedes grow up with.

  53. wolfwalker says:

    Hey, Zonkon: did you know that some of the strongest advocates of gun rights in America are <i>immigrants</i>?

    That\’s right. People who used to live in those lovely gun-free places … and saw themselves or their family or friends victimized by violent crimes — crimes that could have been prevented if the victim had a gun.

    Then they came here to the United States, and discovered a place where it\’s not illegal to carry a weapon for self-defense. Where you\’re actually allowed to fight back, instead of being told \"oh, just lie back, spread your legs, and enjoy it\" by smug self-righteous jerks who have never had to worry about being robbed or assaulted, because of their armed bodyguards.

  54. Chris Quenelle says:

    I get an opinion too. :-) I agree with Mr. Pohl’s sentiment. Freedom and security will always be a trade off, and in this case I would draw the line at much stricter control of handguns in general. The best thing for Grandma to have under her pillow is a cell phone with 911 on speed dial. Nothing other than guns kills so many people who don’t choose it. Swimming pools, cars, airplanes, etc, etc. I choose those risks. I also choose to shop at supermarkets, and I don’t expect to be risking my life. I would expect the impact of gun control will be much larger on whackos than on criminals. If only 4 out of 10 whackos have guns instead of 7 out of 10, that’s a big step forward in terms of public mass shootings.

  55. Chris Quenelle says:

    By “draw the line at” I meant “would like to see, but not more than”

  56. Zeph says:

    Political arguments seem to go nowhere. Round and round. But, it\’s like voting, so I\’ll raise my hand.

    The point of a gun is protection. Defending yourself is not something you can morally opt out of. Depending on someone else to do it for you is ineffective and sad.

    I\’m a bit startled that people still make the NRA out to be the boogy man, though. They don\’t so much advocate for guns as for gun control laws. They haven\’t for the last, mmm… 50 years?