To stop a bad guy with a gun – you need to stop him getting the gun

By Paul Atkin

Warning: Writing this made me feel simultaneously weepy and nauseous, so this contains material that might make you feel the same.

The rifle used to kill 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde Texas on Tuesday was an AR15. This is a devastatingly lethal semi-automatic weapon that anyone over the age of 18 in Texas can just buy privately with no restrictions, or walk into a store and buy, with a minimal ‘real time’ background check, no permit required and no record of sale; thanks partly to the seven relaxations of gun safety rules by Governor Gregg Abbott last year. There is no registry of firearms in Texas. People over 21 can ‘open carry’ hand guns. In fact, gun laws are so lax in Texas that smugglers ship guns from there into Mexico. Texas Governor Abbott described the mass shooting on Tuesday as “inexplicable”. Perhaps he can’t join the dots that the rest of the world seems to be able to manage.

The National Rifle Association likes to say that, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Which is as asinine as you can get, because it’s a lot easier to kill people if you have a gun, especially a gun like an AR15. Oddly enough, no one is allowed to carry a gun – openly or otherwise – at the NRA convention this weekend in Houston. Given that they see themselves as ‘the good guys with guns’, you might think this would cause protests. After all, if a ‘bad guy with a gun’ gets in, how are they going to defend themselves?

This is how what the AR15 can do is described in a post that is evidently enthralled by it. It paints a sickening picture of why it is that the remains of those killed on Tuesday had to be identified with DNA tests.

“A remarkable feature of the AR 15 rifle is its lightning speed when it is being fired, and even if peradventure the bullet fired does not hit its mark, the gun can get reloaded in a very short and fast amount of time. The reloading speed of the AR 15 mimics those seen in the military rifles being used in war situations requiring combat action. A feature that enhances the firing speed of the AR 15 gun is the fact that the rifle possesses a muzzle of very high velocity. This high velocity muzzle contained in the gun when used with a .223 bullet round can successfully guide the bullet fired to hit its mark (possibly an animal) while also producing a powerful rebound action if the bone of the animal is hit.

“The firing speed of the AR 15 can leave a devastating and destructive mark on its target and this is hugely because when the gun is fired, the bullets are ejected out of the muzzle at a high speed. If the bullets come in contact with an animal, they are bound to cause great damage to the bones and internal organs of the target. An AR 15 can fire around 2 to 3 bullet rounds per second, this means that in 15 seconds, an AR 15 can fire about 30 to 45 bullet rounds, so in a minute, an AR 15 rifle can fire up to 120 or even 180 bullet rounds (depending on how fast the shooter is to reload the gun with bullet rounds while continuing to squeeze the trigger).”

You might want to take a deep breath after reading that. Or go for a walk. Or have a weep. It really should be enough to read that and know that these weapons should not be on sale. No one should feel under threat from them. But, in the US, those who stand for “the right to bear arms” react with self-righteous fury when this is even suggested.

When Democrat politician Beto O Rourke stood up at Governor Abbott’s Press Conference this week to make the connection between the dead children and the gun that killed them, the cry from the platform that he was a “sick son of a bitch!” was vehement. A similar proportion of Republican voters oppose an assault rifle ban as believe in the Great Replacement Theory (and there will be some overlap). Their notion of ‘law-abiding citizens with guns’ is that the ‘law-abiding citizens’ are people like them, ‘protecting themselves’ from dangerous others. It’s unfortunate for that argument that some of the mass shooters are ‘Second Amendment People’ who have gone the whole hog into white supremacy, like the Buffalo shooter last week.

To get this onto the emotionally safer ground of devastating statistics:

  • Since 2017, firearms have become the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the United States, and the curve on the graph is continuing to go up.
  • World Population Review stats from 2009 -2018 show the USA had 288 school shooting incidents in that period. The next worst country was Mexico with eight.
  • In 2018, CNN reported that the U.S. had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialised nations combined.
  • The frequency and deadliness of all kinds of mass shootings in the US has gone up 33% since 2010.
  • After mass shootings, gun sales go up because people are frightened, with 63% of gun owners citing “personal protection” as their motivation for buying one. So, the main reason for owning a gun is that other people have them and might threaten you with them; so mass shootings are good for business. Three times as many guns were manufactured in the United States in 2020 as it 2000 – good for business. The gun stalls at the NRA Convention will do a brisk trade this weekend.
  • Assault rifles – at an average price of $800 each for an AR15 – are their most profitable line.
  • There are 120.5 guns per 100 people in the US, more than double the next most gun- saturated country, which is Yemen at 52.8 guns per 100 people.
  • There are 400 million guns in total in the United States. Half of them are owned by just 3% of the population (10 million people with an average 20 guns each).
  • 40% of Americans live in a house with a gun, but 70% do not own one.
  • Gun owners are more likely to be men than women (39% : 22%); white than anyone else (36%); rural than suburban or urban (41% : 29% : 20%); older than young and Republican than Democrat (44% : 20%). Some of these categories overlap.
  • There has been no Federal Gun Safety Legislation since the 1990’s, even though 89% of US citizens support universal background checks and 67% an outright ban on the sale of assault rifles.
  • Senator Ted Cruz has received $176,00 from the NRA, which works out at $37,000 for every child killed on Tuesday. He sells himself cheap. Marco Rubio has had $3,303,000.

The line from the NRA and contemptible figures like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is that, rather than remove, or control, or even register weapons capable of killing whole classrooms full of children – schools should be ‘hardened’, teachers should be armed so the ‘bad guy with a gun’ can be stopped by a ‘good guy with a gun.

The problems with this argument are obvious; which is why no-one is allowed to carry a gun into the NRA Convention centre.

There were a lot of ‘good guys with guns’ at Uvalde. There have been ‘good guys with guns’ at other incidents and it hasn’t done a lot of good. A ‘good guy’ with a hand gun has almost no chance at all against a ‘bad guy’ with an AR15, or any other kind of rifle.

This is not new. I remember that in the Buffalo Bill Annual, that I read avidly time and time again when I was eight, an inquest jury in the 1880s brought in a verdict of “suicide” for man who tried to take on an opponent armed with a rifle by drawing a handgun on him.

In the case of the police at Uvalde, there is also a serious question about the motivation of the ‘good guys with guns’, given that it took them an hour to get in, and they were screaming at, handcuffing and shoving parents who were imploring them to do something in the meantime. The school being overwhelmingly Latino, the police tending to the Right and seeing them as the sort of people Trump wanted to build a wall to keep out, might be an explanation that won’t be peculiar to that locality. Whose lives matter?

So, are Trump and the NRA proposing to have armed guards in schools with assault rifles to even up the odds? Are the teachers supposed to have an assault rifle propped up by their whiteboard, primed and ready to go, just in case? Are they supposed to devote time to training so they can ‘safely’ take out an armed intruder without hitting anyone else? What are the chances of these weapons being seized and used in a massacre themselves? There’s nothing like having the tools for the job close to hand. How jumpy would these teachers and schools get? So, what does this do to the school? And the students? Turning a school into an armed camp is a hidden curriculum for Dystopia.

The question for them is actually a simpler one. If it had been illegal to buy a gun in Texas, would those children and their teachers still be alive? That they would is so obvious that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the NRA and its supporters think that their cold, dead hands are a price worth paying for their ;Second Amendment Rights’.

To contrast that with what has happened here:

  • After Dunblane, there were two responses. One was to tighten up laws on gun ownership. This was a political consensus. Major and Blair went up to Dunblane in a show of unity. It had overwhelming popular support.
  • The other was to tighten up security at schools. This had been quite relaxed until then. At the school I used to teach at, local people used to use the playground as a short cut between the estate and the shops. You’d be on playground duty and nod to the parents you knew, strolling past with their shopping bags. After Dunblane, the gates were shut and the security buzzers put in. There was an additional control door put in between the reception area and the rest of the school and all other doors were made so they could only be opened from the inside. That was replicated across the country and there have been no mass shootings in schools since – more because the guns are hard to come by than the schools are harder to get into, but both help.

After the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France there was a lot of concern because a school next mo the magazine’s Offices had implemented its emergency procedures, which meant that everyone trooped out into the playground like they would in a fire drill, making them more vulnerable to being shot – had the killers been interested – than if they’d stayed where they were. Local Authority Health and Safety Committees had to draw up Emergency Procedures in the event of such an incident.

There had been plenty of school shootings – like Columbine in the US – that did not spark this response, so I think there was an aspect of this that was about fitting schools into their place in the ‘war on terror’ and – had the procedures drawn up become the basis for regular drills like the ‘duck and cover’ exercises that brought the Cold War into every US classroom in the 1950s – they would have had a purpose well beyond safety procedures. In the event, while teachers were given INSETs about what to do – essentially lock the door and get everyone down behind a brick wall – and distinctive alarms were set up and tested once a week as a reminder, most schools that I know of did not do drills with the kids. This was for obvious psychological reasons. The chances of such an incident were and are vanishingly low. But the chances of psychological damage from safety drills done often enough were very high.

Parents here feel safe sending their kids to school, as they should. In the US this is no longer the case. The rage, fury and despair on display in US media and podcasts this week shows a society that is tearing itself apart. It’s now the long holidays in America. Schools are shut. How is everyone going to feel in late August when it’s time to go back?

On the far right/QAnon sites, the conspiracy theories are already starting. This was fake. Actors. Staged. Because the Libtards want to take away your guns. The NRA, with its weirdly appropriate symbol that looks like a steer skull with an entry wound in the middle of its head, will pull its usual strings and press its usual buttons, pushing for more guns as the cure to the guns that are already out there. The profits will pile up at Smith and Wesson and Colt and Olin Corp and the spiral of US self-destruction will take another turn – even as it pushes to recover its military mojo in its European front yard -while we wait for the next mass shooting; unless there’s enough of a surge from the majority that don’t own guns and want them under better control; and they vote out every “sick son of a bitch” that takes money from the NRA and pushes their line.

Paul Atkin blogs at https://urbanramblings19687496.city/

Image: Abolish the NRA March. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11020019@N04/27123407098/. Author: Lorie Shaull, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Subscribe to the blog for email notifications of new posts