On Modern Musketry
By: Citizen Scribe
Accentuated by the recent heinous events at Sandy Hook, I have lately heard an increase in the never-really-absent mantra of “ban them, ban them, ban them all,” where the “them” referred to is a poorly defined item with a politically made up name which capitalizes on a semantic nuance of the poor (or at least marginal) translation of a German word, co-opted into a bogeyman term used to frighten some, shame others, and generally interdict rationality and reason so that emotion reigns, while logic lies wounded at its feet.
The Sandy Hook incident was a gut punch for many, some of us more than others, and for reasons that varied across the spectrum of emotion. It hit me at three distinct nerve centers: a) it happened near my family home, less than thirty miles from where I was born, b) it involved the senseless and wholly preventable slaughter of young children, and c) it served as a spark to the tinder of the political arsonists who have waited impatiently for just the right “tragedy” to provide the plausible “outrage” to put the torch to the Second Amendment.
There was an immediate frenzy of hysterical outcries to ban what is possibly the most popular rifle design of the last twenty years — hell, the last thirty years — which frenzy was then modulated and amplified by the modern emotion mongering media to a shrill pitch as they laid claim to the “moral high ground” of two dozen deaths, most of them children, and demanded that someone “solve the problem” by relegating self defense to the metaphorical stone age.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve watched as the frenzy subsided into several lengthy “academic” and “studied” discourses and monologues purporting to represent a “reasonable” line of thought, but which all had as an objective the vilifying of “bad rifles” and other objects of terror and chaos.
It took me a couple of days to obtain some equilibrium, a couple more to read through the “studied” tripe flowing from philosophically, lexically, and politically damaged minds, and another couple to sort through the “talking points” to arrive at some conclusions.
Have you ever had to refute an assertion that was so fundamentally unsound that you couldn’t proceed two words forward before having to stop and write two paragraphs or more explaining the logical defects in just that phrase before moving on to the next two or three words, and having to stop again and write another detailed expository paragraph or three to properly counter the falsehoods found therein? I have. And I’ve done it enough times to know that it’s an exhausting process. It’s the essay equivalent of cleaning the Augean Stables.
As I steeled myself for that task, a friend of mine, Larry Corriea, showed up with a bigger shovel than mine, and did most of the heavy lifting. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his essay, An Opinion On Gun Control. However, Larry’s work has made it possible for me to focus on an aspect of the “ban them all” mantra that has troubled me for some time. So, with a nod and bow to Larry’s superior experience and articulation (thanks, Larry, I’m not worthy), I will address the issue of modern musketry.
Let me first tackle the semantic nuance problem, the issue of so-called “assailant weapons.”
Yes, that’s right, I’ve discarded the “nuanced” word ‘assault’ in favor of what the gun banners really mean by it. Sadly, that little semantic nuance has both aided the liars and confounded the honest, so that you see slogans like “assault is a behavior, not an object.” The trouble is, that doesn’t address the root definition issue, nor does it acknowledge the source of the term. The dishonest term, “assault weapon,” is a term invented by gun-control activist Josh Sugarmann, for the express purpose of adding the flavor of crime to a body of inconsistent descriptions of weapons, attachments, aspects, accessories, and so on. The clear intent was not accuracy but rather a kind of associative badness implied by the connection between “assault” (the crime) and criminals (assailants).
So, at the risk of competing with Wikipedia, I’ll clarify: the original term is a German word, Sturmgewehr, meaning literally “storming rifle” (or “storming weapon” if you prefer the looser meaning). That term has a precise meaning, including the kind of cartridge used, weight and range class of the rifle, and the firing mechanism, but the point of the original term is that it’s a weapon suitable for storming an enemy position. There are any number of specific details that are not integrated into the definition, like magazine capacity, any ergonomic features, sighting system, color, or construction materials. The objective is suitability for storming an enemy position.
Unhappily, the easiest English translation for the [German] verb “to storm” is the [English] verb “to assault” — but not in the criminal law sense of the word, rather in the military tactics sense of the word. There is a German word for “assault” [the crime] but it’s very different, sharing no common root at all with “sturm.”
One of the tools of the trade in propaganda is the careful selection of words for association with “goodness” and “badness” as the propagandist wants them to be perceived. This extends even into inventing words — which one then gets to define — to do that job, but also employs a sort of “word hijacking,” where the propagandist casts a word in such a way that it emphasizes one possible meaning in preference over the others.
And the word “assault” is a perfect candidate for that. So rather than use the current “bad word du jour,” I will prefer the term “assailant weapon” to highlight the propagandist’s art.
But I didn’t start out planning to fix the lexicon of weaponry, since that’s not the basic problem. Slavery is the problem. Subjugation is the problem. Helplessness is the problem.
We live in a modern age. For those of you scoring my powers of observation, I expect at least one “thank you, Captain Obvious.”
We live in an age with more modern gadgetry and convenience than has ever existed on this planet (unless you subscribe to Atlantis or alien visitation theories).
We have today communications devices that not only perform feats that were unthinkable when I was in Air Force radio training, but also have more computing power — in a freaking phone already — than was used to land on the moon or build the SR-71 Blackbird. We have cars that can park themselves. We have trains that are faster than the aircraft used in the last World War. We have planes that can double as spaceships. We have televisions that permit us to watch — in real time — as sporting events, elections, disasters, and crimes unfold across the nation and the world. We have the Internet. Wow. I went to school with a kid named Stanley who, in his senior math paper, explained how “digital computers can do anything.” Nice call, Stan. I called him on the phone about ten years ago. He barely remembered who I was. I reminded him of that senior math paper, and told him it had helped inspire my choice of careers. He’d completely forgotten about it. Ah, well. Hey, I’ve built a thirty-year career on that.
It would be folly to list all the things we take for granted today but which were firmly in the world of science fiction when I was growing up. The advances in metallurgy, plastics, ceramics, electronics, automotive tech, aeronautics, chemistry, and medicine are simply staggering. And yet there are some areas where technology hasn’t really advanced much in a hundred years. Certainly there are advances in supporting technologies, but the fundamental systems and methods remain essentially unchanged.
And ballistics is one of those. The tools used for self defense today are maybe more plastic, more shiny, more optically effective than those of John Moses Browning’s day, but today’s service pistols use the same basic locking breach he invented around the turn of the [twentieth] century, which he submitted to the Department of the Army in 1907, and which was adopted in 1911, more than a hundred years ago.
Long guns, rifles, are also based on designs dating from the 1800s, with some of the more successful “modern” designs dating from the 1950s and 1960s, more than sixty years ago. Yes, the ever-so-modern AR-15 design — the direct parent of the military’s M4 rifle — dates back to 1957 (earlier for its parent, the AR-10). Oh, sure enough, the plastics used today are more robust, the aluminum alloy is superior to the old stuff, the springs are better, the propellant (powder) is more reliable, and the machining processes that make the chamber and barrel are much improved, but the rifle? It’s still a direct-impingement gas system, the ergonomics are essentially the same (even counting the adjustable stock), and the sights are only improved when one adds a modern optic.
The car you drive has had vastly more improvement in structure, suspension, traction, control, electronics, aerodynamics, comfort, safety, and durability than the rifle used by your son to protect the lives of himself and his squad mates in hostile theaters.
You can read your newspaper instantly in the morning while brewing your at-home latte without having to brave the sprinklers to fetch the soggy pulp, but the bullet your daughter uses to keep the bad guys honest when they’re breaking into her house moves at the same speed today as it did in 1945.
You can locate a rare coin on the Internet, pay for it with PayPal, and have it air-expressed to your home in less time than it takes to drink that latte, but the hunter who will feed his family venison tonight used a rifle copied from a design invented in 1894.
While everything else in our lives has left the “jet age” in the dirt, the small arms of self defense, national defense, hunting, and the shooting sports are barely more “modern” than the guns carried by the westbound pioneer settlers. Sam Colt gave us the fabled “six shooter;” advances in metallurgy, plastics, and chemistry have given us his six shooter in stainless steel with faux ivory grips and cleaner powder. John Browning gave us reliable rifles and autopistols; modern science has made them stainless, plastic, and lighter.
So, yes, our defensive small arms are still essentially primitive. Part of that, of course, is a matter of reliability, some is a matter of tradition but, by and large, it’s mostly a matter of not messing with what works.
And why am I expending so much effort to make this point?
Because what’s not new is firearms. What’s not new is a society where firearms are commonplace and part of everyday life. What’s not new is the respect for what firearms give us as a culture: the equalizer that keeps the big and strong, the bullies and baddies, the tyrants and enslavers from simply taking whatever they want, and engaging in whatever is the modern equivalent of “rape, pillage, and burn.”
None of that is new. What’s new? School shootings is new. Theater massacres is new. Mass shootings in malls is new. A culture that produces emo-psycho losers who act out violently in public is new.
You know what else is not new? Constitutional arsonists looking to torch the document that provides the foundations of our civil society and enshrines our right to dissent and our right to protect that right of dissent. That’s not new. Government fearful that an armed population might interrupt its impetus toward a totalitarian state. That’s not new. Attempting to re-cast and marginalize the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment. That’s not new.
What’s a common meme among the disarm-the-citizenry crowd? How about that old chestnut, “the Second Amendment only protects muskets, since the founders couldn’t have anticipated modern weaponry.”
Seriously? You’re telling me that science and technology makes our rights obsolete? Is that why you have to get a permit to buy a television or radio? Modern rotary presses are all federally licensed? You can only buy a car after passing an FBI background check? And those modern building materials in your house; that’s why government agents can just walk in any time they please?
Oh, it gets better. I’ve actually listened to someone make the argument that “the framers only knew about muskets” and then, once that was shot down, segued into the argument that “well, why do you think military weapons would do you any good if the government really wanted total control?” Come again? We should be limited to muskets because that’s all we had in 1791? But if you pierce the foolishness of that argument, I trump your modernness with the Borg assimilation argument? Resistance is futile? Don’t look too hard at places like Afghanistan. The “stone age” culture there has broken some impressive military forces over the last few decades.
The basic argument for gun control is that the citizenry should not be permitted to resist an oppressive government. Never mind that this was precisely the intent of the Second Amendment. When the Swiss borrowed our Constitution, they completely grasped this point. They took the militia concept to its logical conclusion: Every man is trained, every man is armed. The women are free to participate in that system. They have national shooting competitions. They do not have school shootings.
Well, let’s try another approach. Let’s pretend that firearms are really only allowed for “legitimate” purposes, such as hunting (not mentioned in the 2A), self defense (not mentioned in the 2A), and shooting sports (not mentioned in the 2A). Let’s forbid the import of weapons that can’t be shown to have a “legitimate sporting purpose.”
Did you know that there was a Supreme Court case (Miller) where the matter hinged on the defendant’s having a shortened shotgun which, the prosecution asserted, had no military application? In other words, if Miller had been able to prove a valid military use for the shotgun, the rule forbidding shortened defensive shotguns would have died right there. Unfortunately, Miller died before the case was heard, and if you don’t show up to argue your case, you lose. (Oh, and by the way, the military does in fact have an application for shortened shotguns in trench warfare and other up-close engagements.)
In other words, the government wanted to deny civilians a weapon because [supposedly] it didn’t have a military application.
So, in the interests of disarming the population, any argument that can be made to sound plausible is fine, just as long as it gets guns out of the hands of citizens. The arguments don’t have to be consistent, don’t have to make sense, don’t have to be rooted in history — or even in fact — and don’t have to comply with existing law or with the Constitution.
And that’s how you wind up with more than 20,000 gun laws, laws which often contradict each other, and cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. where for decades handguns have been effectively banned and yet, somehow, the criminals manage to commit all manner of violent crime using [banned] firearms.
There was a time when gun ownership and gun use was simply an assumed part of our culture — much in the way that car ownership and driving are today — and kids grew up knowing what guns were and how guns worked and how they were used and how to be safe with them, even having school rifle teams, and we did not have school shootings.
Over the last fifty years, however, there has been an unrelenting press to disarm the nation, attempting to “breed” guns out of the culture, forbidding even the mention of guns in schools, and turning guns into some kind of forbidden talisman of evil. Now kids don’t grow up knowing about guns, except that they’re bad, unless the guns belong to cops and soldiers, and that guns are to be feared. Unless the cops have them. Or soldiers. Or some other part of government.
Now we have anti-gun groups calling for “an end to the obsession with firearms.” Wait … what?
I grew up in that America where guns were just as common as fishing poles, and you bought them at hardware stores, sporting goods stores, gas stations (yes, really), and at general stores and mercantiles. Sears and Montgomery Wards sold them. They were simply part of the cultural fabric.
Guns were common and unremarkable.
So exactly what freaking “obsession” is this we’re talking about? The obsession of pro-totalitarians to ensure there’s no resistance to their agenda? That obsession? Yes, indeed, I’m all in favor of ending that obsession.
(I’m looking back over what I’ve written so far, and I can see I’m all over the map. *Sigh* See, now look what you made me do.)
So, back to this line: “But I didn’t start out planning to fix the lexicon of weaponry, since that’s not the basic problem. Slavery is the problem. Subjugation is the problem. Helplessness is the problem.”
Slavery and subjugation are, indeed the problem.
Socialism is “slavery lite” and requires the subjugation of a helpless population. It pretty much goes without saying that the same would also be true for the other -isms, fascism and communism.
Subjugation of the population is a lot easier if you limit them to 18th century muskets, while you (the government) keep the modern firearms and the super-modern aircraft and satellites and bombs and drones and missiles and tanks and all that good stuff.
Subjugation of the population becomes a little messier, however, if the population is armed with late-19th and early-20th century musketry.
And what of Sandy Hook? What of Virginia Tech? What of Columbine?
Well, what of them? What are you doing to people that produces an increasing number of violent sociopaths?
How is it that after fifty years of the very best that psychiatry and psychology have to offer, force fed into the school systems and federally funded as the “standard” of mental health, how is it that after fifty years of that we have more dissociative, violent young people willing to commit mass murder than we ever did before your premier “mental technologies” were available in our education system?
How is that, hmmm?
The guns aren’t new. Our most modern musketry is way older than this new fangled cultural problem you’ve got.
What’s new is the chronic, systemic, possibly endemic cultural framework that produces only the most modern psychotics.
I’m starting to wonder if entrusting you mental health “professionals” with our kids is such a good idea. It looks like you’re doing it wrong.
So, for all you pro-totalitarians, I see you out there. I see what you’re doing with the words. I see you trying to sell your gun-hating fads and hysteria.
And for you head doctors, I’m thinking you need to get your shit together or get the hell out of our schools. Your failures are starting to get expensive — well, that is if you believe a child’s life is worth anything.
I’ll take my old-fashioned “modern” musketry and my old-fashioned culture of personal responsibility, thank you very much.
And I’ll thank you to quit wrecking our kids and blaming it on the hardware.