Mark Lashway's commentary ("Enough Bryjak-ian propaganda"), a response to my "America's gun culture" piece, is pretty much what I expected from a staunch NRA defender. Mr. Lashway does nothing more than attack the messenger and garble the message while ignoring one of the main points I make in the article: Military assault weapons have no place in the civilian population.
The distortions came fast and furious. Mr. Lashway stated that I implied "anyone who works for a firearms manufacturer has the blood of children on their hands." What I said was: "I wonder how many jobs manufacturing assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns for the civilian market, the bulletin ridden body of a 6-year old is worth?" I see a big difference between those two statements, and I imagine the overwhelming majority of readers did as well.
Mr. Lashway believes I "trashed" Mike Huckabee regarding his comment about barring God from the classroom: "Should we be surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?" Lashway takes issue with my citation of a single "interfaith" activist who blasted Huckabee's ludicrous remark. Here's a rejoinder (there are others) from Martin Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School, one of the nation's foremost religious scholars. Speaking of Huckabee's comments, Marty stated, "He wins hands down, the prize for his absurdist judgement that 'Newton' should have been no surprise" because our nation has "systematically removed God" from public schools.
Mr. Lashway ridicules Rollo May (the distinguished existential psychologist), who argues that powerlessness is the root of much violence in the world. For Lashway this is nothing more than "psychobabble," the expected response from someone who doesn't have the vaguest idea what May is talking about. Lashway believes May is declaring "that the reason anybody owns a gun is flaws in their personality." Feeling powerless is NOT a personality flaw (and neither is owning a gun). Rather, it's a self-perception, one that is often an accurate understanding of an individual's (both men and women) inability to have some meaningful measure of control in his or her social and political milieu. May never said that powerlessness is a personality flaw, and neither did I.
Mr. Lashway couldn't resist a personal attack that "anybody who bases his argument about guns on the manhood angle is usually the one with the hang-up about his own." No macho hang-ups on this end, Mr. Lashway. I don't need a reissued Manhood Card by way of purchasing an assault rifle.
In a 2004 article in The Police Chief: The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement, then-president of the organization Joseph Polisar, of the Garden Grove, Calif., police department, stated that since the assault rifle ban was enacted in 1994, "it has proven remarkably effective in reducing the number of crimes involving assault rifles. Since 1994 the proportion of assault weapons traced to crimes has fallen 66 percent. ... The International Association of Chiefs of Police has been a strong supporter of the assault weapons ban since 1992, and our membership approved a resolution calling for its reauthorization at our 2003 conference. ... It is deeply troubling that Congress and the administration have so far failed to reauthorize this critically important legislation." Chief Polisar noted that "one in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2001, was killed with an assault weapon."
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, supports more stringent gun-control laws. Speaking of military-style assault rifles, he stated: "I personally don't think there's any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets. ... We've got to protect our children, we've got to protect our police, we've got to protect our population. ... Serious action is necessary."
Chief Polisar was especially critical of assault rifles with a large magazine capacity that allows a shooter to fire 50 or more rounds before reloading.
"Weapons of this nature," Polisar stated, "serve no legitimate sporting or hunting purpose and have no place in our communities."
A 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice stated that "while not entirely consistent, the few available studies contrasting attacks with different types of guns and magazines, generally suggest that attacks with semi-automatic - including AWs (assault weapons) and other semiautomatics with LCMs (large capacity magazines) - result in more shots fired, persons wounded, and wounds per victim than do other gun attacks."
Lashway notes that it's a person "who makes a decision to use a gun for right or wrong, not a 30-round magazine." I agree wholeheartedly. Someone intent on mass murder brandishing a weapon with a 30-round magazine has the potential to kill many more individuals than a shooter with a seven-round-capacity magazine who must continually change magazines. It's just that simple.
I'm sure there are many recreational shooters and hunters who have no problem with legislation limiting the capacity of magazines. An excellent statement of this position was provided by gun owner Lee Keet in a recent ADE commentary ("Responsibilities of gun ownership"). Mr. Keet asks: "How many bullets do we need to fire at semi-automatic speeds to kill a deer?" He notes that we "should consider what those 10-plus magazine guns with hollow-point shells can do to a classroom of 6-year olds. Why are we protecting the incompetent, or sometimes psychotic, gun owners? ...The answer I get is that if we let ANY gun control into our lives we will be on the slippery slope to gun confiscation, or to restrictions that invade our second-amendment rights. ...This makes absolutely no sense to me. ... The NRA's argument that the answer to a bad guy with guns is a good guy with guns is screwball."
What this country desperately needs is for responsible, sane gun owners like Mr. Keet to form an alternative organization to the NRA, a new group of gun enthusiasts advocating a sensible balance between gun rights and public safety.
George J. Bryjak lives in Bloomingdale, retired after 24 years of teaching sociology at the University of San Diego.
Bryjak, G. (Jan. 14, 2013) "America's gun culture," Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Keet, L. (Dec. 27, 2012) "Responsibilities of gun ownership" Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Koper, C. (2004) "An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impact on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003," National Criminal Justice Research Center, U.S. Department of Justice, www.ncjrs.gov
Lashway, M. (Jan. 18, 2013) "Enough Bryjak-ian propaganda" Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Marty, M. (Dec. 17, 2012) "God and Newtown," The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion," The University of Chicago Divinity School, divinity.uchicago.edu
Polisar, J. (accessed 2013) "President's Message: Reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban," The Police Chief: The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement, www.policechiefmagazine.org
Timm, J. (Jan. 8, 2013) "General McChrystal: Assault rifles are for battlefields, not schools," www.msnbc.com