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10 January 2011

Gun Ignorance

In the wake or Arizona's shooting there is of course going to be a wave on anti-gun sentiment. I differ from most of my somewhat liberal friends in that I support gun ownership. This usually comes as a shock to whomever I'm talking to and we get into some sort of debate over "okay well shotguns are fine because you can hunt with them, but assault rifles are terrifying and should be illegal."

Here's an excerpt from the above article that I found a bit troubling:

“... you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it. If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms...”

The author makes out the 9mm Glock that the shooter used to be some sort of special handgun that citizens shouldn't be able to buy... I don't get it. It's a slide actuated, clip fed, semi-automatic pistol. It's no different than the Colt Model 1911 that my grandfather carried in WWII. It was even a 9mm which the military is going away from because it doesn't have the stopping power to kill a human.

My general frustration is a lack of gun knowledge. In Illinois, where I live, I can buy a shotgun when I'm 18 but I can't buy a pistol until I'm 21. Go to a shooting range some time and shoot a shotgun. Shotguns are about the scariest thing you could shoot at a person. Hands down. Ask any gun owner. It's nearly impossible to miss with a shotgun and there's nothing left of you when you do get hit.

Assault rifles always get liberals fired up - they look scary. They were invented by the Germans in WWII. Prior to their invention Germany used a bolt action rifle with a large caliber bullet like every other country. Today you'd recognize their Mausers as sniper rifles. The bullets can travel up to one mile or more and kill a person quite easily. At a few hundred yards you can take down big game with such a gun. With an assault rifle - no way. The range of such a gun is usually about 400-800 yards. The German engineers noticed that rarely were people in combat shot at more than a few hundred yards, such large bullets were unnecessary. They made the rounds smaller but made them go faster. Of course:

KE = 1/2MV^2

Velocity is more important than mass in determining force. This had the effect of allowing the soldier to carry more ammunition and be just as effective at ranges that battles were actually fought at. At the same time the guns were made smaller and lighter. The Russians invented the AK-47 and the US invented the M-16 shortly thereafter.

This is your grandfathers rifle (in this case the M1 used in WWII) using a 30-06 round:

180 grains @ 2700 feet per second with 2,900 Ft/lbs of force

This is the .223 or 5.56mm used in the American assault rifle the M-16 or now the M-4:

55 grains @ 3,250 feet per second with 1,300 Ft/lbs of force

A grain is 1/7000 of a pound.

There you have it. An assualt rifle impacts with less than half the force of a traditional rifle round that hunters still use for large animals. In fact a .223 is rarely used to hunt deer because it is not considered of sufficient size to take one down without undue suffering.

The idea that the Arizona shooter had access to some special weapon is straight wrong, and the next time you hear about an assault weapons ban just look at the numbers above.


c.hass said...

While I'm also a "pro-gun liberal," I think you might be strengthening (rather than under-cutting) the other side's argument here.

You rightly point out that assault rifles are crap for hunting, and in fact are designed for shooting lots of targets quickly at a short distance -- but that's exactly why many people think they should be banned.

The Colt Model 1911 comparison is better, but as far as I know you could never stuff 30+ rounds into one of those.

A lot of the people I work with were shocked to hear that Giffords was able to survive, and you do a good job explaining that weapons like the Glock aren't actually designed for stopping/killing power.

If Loughner had used a shotgun the first target (which I believe was Giffords) would likely not have survived -- but there wouldn't have been a 20th victim.

Logan said...

As usual good critique.

I'd argue that somewhat similar large caliber rifles like the M1A would produce similar results as an assault rifle, and you can definitely buy large capacity clips for just about any gun but at some point they become unwieldy.

As for shotguns - for the most part I agree - with one caveat. I once asked my dad what he would carry if he went (assuming he didn't) go into combat. His answer, without hesitation, was a shotgun with double aught shells (big lead balls). Semiautomatic shotguns used in this context generally have a 10 round capacity. The point being that its user is capable of mortally wounding many people with each shot - it's also hard to miss with such a gun.

As I'm writing this it's become more clear to me that the debate centers around capacity of the gun/ability to kill lots of people quickly which is why 10 round pistols, 5 round shotguns, and bolt action guns generally have few restrictions. None the less, arguing these points with people/the NRA who believe that we're allowed to have guns in case we need to rise up against the government (I'm not making this up) is going to be difficult at best.