A Primer on Guns

In preparation for the January symposium on “Guns in America” this post is offered to League readers as a primer of sorts on guns. It is in no way meant to be an exhaustive explanation of guns. Gun laws will likely be covered in symposium posts as well as specifics about what defines an ‘assault rifle’.

Three Basic Gun Types

Rifles – These are often called ‘long guns’ because of their ability to shoot over long distances. Rifles fire one bullet at a time and can come in a variety of sizes and configurations. Rifles have been the prefered weapon of infantry troops for nearly 500 years. Pictured below is the iconic M1 Garand rifle carried by millions of American troops during WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Shotguns – Although they can also fire single projectiles, shotguns typically fire loads of multiple smaller pellets, known as shot. These also come in a variety of sizes. Below is the Remington 870 which is the best-selling shotgun in history.

Handguns – These are also commonly known as ‘pistols’ and offer hundreds of variations. Handguns fire many of the same caliber bullets used in rifles, though because of their much shorter barrels they have greatly reduced range. Pictured below is another iconic firearm, the Browning 1911.

Caliber vs. Gauge

Caliber – Firearms that use bullets (rifles and handguns) are identified primarily by the caliber of the weapon. Unfortunately in the United States this can be confusing because naming conventions are not standardized. Roughly speaking caliber refers to the internal diameter of the gun’s barrel in inches. So a gun with a .32 inch internal diamter of its barrel will fire a .32 caliber bullet. The smallest bullets commonly used are .17 and the largest are .50. An added point of confusion to the identification system in the United States is the popularity of some metric rounds like the 7mm and 9mm. A good explanation of calibers can be found here.

Gauge – Firearms that use shot (shotguns) are identified by the gauge of the weapon. Gauge is determined from the weight of a solid sphere created from a unit of lead that will fit the bore of the firearm. The size of the sphere represents a fraction of a one-pound unit of lead. For example, a sphere produced from one-twelth of a pound of lead would fit in the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun.

Ammunition

Bullets – As previously noted, bullets are single projectiles of varying size and used in rifles and handguns. Generally speaking, the larger the caliber, the more power the round has, though factors like distance and intended target play a role. Bullets are nearly always made of lead, sometimes with a metal jacket. Some bullets also have a hollow point which causes the projectile to mushroom upon impact, creating more damage in the target. The bullet is encased inside a cartridge along with gunpowder and an ignition source. Below is a sample of several different cartridges. In some locations ammo and guns need to be locked away in different safes, specialty safes like the ones made by shooting authority. I’m not sure how people think about that, doesn’t that make it pretty useless in a surprise situation?

Shot  – Small lead pellets meant to be fired in groupings are called shot and the size varies depending on the needs of the shooter. The largest shot commonly used is #00 buckshot and this ranges to the smallest commonly used shot at # 7 1/2.  There are other less common loads at either end and a complete chart can be found here. Shot is either made of lead or a non-toxic metal like steel or tungsten. The shot is packed into a shotshell along with gunpowder and an ignition source. The diameter of the shotshell relates to the gauge of the shotgun and they can vary in length. Larger shotshells can contain more shot and/or more gunpowder. Below are examples of shot and shotshells.

Actions

A firearm action describes the method by which the ammunition is moved and/or readied for firing. This falls into two broad categories. These are manual actions and automatic actions.

Manual actions – These require the shooter to perform a physical action in order to move/ready the round. These can range from cocking the hammer on a revolver to pumping the slide on a shotgun. These are slower to fire and typically carry less rounds.

Single action pistol

Bolt action rifle

Pump action shotgun

Automatic actions – These types of firearms use a mechanical process to do the work of chambering the next round for firing. This process is powered by either inertia from gun recoil or by gas vented off from the firing process. This creates a much faster firing process and these guns typically carry more rounds.  There are two sub-categories of automatic actions. Semi-automatic firearms require the trigger to be pulled for each shot. Fully-automatic firearms can fire multiple shots by pulling the trigger only once and holding it down. Some examples of both types of semi-automatic actions below.

Semi-automatic Marlin Model 60

Semi-automatic AR-15

Semi-automatic Benelli M4 shotgun

Fully-automatic M-16

Capacity

Capacity in this case refers to how many rounds of ammunition the firearm can hold. This can vary significantly from single-capacity firearms to high-capacity weapons with external magazines.  Higher capacity is usually accomplished with either a fixed magazine underneath the barrel or some sort of detachable magazine which is a separate piece of equipment inserted into the firearm to marry the ammunition to the action. The Marlin Model 60 mentioned several times above relies on a fixed tube magazine to provide 14 rounds of ammunition for firing. The AR-15 featured above uses a variety of detachable magazines which can range from 10 rounds to a 100-round magazine produced by several companies. Picture of a 30-round external magazines below.

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178 thoughts on “A Primer on Guns

      • What about weapons like the following:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-materiel_rifle

        In terms of stopping power I meant to ask about whether the .50 BMG or weapons that fire similar rounds should be legal.

        “A common method for understanding the actual power of a cartridge is by comparing muzzle energies. The Springfield .30-06, the standard caliber for American soldiers in both World Wars and a popular caliber amongst American hunters, can produce muzzle energies between 2000 and 3000 foot pounds of energy (between 3 and 4 kilojoules). The .50 BMG round can produce between 10,000 and 15,000 foot pounds (between 14 and 18 kilojoules), depending on its powder and bullet type, as well as the rifle it was fired from. Due to the high ballistic coefficient of the bullet, the .50 BMG’s trajectory also suffers less “drift” from cross-winds than smaller and lighter calibers, making the .50 BMG a good choice for high-powered sniper rifles.”

        I would ban any rifle/round comb capable of producing anything more than such and such foot pounds of power and am wondering if you would agree.

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          • A very long-distance version of the Beltway sniper. There are instances of confirmed kills using a sniper (precision) version of the .50 BMG round at >2,000 yards.

            It wouldn’t be necessary to go to that extreme, though. As a teenager I occasionally pulled targets at shooting competitions with a range of 400+ yards. The accuracy that those (at least at that point in their lives civilian) shooters achieved with considerably smaller rounds was amazing. All bolt-action single-shot weapons; the semi-automatic action costs accuracy. Is there a legitimate civilian use for rifles that accurate at that distance? 400 yards is not an uncommon shot at pronghorn antelope on the Great Plains. I knew a guy in college who claimed to have taken an antelope at 600 yards late in the afternoon when a sustained stalk was not going to be possible, although he admitted there was some degree of luck involved at that range.

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            • So we’re talking about a type of shooting that is the minority within the already very rare subcategory of mass shootings. Even if such a ban was effective and the potential shooters didn’t just switch to a different pattern of crime, the game isn’t worth the stakes.

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            • I’m guessing those 400+ yard shots weren’t made with anti-material rifles, and that’s already quite a lot longer range than the actual Beltway shootings (which, for reference, used a .223 Remington, with less muzzle energy than a .30-06).

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            • Unless I’m mistaken, a rifle capable of delivering a .50 caliber round that distance also tends to boom like a cannon. Probably not the first thing I would choose for a stealthy reign of terror in a populated area.

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        • “I would ban any rifle/round comb capable of producing anything more than such and such foot pounds of power and am wondering if you would agree.”

          Shazbot,

          Sure. Let’s create a gun law based around kinetic force of the bullet. Of course, then you have to establish the distance at which the ballistics are calculated. Then you have to factor in the grain of the bullet, etc. While you’re at it, what if we also included a law banning guns that made a boom over a certain decibel? Noise pollution is a serious problem!

          Of course, I am being sarcastic here. You know I am not interested in those kinds of laws. Also, when you make it abundantly clear that your goal is to make gun ownership (or simply gun use) so unpleasant that people wil simply stop wanting to shoot them anymore, it makes any policy proposal short of that seem insincere. And it also demonstrates that you still don’t really understand gun crime and what are the driving forces behind it.

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          • “Sure. Let’s create a gun law based around kinetic force of the bullet. Of course, then you have to establish the distance at which the ballistics are calculated. Then you have to factor in the grain of the bullet, etc”

            Yes. But this is easy enough to do. Cars must meet certain standards for fuel efficiency, safety, etc. We can define standards for the power of weapons too, and combine them with capacity for magazine size, etc.

            “While you’re at it, what if we also included a law banning guns that made a boom over a certain decibel? Noise pollution is a serious problem!”

            Well, you’re being facetious, and trying to deploy some sort of rhetorical device, but if you have some serious argument, you need to explain it to me in more detail, because I don’t get it.

            We all accept that some weapons (chemical weapons, biological, stinger missiles, anti-tank weapons, large fully automatic machine guns, etc.) should be banned because they are too dangerous. An anti-materiel rifles that can do heavy damage to vehicles, armor, and can kill humans at long ranges (2800 yards?) is more dangerous than a .22 with a small magazine in the same way that a 50 caliber machine gun is more dangerous than a semi automatic pistol with a low magazine capacity.

            Surely, there is no problem with banning weapons that are more dangerous than others?

            “when you make it abundantly clear that your goal is to make gun ownership (or simply gun use) so unpleasant that people wil simply stop wanting to shoot them anymore, it makes any policy proposal short of that seem insincere.”

            How so? I am in favor of strong regulations that would act similarly to a ban, yes. But why would it be insincere of me to claim the following. Because strong regulations are unlikely to pass Congress in a country that loves guns (and is not as moved by a desire to save lives, even the lives of children) as much as it does, that it would at least be a good idea to ban guns with large magazines and a high “stopping power” while also requiring licenses, background checks, etc. The perfect needn’t be the enemy of the good.

            Indeed, what is insincere about that?

            “And it also demonstrates that you still don’t really understand gun crime and what are the driving forces behind it.”

            What don’t I get?

            Here is what I believe: “Where there are more guns, there is more homicide.” That’s a quote, based on a peer reviewed paper, reviewing availabele literature (in 2004) cited by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center at The Harvard School of Public Health.

            What peer reviewed, scientific paper in an academic journal disputes this claim? The prevalence of guns increases the homicide rate. Period.

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            • My problem here is that you (and probably me) don’t see cars in the same way we see guns. More often than not, most folks that tend to call for restrictions don’t like guns and those that like guns. That means that any law called for is basically suited to punish and restrict was it seen as unwanted behavior or treat gun owners in the same way we would treat a sex offender.

              I think that instead of starting at the point of dislike of guns, we need to see them truly in the way we see cars, tools that are capable of doing harm. In that way, we then are looking more at safety and harm reduction than we are at stigmatizing.

              A gun can be used in many ways: to hunt, for simple shooting (at a range). But it can also be used to injure or kill people. We need to design laws that lessen the latter without impeding on folks to do the former.

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              • In my ideal, hunting rifles would be rented for a day or a few hours (by licensed hunters from licensed shops) and each would have a gps chip to make theft or misuse less likely.

                I don’t dislike guns anymore than I dislike anthrax or C4 or cyanide or katanas. These are tools for killing. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes necessary, sometimes not, depending on context. (On a related note, I am moderately disturbed that some people would find real killing tools -not fiction or fantasy- sexy or cool without being embarrassed, especially if they aren’t a 13 year old boy with self-esteem problems, but such is life. Killing -even animals or humans when necessary- is serious moral business and shouldn’t be viewed as fun or exciting, but rather undesireable in general but necessary at times.)

                I do dislike that thousands of people (many more than on 9/11), including children, die needlessly every year because of the prevalence of guns in the U.S., especially handguns. I dislike that a lot. Is that wrong? Shouldn’t I hate that fact and be more concerned about it than respecting the love of unnecessary gun-ownership?

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            • Shazbot,

              What you don’t get is that the types of guns that are causing most gun-related homicides are not big, powerful weapons. They are handguns of small to medium size. Talk about banning large calibers or assault rifles is simple poking at the edges of the problems, approx. 2% of all gun deaths.

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              • There is a salient point in there.
                Velocity determines whether a bullet can go through a wall and kill a person on the other side.
                I believe the .357 is the big offender there, which is why the .32 was the police revolver of choice in the old days.

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              • Where do I say this, explicitly? Please give me a quote. Or what have I said that implies it?

                IMO, you are being uncharitable.

                I concur that the prevalance of handguns is the primary cause of our insane homicide rate. Rifles much less so and high powered rifles less so. I have proposed strict laws that would make guns less prevalent as a solution and have been clear that lesser regulations (like the assault weapon ban) are unlikely to make much of a change in the homicide (or suicide or accidental gun death) rate in the U.S.

                I propose a ban on anti-materiel rifles for the same reason we ban the owning of 50 cal machine guns, stinger missilies, RPGs, fully automatic weapons, etc. In the hands of the wrong person, these weapons could do tremendous damage, more damage than a .22, say.

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                • This is the kind of statement I am talking about (emphasis mine):

                  “I propose a ban on anti-materiel rifles for the same reason we ban the owning of 50 cal machine guns, stinger missilies, RPGs, fully automatic weapons, etc.”

                  It’s not illegal to own either one of those things. It just requires additional licenses from the fed. If you don’t understand the laws we have on the books, you should do so before you propose new policies.

                  Furthermore, the reason that .50 are NEVER going to be a problem is because the cost acts as a barrier to ownership. A Barret .50 with a scope will run you $13,000. Shooting one at distance takes a LOT of practice. Do you really think there are a lot of potential spree shooters out there looking to go that route?

                  This is what I mean by poking around at the edges. This thread has already hosted several discussions about the danger of big caliber guns when they simply aren’t the problem at all. IMO it demonstrates a lack of interest in real solutions.

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                  • Again this is uncharitable. You are nitpicking about the semantics of the word “ban”. (You are certainly not citing me stating that handguns are not the primary cause of gun related homicides and suicides in the U.S., so this is irrelevant too.)

                    Something can be correctly said to be “banned” even if it can be acquired with a difficult to obtain license from the government. I am banned from owning or storing an F-16. Defense contractors are not.

                    If you prefer, you can revise my statement to say the following: “I propose strict regulations on the owning of anti-materiel rifles in the way (perhaps these should be strengthened too) we have strict regulations on fully-automatic weapons, etc.” But if you were charitable, that is how you would have read it.

                    —-

                    “it demonstrates a lack of interest in real solutions.”

                    There are at least two problems here: 1. The widespread prevalence of hand guns is a primary cause of the high homicide and suicide rate in the U.S. 2. It is possible in the U.S. to buy weapons that could be used to kill a lot of people, either by a nut or by committed terrorist types. (though these evernts are rare, they are awful possibilities).

                    I would “ban” (please construe this synechdocically as referring to a wide variety of possible strict regulations) stinger missiles, tanks, claymores, 50 cal machine guns, and anti-materiel rifles to help with problem #2.

                    Perhaps we agree that problem #1 will require strict laws on all guns, especially handguns, like they have in Japan and other places that care more about saving lives than we apparently do.

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                    • Oh, yes one more thing: banning (again read “banning” broadly to include strict regulations that would allow ownership in certain situations) high capacity magazines might help (why not try it?) with both problem 1 and problem 2, perhaps most especially the nuts referred to in problem 2.

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                    • Shazbot,

                      As Stillwater points out, you’re being far to loose with your wording. For the purpose of a gun discussion ‘ban’ means no civillians can purchase that gun, period. What we have in effect now are restrictions on gun ownership, which is entirely different. You will find lots more support for restrictions than you will for a ban on certain guns.

                      Also, this:

                      “I would “ban” (please construe this synechdocically as referring to a wide variety of possible strict regulations) stinger missiles, tanks, claymores, 50 cal machine guns, and anti-materiel rifles…”

                      Let’s be honest here. You would ban ALL guns if you were writing the laws. You’ve already indicated this with all of your talk of support for ridiculous levels of restrictions, comments about the mental state of people who enjoy killing for fun (hunters), etc. What we’re trying to do here is have a talk about policy. Real policy. When you oscilate back-and-forth between a preference for ending civillian gun ownership and then talking about banning .50 rifles it implies a nuance to your policy positions that is purely fictional.

                      Maybe you could help by explaining which are your true preferences and then maybe contrasts them with what you think is a reality-based position, because from my perspective they are light years apart.

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                    • “Reality based” is what they do in places like Japan. I agree that here in the U.S. a reality based solution is unlikely any time soon (though you never know what can happen in 2 decades: see gay marriage and drug laws), precisely because too many voters value easy access to guns more than they value saving lives. Their values and votes will kibosh any serious attempts to enact the sort of strict gun control that will save thousands of lives and reduce the homicide and suicide rate.

                      I laid out my ideal policies in a prior post. Ownership of handguns with a small magazine capacity with GPS chips to track them awould be tolerated as long as the owner could prove (annually) to the police that the weapon was stored very safely and the owner was psychologically sound and as long as the owner paid a high tax to cover the costs of trcking the weapons and policing a world with weapons, etc. Hunting rifles and other weapons could be owned by businesses and rented out briefly or used in shooting ranges.

                      Given that this won’t happen, I am in favor of federal laws (state laws a useless given open borders) that do all or some of the following: A magazine capacity over 7 ban, a ban on weapons above a certain amount of stopping power (along with banning stinger missiles), background checks for buyers, a gun owners license (ideally requring a psych check, but at least something like a drivers license), preventing all gun sales not done by a registered and heavily regulated seller, a gun buying tax to pay for policing like the cigarrete tax to pay for health costs.

                      These more moderate measures are unlikely to save the thousands of measures that the reality based policies like they have in Japan would, but they should make some difference in saving lives and they prepare the way in the minds and expectations of voters for more effective regulations later.

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                  • I’m with Mike D on this. A ban on X is a very different than a regulation on the possession of X. The two things shouldn’t be treated as synonymous.

                    Also too, politically sensitive topics require more exacting language than we’re often used to engaging in. Disagreements between people are often viewed as a lack of charity on each others parts, so being careless or loose in language will likely lead to the worst possible interpretation of what’s being said.

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                    • Let’s be maximally clear. In natural language we use the term “ban” as follows. A ban on X is a kind of regulation preventing ownership of X either a.) entirely or b.) almost entirely.

                      Private labs are allowed to own all sorts of dangerous hazardous materials that are “banned” in general with proper licensing.

                      If you wish to restrict your use of “ban” to include only regulations preventing ownership that are exceptionless, that is fine, but you are using the term more narrowly than it is ordinarily used in natural lamguage.

                      Besides, ot is quite clear from what I have posted that the “ban” I favor allows for exceptions. Refusal to see that is uncharitable and nitpicking.

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                    • Shaz, If you want to communicate effectively with Mike D and others on the “pro-gun rights” side of things, you’re going to have to use the same language that they use. Frankly, it’s the same language I use. (I also think it’s standard usage, but that’s besides the point.)

                      If the discussion is framed around distinctions between outright bans vs. mild regulations on purchasing requirements vs. onerous restrictions on purchasing and possession that are functionally equivalent to an outright ban vs. regulations that serve no functional purpose whatsoever and so on, then those distinctions need to be preserved in the language we use.

                      If you’re using the word ban as synonymous with both “ban” and “restrictions functionally equivalent to a ban”, then I think you’re using the word differently than most of us. So I don’t see it as uncharitable or nitpicking.

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                    • And you’re probably right that this natural language doesn’t make the distinction. But when we’re talking about gun rights and all that, we’re basically using technical language, it seems to me, part of which is distinguishing between an outright ban (which potentially violates individual rights) and restrictions functionally equivalent to a ban (which preserves the basic right).

                      In the latter case, the burden is on justifying the restriction. In the former, it’s on justifying violating a right.

                      Now, maybe teasing out those distinctions is part of natural language, but – to be honest – I don’t think it is. For better or worse.

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                    • That’s all well and good Stillwater, but my point stands. We do “ban” fully automatic machine guns jus as we “ban” anthrax and stinger missiles You can own any of these things, but only with difficulty and licenses, etc.

                      Really, there “banning” isn’t a bivalent notion: there is a spectrum f bans from atrong to weak.

                      A reasonably charitable interlocutor would’ve asked me “what do you mean by ‘ban’, Shazbot? Something strict or not so much?” An uncharitable interoluctor would say, “Aha! Shazbot doesn’t use the word ‘ban’ quite the way I would or others that I agree with would so he isn’t serious! Got him. He is wrong about these issues. If only he knew more about the metallurgy of rifle barrels. Boo Shazbot!”

                      A charitable reader should be fine with my use of the word ban as long as I provide more details, which I already had and would be happy to do more of. My use of the term was not at all problematic.

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                    • Shaz, I think two things are going on here. Three really. The first is that I’m a bit distracted by the Stanford-Wisconsin game. The second is that in the gun community, and I think more generally, the word ban means prohibition. There are bans on possession, bans on sales, bans on activities, etc. To ban something means to legally prohibit it. On that score, there is no ban the ownership, possession, exchange, of fully automatic machine guns. Even the assault weapons “ban” didn’t ban assault weapons. It prohibited the sale to civilians of assault weapons manufactured after the date the bill took effect. (I think that’s right, anyway.)

                      The third thing is that if you want to retain a functional definition of the word “ban”, then I think your glossing over some distinctions that guns-rights people are very sensitive to *even as* you’re arguing for an extreme position that would be more effectively made by recognizing those distinctions. So you’re not talking to them. Which was Mike’s point upthread.

                      I mean, look, I agree with you that according to one way of looking at things, our cultural love of guns is pretty fucking crazy and leads to lots of social problems and some seemingly obvious resolutions to those problems. On another way of looking at things, it’s just … well … not that simple. In the US, people have a Constitutional right to bear arms. That’s a constitutive part of our cultural and institutional identity. It’s also The Law.

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                    • Shazbot,

                      “We do “ban” fully automatic machine guns jus as we “ban” anthrax and stinger missiles…”

                      This is ridiculous. The fact that you are holding on so tightly to a losing position I think demonstrates that you are edging close to trolling. This is not a natural law argument. This is a policy argument. When we talk about a ‘ban’ in terms of gun law it means no civillian ownership. Period. That is the terminology that everyone except you has agreed to. When you insist on using a term incorrectly in the context of a discussion, you are choosing your own interests over a productive debate. I can’t say I am surprised but this is getting to be nonsense.

                      Now, please repeat (again) that I am being uncharitable.

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                    • Still,

                      “I mean, look, I agree with you that according to one way of looking at things, our cultural love of guns is pretty fucking crazy and leads to lots of social problems and some seemingly obvious resolutions to those problems. On another way of looking at things, it’s just … well … not that simple.”

                      It leads to a lot of dead people, including dead children. Far more than 9/11 every damn year, and all of it completely unnecessary (unlike automobile deaths, given that cars are a necessary part of modern life).

                      The meaning and implications of the 2nd amendment are debatable. The 2nd amendment isn’t a mutual suicide pact.

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                    • “a losing position I think demonstrates that you are edging close to trolling.”

                      How is my position losing?

                      The rest is ad hominem.

                      “This is a policy argument. When we talk about a ‘ban’ in terms of gun law it means no civillian ownership. Period. That is the terminology that everyone except you has agreed to.”

                      But we use “ban” the way I did in policy debates all the time. There has been a travel ban to Cuba, but of course it is possible to go to Cuba with permission.

                      Here is wikipedia: “support of a bill that would lift the U.S. travel ban for Americans wishing to visit Cuba.” But the state department says ” persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba.”

                      That is, there are things -travel to Cuba is one- that are banned but with some exceptions that are licensed.

                      This was how I was using the word and it is a perfectly common use of the word. I see no evidence that there is agreement that this common use of the word “ban” should be avoided.

                      (BTW, you never justfifed your claim that I don’t understand that handguns are the primary cause of gun related homicide in the U.S. You merely changed the subject to nitpicking my use of the word “ban.”)

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                    • “Now, please repeat (again) that I am being uncharitable.”

                      Just so we’re clear, is this a threat to edit or delete my comments?

                      Or do you have an internet, cyber .50 cal that you are threatening me with?

                      I stand by all of my comments so far. To call someone’s comment an uncharitable interpretation is not a personal attack (I have complimented you many times now) but a sometimes necessary part of reasoned debate. If you delete my comments, I will take this as evidence that you are not interested in reasoned debate.

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                • Have you ever fired a .50-cal rifle or machine gun? There is a reason they are crew served and mounted weapons! The recoil is incredible. The muzzle discharge (the gases escaping behind the bullet) can cause damage to things nearby (saw a video where the discharge shattered a taillight because it was being fired from a truck bed). The gun itself weighs more than a small child, costs as much as a small car (as Mike noted), and each round is about $5.

                  As far as I know, a .50-cal rifle has not fired during a crime in the US at all in the past 50 years or more.

                  Why regulate it beyond your own fear & discomfort at the idea of such a device in civilian hands (and the fact that something makes you feel icky is ALWAYS a great reason to regulate it)?

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                  • MRS, I’ve fired a Barrett and have fired the gun pictured here the S&W 500 numerous times. They do indeed kick like mules; can’t fire the S&W more than a couple of times without wearing padded gloves. Beyond what Mike says about the cost of the weapons is the cost of ammo. The 50 cal bullets start around $5 apiece. Makes going out and getting proficient with them a difficult proposition.

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            • More dangerous in what sense? Not statistically, as others have noted.

              As you note, .50 BMG rounds can do damage to vehicles that .30-06 rounds can’t do. .50 BMG is probably more dangerous to cape buffalo than .30-06, too. But against humans? The very fact that .30-06 was the bullet of choice for the World Wars should be ample demonstration that it’s plenty lethal against humans (and, in fact, the standard modern military round, the 5.56 NATO, is smaller and less powerful than the .30-06). It might even make a difference against body armor, but that’s not usually something that makes a difference for homicides.

              A fully automatic machine gun shoots more bullets, and explosives, etc, can kill multiple people for each use. But a semi-automatic or bolt-action rifle, whether chambered in .30-06 or .50 BMG, puts out bullets at the same rate. Range, technically, might be different, but long range shootings are a very rare form of violence (and, it’s worth noting, the second longest sniper shot on record is not with a .50, but a .338).

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              • Modern military rounds, as I understand it, are actually designed to *NOT* kill (if it can be helped).

                You kill a guy, you have taken one guy off of the battlefield. You injure a guy and make him require medical attention? You take him off the battlefield and the two guys helping him.

                So, ironically, military weapons don’t want “stopping power”.

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                • I’m pretty sure that’s a myth. Even if it were the goal, it’s not particularly practical. The primary goal of military infantry weapons is rapid incapacitation. You want them to go down so they stop shooting at you. It’s no good if they bleed to death 5 minutes later if they’ve shot you in the mean time. And by and large it actually takes more “stopping power” to reliably stop somebody in a reasonable timescale than it does to make a hole that will cause someone to eventually bleed to death.

                  In fairness, the 5.56 is designed to be used in an automatic weapon. But the .30-06 isn’t. And really, people and animals are made out of the same stuff; any weapons that are suitable for hunting elk or moose (of which .30-06 rifles are one example) will be just as dangerous to humans.

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              • A .416 mag can shoot through the engine block of two parked cars.
                It was made to go 3 miles before making a kill.
                Close range, it will go through practically anything.
                I’ve shot them through tree trunks bigger than I could put both arms around.

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      • Note that these weapons have tactical capabilities (read: can kill more people, more easily, in more situations), which is why they are produced and why they are regulated.

        Also note that in the hands of the wrong people in the U.S., they could do tremendous damage.

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        • A .50 cal BMG, also called a Barret, is for extremely long distances. The round is typically considered “anti armor” and not generally anti personal, i.e., it’s generally not used to kill individual combatants, although it can be and was used so in Iraq and probably Afghanistan. Its desirability is the long range. BTW, a .50 cal bullet is about 6 inches long. It’s a big ass round. The recoil on one of those weapons is quite strong. Only a well trained soldier has the ability to fire a number of rounds off with any accuracy. I wouldn’t call it a weapon designed “to kill more people”. It’s also a damned expensive weapon to purchase, being over 5,000.00 USD the last time I checked.

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        • a 50 BMG? How so? As pointed out 50 BMG is anti-material (tank, helicopter, armored vehicle), not a anti-personnel weapon, AND is already heavily restricted Class 3. No one is going to fight combat shouldering a 50 cal, nor a mini-gun as Jessie Ventura did in Predator, thats Hollywood. Do you really think someone is going to commit public shooting carrying around 6ft 30lb rifle? These are 100% recreation/collector/gotta have it guns that people jump through hoops to get.. Nor are any crimes committed with any ‘ultra’ high power rd, 500 S/W, Desert Eagle, 50 Beowolf, or 44 Mag again 100% recreation/collector/gotta have it.

          In regards to ‘how much stopping power is too much’ and where to draw the line.. I would more afraid of encountering a CHEAP 22LR handgun , or maybe 38, 9mm or 40. Nothing remotely close to a 50cal.

          AS for your proposal, 7 rd max, why 7, why not 10, or 5, or one? .. Background check and licensed FFLs are currently required, individual sales (ie gun shop loophole) could be debated.. Annual psych test , storage inspection, thats intolerable. And business owned and rented hunting rifles, a bunch guys in woods renting guns, seriously? That may be fine for an executive CEO hunting excursion, but not the avid hunter or average land owner. What about nuisance and livestock predator (deer, wild pig, coyote, wolf, ect) legislation to ‘control’ the populations, cause it would be unlawful for farmers to own firearms to protect livelihood?

          Same as new gotta have it electronic technology. How is SOPA and anti-piracy legislation coming along? ID Theft, internet stalkers, bullies, pedophiles? Should we federally register all personal IP’s and devices, regulate and track internet usage, monitor Facebook and forum posts/comments?

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      • Um, so? What’s that got to do with anything? I really don’t get the connection.

        Yes, you can kill a human with a .22. OTOH, there’s really no point in selling — to civilians — guns designed to pierce armor or destroy things like engines. Not only is there no concievable use for them (short of armed rebellion. And barret v. drone, tank, or bomb, it’s probably saving the fools from themselves), such weapons tend to over-penetrate.

        There’s a reason police don’t wander around with monster handguns. They’d prefer their bullets, should they use them, not to go through the person they shot and hit someone on the other side. Or through car doors. Or walls.

        I have no idea where to draw the line, but 2nd amendment aside (ie, my own personal policy preference as a liberal) would be to heavily restrict ownership of anything outside of hunting rifles and shotguns. Not “ban” handguns — but at least require some minimum level of training, competence, and stability to own one.

        I’d be perfectly happy with speciality outfits setting up ranges with restricted weapons to allow citizens to play with them.

        My concern is with portable, easily concealed weapons (handguns) and, for lack of a better term, “military weapons”. Yes, you can kill a man with a hunting rifle. Nonetheless, that isn’t the design goal for a hunting rifle — it’s to shoot animals. The design goal of an M-16, “civilian” version or not, is to gun down people.

        I’m a-okay with the former, really frown on the latter.

        I guess it’s from knowing way too many gun owners and concealed carry permit holders. If nothing else, I’d love to put concealed carry requirements on “show need” not “want to” criteria again.

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        • Morat,

          My muzzleloader that I use for deer season is .50. Pretty standard. A 12-gauge shotgun with slugs is .50. So do these appear to be problematic? And if restricting .50 caliber, why not .45? Or .44? Also, if we’re worried about range, a .270 bullet can go a long, long way though it arrives with less kinetic energy.

          My point of course is that wherever you draw the line, it is arbitrary. Teach good gun safety and these rounds are fine. No one is committing homicides with .50.

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          • Again, those are HUNTING WEAPONS.

            Surely you can distinguish between weapons designed for hunting and weapons designed for killing people, right?

            I hunt. I shoot skeet. (Not fond of the taste of bird, hence why I blow away skeet and not ducks. Except chicken. Love me chicken. don’t need a gun to get that, though). And I can generally take a single look at a gun and tell you whether it was designed to gun down a meal or gun down a person.

            Words spring to mind like “overkill” and “concealability” and “magazine capacity” and “jesus, why do you need a laser sight and a light and god knows what else to clip on this thing”?

            Yes, I can take a hunting rifle and kill a person with it. Same with the shotgun I use for skeet, that my father in law uses for birds. But that’s not what they’re made for, and they are — compared to even civilian knock-offs of military rifles and handguns — really, really inefficient at it.

            “Arbitrary” is such a strange word — YOU think it’s arbitrary, and have a vibe of “so we shouldn’t even bother”. I’ve got a perfectly fine line that I don’t feel is arbitrary at all.

            You know, aforementioned: Made for animals (not marketed for hunting, made for) good, made for killing people, bad. Handguns? Not unless you can pass a serious set of hurdles, and not to carry at ALL unless state, local, and feds all agree you need to.

            You don’t like the line, don’t agree with it, but it’s hardly arbitrary. I think people should be allowed to own guns that aren’t designed to kill people, and shouldn’t be allowed guns that are. End of story.

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            • What are the vast majority of killings done with in this country?

              If I had to guess, I’d probably say a .22 handgun. Do we have numbers on that?

              If my guess is correct, that means that we’d be banning the smallest caliber handgun (which, at first glance, would be the “weakest” handgun)… leaving, oh, the .357 and .44 Magnums on the table because, hey, they kill fewer people.

              …and my google-fu must suck because I’m just finding that “guns are the number one murder weapon” rather than *WHICH* guns are the number one murder weapon. I did find this:

              http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_most_common_murder_weapon_used

              Guns are the most common murder weapon in the United States. Handguns of 22 caliber and 38 caliber are most used.

              But that’s not exactly helpful (that wasn’t an excerpt… that was the WHOLE THING).

              Assuming that information is correct, looking to ban ultra-super-really-powerful rifles “designed to kill people” is looking to ban weapons that don’t get used, in practice, to kill people.

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            • Morat – An AR-15 shoots a .223 round. My deer rifle shoots a .243. Pretty close. The only thing that separates the two is speed of fire and capacity. Assuming we maintain some sanity and keep semi-auto guns available then we can talk magazine capacity. That’s reasonable. When we start talking about banning certain calibers that are currently legal? That’s completely missing the mark on gun violence.

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              • It’s a policy driven by irrational reactions to guns that look scary, not to an analysis of what sorts of regulations might prevent what sorts of harm. Whether we’re talking about mass shootings, run of the mill homicides, accidents, or suicides, anti-material sniper rifles have approximately zero relevance to anything.

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                • This is correct Don. What we need to focus on is the guns that are involved in most murders which are common run of the mill pistols, small calibre up to 9mm pistols. Oddly trying to ban a .50 would lead to a freak out but it would affect few people since they are so expensive while any sort of improved regs on common pistols will affect far more people. Allthough people will still freak about them. In fact the best thing to do for .50 gun sales would be to discuss banning them.

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                  • There is no meed to focus on one thing. We can do more than one thing at a time. Deal with prevalent handgun homicides through legislation and also legislate about weapons like stinger missiles and anti-materiel rifles that can pierce armor, destroy vehicles, kill at 2ooo yards, etc.

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                    • Cars are necessary as are airplanes. Both should be regulated to be safe and environmentally sound.

                      .50 cal anti-materiel rifles are not necessary and are dangerous in the way that stinger missiles and anthrax are dangerous and unnecessary.

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                    • jason, I guess that I should hire a private chauffeur to drive twenty miles from a little town of 134 people to come drive me where ever I need to go. Really people, please remember there is more to America than just cities.

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                    • Shazbot – cars are not necessary. They have been around about 400 years less than guns. Surely we could go back to life without them? And as Jason points out, we could rely on public transportation with heavily trained drivers. You would save a lot more lives than a gun ban (approx 20,000 per year).

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                    • No we couldn’t get rid of cars. Not without losing more lives than we save: Semi trucks carry goods that workers and mules and trains would have to carry and that can be hazardous work. Ambulances need to be driven to arrive quickly to save lives. Even with better public transportation, many people live in rural areas and need groceries and supplies. Elderly people could die or be injured walking long distances in bad weather for supllies. Millions (trillions? who knows?) of man hours doing difficult manual labor are saved by using automobiles to transport goods and people to where they need to be. Those man hours can be used more efficiently in things that ultimately save lives: scientific research, medicine, nursing care, improved housing, imprved construction in general, more efficient food production, etc.

                      In short, banning autos -at this stage of history anyway- would cause economic problems that would ultimately be worse for humans than the awful losses they cause.

                      Don’t get me wrong. One reason that we should use tax and spending policy to create more public transportation and more dense urban living is (not just the environment) but also that it can save lives by limiting automobile accidents. So, in a sense, we are working towards making automobiles less prevalent and at some point it might make sense to regulate their existence so strictly that they become very rare indeed outside of rural areas where they would still be needed.

                      I suppose, historically, we could’ve tried to make it such that only professional taxi drivers drove and ordinary people didn’t. That might have saved lives in reduced auto accidents. But this is very inefficient (especially outside of dense cities) and requires a lot of man hours spent on having trained taxi drivers for every person in America. Again that loss of man hours historically may have hurt the economy in life lost badly enough to offset gains in reduced auto accidents. And anyway trained taxi drivers aren’t necessarily much safer than trained citizen drivers following rules.

                      All of this is sort of a red herring/fallacy of distraction though. Japan has effectively eliminated private gun ownership and they are doing fine. So therefore we have proven that guns (outside of licensed, strictly regulated rifles or shotguns in rural areas) aren’t necessary for a happy, prosperous modern life.

                      No society has demonstrated the same for cars, i.e that we can do fine without them.

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                    • Just Me, my point exactly

                      Mike , you got it…

                      Zic.. some reference from CDC
                      http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/LeadingCauses.html

                      http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/10LCID_Violence_Related_Injury_Deaths_2010-a.pdf

                      Note that homicide has lowered the last 6 years….firearm suicide is almost 2x firearm homicide.. suicide is increasing… also compare to accidental Falls and Poisoning….

                      not to mention 1.7 million hospital-associated infections contribute to 99,000 deaths each year.
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosocomial_infection

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                    • no one said anything about banning autos, just heavily restricted ownership…

                      semi truck/transport – CDL
                      taxis – licensed/trained no need to walk long distances, just call

                      no need for trained taxi for every person, unless you hire private driver.. your not proposing a law enforcement officer for every American are you?

                      Japan started in the 17tgh century?
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics#Japan

                      And how do you propose removing all existing guns in US and Mexican smugglers. How did that work out for Gemany?
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany

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            • again, where to draw the line.. a HUNTING WEAPON designation is arbitrary…
              – 223 AR vs 223 Remington 700
              – heavy barrel AR varmint rifle
              – 22LR AR (it’s a scary military grade looking weapon)
              – ‘tactical’/home defense shotgun, which already had proposed ban like a camo shotgun w/ 24″ barrel is less dangerous than black one with 20″ barrel

              How bout 5.56/7.62 NATO vs. 223/308… Does NATO designation get a scary military designation ban?

              why do you need clip on accessories? Why not? laser sights, flashlights, bayonet, carry handles, and pistol grips do nothing to make firearm more deadly.

              Only valid discussion has been magazine capacity..
              http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2013/01/assault-weapons-ban-part-ii-how-to-prevent-a-meaningful-dialogue-on-guns-and-gun-control/
              Nobody really needs 30, 50, 100 rd magazines… those could possibly venture into the Class 3 realm of full auto machine gun shoots.. Then again, were to draw the line, 10, 5, 1.. What about non-detachable magazines, 22 or 30/30 tube, or M1 stripper clips???

              Special outfits do exists for the average citizen to rent/play with restricted Class 3 weapons,, Google ‘machine gun shoots’.

              REMEMBER, muzzle loaders were originally designed to kill people,, now they are pretty much used by people to extend their hunting opportunities..

              You say gun-owneres are paranoid.. thats because most see this type of ban as an arbitrary grab based solely on looks and/or current media portrayal of certain ‘scary’ weapons, with no regard to cartridge size, capacity, or rate of fire, and propose nothing for increased CRIMINAL CONTRO, believing the real goal is just what SHAZBOT propose, 100% GPS tracking, thumb printing and annual psych/storage inspection, and/or complete bans and seizures…
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany

              “Laws without morals are in vain.”
              Benjamin Franklin

              “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”
              James Madison

              MAYBE we should focus less on gun restrictions and more on peoples ability to function in reality without going postal on bunch of innocent people..

              Again, what about internet and electronics… Do we need all these USB, blue tooth and wireless accessories. Should just anyone be able to buy credit card skimmer off EBAY. WHy does anyone need abilty to attach card reader to iPhone. Should all personal electronic devices and IP’s be registered and track internet usage to deter online theft, bullying, stalking and pedophiles. Should FB and message board accounts be monitored? SOPA and anti-piracy?

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        • Let’s try to put aside all this business of weapons types. Here’s what we ought to be worried about:

          I’m sitting here watching New Orleans news. Our murder rate has gone down just a little bit, but it’s dreadful. So the NOPD police chief is on the television saying one-third of all murder victims and murder perps have previously been arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

          I’m sick of the title “Assault” Rifle. Semi-automatic weapons, be they pistols or shotguns or what have you, are not suitable for military assaults. An infantryman carries a fully automatic weapon: granted, he often shoots in semi-automatic mode, but there is no getting past the difference.

          I’m a Liberal. I advocate for stronger gun control. Really, folks, if we’re to make any headway against this epidemic of violence, we’ll look at it scientifically. That means taking legit gun owners seriously. Restricting their rights is well within our reach but we must never allow ourselves to go there.

          The legal gun owners are not the problem. The calibre and shape of the weapon is not the problem. If we’re really interested in reducing the murder rate, we will concentrate on what can be solved: getting these weapons out of the hands of criminals and crazies, there’s the solution.

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          • I know a number of legal owners who are, flatly, paranoid.

            They are the ones who become sad statistics — husbands who shoot wives or kids, thinking they’re “burglers” or gun down suspicious minorities because they imagined a gun or were scared they’d be mugged (despite never being the victom of a crime in their life).

            They own guns because they’ve been subjected to a mythos that they’re under seige, always and always — from the news to the stories they swap over gun talk — they’re certain that one day they’ll kill a man that was out to do them wrong.

            I wouldn’t call them mentally ill, even. But they’re perfectly legal gun-owners, and they’re far, far more likely to kill someone they know in a tragic accident than to ever actually defend themselves.

            And indeed, they are a very large problem.

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            • You can always make the world safer by removing a risk factor. The process of disarming this society would be a monstrous undertaking. How do you propose to do it? We don’t want people to drown in the sea so we boil the ocean. How far do you want to take this little endeavour? Haven’t we tried this sort of experiment before, with Prohibition? Lots of good arguments for Prohibition, including the fact that lots of murders are concomitant with intoxication.

              Read Pynchon’s Rules for Paranoids. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

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            • Do you have any, and I mean any, proof that these people are more likely to kill someone with a firearm? Some studies you could present, papers maybe? Otherwise, this is simply conjecture, and no good law was ever made that way.

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            • “And indeed, they are a very large problem.”

              Actually they are a very small problem if statistics are to be believed. In 2008 there were 680 accidental shooting deaths. Of these, a much smaller % were the types you are talking about. And then when you look at those as a % of overall gun deaths, it’s in the single digits.

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          • one-third of all murder victims and murder perps have previously been arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

            Meaning, by simple subtraction, that two-thirds of murder perps have not been previously arrested for illegal possession.

            The legal gun owners are not the problem.

            Until they become the problem, eh? Juvenile delinquents aside, all persons that we agree should not own weapons start out in the state of “Ok to own a weapon” and then commit some act that puts them in the other category. I agree that people that shouldn’t own weapons should not be able to acquire weapons, but that’s nearly a tautology, so… what?

            I have more on this subject (responsible gun ownership) in the post I’m submitting for the symposium, but it’s simply not possible to leave the good guys untouched when dealing with the criminals and crazies.

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            • The legal gun owners are not the “problem” idea seems more about the tendency of those on the pro-gun side to split people into good guys and bad guys. The good guys are brave and noble, and ready to defend us all. The bad guys are nefarious and clearly different. Even if we stick with the good/bad guy dichotomy, all the bad guys were good guys until that first suicide, dv murder, lack of gun safety leading to a kid getting hold of a gun, etc. People are the issue, all of them.

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              • I have said nothing about brave or noble. Do you have to be brave and noble to deserve your rights in law? This isn’t about good guys or bad guys. It’s about being an American citizen and having rights in law.

                I keep repeating this, over and over. It never seems to sink in, so I’ll say it again. Rights aren’t negotiable for Liberals. Our causes are always bound up in the fates of horrible people. So let’s quit slapping rhetorical labels like Good Guy and Bad Guy on gun owners. It’s a question of Legally Entitled and Legally Forbidden to own weapons. That’s the distinction before the law.

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            • That’s not the way statistics works. An arrest for illegal possession of a firearm is the most common factor in NOLA murders. That doesn’t say anything about other two thirds of the life pool. There’s a strong correlation between illegal gun ownership and being murdered or murdering. If anything, this means a previous arrest on this charge is a predictive event.

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              • Indeed, that was a logic fail on my part. Yesterday was a long day.

                I guess the question is, What do we do with that information? It seems to me that both data points (prior arrest on gun charges & being a perp/victim of murder) are indicators of a third, more general, condition: living in a violent social milieu with easy access to illegal/black-market firearms. Drug gangs and such, eh?

                I’ll repeat, it’s basically a tautology to declare that those who shouldn’t have access to firearms shouldn’t be able to obtain them. But any public policy that would endeavor to make that a reality is going to infringe on the supposed rights of responsible, law-abiding, gun owners by creating a certain amount of transactional friction. We need something better than the current half-assed background check system.

                The way I see it is this:

                1. A reliable, secure, and convenient system of personal identification, based in cryptography and biometrics.

                2. Part of the system will be a check-off; legally entitled to own weapons or nay.

                3. A reliable, secure, and comprehensive registration system for all firearms, or at least the troubling variety (handguns? semi-automatics?).

                4. A quick and easy method for establishing that a potential buyer is not on the naughty list.

                5. A law that transferring a weapon to someone that’s been dis-qualified is a fairly serious felony entailing prison time.

                Short of something like that I don’t see any way of staunching the flow of weapons into the underground ecosystem. But of course the responsible gun owners of America will howl, so that’s the political stand-off.

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                • Well, you weren’t wrong, heh heh.

                  I am solution-agnostic. The only hobby horse I’m riding around this playroom is this: alienating the legit gun owners is the worst approach of all. I’m convinced at this point we should be doing the statistical work to identify traits and characteristics for the legit gun owners: we’ve done loads of work on the criminals but I can’t find much on the much-ballyhooed “Good Guys”.

                  This much we do know, at least anecdotally: responsible gun owners were raised around weapons. Beyond that, I’m quite willing to give way to any proper surveys and statistics.

                  Returning to your enumeration: what if we were able to turn #4 inside out and make a Nice List. I constantly return to him but he does seem to be a viable instance in this case: how can we identify the Mike Dwyers to the exclusion of the thugs? Furthermore, we can’t legislate this Nice List: it’s a contradiction in terms. I foresee the rise of some voluntary organisation, think of a reformed NRA, one which raised the bar for weapons safety instead of bullying legislators and scaring the rubes.

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                  • Seems to me like there was less gun violence in the old days before the background checks.
                    The guns are much the same as they’ve always been.
                    The difference is in the people.
                    But where?
                    And how is it also expressed, rather than simply in gun violence?

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                    • Here’s the deal: with the advent of more and better information transmission, the violence is coming into focus. It only seems worse because we know about it. For all the talk about how isolated we are from each other, and there’s a sad note of truth to that, what with not knowing our neighbours and staring into the backlit void of our personal comm devices — we’re more interconnected now than ever.

                      My old man did his dissertation on the spread of the news of Lincoln’s assassination through the South. It took almost a month to reach some quarters. During the epidemic of lynchings in the South, a few papers would cover the incidents but it wasn’t until the advent of television, especially the episode at the Pettus Bridge that the systemic persecution of black people was shoved up America’s nostrils.

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                    • I haven’t read it, but I’ve read reviews; and from what I understand, he’s looking at it more from a macro level, and not from a measurement of a few decades on.

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                    • I don’t doubt that there’s something to the ability to aggregate information more quickly; and population density certainly has something to do with it.
                      Over the summer, there was one weekend in Chicago with 30 shootings; 7 ended in fatalities– a busy weekend even for Chicago.
                      But I don’t seem to remember violence being that prevalent back in the 70’s. Maybe I was more unaware of it.

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                    • Gun violence peaks with the crack epidemic. It’s been declining ever since. Factcheck may not be a source to your liking, but that’s just the result of a quick google. Any evidence to the contrary would be welcomed.

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      • I tend to agree that the answer to Shaz’s question is no, but not for the same reason. However, a related true statement for many pairs of weapons that is relevant is “While it is possible to kill a person with either weapon A or weapon B, it is considerably easier to kill a person with weapon B.”

        A handgun anecdote rather than a rifle, but… Many years ago, the police department in the city where I lived wanted to upgrade its standard handgun from one that used a .38 cartridge to one that used a .357 Magnum. The city council eventually vetoed the idea. Expert testimony that was presented examined the nine cases in the previous few years where police fire hit an innocent bystander. None of the nine hit by the .38 round had died. In the opinion of the experts, at least four of the nine would have died if it had been a .357 Magnum round.

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        • I would argue that in many ways it’s easier to kill somebody with a .22 pistol than any long gun.

          I can carry a .22 around and nobody knows I’ve got it. I can walk up to my target and shoot him 10 times at point blank range. You can’t exactly sneak around with a .50. Suckers are *heavy*.

          It’s also much much easier to kill *lots* of people with a .22 than a .50. Low recoil, much more rapid fire.

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          • Recoil, definitely.
            Anyone that’s ever fired a .50 cal. pistol knows that a .50 is a deliberative weapon.
            Even more so if you fire with one hand. Maybe 3 shots max in five seconds with any degree of accuracy.

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            • I fired a .50 pistol for the first time this spring. One round and my hand stung for several minutes. It was a suprisingly accurate gun at 30 feet but a follow-up shot would have been pretty sketchy. Those guns aren’t for self-defense or killing people. They would do a good job on big game with a decent scope though. Pistols are becoming increasingly popular for deer around here where most shots are fairly close due to us not having an abundance of open space.

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              • My friend bought his in Alaska after being charged by a grizzly. His S&W 500 even has a bear etched into the handle, it isn’t even there as a first defense but a last one. Most Alaskans I know who spend a lot of time in the bush prefer a sawed off shotgun (ideally the illegal kind that have less than an 18″ barrel) for bear defense.

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                  • My friend wasn’t hunting bear, he was working on his airplane and the bear came by to visit. He had been fishing, not hunting. I understand you’re in Alaska, just don’t know how much of an outdoors person you are. If you’re surprised by a bear, coming at you at more than 20 mph (they easily run 35mph) I’d be curious how quickly you can bring up a rifle and how well you’d be able to aim it. Recently in Wyoming an elk hunter was able to kill a bear that had attacked him AFTER it had ahold of his arm.

                    Here’s a Rossi, and as you see in the comments (before restrictions) carried around in Canada (similar to Alaska in many respects except for the language spoken) for bear defense. The shotgun might not kill the bear, but the purpose is deterrence not death. The S&W does a great job >a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoW8nHIVuRk”>watermelons, and I’m guessing the bear wouldn’t be very mobile if he took one of these in the chest.

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          • Yeah, and if I were buying a handgun I’d almost certainly go with something chambered for .22 LR rounds for a variety of reasons. Still, the mass killers of late would appear to disagree with you. They’re showing up with .223 long guns and larger caliber handguns.

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            • .223 is not exactly a large round, as far as rifles go. It’s smaller and less powerful than many common hunting rounds like the .30-06 discussed above and similar rounds like the .308 Winchester. According to Wikipedia, Lanza’s mother also owned a .30-06 Enfield rifle that he left behind in favor of the .223.

              The pistol used by the Aurora shooter (along with the shotgun and the .223 rifle) was .40 S&W, which I suppose might fit into a sufficiently broad definition of “large caliber”. The Gabriel Giffords shooting used a 9mm, which is certainly not a large caliber pistol. The Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting used a 9mm, also. The Fort Hood shooter used a .357 magnum and a FN 5.7 mm, which seems to be a weird round that I never heard of before, but is definitely not large caliber. The Virginia Tech shooter used another 9mm and, in fact, a pistol chambered for .22 LR.

              The Rio de Janeiro elementary school shooter I referred to below used a .32 and .38.

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  1. Here’s a description from a book I read recently (Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, the first Hannibal Lecter book):

    The barrel was vented near the muzzle to help keep the muzzle down on recoil, the hammer was bobbed, and it had a good set of fat grips. He suspected it was throated for the speedloader.

    Beyond the obvious “this thing is bad-ass”, what does it mean?

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    • Not a gun expert, and I don’t know what knit of gun is behind discussed, but I’ll add the following:

      Vented muzzle: basically escaping combustion gasses near the muzzle of the gun to limit the upward recoil (google “muzzle brake”)

      Bobbed hammer: just what it sounds like, the thumb portion of the hammer is machined off to make it less likely to catch something. This would obviously require the gun to be semi auto.

      Speed loader: for guns that don’t have removable magazines for quick reloading, it is a device to quickly reload the gun. For instance, on a revolver, it hold six (or however many) in a the right position to easily reload the gun in a few quick motions.

      The overall impact of the passage is to suggest that the owner of the gun had made numerous modifications for convenience and usefulness suggesting that he/she is very experienced with the gun.

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      • I was googling all the other stuff Geof explains, and found that DFW basically ripped that passage from Red Dragon (a great book) in his own Infinte Jest (a good one):

        Infinite Jest: “The Item’s some customized version of a U.S. .44 Bulldog Special…blunt and ugly with a bore like the mouth of a cave…The piece’s been modified, Gately can appraise. The barrel’s been vented out near the muzzle to cut your Bulldog’s infamous recoil, the hammer’s bobbed, and the thing’s got a fat Mag Na Port or -clone grip like the metro Finest favor…It’s not a semiauto but is throated for a fucking speed-loader….” (IJ, pp. 609-610)

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            • I have a hard time getting exercised about the fact that a politician didn’t write his own speech. (On the other hand, that a writer got paid for stuff he ripped off, and having been caught, lied about having permission from the guy he ripped it off from…)

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              • Full disclosure: I think Biden’s pretty much a tool. I am half-convinced Obama picked him as VP as a personal security measure, so that nobody would ever risk assassinating him (Obama) and ending up with President Joe. So take this for what it’s worth (bupkis).

                But the plagiarism wasn’t a one-time thing Biden just did as pol on a speech. In fact, by then, he shoulda known better, having been busted before, as a lowly student nobody.

                From wiki:

                He then entered Syracuse University College of Law, receiving a half scholarship based on financial need with some additional assistance based in part upon academics.[21] By his own description he found law school to be “the biggest bore in the world” and pulled many all-nighters to get by.[15][22] During his first year there, he was accused of having plagiarized 5 of 15 pages of a law review article. Biden said it was inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation, and he was permitted to retake the course after receiving an ‘F’ grade, which was subsequently dropped from his record.[22]

                But hey, what’s a full third of “your” article, right? Coulda happened to anyone.

                Look, I have no vested interest in defending Domenech (in fact, I didn’t even know who he was, and had to look him up).

                But if we are making plagiarism jokes about political figures, I know where I am going.

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                • I’m not going to defend Biden, but “inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation” rings a bell. A college roommate of mine got an F on a paper for the same reason, and he had no intent to plagiarize. He copied a definition of (if I recall correctly) “tragic hero” from some well-known reference in order to see of it was a good fit for Gatsby, and failed to cite it.

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          • Yeah, I read all of that sucker (though I did not remember that passage – I stumbled over someone’s page who had made that connection while I was googling the terms in Mike’s comment/question.)

            It’s a good book, and worth the read – and the “Eschaton” chapter is absolutely brilliant – but it is absolutely overlong. Franzen’s “Corrections” (he and DFW were friends) hits a lot of the same themes, much more pithily.

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            • Corrections is the one book that got me to say “I am done reading what is hot and new” and throw the copy I was given in the trash. I would have felt guilty for taking it to a used bookstore for credit, as it was probably the worst book I had ever cracked open. I also worked part time a Borders then, and would tell customers exactly what I thought of it.
              Sorry, but that book really hit a sore spot that only Tom Robbins had hit before.

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              • Hoo boy! It didn’t change my life or anything, but I thought it was a perfectly cromulent book while I was reading it (if, much like IJ for that matter, a wee bit overhyped).

                Do you remember specifically what bugged you so much about it? I mean, “worst book ever cracked open” is pretty strong.

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                • It was a couple of things. Firstly, any book that has either a writer or a professor as a major character immediately gets me thinking that the writers skills aren’t up to the task of imagining something outside their own experience, and that they are looking to catch a certain type of reader, one who fetishes those professions. Second, his technical skill as a writer far outweighed his artistic skill. Meaning that while he could write one hell of a sentence, the ideas behind them did not match up.

                  Neither of these are crimes, but what really put it over the edge for me was the seaming need to write the “Great American Novel” and not start with just writing a good novel.

                  It probably wasn’t the “worst book ever cracked open,” but man, I still have real visceral reactions to even the mention of it.

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                • I’ve given up on Franzen. There’s a sort of literature which is so utterly contrived and clever, it’s almost painful to read. Robertson Davies said “Write for one person.” but I have no idea who’s supposed to be reading Franzen’s prodigious tomes. Tweedy types, maybe.

                  Franzen doesn’t want to be Pynchon so badly but he still can’t get out of Pynchon’s orbit. Pynchon’s the crazy old guy in the seat next to you on the plane who starts telling you a story which leaves you weeping with laughter. Only later do you realise you’ve been manipulated and led along by the storyteller’s art. With Franzen, the levers and pulleys of that art aren’t disguised well enough.

                  I want someone to tell me a good story. Franzen’s got a fine turn of phrase, Lord knows, I enjoyed Corrections for what it was, an attempt to escape his inveterate PoMo tendencies. But somehow, the PoMo affectations kept poking out in odd little corners. IJ, by way of contrast, just kept muscling through, demanding all the effort I had as a reader.

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    • I never read the book, but it sounds like he’s talking about a revolver-type dual-action pistol.

      The vent on the muzzle is called a “muzzle break.” The gas that exits the gun also provides a force that usually propels the gun barrel upwards. For high caliber guns using ammo with load (the gunpowder) in a sufficient amount to create high pressure beyond the bullets you might normally get at a sporting good store, the muzzle break will allow for very powerful shots while maintaining accuracy. Wikipedia’s page on the topic is actually pretty good at explaining muzzle breaks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muzzle_brake . I wouldn’t expect to see a vent on a small revolver, but I would expect to see one on something huge, like the S&W Model 500 in the Wikipedia article.

      A bobbed hammer is going to allow for a lighter trigger (meaning you can pull the trigger much easier). Essentially, the hammer is ground down a bit to create a firing system that provides for lowered mass traveling to the pin. Some people prefer the bobbed hammer, some people don’t. It’s really a preference item.

      Fat grips are just additional grips that go around the pistol grip. Take the pistol in the pics above and add rubber to the front and back metal parts of the grip–it’s like adding racing grips to a steering wheel. It’s good if you got big hands, but it’s another preference item. It might be helpful specifically to the gun described in the book since the lighter trigger would allow the shooter to hold the gun higher up on the grip.

      The speedloader point is just to say that the gun was modified to accept a speedloader that would refill all six or nine chambers of the revolver in one motion. Speedloaders exist for magazines and revolvers. Magazine speedloaders don’t help much in a fire fight, it just makes it easier to fill a clip ahead of time. A revolver speedloader is different–if you have a couple revolver speedloaders ready to go, you can reload all the chambers at once rather than one bullet at a time.

      All in all, it sounds like the author is describing a hand cannon with a very easy to pull trigger, that has the ability to reload fast. Something meant to do some damage quickly.

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  2. I’ll add a few more tidbits:

    Under Bullets: “Bullets are nearly always made of lead, sometimes with a metal jacket. Some bullets also have a hollow point which causes the projectile to mushroom upon impact, creating more damage in the target.” The bullet covered in metal is referred to as a Full Metal Jacket (FMJ). There are also FRANGIBLE bullets designed to shatter harmlessly upon hitting something hard. These would typically be used in an airplane by an air marshal to prevent the bullet from piercing the fuselage

    Magazines and Clips. “A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines may be integral to the firearm (fixed) or removable (detachable). The magazine functions by moving the cartridges stored in the magazine into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action of the firearm. ”

    A clip, however, is: “a device that is used to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the magazine or cylinder of a firearm. This speeds up the process of loading and reloading the firearm as several rounds can be loaded at once, rather than one round being loaded at a time.” The M1 Garand, mentioned above used a clip to feed 8 rounds (cartridges) into the internal magazine of the weapon.

    Additional comments: notice the “muzzle rise” from the from the soldier’s weapon in the last video. This was a series of three shot bursts. The effect is most pronounced when the soldier switched from single fire to burst. Note, this was not full automatic fire, but three shot bursts.

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  3. Mike: I believe I already know the answers to most of these questions myself, but maybe you want to address them since you are the gun guru round these parts.
    What makes a .38 Special “special”?
    What is a magnum round? Is a special kind of gun needed to fire one?
    How does a silencer work? What performance price is paid for silenced shooting?
    Are there devices that can baffle recoil or reduce the visiblity of the weapon when it is being fired?
    Is there a downside to the accuracy gained by use of a longer barrel?
    What typically causes misfires and jams?
    Can a semi-automatic weapon be converted to a fully automatic one, and if so, does that require a high degree of gunsmithing skill?

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    • Since I was here Burt,
      “Despite its name, the caliber of the 38 Special cartridge is actually .357–.358 inches (9.0678 mm), with the “.38″ referring to the approximate diameter of the loaded brass case. This came about because the original .38-caliber cartridge, the .38 Short Colt, was designed for use in converted .36-caliber cap-and-ball (muzzleloading) Navy revolvers, which had cylindrical firing chambers of approximately 0.374-inch (9.5 mm) diameter, requiring heeled bullets, the exposed portion of which was the same diameter as the cartridge case (see the section on the .38 Long Colt).

      Except for case length, the .38 Special is identical to that of the .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, and the .357 Magnum. This allows the .38 Special round to be safely fired in revolvers chambered for the .357 Magnum, and the .38 Long Colt to be fired in revolvers chambered for .38 Special, and the .38 Short Colt to fire in revolvers chambered for .38 Long Colt, increasing the versatility of this cartridge. However, the longer and more powerful .357 Magnum cartridge will usually not chamber and fire in weapons rated specifically for 38 Special (e.g. all versions of the Smith & Wesson Model 10), which are not designed for the greatly increased pressure of the magnum rounds. Both .38 Special and .357 Magnum will chamber in Colt New Army revolvers in .38 Long Colt, due to the straight walled chambers, but should not be done under any circumstances, due to dangerous pressure levels, up to three times what the New Army is designed for.”

      Magnum: “A magnum cartridge is a firearm cartridge larger than, or derived from, a similar cartridge. A magnum firearm is one using such a cartridge.”, so a .44 round is X powerful, a 44 Magnum round is more powerful than the 44 but can still be fired by the same pistol, usually

      Silencers are more accurately called “suppressors”: A suppressor, sound suppressor, or sound moderator, is a device attached to or part of the barrel of a firearm which reduces the amount of noise and also usually the amount of muzzle flash generated by firing the weapon. Suppressors can be used both with gunpowder-based weapons and with compressed air weapons. Sometimes referred to as a silencer, this term is a misnomer associated with “movie magic”, as firearms cannot be “silenced” due to the pure physics of the projectile moving through the air. Long distance shooting (i.e. greater than 300 meters), while using a suppressor can result in a very low, or retarded, report noise at the moment of impact, creating a “silencing” notion at the point of target. The noise heard at the firearm location as the point a projectile leaves the barrel, though subdued, is not silent at all.[1]

      A suppressor is usually a metal cylinder with internal mechanisms to reduce the sound of firing by slowing the escaping propellant gas and sometimes by reducing the velocity of the bullet.

      Baffling recoil. Yes, one well know example is a device at the end of an AK 47 that directed muzzle gasses in a particular direction to help combat muzzle rise on full automatic. They are also called muzzle brakes. See below.

      Reducing the visibility: A flash suppressor, also known as a flash guard, flash eliminator, flash hider, or flash cone, is a device attached to the muzzle of a rifle or other gun that reduces its visible signature while firing by rapidly cooling the burning gases that exit the muzzle, a phenomena typical of carbine length weapons. Its primary intent is to reduce the chances that the shooter will be blinded in low light conditions. Contrary to popular belief, it is only a secondary benefit that the flash suppressor reduces the intensity of the flash visible to the enemy.

      Although they are typically mounted in the same position and sometimes confused with each other, a flash suppressor is different from a muzzle brake. While the former is intended to reduce visible flash, a muzzle brake is designed to reduce painful recoil inherent to large cartridges and typically has no effect on visible flash.”

      One downsize to longer barrels is they are less maneuverable and more difficult to conceal.

      Misfires / Jams: the quality of the ammunition used, how well the weapon was made, how well it’s been maintained, cleaned, etc. can all play a part is jams or misfires.

      Converting semi auto to full: I believe that this depends upon the design of the weapon, some being easier and some not. I can’t speak more on this issue.

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          • Thanks for the link, Mike. I don’t think Hollywood is really that far off the mark. Most of the sound you’re hearing from the silenced rounds is basically “sonic boom” from the passage of the bullet through the air at greater than the speed of sound (~600 mph).

            So a silent long-distance shot would be impossible, but put one of those on a pistol and shoot someone from a few feet away and there would be very little report because the bullet isn’t traveling through much air to get to the target.

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      • Expansion of the metal due to heat and the quality of machining have a lot to do with jams.
        Guns typically jam when they start to heat up.

        Standard rule is the longer the barrel, the more accurate it is.

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        • Lots of factors affect jamming. Burnt powder fouling, a bad round, dirt and gunk, I’ve had misfires on all these conditions. We were constantly, obsessively cleaning our M-16s, to the point where I had my old man buy me a more reliable Remington rifle which chambered a 5.56. I got a Dan Wesson .357 mag pistol with the long barrel at the same time. Sold all my weapons when I left the service.

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          • We had a lot of problems with jamming during dove season last year. Several us had split a case of cheaper target loads with the aluminum caps. When the shooting got heavy late afternoon barrels were getting hot and the aluminum was deforming in the receivers of our shotguns. Saw three guns jam within five minutes. Darndest thing. Brass performs much better in those situations.

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  4. Hey I. made a reply to Mike above and my comment seems to have been lost in cyberspace. Can someone with the power to do so fiah it out and put it back?

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  5. The military definition (and legal definition if wiki is to be believed) of ‘long’ in ‘long guns’ refers to barrel length, not range.

    (though of course, almost always, & all other things being equal, range and accuracy improve with barrel length)

    (twss).

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  6. But where’s the part where we discuss muzzle loaders and breach loaders and whether or not smooth bore muskets fire faster without a bayonet….then there’s percussion caps and flint locks….

    ….okay okay…getting my head out of my Bernard Cornwell books and back into reality….

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  7. Re shot: while shot is nominally always lead, most “real” sporting organizations (e.g. Ducks Unlimited) strongly recommend use of steel shot in hunting, and even recommend banning of lead shot.
    Lead shot is the right size to fit in most game birds’ gullets (as well as all vultures and Condors) and is fatally toxic.

    The US Condor population was decimated not so much by loss of territory as by consumption of lead shot.

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    • There’s been a national ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting since 1991. An increasing number of states are imposing non-toxic ammunition requirements of various sorts in more areas and for more types of game (eg, no lead ammunition allowed in the eight-county area considered the normal range for California condors). Non-toxic ammunition with better-than-lead characteristics is readily available, although at a premium price. I give lead ammunition less than 20 years.

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    • Pete – the studies that were used in the lead shot ban were flawed because they weren’t looking at live birds with lead in their stomach. They were collecting dead birds, finding shot in their stomachs and attributing it to the shot. Now with that said, the lead shot ban for waterfowl hunting has been in place for a long time. I didn’t start duck hunting until 1993 so i’ve never hunted waterfowl with lead. It’s not big deal to keep it in place.

      Banning lead shot for upland game or for bullets would be nuts. It’s completely unnecessary and I don’t see it likely to happen.

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        • There are a whole range of considerations for different shooting situations when considering replacements for lead (that is, there are many meanings for “effective”). Steel shot has a number of disadvantages compared to lead, including the potential to damage older guns that weren’t designed for it. Some gun ranges ban steel bullets because they greatly increase the wear-and-tear on targets and backstops. Some hobbyists and collectors of antique or oddball weapons have to cast their own bullets, which is feasible with lead but not with steel.

          Still, the operative word in your question is “cheap”. Non-toxic ammo to meet every common need is readily available. When you read the online forums, the large majority of the complaints aren’t about accuracy or wear or stopping power; they’re about cost.

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        • Don – I can’t speak to the effectiveness of steel bullets but I can tell you that steel shot requires some adjustments. I shoot lead shot for doves and rabbits and then switch to steel for waterfowl. Steel is faster, thus you lead less. It also holds its pattern longer so it’s less forgiving. And yes, it costs quite a bit more.

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  8. Mike, thanks for the primer. I’m sure it will come in handy in the coming couple weeks.

    Physics question/clarification: You said, Handguns fire many of the same caliber bullets used in rifles, though because of their much shorter barrels they have greatly reduced range.

    My first thought was that range, per se, would be a simple function of muzzle velocity which, in turn, would be a function of powder load and bullet mass. The longer barrel of a rifle gives the bullet more spin and stability, thus accuracy, but does it also increase the muzzle velocity? Is the bullet pushed “longer” in the rifle barrel, imparting more impulse energy? Or by range, do you mean an “effective” range, as in how far you can shoot at something with some hope of hitting the target?

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      • Well, using the exact same round will produce more or less the same muzzle energy, and there are a number of rounds used in both handguns and rifles where the difference is the additional stability imparted by the longer barrel.

        But there are also rifle rounds which have much higher muzzle energies than pistol rounds of similar caliber (usually the bullet is heavier, too, rather than it simply being a matter of speed).

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        • Fnord, it isn’t just the length of the barrel but the amount of rifling the bullet is subject to that establishes its effective range. Once the bullet begins to tumble all bets are off, and coming out of a pistol (unless it is a Thompson Contender or equivalent) the tumbling can occur rather quickly reducing both range and accuracy.

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          • Ah, isn’t the amount of rifling dependant on the length of the barrel?

            My main point was that many rifles do fire rounds with significantly higher muzzle energy, and as far as I know that increases effective range in addition to the factors that apply when a rifle and a handgun are firing the same rounds. Am I wrong about that?

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            • Fnord, yes the rifling is barrel length dependent.

              You could fire a 22LR cartridge in either a pistol designed for it or a 22 long rifle. You’d find the accuracy and distance of the pistol is substantially lower than the rifle but the basic muzzle energy is similar although the physics of those expanding gasses in the entire length of a rifle barrel versus the much shorter length of the pistol barrel would be a consideration. There’s more explosive “flash” coming out of a pistol, but that doesn’t correlate well with energy devoted to the bullet’s trajectory.

              If you look at Mike’s picture here you’ll see that the cartridge is made up of the bullet and the casing plus powder. The magnums on the left clearly have a lot more powder giving them much higher muzzle energy. This site does a good job of comparing a pistol to rifle round.

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              • I think we are agreeing, and I’m just not making myself clear. I agree with the broad strokes of the article linked. My point is that a rifle firing .223 Remington will have a longer effective range than .22 LR, even if the .22 LR is also fired from a rifle (I don’t know how .223 fired from a pistol compares, other than knowing it’s almost certainly lower range than a rifle, but while the article states that .223 can be fired from a pistol, my impression is that’s rather uncommon).

                I do have some quibbles with the article, though. It’s true that rimfire rounds are limited in power, and that’s part of why .22 LR has a low muzzle energy. But even modern, centerfire rounds designed to be fired from handguns are lower in power than centerfire rounds designed to be fired from rifles (barring a significant difference in caliber). .357 magnum rounds are centerfire, and still have less muzzle energy than .223 Remington.

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                • Fnord, the remaining issue is how much powder goes into the casing. If the .223 holds more powder it has a bigger bang. Note this picture from the article. Clearly the 22LR cartridge is like a firecracker and the .223 is like an M-80 in comparison. More powder, more boom, more muzzle velocity. My friend has a Thompson Contender pistol with a .223 barrel (the TC has interchangeable barrels). Therefore he can fire the exact same bullet as my other friend with a Bushmaster. The TC is accurate to a few hundred yards, the Bushmaster accurate to about 1000 yards. The 357 magnum has a bigger heavier bullet and a similar powder load, so the velocity is lower although the kinetic energy of the .357 might be greater at close range. Certainly the stopping power of the .357 is greater than the .223 at close range.

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  9. Thank you, Mike. It’s good to have the hardware defined.

    I spent some time looking to put together a second primer — a primer on gun owners. Because it’s seeming the conversation isn’t just about what, but about who. This is not such an easy task, and I surrender.

    Instead, I offer this website as a resource on collected information of all sorts about guns:
    http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

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  10. Maybe its me…by why is it always rich white people on these shooting rampages? Granted the killings in Mexico are bad but it makes sense as its over drug shipping and controlling police/army/politicians/etc. There is a logic to our slaughter. And kids…are very rarely the sole target.

    These guns and bullets are so expensive. What is the point other than feeling like a big man? Phallic symbolism right? Maybe. Hell if I know. US is a weird country. I am going to travel internationally for work these week. For a month I will be in Australia. I bet I get asked about these shootings a lot. This happened when I was in UAE a few months ago. Everyone thinks Americans are all crazy white people. It would be funny if not for the dead children.

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    • That’s something that I’m probably never going to understand, rather than as some type of human tendency to confuse the issue.
      Suppose I’m sitting in my apartment one day. I’m sitting there thinking, “Man, I’d really like to go kill somebody. A LOT of people! I could really have some fun beating them to death with a brick! But no– WAIT!!! A HAMMER would be far more PHALLIC!!! Yes! Hammer it is!”

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    • Is it always rich white guys?

      Mexican-born Eduardo Sencion killed 4 people in a mass shooting in Nevada in 2011. The Fort Hood shooter, infamously, was of middle-eastern descent. The Virginia Tech shooter was Asian. Wikipedia’s list of rampage killers has plenty that happen outside the United States, including a shooting in a Rio de Janeiro elementary school in 2011.

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      • Ah yes. You are correct. I am sorry my English is bad. I should say people who have money available to purchase these guns. Like Middle or Upper Middle class. It never seems to be the crack head that people normally fear. It seems like people don’t have one gun, but many guns. It just seems weird to me. How many guns does someone need to have to be sure if the government came for them, they could stop them?

        I work in the US in the South. Many if not most of the white people who I work with own many guns. They spent a number of hours talking at work on what would be the best gun to have to stop an office shooter. My friend who is from Iran rolled his chair to me and said quiet “Why are we always get stopped at the airports?”

        We found that really funny.

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  11. There is a point repeated throughout the thread that anti-materiel rifles don’t need to be banned because they aren’t used in crimes nor are they a terrorist threat.

    For all the people who believe that, I recommend reading these pieces from the Violence Policy Center and the GAO:

    http://www.vpc.org/snipercrime.htm

    “Branch Davidian cult members at a compound in Waco, Texas, fired 50 caliber sniper rifles at federal ATF agents during their initial gun battle on February 28, 1993. The weapons’ ability to penetrate tactical vehicles prompted the agency to request military armored vehicles to give agents adequate protection from the 50 caliber rifles and other more powerful weapons the Branch Davidians might have had. Four ATF agents were killed.”

    http://archive.gao.gov/f0502/162586.pdf

    “Our investigation revealed that .50 caliber semiautomatic rifles have been linked to
    domestic and international criminal activity. We have established a nexus to terrorist
    groups, outlaw motorcycle gangs, international drug cartels, domestic drug dealers,
    religious cults, militia groups, potential assassins, and violent criminals.”

    (Many of these weapons are strongly banned in CA, BTW)

    IMO, there is little doubt that 50 cals are rarely used in crimes. (The widespread use of handguns in homicides is an entirely separate problem.) But they could very easily be used in terrorist acts and assassinations and have been so used as the links illustrate. Given that they have no real domestic use, they should be banned for the same reason anthrax is banned, even though it has been used as a weapon very rarely. We ban anthrax because it has no domestic use (except maybe in labs where it can be owned with a license, I am sure) and it has the capacity to kill.

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    • One instance of use with a 50-cal in the past 20 years, and possible links to criminal activity is not a sufficient justification for increased regulation, this is a solution desperately looking for a problem.

      Or are you of the opinion that 9/11 was perfectly sufficient justification for the increase in police/security state policies we’ve been forced to endure.

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    • Oh, and the VPC is hardly an objective source. They tend to exaggerate, or at the very least, are mistaken about guns, a lot. Notice the bulk of their list of 50-cals used in crime is, “A criminal was arrested and the police found a 50-cal rifle in his home/office/etc”. Also, quite often, the media reports they base their stats on get the type of weapon wrong, or the caliber (how often have I seen reports that a 50-cal rifle turned out to be an old muzzle loader, or that a suspect was armed with a 45mm handgun).

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      • It was a perfectly good justification to protect cockpits of airliners. That should’ve been done before 9/11. Would you have said “Why bother worrying about such an attack? It is really rare or never occurs?”

        I also cited the GAO. And you will need a link citing errors by the VPC.

        By analogy anthrax is used rarely and if legal would still be used only very rarely in attacks. But we still have good reason to ban it. The same applies to anti-materiel rifles or a 30mm cannon off an old A10. All these weapons would be used rarely by criminals if legal, but they are military grade weapons that could be used in assassinations or possibly in very deadly organized attacks (and as the VPC report points out, occasionally, by crazy people) and the public has no need of any such weapons, so we do and should ban them.

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        • WACO is hardly justification for 50 cal ban… if memory serves me right, Koresh had barricaded himself and followers in a compound, all there…. Koresh was armed, but otherwise peaceful, gunfire did not erupt until ATF fire first shots in raid with armed vehicles. Yeah, he was a gun-nut, maybe even some ‘illegal’ guns,, but in no way justifies armed ATF raid.

          Also search ‘Ruby Ridge’…
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Ridge
          some false accusations, sawed off shotgun claim.. and ATF invaded property, shot family dog, son shot at unidentified man, ATF shot son,, then shot Wever in back, and missed as hwe ran back to house hitting wife in head who was holding 10 mo old baby in doorway…… way to go ATF….

          Fast and Furious gun walking scandal – again ATF

          and Jonestown used Cool-aid/Flavor aid……

          And yes I am perfectly fine with pilots carrying firearms in cockpit… if I trust them to fly me 30000 ft above the earth at 500 miles per hr, I damn sure trust them with handgun to prevent hijacking. I would also trust law enforcement, military, and almost any conceal permit holder….
          http://www.wnd.com/2002/05/13933/
          FAA adopted the armed pilot rule shortly after the Cuban missile crisis of 1961 to help prevent hijackings of American airliners, the rule required airlines to apply to the agency for their pilots to carry guns in cockpits and for the airlines to put pilots through an agency-approved firearms training course. ….however, throughout the life of the rule not a single U.S. air carrier took advantage of it, effectively rendering it “moot”
          July 2001 – just two months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks – the rule was rescinded.

          trying to compare anthrax to firearms is a FAR stretch.. what we are talking about is plumbing and fertilizer vs bombs, or aerosols vs drugs, or sudafed vs meth…

          Focus less on the tools and more on the CRIMINALs and personal responsibility..

          “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”
          James Madison

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        • Comparing contagious biological agents to weapons is an apples to oranges comparison. Anthrax isn’t banned, so much as tightly controlled, because if it gets out. it can do widespread damage without willful human intervention (i.e. a person need not continuously infect a person with a biological agent, they spread on their own). Anthrax was not regulated because of criminal intent, but rather as any other common contagion that is dangerous & requires special knowledge & equipment to handle safely.

          And again, the weapons you describe are extremely expensive to purchase, and extremely expensive to shoot. Only a very small group of people even bother to own & regularly fire such weapons outside of the active military. The market itself controls them, regulations would do nothing to improve public safety. You have not yet made a case that regulation is needed.

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  12. Shazbot,

    “This was how I was using the word and it is a perfectly common use of the word. I see no evidence that there is agreement that this common use of the word “ban” should be avoided.”

    You can cite all of the other ways ‘ban’ gets used that you want. You are STILL intentionally missing the point both myself and Stillwater have made which is that in the context of the gun debate (y’know…the theme of the whole symposium?) the word ban has only one meaning and it isn’t the one you have chosen. Because this should be a trivial thing to acknowledge, the fact that you are holding onto it like a dog with a bone seems to only confirm you aren’t a serious participant in the discussion…or you’re just trying to be an ass. Which is it?

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    • You are angry and implying I am being an ass for reasons I know not. I have been very nice to you and collegial and you are angry, apparently.

      My use of the word “ban” is perfectly acceptable in discussions of policy.

      Here is one use of “banned” but “with exceptions” as I have used it, occurring in the context of the gun control debate:

      From Wikipedia on the NFA:

      Importation of NFA firearms was banned by the 1968 Gun Control Act which implemented a “sporting” clause. Only firearms judged by ATF to have feasible sporting applications can be imported for civilian use. Licensed manufacturers of NFA firearms may still, with the proper paperwork, import foreign NFA firearms for research and development purposes, or for government use.

      Fully automatic weapons, including 50 cal machine guns, are NFA firearms and are covered by the Hughes amendment.

      I think it is fair to say that 50 cal fully automatic weapons, indeed all such weapons, are banned in general but with exceptions and grandfathering of older weapons.

      “The domestic manufacture of new machine guns that civilians could purchase was effectively banned by language in the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (also known as “McClure-Volkmer”). The language was added in an amendment from William J. Hughes and referred to as the Hughes Amendment.[22] Machine guns legally registered prior to the date of enactment (i.e. May 1986) are still legal for possession by and transfer among civilians where permitted by state law. The static and relatively small number of transferable machine guns has caused their price to rise, often over $10,000, although transferable Mac-10 and Mac-11 submachine guns can still be purchased for around $3,500. Machine guns manufactured after the FOPA’s enactment can be sold only to law enforcement and government agencies, exported, or held as inventory or “dealer samples” by licensed manufacturers and dealers. Machine guns made after 1986 for law enforcement but not transferable to civilian registration are usually priced only a few hundred dollars more than their semi-automatic counterparts, whereas a pre-Hughes Amendment registered machine gun that can be legally transferred commands a huge premium.

      The Hughes Amendment affected only machine guns. All other NFA firearms are still legal for manufacture and registration by civilians under Form 1, and transfer of registration to civilians under Form 4 (though some states have their own laws governing which NFA firearms are legal to own there). Suppressors and Short Barreled Rifles are generally the most popular NFA firearms among civilians, followed by Short Barrel Shotguns, Destructive Devices, and “Any Other Weapons”. While most NFA firearms are bought from manufacturers and transferred to civilians through a dealer, many are made by the civilians themselves after filing a Form 1 and paying the $200 manufacturing tax. In some cases the manufacture is simple (i.e., using a pipe cutter to shorten a shotgun barrel), and sometimes quite complex.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Firearms_Act#Legal_Cases_Involving_Firearm_Category_Classifications

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  13. Shazbot,

    “To call someone’s comment an uncharitable interpretation is not a personal attack…but a sometimes necessary part of reasoned debate.”

    I’m sure you would prefer some charity from me with regards to your remarks. But I am not inclined to let you create your own definitions in the context of this debate.

    “If you delete my comments, I will take this as evidence that you are not interested in reasoned debate.”

    I have no idea what you are talking about here.

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    • Mike,

      Sorry, I was just remembering this from not long ago:

      “Shazbot… I think I warned you once already but in case I didn’t, let me do so here: If you want to try to reopen an abortion debate with me, this isn’t the place to do it…. the only warning you are getting is this: Stray off-topic again and I edit the comment. This has, for the most part, been a productive comment thread.”

      So when you said “Now, please repeat (again) that I am being uncharitable.” I thought you were threatening to edit or delete my comments again. (As an aside, you mentioned the analogy between abortion and gun rights today that you thought was so off topic a few weeks ago.)

      I am sorry that we keep getting in weird meta tussles. I am just arguing for a strong, strict gun control position that I believe could save thousands of lives per year. I really don’t mean to be a jerk.

      Am I being that much of a jerk? Anyone? Bueller?

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