Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed

These mass shootings of random strangers generate the same commentary every time, but my version keeps getting left out.

The left’s version is they prove we need gun control, and that Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party are homicidal maniacs. The latter has so consistently turned out to be baseless that the left is doing us a service by repeatedly destroying their own credibility. Plus, in the case of Jim Holmes, the only famous person who might have been his inspiration seems to be Carrot Top.

Incidents like this only prove the population of the U.S. is $313 million. You get all kinds including mass murderers and politicians who see funerals as an occasion for demagoging. Remember the funeral of Paul Wellstone?

My version is partly about weapons ignorance.

First, I do not like guns. We never had any until recently when my wife was persuaded by one of her former bosses to buy a half dozen guns of various sizes and shapes. And we took a rigorous four-day, hand-gun, self-defense course at Front Sight, NV.

I am also a West Point graduate and a ranger and a Vietnam veteran, so my aversion to guns is not caused by ignorance of them.

But a whole lot of people talking about them on TV, radio and in the print media are extremely ignorant and saying all sorts of erroneous things about them.

‘Whoa! Semiautomatic. Sounds monstrous.’

Kirsten Powers said no TV that her family in Alaska had about 20 guns but she did not think any were “semi-automatic.” I commented on that phrase in my article on the dangerous way that weapons sounds are depicted in Hollywood.

I would bet that Kirsten Powers’ family does have semi-automatic weapons, and that Kirsten has already heard about that from her family.

Apparently, the public think the phrase semi-automatic refers to some sort of heavy-duty military weapon. No, morons. It is just a gun with a magazine that fires each time you pull the trigger without needing to be cocked in between. Based on one-pull-one-shot functionality, a cowboy’s six-shooter revolver could be said to be semi-automatic, although by convention those are simply called revolvers and the phrase semi-automatic is restricted to magazine-fed rather than revolver-fed weapons.

Not bolt-action, not automatic

In World War I, the U.S. army used the M1903 Springfield rifle. It is bolt action. That means it is not semi-automatic. You had to cock it between every shot. The German and Japanese Army used bolt-action rifles in Word War II. We, however, switched to the clip-fed M-1 Garand. You cocked that once when you first put the clip in, then you could fire 6 times or so depending on the clip size until you needed to reload. Semi-automatics recock themselves using some of the explosive gasses from each bullet fired. Revolvers recock either by manually pulling back the exposed hammer (single-action) or by the first part of pulling the trigger (double-action).

When I was a cadet at West Point and in my first assignment in Vietnam, I carried an M-14 rifle. At West Point, we carried it in parades, cleaned it for inspections, and fired real bullets and blanks out of it during summer training. Not only was it semiautomatic, it had a selector switch that enabled it to be fired on automatic setting. Automatic means machine gun. You pull the trigger once and it keeps firing until you release the trigger. That, not semi-automatic, is the heavy-duty military weapon functionality. In Vietnam, I was also assigned an M-16 which has the same semiautomatic/automatic selector switch. Aurora shooter James Holmes used an AR 15, the predecessor to the M-16, now a civilian weapon with no automatic capability.

At another assignment in Vietnam, I was assigned an M1911 45-caliber “automatic” pistol which is actually semi-automatic. Non-revolver cop guns like the Glock 9mm are all semiautomatic.

The M-16, AR-15, M-4 (current version of the M-16) and AK-47 are all version of a category called assault rifles. They are heavy-duty military weapons that arguably have little application to civilians (it depends on the threat you are defending yourself against—the size of the group assaulting you).

However, it is my understanding that the assault rifles, which are sold in any U.S. gun store, DO NOT HAVE A SELECTOR SWITCH THAT LETS YOU FIRE THEM IN AUTOMATIC MODE! When that is the case, an assault rifle is just a semi-automatic rifle that looks like a military gun but is not because of the lack of an automatic capability. I have not read that Holmes’ AR-15 was firing on automatic.

Bill O’Reilly wents nuts about needing to control bazookas, assault rifles, etc. He is never deterred or slowed down by the need to do his homework, and seemed to believe all assault rifles sold in gun store operate on full automatic all the time. Today’s paper quotes Gray Davis saying, “How much fun is it to go hunting with an assault weapon—where’s the sport?” As Gray Davis, whom we Californians threw out of office because he was too inane, is probably well aware, hunting with an assault weapon would be identical to hunting with a hunting rifle, except probably not as accurate beyond 200 yards. Like the hunting rifle, a civilian assault weapon would shoot one round per trigger pull. Apparently those who used to lie and demagogue for a living cannot turn it off.

For the record, machine guns are difficult to aim. They tend to climb with each round fired. If you shot at some standing in front of a drive-in movie screen, the bullet holes would probably make a vertical line from human level to the top of the screen, not a big shotgun-like pattern around where the target was standing. If you fired a machine gun at a deer, you would probably get one hit on the deer and the rest on the leaves in the trees above him. Vietnam era snipers sometimes used the .50 caliber machine gun as their sniper rifle, but they would only fire one shot, for the same reason: once the gun’s first bullet is fired, it becomes very difficult to aim because of its violent movement and tendency to climb. The World War II GI poem Carentan O Carentan tells how the Germans would point their machine guns at Allied soldiers’ legs and let them climb up to the body.

The watchers in their leopard suits
Waited till it was time,
And aimed between the belt and boot
And let the barrel climb.

The left’s use of mass murders like this as an excuse for gun controls seems to be based entirely on deceiving the public into thinking assault rifles are machine guns. And their real reason for trying to ban them is apparently the mirror image of the infantile right’s love of them: they just look really cool and menacing. Bottom line: a semiautomatic-only assault rifle is a crappy hunting rifle wearing a Rambo costume. It is just as hard to hit a deer with a one-shot-at-a-time assault rifle as it is with a standard hunting rifle—maybe harder at long range because of the shorter barrel.

The most professional shooters in the world are now in London for the Olympics. They do not use assault rifles. Their rifles look almost like some type of medical equipment.

100 rounds a minute!

Chris Wallace asked Justice Scalia about heavy-duty military weapons that can fire—oh, 100 rounds a minute. Chris, the M-14 rifle that cadets at West Point carry in parades fires over 700 rounds a minute. AKs fire 600 rounds a minute. Of course, the magazines only have about 18 to 24 rounds in them so the 600- to 700-round firing rate is more academic than the bullet count in a fire fight. The large capacity magazines offered for the AR-15 contain 60 to 100 rounds. The max rate of fire from a semiautomatic weapon is based on the speed of the shooter’s trigger finger. You can probably fire 100 rounds a minute with every revolver and semiautomatic weapon in existence, no matter whether it has the sexy Hollywood look of an assault rifle.

I understand that you can buy illegal conversion kits that enable you to convert assault rifles without selector switches and automatic capability into automatic weapons. However, I have not read that Holmes did that. Plus, he apparently had no experience or training with weapons. His attempt to join a local shooting range was rebuffed because he seemed a bit nutty. And the oversize magazine on his AR-15 reportedly jammed and he did not know how to clear the jam and abandoned the weapon instead.

Semi-automatic and automatic weapons jam. Revolvers do not. I would expect that it is hard to jam a bolt-action rifle. It seemed like we spent most of our time at Front Sight clearing jams. The operation of a semi-automatic weapon involves a delicate balance of recoil, explosive gas re-cocking, and spring-fed magazine movement. Subtle things like absorbing less of the recoil than is assumed by the designers can cause a jam.

Normally, shooters have to stop and reload when their magazine empties. Persons nearby could and probably should attack him at that time to prevent him from reloading and resuming firing. But no one ever seems to do it except in the Gabby Giffords incident.

Holmes reportedly had a large capacity magazine, which I believe is also illegal. In that case, there is no opportunity to subdue him while he is reloading until after he has fired dozens of times. Reportedly, he bought a cheap large-capacity magazine, and it jammed. If so, lives were saved by that. But even then, he was not subdued. He had other guns and may have drawn one quickly after the jam.

I recently saw on the news security camera video of two black guys in hoodies holding up a store. They were stopped by an old guy in his seventies who apparently had a concealed-carry permit. He charged and fired four or five shots at them. Both were hit frantically trying to escape. Both were captured and arrested. Trayvon Martin, a 6'4" teenager thought he could physically assault 5'9" chubby George Zimmerman with similar impunity. Both incidents probably at least temporarily reduced the number of such incidents. The possibility that store owners and others might be armed deters criminal assaults and robberies.

So the question arises, which would have reduced the number of casualties in the Aurora theater—70—more: tighter gun control laws that may have prohibited a PhD student from acquiring a deadly weapon or looser gun control laws that would have resulted in one or more audience members being armed like that old guy in the store?

Many statistical studies seem to say that the latter would have been more likely to reduce the casualty rate, no matter how much the left does not want to believe that. Some Southern towns required all adult residents to acquire guns and the crime rates there went down. The left was hoping the death rate by gut would rise in those towns after they made gun ownership mandatory. It did not. Bu the crime rates went down. If you think about it from the perspective of a criminal, it makes sense. When America was founded, many colonies/states required all adult males to keep a gun and ammo as potential militiamen.

As it always does, the shooting in Aurora caused gun sales all over America to go up—the predictable, but ostensibly unwanted, reaction to liberal threats of outlawing those purchases in the near future.

We would all be safer if no one has guns. But contrary to leftist fantasies, that is not an option. And more people will die from gun accidents and momentary passions if more people have guns, but the overall net seems to favor law-abiding citizens being allowed to have them. If I recall correctly, two armed civilians were advancing on the guy who shot Giffords when he was subdued.

We have strict laws in California about storage of guns and ammo, transporting of gun and ammo. Those are wise. They can probably use some tweaking to reduce accidents and momentary-rage use of guns. But the ability of private citizens to use guns to deter or stop criminals probably should not be diminished.

Here is an email about this and [my response]:

Mr. Reed:

Here's some fairly brief commentary on your Aurora shooting article.

I applaud anyone who admits he personally dislikes guns and still sees the fallacy of the left's clamor for victim disarmament laws, and calls these people out on their nonsense. Your article does that well.

That said, I take strong exception to one of your statements: "We would all be safer if no one has guns. But contrary to leftist fantasies, that is not an option."

Wrong. Even if it WERE an option, we would NOT all be safer. If we could press a magic button and have not only all guns disappear, but the knowledge of what they are and how they work disappear also (technology that is now almost a THOUSAND years old), we would NOT all be "safer".

We would have the odious situation where the weak are ALWAYS at the mercy of the strong, and the individual ALWAYS at the mercy of the group, with only the good nature of the strong or the group to save the weak or the individual from robbery, rape, torture, death, or other outrages.

I'm a firearms instructor, and I'll never forget the first handicapped student I ever taught, in 2003 after Missouri passed concealed carry. He was in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down from an auto accident. As I handed him the course completion certificate that would allow him to apply for and get a concealed carry permit, he started weeping, openly and in front of all of the other students.

He said, "Mr. Ross, you don't know what this means to me. Since I ended up in this chair two years ago, I have been robbed seven times, by people who would threaten to beat me or worse, if I didn't just hand over everything I had. The first time, when I refused, they just threw me out of my chair, held me down, broke my arm, and emptied my pockets. After that I knew better. Up until today, I thought that was the way things would be for the rest of my life. God bless you for giving me my life back."

As an agnostic, I could have done without the God reference, but I and the other students were stunned by his unabashed account of what he'd been through. I saw two of the women there nodding their heads and tearing up, and I suspect they, too, had been victims of stronger predators.

We'd all be safer if no one had guns? Bullshit.

As always, use any or all of this, and my full name.

John Ross

[Hey, John. Calm down.

Ross makes a valid point. I was not speaking with such precision about us all being safer with no guns. Of course guns equalize the physical violence capabilities of weaker persons like women, cripples, the elderly, and George Zimmerman who might have been killed by the famously “unarmed” Trayvon Martin slamming his head into the pavement had Zimerman not had an equalizing gun. My point was that we would be safer from gun violence if there were no guns in civilian hands.

With regard to the wheelchair serial robbery victim. I do not think any such would happen if he lived in my neighborhood, or just a safer neighborhood. Don’t know if that is an option for him. I would also suggest, as I did in my Front Sight article, that the wheelchair guy get a dog.

After Ross’s wheelchair guy got his gun, one suspects that he must have shot the next five guys, and counting, who tried to rob him. George Zimmerman is not having a lot of fun being a successful user of a gun to protect himself. They told us at Front Sight that it is common for those who legally use a gun to defend themselves to be sued by the guy they shot or his relatives and to have to go into hiding for the rest of their lives because of death threats from friends and relatives of the guy they killed. Also, the guys who rob wheelchair bound people who live in bad neighborhoods can get and use guns, too.

Again, move to a safer neighborhood. An ounce of safer neighborhood is worth a pound of guns and ammo. Get a dog.]

Here is another email:

Mr. Reed,

A few short comments on today's article:

"The left's use of mass murders like this as an excuse for gun controls seems to be based entirely on deceiving the public into thinking assault rifles are machine guns."

I believe what you meant to say is that it is based on deceiving the public into thinking assault *weapons* are machine guns. Assault rifles by definition have a switch that can select full automatic fire or semiautomatic fire. "Assault weapons" had no definition until the 1994 law coined the term, but basically means "semiautomatic replicas of assault rifles."

"Holmes reportedly had a large capacity magazine, which I believe is also illegal."

Large capacity magazines are not illegal (at least under federal law). They were illegal under the 1994-2004 federal assault weapons ban which has expired.

[“Replica” is a great word. That is what the big argument is about and it is childish on both sides. I think my state of California may have outlawed large capacity magazines. As I said above, such laws imply that a citizen will never have to defend himself against a mob. But I must add, as I did in my Front Sight article, that the best way to defend yourself against a mob is a phone.]

Email about machine guns:


The law regulating machine guns is a tax law and as long as you are in compliance you can buy one. First an FBI background check is done and then there is a $200 tax. That's it, assuming you live in a free state, not NJ or CA, for sure! A transferable machine gun is not cheap because manufacture of transferable machine guns was banned in the Firearm Owner's Protection Act of 1986 so the supply is fixed, if not dwindling. They are called "Form 4" guns.

Non-transferable machine guns are still made but can only be transferred to law enforcement, military, or dealers. There are many of these they call "dealer samples" that don't cost a lot of money, comparatively speaking. These are called "Form 3" guns.

I don't think the idiot in Colorado would have passed the background check if it had come out he'd been seeking mental health treatment.

M-14's are pricey, not many out there, but here's one for $25k.

Here is more detailed information the process I found on the net. Most owners form a trust to own the guns so that multiple people listed on the trust can posses it and it avoids obtaining a sign off from the local cops.

John T. Reed