In the wake of the horrific killings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the usual suspects predictably are saying the usual things, blaming anyone and anything but the culprit to further their political agenda.
The National Rifle Association is to blame, they say. Or gun manufacturers. Or AR-15s and high-capacity magazines. Some rail against Congress. Others blame right-wing bigots or Christians.
A seething President Barack Obama — in a televised tantrum aimed at Donald Trump — urges a return to the failed "assault" weapons ban of a few years back, demonstrating he has no new, workable ideas. A columnist in "Rolling Stone," a Drexel University constitutional law professor, no less, advocates repealing the Second Amendment; that "the Founders and the Constitution are wrong." He does not mention whether they were wrong about the First Amendment.
Seeing an exploitable tragedy, Hillary Clinton demands more gun control to rid us of "military" or "assault" weapons even before the last spent cartridge clinks to the floor in Orlando. The U.N.'s human rights chief urges "robust gun regulation" — but says nothing of the millions murdered by U.N. member countries that employ him and have lots of gun control. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson tells CBS we need "meaningful, responsible gun control"; that it now is "part and parcel of homeland security."
All of them are wrong. The man responsible — the only man responsible — for the slaughter of 49 innocents in the Pulse and the wounding of 53 more is the man who pulled the trigger. That man was Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida. He was a Brooklyn-born gay man, by his ex-wife's account, of Afghan parents. He died in a gunfight with police.
Radicalized, he pledged allegiance to ISIS before and during the killings — on Facebook, no less. He used a legally purchased Sig Sauer MCX, a rifle similar to the AR-15, but with a different operating system, and a Glock 17 handgun, weapons USA TODAY describes as commonly available "high-capacity, quick reload weapons."
Many semi-automatic rifles and pistols are designed to be just that: high-capacity and quick to reload. The AR-15 platform is but one of them. It is not a military weapon, not an "assault" rifle. Its action is no different, really, than those in millions of .22-caliber rifles stuffed in closets and gun racks across the nation. That makes some gun owners believe the endless attacks on AR-15s conceal a wider aim to ban or control all semi-auto rifles and pistols — as happened in Australia. Hillary Clinton is a fan of Australian-style gun control.
There are more than 3 million highly sought-after AR-15 sporting rifles in the United States used legally for hunting, plinking, target shooting and self-defense. Produced for more than 50 years, it is modular, easily customized and expensive. Millions of Americans were trained to use its big brothers, the fully automatic M-16 or M4 carbine. AR-15s seldom are used in crimes.
Nonetheless, it is the poster rifle for the anti-gun left because, like so many things, it frightens them — despite logic and facts. In 2014, the last year for which FBI stats are available, your chances of being beaten to death were twice as high as being shot with a rifle of any kind. Of 14,249 murders, 248 were by rifles and only a tiny percentage of those were by AR-15s.
Some argue high-capacity magazines make the rifle more dangerous. Apparently, they never have switched magazines in a rifle or pistol. It can be done in the blink of an eye. Watch Boone County, Ind., Sheriff Ken Campbell demonstrating just that. A magazine ban — or an AR-15 ban, for that matter — would not save a single life, just as it did not during Bill Clinton's discredited "assault' weapons ban.
While we should be seeking ways to keep guns from those who should not have them — how to identify threats, how to conduct background checks without violating rights or establishing de facto gun registration — we are wasting time while the left chases its polarizing gun-control, or people-control, fantasies.
Criminals and killers ignore gun laws, and most Americans, I suspect, would refuse to surrender their weapons or magazines if ordered to do so. The question is: How far is the left willing to go to finally feel safe? There are, of course, a wide variety of very unpalatable things well beyond blaming guns or the NRA that could be done, but this no longer would be a free country.
Many of us are beginning to wonder whether the left would care.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.
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