Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to meet with Representative Larry Cafero. Mr. Cafero is the Minority Leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives. A group of us sat with him around a table and he told us of his desire to ban “all these guns once and for all.” He held up several sheets of paper with colorful images of rifles printed on them. He said that he’s “not a gun guy” and can’t understand why anyone needs these weapons. He was saying all the right things. Until we started asking questions.
How does he feel about strengthening the assault weapons ban – “I’m all for it!” he declared. But then he began to refer to his pages, telling us, “You see, what you want to do is ban this one and not that one, and you can’t tell me what the difference is between them. That’s where you lose your argument.” I asked Cafero who had provided him with those pages. “Ah, I don’t know,” he said. “The NSSF or something?” He said this as if he was unsure who or what the NSSF is. So I told him, just to make sure he was aware of who had provided him with his gun education – or, rather, to make sure that he knew that WE knew who the NSSF is. They are the lobbying arm of the NRA. And, I went on to tell him, the gun you are pointing to is not a derivative of a military assault weapon, and the other one is.
You see, Connecticut already has an “assault weapons ban.” When it was enacted, the gun manufacturers simply modified the weapons to get around the ban. So basically, the difference between an assault weapon made for our troops and one made for your neighbor is that your neighbor can’t attach a flash suppressor or a bayonet to the end of theirs, and a soldier can. Also your neighbor can’t adjust the stock to make it longer or shorter, and a soldier can do that – very efficient for either shooting someone far away, or in a tight space. Also a soldier can “spray” bullets, so that with one squeeze of the trigger, many shots can be fired very rapidly, whereas your neighbor can only fire one shot per squeeze of the trigger, which, unless they are arthritic can be quite a lot of bullets per minute.
“Listen,” he said, “You guys are going to get everything you want. Assault weapons ban, high-capacity magazine ban – not possession, but the sale of high-capacity magazines, done.”
That’s a really, really important point right there. Ammunition magazines are not date-stamped, they aren’t marked or tracked in any way. You don’t need to register them or prove what state you live in to buy them. There would be no way to track if your neighbor purchased her 30 round magazines before the ban, or just brought them home from her trip to Maine along with her blueberry waffle mix and LL Bean boots. So it’s easy for someone like Mr. Cafero to say, yes! ban the high-capacity magazines! because unless you ban their possession it is a totally unenforceable law. It is a bit of nothing. And still, Mr. Cafero can go home to Norwalk and tell his constituents, and those elsewhere when he runs for governor, that he voted for the ban. Because either way, banning the possession of high-capacity magazines, or merely their sale, the headline will be the same. The truth is a vastly different story, and Mr. Cafero was counting on us not being as clever as he thought he was, which is really very irritating.
A ban on the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines is really the crucial issue. It happens all the time, a shooter opens fire either in a school, a movie theater, a shopping mall. When that shooter stops to reload, someone takes them out with a concealed weapon, by tackling them, or simply gets up from the floor of the theater and runs for their life. In Sandy Hook, six children ran out of their classroom when he stopped to reload. He shot 152 bullets in five minutes. Imagine if his magazines could each only hold ten bullets. How many more children would be alive?
Last Thursday the CT State Legislature held yet another hearing, this one for the Public Safety Committee, which I am told, is where gun bills go to die. Colt gave their workers the day off, even paid them to show up in the capitol building, holding signs and wearing NRA stickers. There was one moment during the testimony that really made me very angry. A woman, whom I know, was testifying when Representative David Yaccarino from North Haven, asked her, “Do you know how many people are killed by hammers each year? Six hundred!” Let’s pause while I bang my head against the wall.
Okay, hammers have other, useful purposes. You can build a house, hang pictures, build furniture, all with a hammer! If you are using a hammer as it is intended, you will build something – or remove an unwanted nail, or pry something open. If you use an AR-15 as it is intended, you will KILL SOMEONE. Comparing gun violence to hammers, or kitchen knives, as he went on to do, is the most idiotic obfuscation I have heard. And I hear it over and over. We aren’t talking about hammers. We are talking about guns. There is no massive, well-organized, highly funded hammer lobby, or you can bet Yaccarino wouldn’t mention hammer deaths. If Adam Lanza had walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a hammer, someone would have taken it from him. On the same day as the shooting in Newtown, a mentally ill man in China went on a stabbing spree at an elementary school. Here’s the difference between an AR-15 and a kitchen knife: In China, NOBODY DIED.
Here’s a video that shows the difference between the damage done by a handgun, and by an AR-15. You can see the results starting at 2:20.