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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Facts About The #NeverAgain Movement and the AR-15 / NRA

February 24, 2018

The February 14th, 2018 mass shooting in Parkland / Coral Springs, Florida has once again rekindled the fires of what is undoubtedly our Nation's most debated issue after that of partial-birth abortions, and that is of course, firearms (and who should be allowed to purchase / possess one).  Much worse, it has now risen to the level of "Either you are with us (victims) or against us."   Either/or statements rarely lead to anything positive, but we will address that later on.

With so much heat being placed upon firearms, and those who support their right to bear arms as guaranteed by the second amendment of the United States Constitution, it's no wonder that much anger and hostility has been directed towards the National Rifle Association (NRA).  After all, the NRA (according to many pundits and now teen-activists) is nothing more than an organization that promotes "military assault weapons, weapons of war, breeds mass murderers, encourages others to become mass killers" and all sorts of other horrific endeavors.

The problem with that whole line of thinking is that none of it is even remotely true.  It's a trap that the anti-gun activists often fall into (all on their own mind you); attack those who don't think the same as you, because they must be wrong if you believe you are right.  It doesn't work that way thankfully, and often there can be an overlapping and agreement of schools of thought even in competing camps.

The anti-gun lobby camp (and this will include the new teen idols in the #NeverAgain movement) made it's voice loudly heard during a recent CNN Town Hall event, spewing some of the above rhetoric out posed as "questions" towards NRA Spokesperson, Dana Loesch, as well as US Senator Marco Rubio.  Over all of the shouting, hisses and booing, the truth was presented in some detail mind you, although it was clear few in attendance really wanted to hear what that was.  In that light, let's examine a few statements brought forth by the #NeverAgain movement:



Hopefully, if you've read even this far, you can see how ridiculous the above statements look, especially in all capital letters, however, that's exactly how it sounds when irrational thinking takes over and logic is replaced with emotion.  Let's remove some of the emotion from the debate and take a look at what is really happening here.

Does the NRA actually breed "Mass Shooters"? 

In approaching a question about "mass shootings in the US," the first problem one encounters is definitional.

The United States' Congressional Research Service acknowledges that there is not a broadly accepted definition, and defines a "public mass shooting" as one in which four or more people selected indiscriminately, not including the perpetrator, are killed, echoing the FBI definition of the term "mass murder". Another unofficial definition of a mass shooting is an event involving the shooting (not necessarily resulting in death) of four or more people with no cooling-off period.

Based on the arbitrary definition of a shooting involving at least four deaths, there had been 130 mass shootings in the United States as of June 6, 2017, going back over the last 51 years. (This does not include gang killings, killings that began as other crimes such as robberies, and killings that involved only the shooter's family.)

Information about how the guns were obtained is incomplete, but 248 different guns were used, at least 141 of which were obtained legally and at least 39 of which were obtained illegally; handguns were the most common weapons used, usually more than one, each of which takes about two seconds to reload, making limited magazines (commonly incorrectly referred to as “clips”) a minor inconvenience. None of the shooters were known to be members of the NRA.

However even if one were, how would it be anymore relevant than if one had been a member of the book of a month club?  Taking this to an extreme, even if all mass shooters had been NRA members, it still could not be used to reflect on the membership as a whole. This would be like saying:  "A police officer in my town was convicted of selling drugs.  Therefore, all police sell drugs."  That line of thinking is clearly a logical fallacy;  a single person (or even a few people) rarely represents the entirety of thinking of any organization, association, profession or group.

The media desperately tried to do this in the Sandy Hook case by making it a  deliberate point to report that Adam Lanza or his mother attended NRA certified training classes. All this proved is that Adam Lanza might have been properly trained to safely handle a firearm, but deliberately chose to disregard that training and murder innocent children who were no threat to him.

As of this date, the NRA has not produced a mass shooting killer, nor has any mass shooting killer claimed to have been a member of the NRA.  Therefore, that part is pretty lock-tight.

Let's examine some of the other claims being made against the NRA, or pro-gun, pro-second amendment Americans writ large, and see where there are serious flaws in the arguments being pushed into the spotlight, with the help of our "Legacy Media" (CNN, MSNBC, etc):

"It's time once and for all we ban the AR-15 because it is the weapon of choice for mass shooters."  

We have heard this statement repeatedly lately, however, there is no data to even remotely support this claim.  It is a hasty generalization lacking the support of current FBI Crime Statistic data points.

Concurrent with this all-too-common claim after a highly publicized event like the one in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the AR-15 tends to end up being labeled as a "weapon of war."  The facts of the matter are quite the opposite of the rhetoric being thrown into the media-sphere:

1.  The AR-15 is merely a semi-automatic rifle.  It fires no faster than any other rifle.  It is not fully automatic.  Only one round can be fired with each pull of the trigger.  This is identical to nearly 2,000 other rifles on the market that are not labeled a "weapon of war."

2.  The AR-15 is not an "assault rifle."  AR stands for "Armalite" which is a brand name, however, the "AR" is often cited as being shorthand for "Assault Rifle." 

3.  The AR-15 is not "military grade."  The cosmetics of the AR-15 make the rifle function no differently than any other semi-automatic rifle.  The AR-15 is identical in function to any "standard" hunting rifle.  The US Military uses the M4 Carbine which fires the same round, however, the MR Carbine is both semi-automatic and select-fire capable (3 round bursts or fully automatic) with one trigger pull).

4.  The AR-15 generally fires the 5.56×45mm NATO, 5.7×28mm, 6.8mm Remington SPC,.300 Blackout, 9×19mm Parabellum and .458 SOCOM to name a few.  These rounds are "intermediate range" and have been criticized by those using them in combat as highly inferior rounds and are less lethal than prior military rounds. 

5.  The AR-15 is merely a "modern sporting rifle" / MSR  (more commonly referred to as an AR-15 style rifle) and is a type of semi-automatic rifle based on the Colt AR-15's patent. After Colt's patents expired in 1977, an expanded marketplace emerged with many manufacturers producing their own version of the AR-15 design for commercial sale. These rifles are referred to as "modern sporting rifles" (MSR) by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade association, and by some manufacturers.

6.  The AR-15 IS NOT an "assault rifle" as it DOES NOT meet the military specifications for "select-fire" capabilities.  It is no more a "weapon of war" than a hunting knife is.  It is a tool, and a weapon, just as there are thousands of other weapons available that are capable of the same damage, or worse, than the AR-15.

7.  The AR-15 is a popular rifle for enthusiasts as it is lightweight, easy to modify for target shooting or hunting purposes, and there are 8 MILLION in the United States.  Of the millions in the United States, only 7 have ever been used in a mass shooting situation: these would include the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, 2012 Aurora shooting, 2015 San Bernardino attack, the Sutherland Springs church shooting, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, and 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.  Despite the high profile coverage of the AR-15 (sometimes incorrectly as in the case of the Orlando Pulse Club shooting which was a SigSauer MCX and not an AR-15) the AR-15 is rarely used in crimes.  Only a very low percentage of gun crimes in the U.S. overall involve an AR-15.

8.  The AR-15 is owned largely by those in Law Enforcement and ex-military members; about 50% of all AR-15 type rifles are owned by military veterans and law enforcement personnel in their private off-duty lives.  The other 50% are largely owned by law-abiding, responsible, highly trained citizens. 

9.  The AR-15's used in mass shootings are purchased, obtained and utilized by criminals who have subverted the methods to prevent their ownership and who have no respect for the rules, the laws or for humanity.  The AR-15 did not commit the crime, the demented shooter did.  If the AR-15 did not exist, it would merely be a different weapon.

"To let these victims' lives be taken without any change in return is an act of treason to our great country."

This is an emotional appeal that speaks to a negative (such as terrorism or fascism) concept rather than the real issue at hand. It's an Ad populum logical fallacy which, often is an appeal that presents what most people, or a group of people think, in order to persuade one to think the same way. Getting on the bandwagon is one such instance of an ad populum appeal.

In addition, this also indicates that by Congress or State Legislators not doing what the #NeverAgain movement wants, they are somehow being "treasonous" which is a serious offense.  This is the common tactic known as Moral Equivalence where a person (or a group) will vilify another person or group and make the action or inaction of their target (in this case law-makers) to a much greater extent than is warranted.  Not changing legislation to the appeal of a few is hardly "treasonous"... it is in fact how our system of government is designed.

That is not to say that the #NeverAgain movement should not attempt or try to convince legislators to make changes to current gun laws; however, should they fail to convince law-makers to modify current laws or create new ones, they will need to modify their attempts.  After all, legislators answer to a broad section of the population, not merely one interest group alone.

"If you're not with us (#NeverAgain Movement) than you are against children and children's rights to safe schools."

This is probably the most dangerous statement being thrown around by the movement.  This is an "either / or" type fallacy, which attempts to divide people and create anxiety, fear, outcasting of those who may not fully agree with the statement being made.  This forces people to choose sides based off of incorrect facts and emotionally-charged rhetoric designed to make anyone who does not go along with the movement to be an outcast, be subject to boycotts (for businesses) and threats to create havoc for publicly elected officials and/or administrators who may receive any funds from the NRA or other firearm support groups or associations.  This, despite the NRA having done the most extensive study and program development for safe schools, even above what local, state and the federal government have done.

The fact is, law-abiding citizens don't commit mass shootings.  Point #7 above outlines that clearly.  Additionally, those citizens that own firearms, including the AR-15, are largely people that have a very clear respect for the "rule of law" and as just previously stated, 50% of all AR-15 owners are military veterans, active duty military and law enforcement personnel.  It would be a very difficult argument to make that 4 million AR-15 owners in those groups wish harm to children at any level.  Additionally, ordinary citizens who own firearms legally, largely take steps to responsibly learn to purchase, handle, maintain and fire these weapons under supervision and with well established training classes.  These citizens are hardly against the notion that children / students should not be in safe environments for their schooling and after-school activities.

The students who are making waves with the #NeverAgain movement are using a very divisive tactic which often comes with severe blowback.  There are millions of law-abiding firearm owners that agree the government should enforce existing laws as when done properly, some of the mass shootings, including the most recent at Marjory Stoneman Douglas could have been prevented.  This is just a fact, and is not based off emotional rhetoric or talking-points;  the FBI was advised of the shooter well in advance, there is video of the shooter acting reckless with a firearm as well as multiple social media posts indicating his intent to cause harm.  Again, the AR-15 did not commit the act of shooting students in a school, the shooter did.

The Positive Points of #NeverAgain Movement:

Where the #NeverAgain movement has the most standing, is in the area of government not enforcing the laws that currently exist.  There are ample gun control laws both at the State and Federal levels, yet many are surprisingly not enforced.  While #NeverAgain wants to vilify the NRA, there is ample evidence to demonstrate where a bureaucratic government failed to detect something in the shooter's past that should have prevented him from buying a firearm. The Broward Country Sheriff's Office and other Law Enforcement or Social Services departments had somewhere between 18-39 contacts with this shooter.  This would have easily disqualified him from obtaining a firearm had any of the agencies communicated the threats or got the contact information into the NICS system.

In short, they had months to deny him a firearms purchase for several reasons, including direct threats and physical confrontations, along with direct reporting to the FBI of those threats, and they still failed.  This is not the NRA's fault, this is the direct failure of reporting / communication as we have seen in the past few mass shooting events.

The #NeverAgain movement has the potential to capitalize on these major gaps in what appears to be either miscommunication, inept follow-up on potential high-level threat leads, the potentially disturbing report of potentially purposeful ignoring of a high-threat lead due to political / financial reasons, and the need to close loopholes with "straw" purchases.  Mental health is also a major component, but it appears to be linked to a broader issue of social isolation that the #NeverAgain movement never mentioned.

Worthy of note is that the victims of mass shootings constitute less than one half of one percent of shooting deaths. While tragic and newsworthy, such deaths are not even statistically significant (which sounds harsh, however, we are not dealing with emotions now, just facts).