Sig MCXVery occasionally I’ll listen to National Public Radio (NPR) during the afternoon, usually All Things Considered on the local station KUAR. I listened to the show this past Friday while NPR’s usual talking heads purporting to advocate opposing views, Mr. David Brooks and Mr. E.J. Dionne, discussed politicians’ responses to the Orlando massacre perpetrated by Omar Mateen. If enough time has passed since the event and your reading of this essay that Mr. Mateen is not familiar to you, I’ll provide a very brief summary.
Mr. Mateen, a man about 29 years old, entered a night club in Orlando, Florida, killed 49 people, and injured more than 50 others with a rifle and a handgun. Both guns he used were so-called semi-automatic (self-loading) firearms which he purchased legally. Some early reports indicated another murderer may have assisted Mateen, and yet other reports indicate a person in the nightclub, perhaps a guard, returned fire. At the time I am writing this, neither of these reports is confirmed, and the former report of a second murderer is increasingly less likely to be true. Reports now almost one week later are starting to include stories of heroism where various people responded to save others, but the bulk of the emerging narrative seems to indicate that Mateen began shooting around 2 am, which is around closing time for the club, and thereafter took hostages when police arrived. He purported to have armed assistance and bombs, as well as hostages, so the police hesitated to enter the night club and subdue him. During the three hours police attempted negotiations with him, many wounded died. When the police finally took action to end the stalemate, they killed Mateen.
So, almost a week later, NPR radio broadcast Mr. Dionne and Mr. Brooks discussion of the political reaction to this latest massacre. Generally, members of the Democratic party and several more so-called liberal members of the Republican party now advocate for tighter gun restrictions. These legislators and politicians intend by such legislation further restricting gun purchases, transfer, manufacture, and ownership to so impede the purchase of firearms necessary for these massacres that such mass homicides are not possible. Mr. Dionne, who favors such restrictions, voiced his opinion during the NPR radio broadcast that, “You can’t kill 50 people without an automatic weapon.” His statement, while plainly false, is more deeply deceptive and deceitful than the simple misstatement of facts regarding the type of weapon(s) used or the number of homicides, but it’s important that I begin by dispensing with the most obvious lies before describing the deep cruelty Mr. Dionne inflicts upon an unwary audience.
As I described earlier, Mr. Mateen used two weapons. The first was a Sig MCX, which is a special rifle compatible with, but not based upon, the AR-15 standard. The rifle is modular: it is designed to be broken into several pieces and built to the preferences of the firearm owner. In this regard, the MCX is less a “rifle” and more a “rifle system,” like the AR-15, that can be configured according to any one of several stated purposes. At this time, I have read reports that the rifle was configured anywhere between a .223 caliber and 9mm caliber. Mateen also carried a handgun, reportedly a Glock 17, which probably fired a 9mm x 19mm Parabellum cartridge. A week after the shooting, it is still not clear how long Mateen spent shooting at club patrons and employees, how many rounds of ammunition Mateen fired, how many people he hit with his firearms, nor the lethality of either weapon as he used them. What we do know is that Mateen killed 49 and injured 53, and that most of those killed were shot between 2 am and 3 am, the former time and latter times being the first and last times one homicide victim, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, sent mobile phone text messages to his mother during the massacre.
I contacted Mr. Dionne while the broadcast was ongoing using the internet publishing service, Twitter, and he published a response to my message corrected his plain error, that the weapons used were not automatic. This is a just and appropriate response on his part, were that his only error, perhaps misspoken within an extemporaneous comment, but he did not address my more meaningful critique of his commentary, which is that substantially more than 50 people may be killed without the use of an automatic weapon.
My example was the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrated by Tim McVeigh. McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate, nitromethane, & diesel fuel to construct a bomb and placed it within a rented Ryder truck, which he parked in front of the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma city. The explosion he ignited killed 168 people, including a large number of children at a daycare on the ground floor. McVeigh claimed to have been unaware of the presence of a daycare on the ground floor, having already purportedly excluded the Federal Building in Little Rock, Arkansas, as a target due to the presence of a florist on the ground floor of that facility. Regardless, McVeigh was not repentant of the deaths of so many children, citing the US bombing campaigns against Iraq that targeted similarly occupied buildings, calling the presence of the daycare in the building a use of “human shields.”
McVeigh’s stated motive for the mass-murder bombing was vengeance for the deaths at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas a few years earlier. McVeigh travelled to the vicinity of the compound after it was besieged by federal law enforcement authorities following a botched Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) raid during which both Branch Davidian members and ATF agents killed one another in a gun battle. After some days of ongoing negotiations, the federal authorities assaulted the compound. Simultaneously, a fire arose in the building. Official Federal reports on the matter concluded that the Branch Davidian members started the fire, but the timing of the fire coincident with the law enforcement attack and suspected use of incendiaries, as well as the ensuing deaths of many children within the compound, created suspicion among much of the public that law enforcement may have caused the fire, and if not, utterly botched its initial and final actions against the Branch Davidian members and the compound where they lived with their minor children. Regardless, this particular government-initiated mass murder or criminal-initiated mass suicide, depending on your opinion of the evidence, killed 76.
Many years later, in 2001, several men hijacked four jet airplanes and successfully crashed three of them into three structures: the Pentagon near Washington, DC, and both of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The fourth plane crashed while en route to Chicago after turning toward D.C., presumably to crash into another capitol building. About 3,000 people died as a result of the plane hijackers’ efforts, 44 on the plane that did not strike any building. That one plane could have seated about 200.
Very recently here in Little Rock, unidentified shooters struck more than twenty people with bullets. Although some victims received previous wounds, not one perished. Police still have not arrested a single person purportedly responsible for the shooting. Media variously report at least two shooters initiated a gang shootout, and others joined the fray thereafter.
My point referencing all these incidents (and others internationally I neglect to mention) is to establish the futility of banning firearms in whole or in part for the purpose of impeding future mass murder. As a rule, the greatest mass murders aren’t accomplished with firearms, but with some other means specifically or incidentally preferable to flinging small high-velocity projectiles at people.
Also, as a rule, firearms primarily see use as a means of defense or law enforcement or sport. Despite all the aggravated robberies and murders criminals commit, firearms use is primarily a lawful activity which supports society, private citizens in peril, and the ‘environment.’
Advocacy for firearms restrictions is advocacy for a police state, for if the accusation – firearms cause mass murders – is false, then the only remaining motive is to restrict firearms to police, thus removing self-defense from the rights of previously free men and making us all slaves and property of the government.