The Inscrutable Mandarin and the Czar of Muscovy have very different watchdog natures: the former tends to monitor Facebook, and the latter is more a creature of Twitter. To be more accurate, the Mandarin’s Facebook-to-Twitter ratio is about 80/20, and the Czar’s Twitter-to-Facebook ratio is closer to 100/0. However, the two of us do compare notes frequently about social media, and there is often a high degree of similarity between the two outlets; unfortunately, this is more true after a terrible firearm-related event like Las Vegas.
Pro-gun-control advocates tend to Frogger their discussion points: they ask a seemingly genuine question about the legality of something; a pro-Second Amendment responder answers the question…and is immediately challenged by a largely unrelated question. Answer that, and a third question about a different subject appears. This is largely tactical: the inquisitor wants to keep skipping around until he or she lands on a topic for which the defender has no immediate answer, and then the long knives come out.
We should add that it is possible for a pro-gun-control advocate to have a substantive discussion on a technical level. It just doesn’t seem to happen. So while a series of questions can be welcome (“Can a semiautomatic weapon be easily converted into a fully automatic one?” “What does the sear do?” “Is this even worth doing?”), the most likely exchange involves an irritating degree of Froggeration (“Can a semiautomatic weapon be easily converted into a fully automatic one?” “Why is America’s murder rate so high?” “Why does the NRA need you to have silencers?”). This Frogger effect results less from a lack of logical structure, and more from a need to set off a trap. As pro-gun-control advocates are learning over the last two decades, the pro-Second Amendment crowd is surprisingly well-equipped to deflect every one of these. On rare instances, if the deflections come often enough, the argument stops.
Originally, this essay intended to be a recap of the old arguments about Australian crime rates, the difference between semiautomatic and automatic, and other common questions. However, two things are inarguably clear:
- A neutral piece explaining these items will not be read or even appreciated by the pro-gun-control side—that side seems deeply uninterested in fundamental information that would advance discussion, largely because the assumptions the pro-gun-control side make are so flawed that most arguments collapse.
- The pro-Second Amendment side already has this down pat.
So what are the new arguments that are popping up on social media?
- Bump Stocks—Why are these legal? First, we recommend asking both sides if they know what a bump stock is? There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation and confusion. Be sure you can articulate what it is very simply: an attachment designed to work a trigger faster than most people can pull a trigger themselves. Remind them that bump stocks are generally pretty expensive, are considered by most shooters as a waste of ammunition since they ruin your accuracy, and are fairly rare. That said, there has as yet been no formal proof that a bump stock was even used in Las Vegas, although some variation seems probable. Both sides should be aware that a bump stock is a simple mechanical device, and that outlawing them is probably a waste of time because these things can be constructed out of Legos and a good rubber band. That’s not an exaggeration.
- Silencers—Since no one is selling a silencer, this is a waste of time to discuss. What most folks are calling silencers are in fact suppressors: a device designed to absorb some of the sound pressure (not the volume) of the gun at the end of the barrel. The confusion is understandable, since they look a bit like silencers in movies and attach to the same place. But a suppressed weapon is still extremely loud, especially at the back end where the explosions happen. A suppressor is nothing more than a muffler on a car’s exhaust system: it’s a good idea to reduce noise pollution, but it doesn’t make the car silent. There are no disadvantages to suppressors, and they have been legal in many places for decades without any adverse effects.
- Centerfire Weapons—This is a weird one, and it’s been showing up more and more. “Why does anyone need a centerfire rifle?” Since nearly all rifles, shotguns, and handguns are centerfire designs, it seems odd to question these. The best response is ask the inquisitor what makes centerfire ammunition deadlier than rimfire. Is a .380 centerfire cartridge more destructive than a 7.62mm x54R rimfire one? This one is also a waste of time to discuss, unless the inquisitor can explain what makes a centerfire design more lethal by itself, as opposed to the ultimate kinetic energy of the projectile itself.
- The Second Amendment—Eventually, you will get down to it. Here are some points to remember:
- The Second Amendment is not a privilege allowed by the government. As with the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights, it is a pre-existing right that exists outside of any branch or level of government.
- The Second Amendment is not restricted to the armed forces, or it would have been covered in Article I, Section 8, where the Constitution outlines the establishment of a standing army and navy.
- The word “arms” includes firearms as understood by the original writers. The word is not limited to flintlocks and muskets, as rifled weapons were well-understood by the general public at the time, and the fundamental functional concepts of modern weapons were already understood and in use on weapons of the time. Most of today’s so-called (and erroneously labled) assault rifles contain elements that were familiar to 18th Century hunters. The concept of a high-capacity magazine even appeared in the Siege of Copenhagen in 1658, and folding stocks and bayonets go back even earlier.
- It’s the militias who need to be well-regulated. It’s the “right of the people,” as upheld by every Supreme Court who has been asked to clarify, who have an unfringed right to keep—and bear—arms.
- Increasingly, we see references to the word “militia” as meaning the army…and that the United States was never supposed to have a standing army. Therefore, the Second Amendment really suggests that the private individual should keep and bear arms only when serving as a defensive force in lieu of a standing army. However, Article I, Section 8, disputes this at once, by defining a Congressionally supervised and funded standing army.
- If that’s an originalist view of the Constitution, that’s also correct because the Constitution is still a legal contract in force. All original terms and definitions apply, unless moderated by subsequent amendment. Since that hasn’t been done, one should assume the original wording of the Second Amendment still applies.
Over time, the pro-gun-control community will discover new questions and raise new challenges. In some respects, this has been a good thing: pro-Second Amendment Americans are generally exceptionally well-versed in their rights as citizens, and have come to understand and respect both firearms and the law in equal measure. However, one can reasonably predict that future counters and challenges to the Second Amendment will also be based on misreadings or a lack of understanding of the basic technology. The Mandarin and the Czar will continue to monitor social media so that you don’t have to. In fact, stay off it entirely. Let us take care of that for you.