Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stephen King's Guns: A Rebuttal

I asked my former co-blogger and wife Denise to review Stephen King's screed that is on sale for the Amazon Kindle. She read this so you don't have to. I think this rebuttal needs to be disseminated as widely as possible so feel free to use it with attribution of course. Stephen King is one of if not the most popular novelist in the world. A screed by him carries weight. Denise has done her hopefully not small part to counter this.

No links to this book. You can find it on the Amazon site if you want to find it. Stephen King has shown his even handedness by donating profits from this essay to the Brady Campaign. 

Denise has no plans to return to blogging at this time.


I've read much of Stephen King's work.  He is a great craftsman and he brings that skill to this piece, a quickie Kindle Single.  

The fact that he wrote the "book" fast shows.  He made at least one huge mistake.  He named the Newtown shooter as Ryan Lanza the first time he mentioned Newtown (he later correctly names Adam).  This was after describing how the press reacts to a mass shooting including getting the shooter's name wrong.  There are also irritating quirks like the use of "honey" to address readers.

Style and mistakes aside, King tries to add to the national dialog about gun violence.  The last section of this short work, lists policy ideas that might cut down on gun violence.  One notion is a ban on "assault weapons" but he loses his argument when he gets too cute by half, honey.

King justifies calling for such a ban by insulting owners of semi-automatics (a gun that fires one round per trigger pull).  He says that the owners only use these guns to fire as fast as they can while yelling yeehaw and getting horny.  I shoot often and own what might be called an assault weapon.  I have never fired as fast as I can twitch my finger.  I've never yelled yeehaw while shooting and I've never seen such behavior at gun ranges.  In fact, most people participating in rifle competitions today use variants of the AR-15.  The platform is highly accurate, stable, and has low recoil.  

Along with the assault weapon ban, King has two other policy ideas: universal background checks and bans on magazines holding more than ten rounds.  King's policy ideas will not work and I'll take them one at a time.  

Congress may pass some sort of enhanced background checks.  Depending on details, such a law really will not affect me much.  I tend to buy guns from federally licensed dealers who must check my  background even if they are selling guns at a gun show.  Criminals tend to buy guns on the street where there are no background checks.  Some mass shooters have bought their guns legally (Cho, Holmes) and were not in the system as "nucking futs" even though Cho should have been.  Others steal guns.

A magazine ban ignores the millions of magazines that already exist.  A magazine is a box with a spring and anyone with a 3D printer can print one.  Do we really want to try to outlaw 3D printers, springs, sheet metal, let alone the millions of magazines that people bought legally one year and become felons for owning the same box the next year?

King admits that an assault weapon ban probably will not happen. There is the problem of identifying just what is an assault weapon. There really is no such thing when you start getting into it. That's why the 1994 ban really did not ban much. King touts Australia's ban on them and pump action shotguns.(In other words, confiscating your grandfather's duck hunting gun.)The jury is not truly in on that gun ban. For one, there are still a lot of guns in Australia and other countries that have strong gun laws (see, http://reason.com/archives/2012/12/22/gun-restrictions-have-always-bred-defian/print). Also, crime has risen in Australia after the ban (see, http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=17847). 

Finally King calls on gun owners to "urge Congress to do the right thing, and insists the NRA climb aboard...."  I own guns.  I am a former police officer.  I first shot a gun when I was 8 years old.  I was given a pump action .22 rifle for my 13th birthday.  I've owned guns for over 40 years and never put a hole in anyone (not even as a cop) or anything I was not willing to shoot.  I am a responsible gun owner.  

There are millions of gun owners who have never abused the right to own a gun.  They've never shot up a school, or stuck up a taxi driver.  Gun laws will only affect these responsible people.  Laws will not stop crime, and will not stop a mass shooter.  

Given this fact, why should I support Congress banning my guns or making it impossible to leave them to my children?  Why would I support a ban on magazines that might make me a felon?  Why would I support enhanced background checks when I don't know the details and don't believe they will work anyway?  Sorry Stephen, you haven't convinced this gun owner who has never once yelled "yeehaw" while shooting a semi-auto or any gun for that matter.