I own 5 guns. 4 of them are traditional looking hunting rifles and shotguns.
However, one of them is an AR-15, a “military-style assault rifle”, except that it’s been modified so as not to fit the definition of an “assault weapon”, since assault weapons are illegal in California. I bought it legally from a gun dealer in California, and went through a background check and 10-day waiting period.
I know a lot of vehemently anti-gun people. I usually keep my views to myself, but I’m happy to join a rational conversation. Inevitably, the question always comes up, "why do you need an assault weapon?"
(Well, technically it’s not an assault weapon since those are illegal in my state, but I’ll play ball. Like I said, rational discussion.)
I need it because I don’t need the government telling me what I don’t need.
My interpretation of the Second Amendment that is that the Constitution explicitly grants Americans the right to private gun ownership because it is the last line of defense against an oppressive government.
I believe it is for the government to be afraid of its people, not the other way around.
However, this is just philosophy. It’s not something I can rightfully say to someone whose child died from gunfire. I’m sure this story would play to a much more receptive audience in Syria, Bahrain, or Egypt, but American citizens have only once tried to overthrow their government, and they lost. Since then, representative democracy has done a good job at keeping civil rights intact, save for a few knee-jerk reactions since terrorism joined the national conversation.
So, is private gun ownership still relevant?
Before we talk about private gun ownership, let’s talk about nuclear weapons. There are lessons here that play into the gun control discussion.
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. This bomb held 64 kilograms of Uranium 235 and produced an explosive force of 16 kilotons. It destroyed everything in a 2-mile radius from its explosion point. Between the blast, fire, and long-term radiation effects, Little Boy killed 200,000 people.
A 16 kiloton bomb kills 200,000 people.
The end of WWII brought America face first into a nuclear arms race with Russia. Russian spies brought details of bomb design back home, and Russia exploded its first nuclear weapon, 4 years after the United States. This bomb, lovingly nicknamed “Joe 1” by American scientists, produced a yield of 16 kilotons, the same as Little Boy.
16 kilotons. A bomb large enough to destroy a city and kill 200,000 people.
However, once this happened, the race was on. No bomb could be too big. The Americans exploded Ivy Mike, the first boosted-fusion weapon, in 1954. It yielded 10 megatons. We’ve now gone up an order of magnitude in destructive power.
What’s interesting about the Ivy device is that our scientists figured out how to burn virtually endless quantities of the 238 Uranium isotope, the most common form. With this discovery, they could build a bomb as big as the Generals wanted.
Not to be outdone, the Russians exploded Tsar Bomba in 1961, the largest nuclear explosion to date. Tsar produced a 50 megaton explosion. It could have produced 100 megatons, but the Russians dialed it down because their test pilots would not have survived the blast.
50 megatons, when all it takes to destroy a city and end a world war is a 16 kiloton bomb.
The only nuclear weapons ever exploded in anger caused a horror previously unimaginable, and we’re competing with the Russians to build bombs that are orders of magnitude more destructive.
What’s more, during the Cold War, the Strategic Air Command, America’s military organization in charge of figuring out how to turn Russia into a parking lot, had drawn up nuclear war plans for every possible scenario.
Someone asked SAC commanders, under their models, what would a nuclear bombing of Hiroshima look like? Their response: 3 bombs, 80 kilotons each. Little Boy was 1 bomb, 16 kilotons.
I hope that I’ve demonstrated by example that when two parties with opposing interests get into an arms race, the result is weapons that fly beyond practicality, beyond horror, to a place that is so unimaginable, we can only understand it statistically.
Military installations destroyed.
This is analogous to the current state of affairs between Gun Culture and the American Government. Police officers regularly patrol the streets with AR-15 assault rifles in their cruisers. I own an AR-15 because I think it’s a hedge against an oppressive government, a reason that, in this country, still only exists in the abstract.
But there’s part of me that worries about a police force that vastly out-guns the citizenship. I read about police brutality and see videos of cops abusing their powers, and it reinforces my interpretation of the Second Amendment.
But it’s an arms race. And history tells me how those work.
So, I propose this: let’s talk about multilateral arms reduction. If Congress and the President choose to ban “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, let those laws apply to the police as well.
An all-out ban with confiscation is not plausible, but a ban on future sales is, as are tighter controls on handguns. I propose that for each gun control measure imposed on American citizens, a matching measure be imposed on domestic police forces.
As wonderful as it would be to no longer see pictures like this:
It would be equally wonderful to no longer see pictures like this:
Thanks for reading.