Who needs a high capacity magazine? Who needs a weapon capable of firing more than ten rounds? These questions echo across the airwaves and in the pages of magazines, newspapers, blogs and every conceivable outlet. Well guarded politicians and cultural figures wring their hands in safety and newspaper offices post guards as they debate the merits of regular people with scary weapons.
For what it’s worth, I don’t like the tactic of anyone appealing to what I ‘need.’ It conveys a false concern at best, and at worst a terrible paternalism; the sort of paternalism that the American Left has railed against for decades, whenever fathers told daughters, husbands told wives, churches told believers or government told citizens what they should ‘need.’ But now, it’s positively fashionable to tell gun owners what they do, or don’t, need.
So, since ‘need’ is all the rage, let me explain why we ‘need’ those magazines and those rifles and handguns that use them.
First, our Leftist friends have been misled by media. I fear that they believe the movies and television shows in which the intrepid, rebellious, foul-mouthed detective always comes out smiling when he uses his snub-nosed .38 caliber revolver to take down bad-guys with automatic weapons. He pushes the female lead out of the way and fires a snap-shot at the roof-line, and Voila! The cartel member with the AK-47, 100 yards away, plummets to the ground. He was dead before he fell.
In short, gun-control advocates like to think that every gunshot wound is the end for the person shot. However, let me lay a little medicine down. It isn’t true. While being shot is sometimes fatal, very often it isn’t. And even if it is ultimately, the ‘shootee’ often has time to a) call 911 for help b) drive away or c) continue to do terrible things to the object of his or her rage and violent impulses.
Many years ago I was privileged to help teach a class on wounding. The students were a sniper class, which was mixture of city police officers, FBI hostage rescue team members and SEAL team members. I was an emergency medicine resident then, and it was a hoot. They were some of the nicest people I had ever met, and after the talk my fellow instructor and I were allowed to ‘play’ with their toys, such delightful treasures as suppressed sub-machine guns and sniper rifles. It was, in short, a gun-lover’s dream come true.
But before we went to the range we discussed some important points. Mainly, for a shot to be instantly incapacitating, it has to do one of three things. It must either cause complete vascular collapse; for instance, it must cause the heart to cease to function or a large blood vessel like the aorta to be penetrated and cause sudden, massive hemorrhage. Or, it can strike the central nervous system in such a way that complete neurologic incapacitation occurs. For instance, it must strike the brain-stem, which is the lower portion of the brain behind the mouth and ears. If this happens, the heart stops beating and breathing ceases. Other brain shots may, or may not, immediately incapacitate the individual so injured. Finally, the wound can cause sudden structural failure; for instance, shattering a femur or pelvis, or shooting away a spinal segment that causes the individual to be unable to support his or herself.
Short of these situations, a person may be shot and continue to fight, continue to kill, well after a wound is inflicted. The FBI learned this the hard way in Florida, in 1986, when agents found their service weapons inadequate in the fight against two bank robbers, resulting in the deaths of two agents, and ultimately of both criminals. And in the re-arming of the entire agency.
Now, the average person defending hearth and home may be able to inflict a fatal wound on an assailant. But their odds go up dramatically with a larger number of rounds fired. Five or six rounds from a revolver might look good in a Western, but the Duke is gone (rest his soul) and Jose Wales has retired, and it’s up to regular folks to do the work of protecting the ranch from marauders. A rifle with ten, twenty or thirty rounds available might be necessary.
Why is this? In part, it’s because the kind of practice necessary to make those incredible, one shot incapacitating wounds is not easy to get. Life is busy. Suburban and urban shooters can’t go into their back yards and fire off rounds the way rural dwellers, like me, can. And it requires good coaching from skilled teachers. A Marine marksman or sniper takes time to create. In fact, one reason the M-16, and its civilian brother the AR-15, came into the US military arsenal is that it is easier to give soldiers a light weapon, with light ammo and lots of it, capable of semi-automatic and (for the military) automatic fire, than it is to train them to be long-range marksmen.
In addition, those well-placed shots are difficult because of duress. As an emergency physician, I’ll attest to the fact that stress makes seemingly simple physical skills more difficult. So when we are afraid, when we are stressed, when we are worried about protecting our spouses and children, when we are fearful for our own lives, it can be tough to keep that weapon on target. Tough to get the correct sight picture. Tough to pull that trigger without moving the barrel too much. Thus, having extra rounds is a good thing, not a bad thing, for lawful citizens. The police understand this. Most city and county police officers are no more at war than the people they protect. But they want weapons that can fire lots of bullets. Even they are subject to the vagaries of training and the physiology of stress.
But there’s more. Drugs, and even alcohol, change the equation. Having seen a 90 pound woman on drugs bite and kick her way through several security guards, having seen the crazy look in the eye of quietly menacing mental health patients whose violent impulses are escalating, having met people in custody for murder and rape, having lived in a county where home invasions have resulted in terrible deaths, I feel that I can safely say that while the world has lots of good people, bad people are more dangerous than ever. Not only so, home invasions are often accomplished by more than one assailant. Bad guys have no sense of honor, and aren’t interested in even odds. More than one bullet, more than one magazine, may be necessary. Especially for those who live in areas further from police protection.
In addition, as drug addiction rises not only to Methamphetamine but to narcotics like Vicodin, Klonopin, Oxycontin, Fentanyl, Morphine and everything else imaginable, (including ever new drugs like Bath Salts being manufactured in clandestine labs), people become more desperate than ever to feed their addictions. They rob pharmacies and break into homes. They steel from the chronically ill and the dying and they will not hesitate to kill you to obtain money or drugs. And if you doubt me, ask your friendly local narcotics officer, ER nurse, physician or paramedic about the level of crazy out there these days.
Finally, however, there’s another reason. You see, we now live and move in a world in which we have ceased to believe in right or wrong. A society that rejects not only God but natural law; that finds it moralizing or fundamentalist to suggest that we inflect (God forbid) our values on young minds. Far better if Hollywood (known for its peaceful, gun-free films), or college professors teach our young how to behave. Well we have sown the wind, and now reap the whirlwind.
The Left has won the debate over morals so far. They are busily expunging faith from the public square and happily teaching the young that the individual is the only arbiter of right and wrong. My liberal friends, you got it. The least you can do for creating generations of violent criminals with no fear of God or man is to allow the rest of us the tools with which to defend ourselves.
In all honestly, I don’t have a black rifle with all the protruding bits that give Leftists nightmares. But if, and when, the price ever drops again, and ammunition and magazines are available again, (thank you Mr. President for stimulating that bit of the economy!) I’ll likely buy one.
Because I do, in fact, need a high capacity magazine. If you don’t want one, don’t bother. But my life, and the lives of my wife and children, are worth protecting in the best way I know how. And as far as I’m concerned, if I should have to protect them with a firearm, I want lots of bullets; which translates into lots of reasons for addicts, psychopaths and every other dangerous nut to leave me alone. And if they won’t, lots of chances to make them drop where they stand. That’s what I need.
What you need is for you to decide.