Too much shooting from the hip in Bolen's critique

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Maarten Bosland

I feel compelled to respond to the Viewpoint by Emerson Bolen in Wednesday Journal of Aug. 28 [Wake up, America! Guns are not the problem]. He starts out with very disrespectful words about Mayor Abu-Taleb's Viewpoint of Aug. 14, calling it a "rant," which I find totally unacceptable given Abu-Taleb's sincere and thoughtful article. Then Mr. Bolen states that the Mayor's viewpoint is "loaded with inaccurate and misleading information." It seems to me that he was referring to his own viewpoint, which contains several serious inaccuracies that need to be addressed.

Mr. Bolen indicates that he knows what he is writing about because he has a long history of carrying assault weapons. I feel I can write about these weapons because I have fired both semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons in a military context.

The AR-15 is the "civilian" or "sporting" version of the military M16 assault rifle, with the only significant difference being that the AR-15 rifle cannot shoot in full automatic mode. The AR-15 uses similar ammunition as used in the M16, a .223 Remington cartridge, which when fired shoots bullets at approximately 3,000 feet per second. When such bullets hit a human (or animal) body at such a high speed, they cause what is called a cavitation effect: the bullet sends shock waves through tissues and severely damages them, causing devastating wounds beyond just the penetration by the bullet. Furthermore, this weapon can be fired at a rate of up to 3 shots per second, emptying a standard 20- or 30-round magazine in 7-10 seconds, and it can fire as many as 60-90 rounds in one minute with re-loading. 

Clearly the AR-15 and its ammunition are intended and designed to kill people, many of them, rather than target shooting or hunting. One could thus rightfully call the AR-15 a "weapon of war," as Mayor Abu-Taleb does, in the hands of people who are waging a "war" on Jews, immigrants, Muslims, people of color, or just people in general. An AR-15-like weapon was again used in the mass shootings in Odessa, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, while similar AK-47-based weapons were used in the shootings in El Paso and Gilroy. By contrast, a hand gun, even a semiautomatic one, does not shoot bullets at such high speeds and causes far less damage; it is therefore the weapon of first choice for law enforcement officers who need to stop a criminal from harming others.

Next, Mr. Bolen seems to suggest that there is less of an outcry against "criminal/gang-related shootings" than mass shootings. Nothing is further from the truth; just speak with people who live in high-crime areas or the Chicago police commissioner and mayor. Mass shootings result in a higher profile in the media because of their large casualty rate in a single event. However, every day at least 100 people are killed by a gun in the U.S., eight of them children(!), and at least 300 more people are injured by a bullet every day. No doubt, every single one of these casualties results in an outcry by the survivors affected, but few get high media attention.

To call people who want to see measures taken to reduce gun violence "the anti-gun mob," as Mr. Bolen does, is in my view inflammatory and very disrespectful of the viewpoint of other Americans.

He also seems to suggest that AR-15-like weapons are needed to protect businesses and buildings in situations of riots, using as example the disturbances in Ferguson (2014) and Los Angeles (1992), both reactions to police violence. In Chicago, similar events last took place 50 years ago (after the killing of MLK). It is ludicrous to suggest business owners arm themselves with high-velocity, semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines to protect themselves against something that is extremely rare. We have the police for that.

Then Mr. Bolen completely misstates crime statistics in London and New York City, writing that the homicide rate in London is higher than that in NYC. In fact, using annual statistics, New York has a significantly higher homicide rate than London, with New York recording 3.4 homicides per 100,000 people in 2017 whereas London recorded 1.2 per 100,000 that year. In addition he leaves out the fact that the NYC homicide rate has reached a historic low, making that city one of the safest in the country. NYC and NY State have some of the country's strictest gun regulations, and the United Kingdom has some of the strictest gun regulations in the world. 

In Britain, less than 5% of all homicides were committed with a gun, but in the U.S., 73%. These numbers illustrate the effectiveness of gun regulation in bringing down gun deaths (and injuries). Of note in this respect, mass shootings and resulting fatalities were down in the U.S. between 1994 and 2004 when assault weapons were banned, and have since sharply increased in number and in the number of resulting fatalities (Donohue and Boulouta, New York Times, Sept. 5).

Finally, Mr. Bolen informs us that he likes to shoot guns and target shooting. I entirely respect his choice of activities, which I assume take place on gun shooting ranges. And that is where this shooting should happen and the guns and ammunition used should be safely stored. There is in my view no place for AR-15-like weapons and their ammunition outside such secure venues.

We may live in "a sick, decaying society" as Mr. Bolen puts it, although even if you agree with this statement it may be for quite different reasons than his. However, to state that firearms are not the problem [when it comes to gun violence] is incorrect. Gun violence requires a gun, ammunition, and a person pulling the trigger. Logic dictates that regulating one of these three factors would reduce gun violence; regulating two would be more effective; and regulating all three is likely to have the greatest effect. 

Only 4% of all gun violence in the U.S. is attributable to mental illness and only 20-25% of people committing mass murders using guns have any history of mental illness. Thus, people who may consider perpetrating gun violence are very difficult to identify and therefore regulating guns and ammunition are likely the most effective ways to reduce gun violence and mass shootings. 

As Mr. Bolen correctly indicates, suicides represent the largest fraction of gun deaths. Strictly regulating access to both guns and ammunition would most likely also have a significant reducing effect on the high suicide rate in the U.S. (twice as high as in the UK) since using a gun is such an easy and highly effective way of killing oneself.

Maarten Bosland is an Oak Park resident and a member of Gun Responsibility Advocates, which maintains that greater responsibilities, including common-sense firearm regulation, must accompany gun rights. 

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Nick Polido  

Posted: September 14th, 2019 6:31 AM

Mr. Bosland, I'm no fan of guns and would like to see a ban on these type of weapons as well as nothing short of a strip search to purchase a hand gun. You mention Ferguson and I quote you " both reactions to police violence", what was the specific incident of police violence that set this off?

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 6:32 PM

Whewww-weee, Embo! Guess you finally managed to figure out where to start, huh, son? Just couldn't quite figure out exactly where to stop. . Here's where I'll start- with what you so blithely choose to ignore- that all those violent crazies - mostly juveniles - at the heart of London's knifing epidemic- would be killing and wounding an exponentially greater number of people if they had ready access to weapons you defend- weapons that can fire three rounds a second for ten seconds. Just the other day, some goof angry at being sent home from work, knifed five people and ... NO ONE DIED. Fancy that, huh? I suspect that if that malcontent clown had had a gun at his disposal, it's all but guaranteed people would have died. And for all your verbosity and post-Vietnam/pre-911 military service, the fact remains that high capacity semi-automatic weapons are the problem, not the inevitable and historical capacity for evil in human hearts.

Emerson Bolen from River Forest  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 5:08 PM

Speaking of suicide, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world (2nd in 2018), more than the US, yet extremely restrictive gun laws. If I recall correctly hanging is the most preferred method. Guess what? The US isn't even in the top 10. There goes that argument down the tubes. So let's talk about history. On April 19th, 1775, British troops moved to confiscate the firearms and supplies of the Colonial militias in Lexington and Concord. The rest is history. I'm damn glad we have the 2nd Amendment because of people like you. The musket was the AR-15 of it's day. If you look at every communist, fascist, and socialist regime, one of the first things they do is disarm the population so they can control them. Every time I hear the phrase "common sense gun laws", I wonder common sense according to whom? As far as I am concerned the bans, restrictions are not common sense, just a form of control. Now, going back to another reality. The NRA is commonly vilified by the progressive/liberal left for defending the rights of gun owners and the 2nd Amendment...which is part of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution and recognizes that the "right to bear arms" will not be infringed, yet this right is being infringed all over the country in the Democratic Party controlled cities and states...which are all pretty much disasters like Illinois/Chicago. On the other hand I see great support for an organization like Planned Parenthood, founded by racist Margaret Sanger who believed in Eugenics and was a huge fan of Adolph Hitler. How many millions of lives of unborn children have been lost to abortion since it became legal? Oh, and don't bother with the PP abortion services only 3% figure because that has been completely debunked. In closing, I'll say this: no, I am NOT going to store my AR-15s and ammunition...and I have several of them and handguns, shotguns, and THOUSANDS of rounds safely locked-up and stored in my basement...at some range. Does that bother you? Awww.

Emerson Bolen from River Forest  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 4:43 PM

Don't blame Indiana, or the suburbs for that matter, for Chicago's inability to stop it's drug trafficking and gang violence problems. So about that media outrage. Notice that whenever there is an El Paso type mass shooting, which represents a miniscule amount of total gun deaths...the media reaction is 1. Cue outrage 2. Blame Trump, the NRA, guns, pick one or all of the above, yet they treat the weekly carnage in Chicago as business as usual. Why is that? The old so-called "Assault Weapons" ban lapsed...it was a complete failure. As I pointed out before and it IS backed up by statistics is that handguns account for 64% of the gun violence, NOT AR-15s. Also, 42% of firearms used in crimes are bought on the black market...which would of course increase given any stupid bans. Remember how well Prohibition worked? Speaking of statistics, in 2018 the estimate is 43% of the population owns firearms. According to the CDC about 38,000 gun deaths happened in 2018, about 22,000 were suicides. So what percent of actual gun homicides happened vs the number of legal gun owners? Actually, since you brought up numbers in your article, let's talk about deaths in the US. Go back to 2017 when there was a spike in gun deaths, close to 40,000. Miniscule compared to the number one cause of death. Do you know what it was? Not cancer, that was about 672,000. Not heart disease, that was under 600,000. No, the #1 cause of death in the US...and that would be the death of innocent life...would be abortion coming in at 879,000...a number DOWN from 2016 at 892,000!! Do the math. You think we have a gun problem? I think we have a MUCH greater problem! Now I'm going to get a little nit picky because I am an expert on firearms and know what I am talking about. You mentioned the time it takes for an individual to empty a 20 or 30 round magazine. That is based on a TRAINED shooter, which I am, and not say the mass shooter in El Paso, who was not. He did have a gun free zone and unarmed people.

Emerson Bolen from River Forest  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 4:19 PM

No, I don't shoot from the hip, it's unsafe and inaccurate. Ah, where to start. On April 2nd, 2018 the BBC reported that London surpassed NYC in homicides because of a surge in stabbings. Yep, stabbings. If you have been paying attention, it seems that London now has a knife problem. I wonder why? Now, you can continue to incorrectly call an AR-15 a "weapon of war" but that's something I am used to by now when it comes to the anti-gun mob. Calling magazines clips, calling an AR-15 a "high powered rifle" or weapon of mass destruction. In reality, the typical 5.56mm/.223cal 55gr FMJ round is classified as a varmint round for hunting purposes. I've seen a lot of gelatin block tests and depending on the bullet, despite the 3200fps velocity, it can penetrate 6-8" prior to fragmentation and pass through soft tissue doing minimal damage. You don't get the severe cavitation until you get to the MilSpec 77-85gr bullets or hollow points. On the other hand, take a 7.62mm/.308Win at 180gr or a .12ga rifled slug and you will see far more damage. Sure, a 5.56mm round is lethal if it strikes a vital organ or bone and expends it's energy in the body. It's also used by farmers all across the US to kill feral hogs that travel in large packs and do millions of dollars of damage to farms. Also, don't be so dismissive of the armed citizens defense of their property during riots; "police violence"? You mean police violence in response to resisting arrest and assaulting police officers and that is NO excuse for rioting, vandalizing, looting, and burning. Period. I made my point on that and you did NOT refute it. I would also point out that gun control here in Crook, er Cook County and Chicago has failed spectacularly. Mayor Lightfoot can point her finger as much as she wants, but when the zoning requirements instituted by the city that made it impossible for a gun shop/range to exist in the city limits what the hell did they think was going to happen?

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