Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Can we get rid of guns?

It's often been said: the world would be better off without guns.
In this text, rather than sharing my personal opinions, I'd like to explore if that idea is in fact possible;

Can we prevent people from getting tools to harm other people?

I really like this article by Kopel Gallant and Eisen, It explores the notion of getting rid of firearms very deeply. It is heavily biased pro-gun rights, so keep that in mind.

Let's take a look at the guns, they're generally very strong and durable, made to last for centuries. After the introduction of the non-corrosive primer, weapon degradation was reduced to the point where fouling is no longer a long-term threat to a gun. At least, not to the degree that a dirty gun will no longer be accurate if left uncleaned for a long period of time. Add to that all the modern product to preserve a gun from the elements (cosmoline, special gun safe desiccants, specialized oils, ...) and it really does become a fact that a mothballed rifle can outlast you by a century.
In other words, barring confiscation and/or willful destruction, the currently available guns will be around longer than you and I.
But will these weapons remain available to criminals? I mean, if they get used in crime, eventually the law will catch up with those stashed weapons, and the supply will dry up right?

We'll need to take some serious measures to keep guns out of the country, we wouldn't want more guns being brought in than we can destroy right?
It's illegal to posses heroin and cocaine, but those dangerous drugs are very much present in the US because they get smuggled in. Massive amounts of money and man hours are dedicated to the extermination of these smugglers, to little avail. Why would guns be any harder to smuggle in? Well ... they're bigger and heavier than drugs in comparison to the sales price. so, there's not as much money to be made smuggling in guns? Think again.

How much more valuable will guns become one nobody has them anymore? If you can arm a gang of criminals with small personal defense weapons (PDW's, as used by the crew of armored vehicles), they could easily wipe out any rival gang that' doesn't have access o those weapons long before th police could respond to a call. With the war on drugs raging on without end in sight, it would be a good investment to have guns smuggled in. But in all honesty, it's not the smuggling that I'm concerned about, it's the domestic manufacture.

What I think is missing in the "a world without guns" article, is some concrete information on gun manufacturing. It mentions it here and there, but it doesn't give a good image of how easy or hard it is to produce a functional firearm. Manufacturing firearms during a very difficult period, hmm, rings a bell!
It wouldn't be the first time that people cried out for lots of cheap, easely made firearms, the most notable examples can be observed during world war II.

With the war weighting heavily on the economy, the leaders had to go looking for weapons that were easy to manufacture, cheaply at that, reliable and easy to use.
The sten submachinegun was just the ticket, supposedly designed by two engineers over a pint of beer (!), it marked a new era of small arms.
(Olek volg's page on the sten smg).
At $6 it was dirt cheap, and it was extremely easy to make as well, but that's still six times more than the infamous liberator pistol.
Single shot, single dollar (well, $2.10 according to wikipdia, not indexed ... roughly $25 today) to produce: 1 2 3

Let there be no question about it, it's perfectly possible to produce large amounts of junk guns for no money, but is it possible to build something a little more worthwhile?
The home gunsmith takes pride in being able to build machine guns from plumbing supplies. These are functional designs, but hardly top of the line. And he has received criticism for his open bold design (as used in the ingram m10 and m11) which is prone to jamming)

The CnC gunsmith on the other hand, shows us all how frighteningly easy it it to build a fully functional assault rifle receiver from a block of solid aluminium. He proves that military grade rifles and handguns are well within the reach of an ordinary citizen who has enough motivation to manufacture one. And if you think about the kind of money to be made during a period of prohibition, surely you can imagine that there will be people making and selling these?

And that's just firearms. Did you know that the bloodiest school massacre was not carried out by firearms? Somebody blew up a school using explosives. (bath school may 18th 1927, 45 people killed and 58 injured ) Talking about explosives, has anybody topped off Timothy McVeighs bomb truck attack by using small arms? Not to my knowledge.
And McVeighs weapon was also largely home-made..

Now, I'm a chemistry student and an active member of the amateur pyrotechnics community, I know that it's not at all difficult to manufacture explosives in your home, which is exactly why police officers are receiving training for just those cases. The presence of explosive synthesis desription available on the internet have much been the subject of discussion. A good paper on the issue can be found here: A very well documented file, easy to read even for the layman.

A common subject on online forums is how little the contemporary terrorist knows about manufacturing explosives. We are all too lucky that the only people with enough hate to do it, lack the intelligence patience and creativity to actually manufacture a bomb. Well, the school massacres that are being carried out in the US aren't being done by idiots, the gunmen are often very intelligent, and commonly psychotic. Psychosis is just the ailment that would allow somebody -deprived of firearms- to take the time to get it all just right. The failure at Littleton Colorado will serve as a warning for anybody trying to rush it, no, we can safely assume that new time, the explosives will actually go off.

We can ban guns, we can confiscate them and try to track down smugglers and manufacturers, but there is no way that is going to stop somebody who is bent on killing innocent people.

Does that mean we cannot stop them? I don't know.
You can only prevent so many accident by being safe and careful.
You can only help so many people with counseling and psychological help, but Cho, the gunman at Virgina tech, had been identified to have mental issues,

"The independent panel also concluded that though Cho had demonstrated signs of mental instability earlier, college staff had not intervened effectively."

(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6969842.stm)

Maybe he could have been stopped, on a soft couch by a kind therapist.
No gun restrictions or armed guards, but a little bit a gentle, human contact.

Can it all be done, I don't know, but what I do know is this:
If somebody claims we can stop intentional massacres by reducing firearms ownership, he/she is either ignorant, lying, or pursuing ulterior motifs.
Not the kind of person I' want to represent me.

1 comment:

orcslayer said...

I agree