The Great Gun Debate: Selwyn Duke vs. Brett Joshpe

A few weeks ago, author and Manhattan-based lawyer Brett Joshpe penned a pro-gun-control piece whose thrust was that conservatives need to be sensible with respect to firearms legislation. It's not sensible, said he, to oppose any and all further restrictions on Second Amendment rights. Well, let's discuss what's "sensible."

For much of the US' history, we had virtually no gun-control laws (for white people). But then came Prohibition, gangsters, and Tommy guns, and people wanted to be sensible. So we ended up with the 1934 National Firearms Act, which restricted ownership of fully automatic weapons. Al Capone was unimpressed.

But there still was crime, and we had to be sensible. Thus were spawned 5,000 gun-control laws.

Man's nature, though, is a mighty intractable thing. Crime still existed - and so did calls to be sensible.

The result was 10,000 gun-control laws.

Then the strangest thing happened.

There still was crime.

People still demanded, "Be sensible!" And then there were 15,000....

But there was still...well, now we have more than 22,000 guns laws. And guess what.

That's right. Again there are those asking us to be "sensible."

Now, one might question the sense of these sensible people. Are they so ignorant of history that they're damned to repeat it inexorably? As to this, you might, Mr. Joshpe, remember those math problems in school in which you had to finish a progression. Well, finish the one I outlined above. Let's say the left (and you) gets exactly what they claim to want right now. Will we:

A. Have no more crime.

B. Still have crime.

After tackling that, proceed to question two: how will the left (and maybe you?) respond?

A. They will say we already have sensible gun-control laws and seek solutions elsewhere.

B. They will again ask us to be "sensible."

Mr. Joshpe, I don't call your prescribed capitulation "sensible," but something else.

Insanity - which, as that apocryphal saying tells us, "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." What result, Mr. Joshpe, do you hope to achieve with your shape-shifting gun-control proposals?

As to this, you peppered your American Thinker article with references to the need to restrict "automatic" weapons, clearly indicating that you'd fallen victim to what gun-grabbing propagandist Josh Sugarman called the public's highly exploitable "confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons," the former of which have been largely unavailable to the citizenry for almost 80 years. You now seem to know better and thus have switched gears, pushing what you call an "assault weapons" ban. This is very fashionable, of course, but what do you hope to achieve with it? 

Since it's "sensible" to be informed, please consider certain facts before answering. First, firearms such as the AR-15 (and I'm bored to tears of having to point this out) are not "assault weapons"; that is simply an emotionally charged term left-wing activists and the media have applied to demonize them. An assault weapon would have a "selective fire" feature, allowing it to be operated semi-automatic, fully automatic, in three-shot bursts, or in two of those three modes. In contrast, the weapons unfairly targeted here are merely semi-automatic rifles, meaning, they release one bullet with every trigger pull - like most guns owned in America.

In addition, AR-15-class weapons are used in less than two percent of all gun crimes, and legally owned ones in approximately zero percent of all gun crimes. Moreover:

  • They aren't large-caliber weapons. They're small - the same as a .22 Marlin target rifle.
  • While their .223 ammunition (the gun's default caliber) is nothing to sneeze at, it's not even close to being the highest powered. The .30-06, .416 Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester - and many, many other rifle calibers - are more powerful. Note that, as this video explains and illustrates, while AR-15-class weapons are made to wound a 170-pound man, the aforementioned hunting rifles are designed to kill a 300 to 1000-pound deer or moose.
  • In fact, .223 chambered AR-15s are so relatively ineffective that certain states and countries actually prohibit their use for deer hunting.
  • Thus, it isn't surprising that they aren't close to the most devastating firearms available. For example, as even The New York Times pointed out, shotguns are more effective in close-quarters attacks against soft targets (as in a massacre). Note here that most of the wounds in the Aurora, Colorado rampage were inflicted with a shotgun.
  • Any firearm with a magazine port can be fitted with a high-capacity magazine. Fifty-round magazines are readily available, for instance, for the Ruger 10/22.

So now let's place Mr. Joshpe's sensible policy initiative in perspective. He doesn't propose outlawing the largest caliber weapons. He doesn't propose outlawing the highest powered weapons. He doesn't propose outlawing the most devastating weapons. He doesn't propose outlawing the weapons most often used in crimes. Instead?

He insists we outlaw or restrict a class of small-caliber, lower-powered, less-effective rifles that have the same rate of fire as the more effective ones all so that we can, supposedly, eliminate weapons used in a staggering zero percent of all crimes.

(The ones used in two percent of crimes are already illegal.)

Is this sensible?

Or insane?

Of course, even targeting the other kinds of aforementioned weapons would only remove them from law-abiding hands, so that wouldn't be sensible, either. But my point is that there is a particularly severe disconnect between policy and reality here. I'm going to explain why it exists.

Mr. Joshpe has scoffed at gun advocates' slippery slope warning. And in a sense he is right. His proposal is not a slide down a slippery slope. Rather, he's suggesting that we take a huge leap of blind faith, land in the middle of the slope, and then hope we stop. That is to say, if it makes sense to outlaw firearms used in less than two percent of gun crimes, why not handguns, which are used in 86 percent of gun crimes? Why not more devastating shotguns, which are used in 7.5 percent of gun crimes? Why not rifles in general, which are used in 8.8 percent of them? Why the focus on the one (plus) percent? Is this Occupy the Second Amendment?

Answer: the left focuses on zero-percent guns (the legal ones) because they can. You see, there's a lot of prejudice right now against the "scary black gun," and, as scary black-heart Rahm the Assault Mayor has said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." But if you accept the supposition that outlawing guns stops outlaws from using guns and that a certain point on that slippery slope is the right level of legislation, it logically follows that everything above it in the hierarchy of "dangerousness" should be outlawed, too. Is this what you propose, Mr. Joshpe? If not, why pick on the AR-15? What sense, other than nonsense, does that make?

And on a related note, Mr. Joshpe, you advocate the reinstitution of the Bill Clinton disgorged zero-percent weapons ban. Can you explain what this would accomplish?

Another proposal Mr. Joshpe fancies sensible is something that became reality in New York just last week: a prohibition against high-capacity magazines. But NY state senator and former NYPD captain Eric Adams explained, quite inadvertently, at least part of the reason why it isn't sensible at all. While addressing the law's failure to grant police officers an exemption from the ban, he said, "You can't give more ammo to the criminals." But, wait, isn't the ban supposed to keep these magazines out of criminals' hands? And if it's wrong to thus handicap the cops, Mr. Joshpe, how is it sensible to give the criminals more ammo than good citizens have?

That said, I'm not at all opposed to being sensible; I just define it a bit differently than does Mr. Joshpe. Conservatives have a history of playing defense - and compromising their way to culture-war defeat and tyranny. Liberals will come to the bargaining table demanding some change and conservatives, being reasonable, will give the liberals a percentage of what they want. The problem? The liberals will come back again and again, demanding more and more, and the conservatives will continually yield more ground. And, ultimately, after enough time, the whole loaf will have been relinquished.

So here's my proposal: I want the total number of gun laws reduced from 22,000 to 5,000 (it's a good start, anyway). If the opposition finds this unpalatable, however, I'm willing to be sensible and reasonable and accept a reduction to 10,000. Don't ever say I'm not amenable to compromise.

While I have far more ammunition in my magical mystery magazine, word control dictates that I hold further fire (for now) and cede the floor to Mr. Joshpe. Suffice it to say, though, that his proposals are of the left and should be left behind. They reflect large-caliber misunderstandings fed with high-capacity emotionalism which cycle out fully automatic knee-jerk reactions.

Contact Selwyn Duke, follow him on Twitter or log on to SelwynDuke.com

A few weeks ago, author and Manhattan-based lawyer Brett Joshpe penned a pro-gun-control piece whose thrust was that conservatives need to be sensible with respect to firearms legislation. It's not sensible, said he, to oppose any and all further restrictions on Second Amendment rights. Well, let's discuss what's "sensible."

For much of the US' history, we had virtually no gun-control laws (for white people). But then came Prohibition, gangsters, and Tommy guns, and people wanted to be sensible. So we ended up with the 1934 National Firearms Act, which restricted ownership of fully automatic weapons. Al Capone was unimpressed.

But there still was crime, and we had to be sensible. Thus were spawned 5,000 gun-control laws.

Man's nature, though, is a mighty intractable thing. Crime still existed - and so did calls to be sensible.

The result was 10,000 gun-control laws.

Then the strangest thing happened.

There still was crime.

People still demanded, "Be sensible!" And then there were 15,000....

But there was still...well, now we have more than 22,000 guns laws. And guess what.

That's right. Again there are those asking us to be "sensible."

Now, one might question the sense of these sensible people. Are they so ignorant of history that they're damned to repeat it inexorably? As to this, you might, Mr. Joshpe, remember those math problems in school in which you had to finish a progression. Well, finish the one I outlined above. Let's say the left (and you) gets exactly what they claim to want right now. Will we:

A. Have no more crime.

B. Still have crime.

After tackling that, proceed to question two: how will the left (and maybe you?) respond?

A. They will say we already have sensible gun-control laws and seek solutions elsewhere.

B. They will again ask us to be "sensible."

Mr. Joshpe, I don't call your prescribed capitulation "sensible," but something else.

Insanity - which, as that apocryphal saying tells us, "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." What result, Mr. Joshpe, do you hope to achieve with your shape-shifting gun-control proposals?

As to this, you peppered your American Thinker article with references to the need to restrict "automatic" weapons, clearly indicating that you'd fallen victim to what gun-grabbing propagandist Josh Sugarman called the public's highly exploitable "confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons," the former of which have been largely unavailable to the citizenry for almost 80 years. You now seem to know better and thus have switched gears, pushing what you call an "assault weapons" ban. This is very fashionable, of course, but what do you hope to achieve with it? 

Since it's "sensible" to be informed, please consider certain facts before answering. First, firearms such as the AR-15 (and I'm bored to tears of having to point this out) are not "assault weapons"; that is simply an emotionally charged term left-wing activists and the media have applied to demonize them. An assault weapon would have a "selective fire" feature, allowing it to be operated semi-automatic, fully automatic, in three-shot bursts, or in two of those three modes. In contrast, the weapons unfairly targeted here are merely semi-automatic rifles, meaning, they release one bullet with every trigger pull - like most guns owned in America.

In addition, AR-15-class weapons are used in less than two percent of all gun crimes, and legally owned ones in approximately zero percent of all gun crimes. Moreover:

  • They aren't large-caliber weapons. They're small - the same as a .22 Marlin target rifle.
  • While their .223 ammunition (the gun's default caliber) is nothing to sneeze at, it's not even close to being the highest powered. The .30-06, .416 Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester - and many, many other rifle calibers - are more powerful. Note that, as this video explains and illustrates, while AR-15-class weapons are made to wound a 170-pound man, the aforementioned hunting rifles are designed to kill a 300 to 1000-pound deer or moose.
  • In fact, .223 chambered AR-15s are so relatively ineffective that certain states and countries actually prohibit their use for deer hunting.
  • Thus, it isn't surprising that they aren't close to the most devastating firearms available. For example, as even The New York Times pointed out, shotguns are more effective in close-quarters attacks against soft targets (as in a massacre). Note here that most of the wounds in the Aurora, Colorado rampage were inflicted with a shotgun.
  • Any firearm with a magazine port can be fitted with a high-capacity magazine. Fifty-round magazines are readily available, for instance, for the Ruger 10/22.

So now let's place Mr. Joshpe's sensible policy initiative in perspective. He doesn't propose outlawing the largest caliber weapons. He doesn't propose outlawing the highest powered weapons. He doesn't propose outlawing the most devastating weapons. He doesn't propose outlawing the weapons most often used in crimes. Instead?

He insists we outlaw or restrict a class of small-caliber, lower-powered, less-effective rifles that have the same rate of fire as the more effective ones all so that we can, supposedly, eliminate weapons used in a staggering zero percent of all crimes.

(The ones used in two percent of crimes are already illegal.)

Is this sensible?

Or insane?

Of course, even targeting the other kinds of aforementioned weapons would only remove them from law-abiding hands, so that wouldn't be sensible, either. But my point is that there is a particularly severe disconnect between policy and reality here. I'm going to explain why it exists.

Mr. Joshpe has scoffed at gun advocates' slippery slope warning. And in a sense he is right. His proposal is not a slide down a slippery slope. Rather, he's suggesting that we take a huge leap of blind faith, land in the middle of the slope, and then hope we stop. That is to say, if it makes sense to outlaw firearms used in less than two percent of gun crimes, why not handguns, which are used in 86 percent of gun crimes? Why not more devastating shotguns, which are used in 7.5 percent of gun crimes? Why not rifles in general, which are used in 8.8 percent of them? Why the focus on the one (plus) percent? Is this Occupy the Second Amendment?

Answer: the left focuses on zero-percent guns (the legal ones) because they can. You see, there's a lot of prejudice right now against the "scary black gun," and, as scary black-heart Rahm the Assault Mayor has said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." But if you accept the supposition that outlawing guns stops outlaws from using guns and that a certain point on that slippery slope is the right level of legislation, it logically follows that everything above it in the hierarchy of "dangerousness" should be outlawed, too. Is this what you propose, Mr. Joshpe? If not, why pick on the AR-15? What sense, other than nonsense, does that make?

And on a related note, Mr. Joshpe, you advocate the reinstitution of the Bill Clinton disgorged zero-percent weapons ban. Can you explain what this would accomplish?

Another proposal Mr. Joshpe fancies sensible is something that became reality in New York just last week: a prohibition against high-capacity magazines. But NY state senator and former NYPD captain Eric Adams explained, quite inadvertently, at least part of the reason why it isn't sensible at all. While addressing the law's failure to grant police officers an exemption from the ban, he said, "You can't give more ammo to the criminals." But, wait, isn't the ban supposed to keep these magazines out of criminals' hands? And if it's wrong to thus handicap the cops, Mr. Joshpe, how is it sensible to give the criminals more ammo than good citizens have?

That said, I'm not at all opposed to being sensible; I just define it a bit differently than does Mr. Joshpe. Conservatives have a history of playing defense - and compromising their way to culture-war defeat and tyranny. Liberals will come to the bargaining table demanding some change and conservatives, being reasonable, will give the liberals a percentage of what they want. The problem? The liberals will come back again and again, demanding more and more, and the conservatives will continually yield more ground. And, ultimately, after enough time, the whole loaf will have been relinquished.

So here's my proposal: I want the total number of gun laws reduced from 22,000 to 5,000 (it's a good start, anyway). If the opposition finds this unpalatable, however, I'm willing to be sensible and reasonable and accept a reduction to 10,000. Don't ever say I'm not amenable to compromise.

While I have far more ammunition in my magical mystery magazine, word control dictates that I hold further fire (for now) and cede the floor to Mr. Joshpe. Suffice it to say, though, that his proposals are of the left and should be left behind. They reflect large-caliber misunderstandings fed with high-capacity emotionalism which cycle out fully automatic knee-jerk reactions.

Contact Selwyn Duke, follow him on Twitter or log on to SelwynDuke.com