I generally find myself in agreement with Ben Stein, whose insights are generally well informed, and, well, insightful. But emotion-overrun incidents like the Florida attack tend to drain rationality and logic from otherwise thoughtful people, and so it appears to be with Stein. Consider his recent article in The Spectator, titled: The Time For Civilians To Own AR-15s is over. I am almost tempted to think the article a satire or parody, so stereotypical is its use of emotion devoid of fact or reason in the place of logic, but as an intellectual exercise, if nothing else, I’ll treat it seriously. Stein begins by expressing his general support for the Second Amendment, and for individual “civilian” gun ownership, but quickly contradicts his professed respect for liberty:
So, owning a gun seems like a fairly good idea. And allowing grown men and women who pass strict tests to carry them either openly or in concealed carry makes sense, too. If you want to feel protected, you want to feel protected all of the time.
But for the life of me, I cannot see why any American civilians need an AR-15 or any other military-style semi-automatic rifle. I understand why people want them. It makes your ordinary nerdy guy seem like he’s tough and rough and ready. It makes him feel as if he’s got some part of him that’s always steely and ready for action. But that’s not enough reason to own a gun that just begs to be used against people.
If you look at an AR-15 or any other similar weapon, it doesn’t look like it’s made for hunting. It doesn’t look like it’s made for target shooting. No, it’s made to kill other people. At least that’s what it looks like.
It looks like weapons in newsreels used to kill insurgents. It looks like weapons used in disgusting, violent video games to kill people. It looks as if it won’t ever be happy until you use it to kill someone.
The value of AR-15s is a topic I’ve frequently addressed:
And most recently:
Stein should know better. No one actually “needs” anything beyond the most basic means of survival: a single pair of pants, a single shirt, one pair of shoes, a minimal daily calorie count, and some substantial vegetation to serve as a makeshift roof, of if one wants to be terribly wasteful of resources, perhaps a tent. We don’t really need a toothbrush, soap, shampoo or deodorant. After all, millions managed to survive before such things were invented. We do not, however, order our lives based on allowing government to tell us what we need. That’s communism, and history teaches how that works. We particularly do not allow this when we’re dealing with a natural, fundamental, unalienable, express constitutional right.
We also don’t ban anything based on how it looks. Corvettes look like they’re made to go fast, and if one goes too fast, they get into accidents and people get killed. By Stein’s logic, Corvettes are not made for basic transportation—that’s for slower, boxier, less fast-looking vehicles–they’re made to kill people. Still, even though car ownership is not an express constitutional right, no one is demanding Corvettes and other fast looking cars be banned, despite the indisputable fact that far more people are killed by car violence than by people using AR-15s.
AR-15’s are indeed made for hunting and target shooting, and are widely used for those purposes. In fact, they’re ideally suited for both. Some weapons are, arguably, made for killing people, but these are military weapons such as cannon, hand grenades, missiles, bombs and nuclear weapons, none of which are civilian-legal. Small arms are made primarily to be accurate, reliable and for ease of use. It is the excellent ergonomics, light weight, accuracy, corrosion resistance, reliability and ease of use that makes the AR-15 so popular, and so appropriate for hunting, target shooting and self-defense.
While any firearm may be used to kill, so too can motor vehicles–as recent terrorist attacks have demonstrated, knives—as recent terrorist attacks have demonstrated, various hand tools, fists, feet, rocks, sticks, and anything else that can potentially damage human beings.
Stein’s suggestion that AR-15s make “nerdy” people feel strong is simply silly. It’s reminiscent of the pathetic insult that people own guns to compensate for small penises or other sorts of sexual inadequacy. Are we now to deny people consumer goods based on how those that live to limit liberty think they might make others feel? Is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty to be banned? It might give people delusions of adequacy. And what’s wrong with feeling more capable and safe because one owns an effective means of self-defense? This is perhaps the most important women’s issue. Would Stein deny women that sense of security? After all, progressivism is all about feelings rather than reality.
Stein also anthropomorphizes AR-15s: “It looks as if it won’t ever be happy until you use it to kill someone.” AR-15s have the ability to express emotion, and perhaps, even to compel their owners to murder! Who knew? No need to develop artificial intelligence; Eugene Stoner already did it (Stoner invented the AR-15)! On no! Imagine the compulsive power of Corvettes! Porn! There goes the First Amendment too…
I understand the Second Amendment arguments about semi-automatic military style weapons bans: if you let the camel put his nose under the tent, pretty soon he’s walking off with the tent. If you let the government ban the AR-15 and its many cousins, are automatic pistols next? Are shotguns next? Where is the stopping point?
Total civilian disarmament, and a compelled progressive utopia. But I suspect Stein knows that too. He’s just choosing to ignore it at the moment, and actually employing a Barack Obama tactic:
There is a stopping point at which reasonable people agree that enough is enough.
Of course. And reasonable people know there is a point at which you’ve made enough money, and if you have a business, you didn’t build that, and Mitt Romney was stupid for suggesting Russia is an enemy of the United States.
We’ve passed that point with the sporterized assault rifles.
“[S]porterized assault rifles”? Is that like “assault weapons” or “high capacity assault clips”? How, exactly, does one “sporterize” a rifle? Paint a racing stripe on it? Hang a spoiler below the muzzle? Install a turbocharger? Actual assault rifles, which are what the military uses, not semi-automatic AR-15s, are fully automatic (I know: some have burst features instead). Wouldn’t they be “sporterized” in comparison to their semiautomatic cousins?
But Madison and Jefferson did not intend that insane people should have access to weapons of mass destruction to use at high schools and rock concerts.
Stein should know better about this too. No one, even the evil and all-powerful NRA, wants insane people to have the means to harm others. The founders were content that citizens own the most powerful military weapons of their time, including cannon. Their concern was never about classifications of arms, but the principle that free men be armed with the weapons necessary to overthrow a despotic government, of the kind that would surely result if Stein has his way.
Just no more manufacturing or selling of AR-15s. Period.
Sure. That’ll absolutely prevent school shootings, like the Virginia Tech attack (2007), where a single killer, using two common pistols in 9mm and .22LR calibers killed 32 and wounded 17—more than the Florida attack. Or maybe the Red Lake, Minnesota attack (2005) where a .22LR pistol, a .40 caliber pistol, and a 12 gauge pump shotgun were used to kill seven and wound five, including an unarmed school security guard. Or the Bath Township, Michigan killer (1927) who killed 44 and wounded 58—the worst school attack in American history–exclusively by means of explosives.
Acknowledging this particular reality would logically require Stein to demand the abolition of semiautomatic pistols, and just to be safe, 9mm, .40 S&W, 12 gauge and.22LR ammunition—and explosives or anything that would be used to make explosives. There goes fertilizer and a great many household chemicals. But Stein mentioned that would be the inevitable result of banning any single class of arms, like AR-15s, didn’t he?