DAVID M. GROSS
|October 11, 2002
Editorial Department, Star Tribune
RE: Commentary (1568 words)
Upon the discovery that a single individual is evil enough to kill innocent people in a terrorism campaign around the Washington, D.C. area, those "instant pundits" who would deny the Second Amendment, again, beat the drum for the elimination of the right to keep and bear arms. They dance on the graves of the innocent victims and glory in their spilled blood. Not having an individual upon which to visit their wrath, they choose an inanimate object, the firearm, as the scapegoat. They have begun a campaign of disinformation to label and to, again, attribute evil intent and purpose upon inanimate objects, instead of the person who uses them. Behaving like Goldilocks, they can only see them as too inaccurate or too accurate, ugly or the wrong color, too large in size or too small, too powerful or too weak, drawing value judgments they are uniquely unqualified to draw, if only because they don't know what they are talking about. They are proud of their ignorance of the technology they assail; to them, it's a badge of moral purity, moral superiority, and "reasonableness." Actually, they're, originally, simply ignorant, as well as arrogant. When they obtain a little knowledge from some expert in marksmanship, they're shocked by what they learn (that rifle design is well established; that rifles are ergonomic, comfortable, and accurate; and that the average person can easily and quickly be taught to shoot a rifle accurately at 100 yards); disregard the judgments and opinions of these experts; become truly dangerous, drawing inappropriate and outlandish conclusions of their own, making distinctions that don't exist; and lower themselves further, to stupidity, by continuing to blame the technology. The names Ned Lud (whose followers, the Luddites, attacked and destroyed technology at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England) and Ted Kaczynski (The Unabomber, who also attacked technology) spring to mind.
Originally they labeled the rifle presumably used an "assault
rifle," which heretofore (since the Stockton, CA incident in early
1989 involving Patrick Purdy) was characterized by them by its rapid and
inaccurate "spray" fire and firepower capacity; they were
unable to grasp the implication of the fact that this killer was using a
single shot, no matter what the cosmetic appearance of the rifle. We saw
several of the AR series of rifles, because, apparently, the cartridge
used was believed to be the .223 Remington/5.56 mm cartridge, probably
It was in the late eighties and very early nineties when Charles Henderson (Marine Sniper - 93 Confirmed Kills); Peter Senich (The German Sniper: 1914 -1945; The Complete Book of U.S. Sniping; Scout Sniper - WWII and Korea; The One-Round War - USMC Scout Snipers in Vietnam; The Long-Range War); and Minnesota's own John Plaster (The Ultimate Sniper - An Advanced Training Manual for Military and Police Snipers) documented in a scholarly and detailed fashion the qualifications, equipment, training, and mission of effective snipers. The U.S. Marine Corps Scout/Sniper Training Manual was updated and revised (and published); The U.S. Army Special Operations Target Interdiction Course -Sniper Training and Employment was updated and revised (and published). The Chandler brothers (Lt. Col. Norman and MSgt. Roy - both now retired) began publication of their "scrapbook" series on Marine Corps Sniping, the DFA series (Death From Afar) and their efforts to document the basis for the Silver Star that was eventually awarded to Carlos Hathcock (the subject of Charles Henderson's book). That was ten years ago, or so. Yet, in the last ten days, these instant pundits declared it "new" and "recent." It was, to them, because they were ignorant, before then. And they, in the arrogance of "not invented here," declared that it was a just-developed (actually newly-labeled, by them) "sniper culture," (as if they "owned it, now), because they had just discovered the documentation of activities going on since the Civil War. They are shocked by the exercise of the First Amendment, freedom of the press, by those with whom they disagree.
They prove what Charlton Heston's speech writers analyzed as a "cultural war" in the mid-nineties. It's the classic "straw-man" argument: creating a false opposition, in this case, a "new culture," in order to attack it and to destroy it. Of course, it can't fight back, because it doesn't exist. How convenient and safe! On October 11, 2002, the Star Tribune published an article by-lined from the New York Times concerning this very issue and quoting Tom Diaz, "a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, a gun control group in the D.C. area." In it, they accept an allegation from him concerning a "recent article" from Tactical Shooter magazine. A factual problem is that Tactical Shooter doesn't exist "recently" or otherwise. It last published two years ago (October 2000), which is eloquent testimony as to whether there exists a so-called sniper "subculture" which can support a magazine, IF that was the audience of Tactical Shooter, which it wasn't. So, not only would these self-proclaimed experts, these "instant pundits," "luminaries," and "enlightened intelligentsia" twist and deform their information in order to disinform the public and to create false impressions; they also lie in order to accomplish their mission.
The fact of the matter is that the rifles and ammunition that we can purchase, today, are the best, and most accurate, off-the-shelf rifles and ammunition that have ever been made. Modern production techniques, such as CNC machining; advanced materials and materials handling; and the best and most efficient designs have combined to contribute to quality, accuracy, and function that was available only in custom firearms just a few years ago (ten years?). It's simple product improvement. The fact that a very commonly used and available, inherently accurate, mid-power, sporting cartridge available for 38 years (its immediate predecessor, the .222 Remington, the "Triple-Deuce," has been in existence since 1950) was used in a presumably well-manufactured and designed firearm to make relatively "easy" shots at relatively short range should not cause any excitement concerning firearms, absent some other agenda. American citizens have been using this rifle and ammunition combination for decades to eliminate varmints and other predators in farming/ranching areas of this country to great effect and with great accuracy. Having minute-of-angle accuracy (the common benchmark of rifle accuracy) allows one to put a projectile into a 4" target (a prairie dog, for example) at 300 yards.
In the last 10 years or so, this cartridge has come to dominate the National Matches and Highpower (read: "centerfire," as opposed to "rim fire" or "small bore") Rifle competition in this country out to 600 yards, because of its inherent accuracy, mild recoil, and relative economy. As chairman of the NRA Highpower Rifle Committee in the early to mid-nineties, I presided over the transition that accompanied these technological changes in the competition context, if only in the definition and specifications of the Semi-automatic Match Rifle, which hadn't existed before then, in order to accommodate the use of semiautomatic, AR-type actions in the Rules. Before then, there were only Service Rifle (semiautomatic) and Match Rifle (Bolt Action) categories. For some purposes, it, the .223, is simply the "better mouse trap." In my opinion and judgment, so-called "sniping" is not one of them; but hitting a small target, what one is aiming at, is. But what can I possibly know and understand based on my over two decades of study, knowledge, experience, (and expertise?) compared such "instant pundits?"
What is continuing to happen in the Washington, D.C. area has nothing to do with the type of firearm (we don't know what it is, at this point, as there are so many variants on this theme) or caliber of ammunition (presumably one of the most popular, but even THAT hasn't been completely determined, yet). What is happening is that someone, or some group, has decided to terrorize an area by randomly shooting innocent people going about their everyday affairs of life. I, personally, lean toward the theory that some Al Quaida operatives are using their training to inflict mass terror, without mass destruction, by methodically (that's the scary part) impairing the feeling of security of the individual.
IT'S THE CRIMINAL, STUPID!
Very truly yours,