January 07, 2003
ONLY THE TITLE TO THIS ARTICLE IS ONLINE: But I think that's all we need to realize that it's probably dumb. Here's what's on the Washington Monthly's website:
License to Kill
How the GOP helped John Allen Muhammad get a sniper rifle.
by Brent Kendall
How do we know it's dumb from this tiny amount of information? Let me count the ways. First, the Bushmaster rifle that John Allen Muhammad used isn't a sniper rifle. It's what is more commonly called an "assault rifle," a term of art that means it's a civilian rifle, like many other civilian rifles, only with military look. At least, that's what anti-gun people used to call guns like that, during the previous phase of their PR campaign. But, now that there's a sniper, guns they don't like have mysteriously morphed into "sniper rifles," even though -- as was exhaustively pointed out during the attacks -- no self-respecting sniper would use a gun like this, and Muhammad wasn't a sniper anyway.
Second, notice the blood libel: "how the GOP helped" John Muhammad get the gun. Riiiight.
I suppose I could be wrong here. The article could be sensitive, nuanced, and technically accurate, rather than simply recycled PR poop from the Violence Policy Center and the Brady Campaign. But I rather doubt it, and certainly the folks at the Washington Monthly have gone out of their way to make it look as if it's the latter.
UPDATE: Heck, here's a quote from the Washington Post article linked above. Don't people at the Washington Monthly read the Post? Don't they realize that other people do, too?
His choice of weapon reveals something as well. It's notable that he hasn't selected a firearm or a cartridge that's linked to sniping as it's practiced professionally. The police have described the recovered fragments as being from a ".223 bullet," a particular vagueness that suggests they know a lot more than they're letting on or a lot less. In any event, the .223 family of cartridges -- it could also include a target round like the .222, a varmint round like the .22-250 or a specialized pistol round like the .221 Fireball -- aren't part of authentic sniper practice or the more informal "sniper culture" that surrounds this most disturbing but necessary of jobs. Most government and police snipers use a .308 Winchester rifle because it is far more lethal (its muzzle-energy, which measures force in pounds by mathematical formula, is around 2,300 pounds, while the .223's is around 1,200; in most states the .223 -- or any .22 centerfire -- is illegal for deer hunting because it wounds without killing too frequently.) The .223, as a combat round, has proved disappointing; one merely has to read "Black Hawk Down" or the specialized gun press to sample the discontent with its performance in Mogadishu or Afghanistan.
So why the misleading title? Could it be because it's consistent with the current agendas of anti-gun advocacy groups? I think that just might be the case.