This Ain’t Your Founding Fathers’ Firearm

Pictured at left is one of the three types of guns that was used yesterday in the school shooting in Connecticut. It’s a semi-automatic .223 calibre Bushmaster rifle. It’s manufactured by Bushmaster Firearms International, a company based in Madison, North Carolina. It’s a civilian version of the U.S. military’s standard issue M-16. 

Serial killer and mass murder buffs might recognize it as the gun that was used in the Beltway Sniper attacks back in 2002. That’s where John Allen Muhammad, with the aid of a minor named Lee Boyd Malvo, killed ten people and severely injured three others in the Washington, D.C. area during a three week shooting spree in October of that year.

In the world of assault-style weapons, bullet calibre, velocity, range, firing speed and magazine capacity are the key criteria. As described in news reports, the Bushmaster has a 30-round magazine that a shooter can empty in less than a minute (the magazine is the curved part at the bottom of the gun). Once it’s empty, a shooter can simply pop in another magazine and continue firing.  The Bushmaster retails for around $2600 U.S., and it’s apparently a popular weapon with Mexican drug smugglers.

So all in all it’s a considerable step up from the single-shot muskets and rifles that were around when the right to bear arms was enshrined in the American Constitution in the late 18th century.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your inferior human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.

38 thoughts on “This Ain’t Your Founding Fathers’ Firearm”

  1. An e-mail arrived at the office today from some guy named Matt Barber who identifies himself as the Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action which is a Florida-based organization dedicated, in its words, to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.

    The e-mail began with the header:

    A Prayer for Sandy Hook: Matt Barber envisions slain kindergartners playing at Jesus’ nail-pierced feet

  2. Prayer as a substitute for substantive action to actually address the problem of gun violence in American society — yeah, I’m all for it.

  3. Not to mention how arid and incubus that imagery is…

    I’d prefer to imagine them at the world’s funnest waterpark.

  4. I’m surprised you haven’t poured scorn on the townspeople for going to a multifaith prayer service last night. Prayer is, at the moment, a comfort for those who believe in it, so don’t judge people who pray just because you do not, or claim that it is a conscious substitute for problem resolution. This is dangerously close to blaming the victims, which under other circumstances you would heartily condemn.

  5. Your bizarre use of vocabulary never fails to amaze me, Talbot. I hope Santa brings you the OED for Christmas.

  6. So what’s the argument here? That semi-automatic rifles shouldn’t be covered by the constitution because they weren’t around when the second amendment was adopted? That’s absurd. By that logic, freedom of the press only applies to massive wooden printing presses. I’ll expect a follow up post of with picture of a laptop and a similar headline. “THIS AIN’T THE FOUNDING FATHER’S PRINTING PRESS!!”

    We should really have a rational discussion about what makes Americans want to kill each other as much as they do. The root factors (poverty, mental illness etc.) are much deeper and hard to fix. Arguing about what is or isn’t covered by the constitution is a foolish oversimplification that won’t come close to fixing the problem.

  7. @8: Well said, sir. The problem is that gun crime, like abortion and climate change, has become a topic where rational discussion has been replaced by identity politics.

  8. Thanks for the comment, Dave. It’s not absurd at all. Constitutions should be living documents that get occasional amendments and re-interpretations to keep them in line with reality. Are they? I dunno. That’s an argument best left to lawyers and legal nerds. In the meantime, military grade weapons are clearly a menace. Ban owning them, ban selling them, shut down the hobby industry around them.

  9. WHOA, WHOA, WHOA. Are you trolling, Barb? that’s the most inflammatory thing I’ve read from you in ages!

  10. @Stephen- I agree that the constitution should be a living document. It`s open to amendments, and is continually being interpreted by the American legal system. It`s intended to set a series of fundamental principles that govern the USA. These are things that are absolute e.g. the right to bear arms, the right to freedom of speech etc. Either the American people have the right to bear arms or they don`t. Trying to place a qualifier on one of the rights sets a horrible precedent. Presumably then people could argue that the second amendment only grants freedom of the press to certain organizations or certain types of media.

    For the record, I agree with strong regulations that control firearms. I think our system in Canada is pretty good for the most part. I also think that it seems pretty sensible to have a system for registering firearms similar to our vehicle registration system.

    Strict gun control is an inevitability for the USA. I just think that amending the constitution, only to ban the scary looking guns, is a poor way of going about it.

  11. Every household in America had multiple guns at one time during their formative days. Where were the mass murders then?

    The shooter’s mental state is a reflection of the increasing pressures, devaluation of human life in our society and lack of accountability for criminal behavior.

  12. @11: In your predictable and over-reactive way,Stephen, you just proved my point. I and others would love to see and participate in rational discussion of the topics mentioned, but as soon as they’re broached, out comes the suppressing fire. The purpose, of course, is to prevent debate. It’s sad, really, because these topics, among others, need debate if resolution is to be found.
    @14 and 15: Well put, both.

  13. @Dave: You write, “For the record, I agree with strong regulations that control firearms.”

    I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to agree on this.

  14. @8, 14: “Freedom of the Press”?? First of all, “freedom of the press” is just a principle; printing presses are the means of production by which corporations large and small ply their trade. The wooden printing press has not morphed into an out-of-control killiong machine. In fact, your argument is ironic because if anything, the printing press has *EVOLVED*, for the better and LESS dangerous, unlike American firearms. No one has ever lost a finger or arm to Quark or InDesign, unlike to the archaic printing press in the dark ages, when the Constitution was written. No one would ever be so DAFT as to campaign for old fashioned “purity” in paper printing. Hmm, yet, there are all sorts of witches and gun ghouls (a loud & dangerous minority, I may add) threatening lawmakers if they dare modernize the document to apply certain restrictions to bearing arms. It’s preposterous.

    This whole argument is preposterous: Mental illness, poverty, alienation is not the issue. GUNS are the ISSUE, 20 dead little kids, with more to come, in Shooting Gallery America, is the issue.

    Quit perpetuating the braindead bullsh*t slogans the NRA want you to perpetuate. At least quit doing it for free. I can imagine lying to yourself and everyone around you for money, but for free?? WTF man?

  15. @2 P.S. It’s odd that someone that campaigns for “religious freedom” would assume that all 20 children are from Christians backgrounds. Furthermore, Barb, what IS the metaphor here? That children died for your gun rights? Or is he envisioning an arid, apocalyptic wasteland? Jesus was crucified in the Year 33 A.D. or whatever. Why the f*ck would anyone want to imagine modern kids “playing” at the feet of a crucified person in 33 A.D.? That’s a nightmare, this person is ILL

  16. @Barb: Bringing both climate change AND abortion–two topics that this paper has well-documented, hyper-unambiguous perspectives on–into Dog Blog comment threads on gun laws is an EPIC example of trolling. I’m just surprised you didn’t say something about how Superman’s new costume is better without the red shorts. It’s the new Godwin, you know.

    Anyway, I don’t mind. A dash of troublemaking adds more flavour to the stew. It can also tease out clarity.

    In any case, I’ll stick up for Greg’s well-made inference that this rifle is NOT something that should be in civilian hands. And it’s not about it being “scary-looking” — it’s about it being genuinely terrifying in an extremely concrete way.

    Greg also made a good point about prayer, which is — yes it is! — sometimes used to profess sympathy for victims of gun violence by crocodiles who refuse to acknowledge that weapon availability is a key reason for these massacres. WHICH IT CLEARLY IS.

    (Which doesn’t mean that cultural and social factors, and medical/mental health problems, don’t play a role too, as Dave says. Obviously they do.)

    I’ll just add that I have no doubt most offers of prayer are genuine and heartfelt. We’re all torn up over this.

  17. Aren’t civialian effort acoccounted for?

    It/s a civilian grade M-16

    legal protection: ie used for defensive purposes.

  18. @15 – I don’t know, when are the formative days you speak of? If you look at the formative days there were tons, British killing rebels, Americans killing Indians, outlaws killing whoever etc. It has happened under various contexts throughout history.

    I must be an idiot because I don’t understand in the least how ”
    the shooter’s mental state is a reflection of the increasing pressures, devaluation of human life in our society and lack of accountability for criminal behavior.”

    Well, I understand what you’re saying but what buttresses your conclusions? It’s just as likely, but not yet shown, that this shooter’s mental state was evident in some way or other from birth, not environment. People keep trying to harken back to some utopia that never existed to prove modern society is to blame for tragedies that presumably never occurred in that utopia. Modern society has miles to go before mental health issues are adequately dealt with, never mind those ‘better times’ when ice water and a sheet would do.

    Any way you look at it, prayer isn’t likely to prevent future tragedies. Feel free to feel otherwise however.

  19. @18: Having read your second paragraph, which is contrary to reason, I doubt very much that anyone can explain “metaphor” to you.

    @20: As you very well know, Stephen, I cited the topics mentioned as examples. If examples cannot be cited without being labelled “trolling”, that’s censorship. I refer you to your blog-governing statement of principle.

    @23: No one has said that prayer is aimed at preventing future tragedies (oops, recalculating: Greg implied as much @4). It is a present comfort for some people, so please leave them to it.

    Considering the stats on gun ownership in the US, the wonder is not that there is a staggering amount of gun crime, but that there isn’t even more. And yet, there are thousands of responsible gun owners who never commit crimes or whose guns are not used by others to commit crimes. If the gun is the disease, how explain their immunity?

    The American constitutional right to bear arms was established by people who had just come through an armed insurrection, with the aim of establishing self-government. Their army and navy were ad hoc, which is why the writers of the constitution saw the maintenance of a militia as crucial to their newly won freedom. The second amendment was only one of the checks and balances, others being the division of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial, that were put into place by people who were profoundly worried about absolute power in a government. (Other checks and balances include the electoral college for presidential elections, and an arduous process for amending the constitution.) Americans have an entrenched suspicion of government unmatched in Canada – at least until the last few years – and they are also very, very leery of changing their constitution. I don’t know how many of you remember the long haul of the Equal Rights Amendment, which ended in failure when the necessary number of ratifying states was not reached. The purpose was sound, the workers were many and dedicated, and they still came up short. Anyone looking for a constitutional quick fix for gun crime needs to read history. IMO, the most progress can be made at the state level, rather than federally.

  20. I just finished watching Michael Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine’ again,,been a couple of years since I have seen it. Why does no one listen to him? Made me so glad to be living in Canada.
    (full movie on youtube)

  21. “Considering the stats on gun ownership in the US, the wonder is not that there is a staggering amount of gun crime, but that there isn’t even more.”

    Really? What would be enough to make it not a “wonder” Barb?

    Also, if you want “rational discussion” you might want to try not to adopt such a condescending and sarcastic tone. I’m sure if I met you in real life I’d think you were lovely, but in these comments you’re not very nice to people you disagree with (in this case Talbot).

  22. @26: Please reread that sentence again; I think you’re misinterpreting it.
    As for Talbot, he can make excellent points, but he has to be shocked into it. What would be condescending would be not to push him to bring his best effort forward.
    As to “niceness”, look at other commentors, and then ask why you’re singling me out.

  23. #28 – The only reason I’m singling you out is because you claim to want rational discussion, yet you behave like a bully.

  24. Nonsense, my dear. I’m simply taking part in the cut-and-thrust of debate that the blog encourages in its commentators. If you think that rebuttal and pushing for clarity is bullying, then I guess your only recourse is to talk only to those with whom you agree.

  25. Please elaborate: do you agree, disagree, or what? Just tossing a partial quote onto into the thread is not enough to express your intentions.

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