What Happened at Sandy Hook.
I deeply regret that in order to write what follows, that 28 adults and children had to lose their lives at Newtown and Sandy Hook.
I bought my first (but certainly not my last) assault rifle in 1978. It was made by Colt and was called the ‘sporter.’ This gun was about as much of a sporting gun as my cat Leonard is a Siamese.
Why did I buy an assault rifle? Because it was for sale. Why do you think I’ve bought any gun? Because I need another gun? Yea, right. I need another gun.
When California passed the first assault rifle ban, which the feds copied in 1994, the gun industry invented the notion that any gun which fired in semi-automatic mode (one trigger pull, one shot) was a ‘sporting’ gun. And they maintained this fiction until yesterday, when the lawsuit brought by the families of Sandy Hook victims was settled for $73 million and the plaintiffs can release documentation about what they learned about that ‘sporting’ gun.
Want to know what they learned? You can learn what they learned by reading pages 3 and 4 from the official report, which states that the shooter fired 150 rounds of military-grade ammunition in the 5 minutes between when he entered the school until he shot himself in the head. And of these 5 minutes, most of that time was spent entering or trying to enter three different rooms.
Anyone who wants to believe that a gun which can fire 150 rounds and kill 26 adults and children in a couple of minutes is a ‘sporting’ gun will also believe that there really are Martians at Area 51 or that Donald Trump is still President of the United States. And don’t think I’m just indulging in politically-loaded hyperbole by mentioning Donald Trump. Because for years after the Sandy Hook massacre, his good friend Alex Jones stated that, in fact, nobody got shot at Sandy Hook at all.
The gun industry’s promotion of assault rifles as ‘sporting guns’ occurred because the traditional use of guns for sport, i.e., hunting, was losing its once-dominant place in American culture over time. Remember how Davey Crockett ‘kilt him a bar’ when he was only three?
In 1977, when the country’s population was 220 million, Americans bought 14 million hunting licenses. In 2019, with a national population of slightly less than 320 million, the same 14 million hunting licenses were sold again.
The real boost for AR-15 sales was provided by the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, because this dreadful assault on U.S. soil, followed by invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and then Iraq in 2003, created a more militaristic outlook and an increase in the demand for military-style guns. Gun companies not only promoted assault rifles in their ads, but even showed AR-15 owners hunting while dressed in military fatigues.
But the problem for the gun industry was that you can’t really sell a gun which is designed for military use and pretend that it can replace Grandpa’s old shotgun sitting above the fireplace on the wall. So, what you do is to create a totally fictional product description called the ‘modern sporting rifle’ and get consumers to believe that there’s no real difference between this gun and any other type of gun which hunters or sport shooters carry into the field.
But there is a difference, and by settling the Sandy Hook lawsuit, the gunmaker can continue to claim that the AR-15 is just like any other type of gun, but $73 million speaks for itself.
This lawsuit could also set an interesting precedent for additional legal challenges against the gun industry, because it’s pretty difficult to argue that semi-automatic pistols made by Glock, Sig and other companies are any more ‘sporting’ than the AR-15. And those guns are used to commit more than 125,000 intentional gun injuries every year.
If that number doesn’t represent the existence of a product which is too dangerous to be sold, then maybe there really are some Martians hiding out at Area 51.