Yes, guns kill people — updated with a footnote by Steve Banko

With all the back and forth, with all the painful discussions about the so-frequent mass shootings that have occurred in the United States, the National Rifle Association and its more strident members always repeat their mantra: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. They are wrong – guns kill people.

Sure, some angry or demented person is behind the trigger of a gun that kills someone. But the shooter, no matter how deranged or intent on doing harm they may be, knows that the most effective way to accomplish what they want to accomplish is with a gun.

This applies whether the shooter is trying to eliminate a single individual or whether the shooter is intent on making some personal or political statement by killing a large number of people all at once.

There are other “weapons” that an assailant might choose to do the harm they intend to inflict – a knife, a hammer, a baseball bat, etc. But the assailant knows that such weapons may or may not do the harm that they want, and the intended victim has a better chance of fighting them off.

This choice of weapons is even more relevant when the assailant is trying to harm a large number of individuals. If the assailant in Orlando, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Aurora, Charleston or any of the other places had been armed with a couple knives rather than assault weapons and automatic handguns, the deaths and wounds would likely have been much fewer. An assailant going into a crowded venue armed with a couple knives might do some damage, but would most likely be subdued by the crowd one way or another.

The mass murders we have observed in the United States have occurred because the killer or killers knew that guns can be particularly helpful if the goal is mass destruction. Assault rifles can and have mowed down large numbers of people without hardly any effort. Just keep your finger on the trigger and point the weapon all around. The assailant cannot be easily attacked or restrained. He gets his way. Guns kill people.

The second amendment was written by the founding fathers at a time when there was no interest or support for a standing army and when law enforcement, as we know it today, did not exist. The world is a lot different and more complicated than it was in 1790.

It is easy to accept the idea that some folks like to hunt or to take target practice. Self-defense is a legitimate concern.

In military service assault weapons serve a purpose. In civilized society they are mostly intended to be weapons of mass destruction.

So what to do about all this?

Aside from banning the sale of assault weapons, there is little that a change in our laws can do to reduce the carnage. In any case, Congress is too intimidated by the NRA to ban assault weapons. There are already tens of thousands of these weapons of mass destruction in the country.

Congress cannot even bring itself to ban weapon sales to people who have been banned from flying for national security reasons. Alan Bedenko, in a Public post earlier this week, explained this in greater detail. He noted how local Trump cheerleader, Chris Collins, cannot bring himself to vote in favor of keeping guns away from people who have been banned from air travel due to security concerns.

Better mental health services, it is suggested, would reduce shooting incidents. It cannot hurt, but how much it can help is unknown. Maybe if the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter had lost her right to possess guns because of her son’s mental health problems, that tragedy might have been avoided. But we also have laws protecting peoples’ privacy, including privacy of their health and mental health conditions.

So maybe we should just get down to the basics of the issue. I don’t accept for a moment that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Guns are used to kill people because guns can most easily carry out the dastardly intent of bad people. Guns kill people.

May victims of gun violence rest in peace.

A footnote by Steve Banko, Vietnam Veteran

It is taken as fact that assault-style rifles are suitable for hunting and home protection. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To understand the lethality of these weapons, one must understand why they exist at all. They were commissioned by the military for the expressed purpose of killing people. They were not conceived to shoot unsuspecting animals. One of the requirements of the military for such a rifle was that it possessed enough power to penetrate both sides of the standard army helmet. These rifles shoot through walls. They impact with a velocity almost three times the speed of sound. That impact causes enormous cellular damage because of the energy with which the bullet impacts. Virtually all hits to the torso are fatal as the damage extends far beyond the relatively small entrance wound. The velocity of the bullet tends to cause the round to fragment upon striking the body. These fragments produce devastating internal injuries.  I was shot twice with the heavier but slower bullets of the AK-47. Both wounds, while painfully debilitating, were survivable. I was shot once in the leg with a WWII-vintage carbine that didn’t even knock me down.

So unless Bambi and his crew have up-armored in recent years and the walls in your house are made of steel, the M4 (M-16 variety) is not the weapon of choice for either hunting or home defense. Firing a high velocity round like the M$’s .223 cal bullet will easily pass through walls and doors and could cause “friendly fire” incidents.

So why are these weapons still sold and are readily available to abusive spouses and those who on “no-fly” lists?