Monday, December 31, 2012

The Toys We Don't Need

As our seasonal festival of consumerist gorging comes to an end, that big pulse of buybuybuy that pushes the retail industry into the black for the year seems to have worked again.  Our houses are once again overloaded with material possessions that, by and large, we don't actually need but have been convinced we require for our happiness.  There's been a peculiar aspect of the surge of purchasing this year, though, one that is beyond me.

It's the great rush of gun purchases following the Sandy Hook shootings.  You remember that, right?  Yeah, I know, so-five-minutes-ago, but it's still having an effect, eh?  And the most immediate effect has been that assault-style rifles...meaning semi-auto, large magazine firearms that evoke actual combat weaponry...have been roaring off of the racks of gun stores this holiday season.  It's so intense that the profiteers are out in force, as folks pick up semi-auto AR-15s and Kalashnikovs and resell them for a healthy margin.   

That's not unusual for interesting new firearms, like the speculative rush on Keltec's KSG home defense bullpup shotgun over the last year, but this is another thing altogether.  This is actually a familiar trend, as the threat of gun regulation following mass shootings tends to lead to hoarding and panic buying.  It's always seemed a bit odd, but we're an odd people.

What has struck me in this current feeding frenzy is how peculiarly it meshes with another truth known to responsible gun owners.   The appearance of a gun is meaningless.  Oh, calibre matters, as do a range of other factors, particularly magazine capacity.  But in terms of lethality, a rifle is a rifle.  Urban leftists who are oblivious to the nuances between weapons look at all the pseudo-mil-spec farkling and tactical doodaddery, and assume that somehow makes a rifle more lethal.

It does not.  

Case in point: the most lethal soldier in the whole of the blood-soaked horror that was the twentieth century was a Finnish sniper by the name of Simo Hayha.  He used a Finnish version of the Mosin-Nagant hunting rifle...bolt action, five round magazine, iron kill over five hundred Soviets.   It's a sturdy, reliable, low-rate-of-fire weapon.  That rifle was the most lethal individual firearm in the history of modern warfare.  Lord have mercy.  It is also the kind of weapon that would be utterly unaffected by even the most stringent firearm regulations.

Of course, that's a hunting rifle, and not so handy in close quarters.  But for close quarters combat...the type of staving-off-the-serial-killing-burglar-rapist-Democrat fantasy scenario that sells so many American firearms...there's pretty much nothing better than a scattergun.  In the typical home on a typical quarter acre lot, you'd need nothing more.  And there's no better way to put shot on target than something like the humble but utterly reliable Remington 870, which happens to be...if those who I know who know guns are to be believed...a fine hunting shotgun as well.  Again, unaffected by gun regulation.

So here's what I don't get. folks who know guns better than I will invariably tell you whenever a mass shooting happens...there is no functional difference in lethality, why the rush on the tactical semi-auto farkle-guns?   These aren't real military-grade assault rifles.  They just pretend to be.  Why the panic buying of guns that are all about ego and threat-display, but are functionally no better at hunting/defending against invading armies/home-defense than far less showy firearms?

Why? Because they are the toys that we want.  They are toys that appeal powerfully to our egos, and to our fears.  They happen to be lethal toys, sure, but they are more about what they whisper in the ear of their owner.  

"Look at how fearsome I am," they say.  "You're strong and powerful," they say.   "You are a warrior," they lie.  "You could kill anyone who messed with you," they say, mixing a dark truth with the fantasy.  Because like all toys, they are mostly about fantasy.  They are all about the fantasy of war, of violence, and of power.  

And as my dear friend Wayne LaPierre put it recently, "Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?"

Perhaps that's what makes these toys so dangerous.