God save us from the best of intentions. Sometimes with the Devil himself.
Chris Christie may be the weeping anus vision of perfection that is the modern Republican Party, and he may have awarded millions of dollars of no-bid contracts to Wall Street supporters and political allies. He may even have stripped New Jersey’s latest gun control legislature of its highest-caliber punch…but he may also have accidentally done us a favor.
No surprise Christie was fine with approving the tougher prison penalties that August 16th’s A3659/S2178 proposed: Republicans are always in favor of throwing more people in prison, as long as those prisons make money for contributors. Smaller still is the surprise (?) that Christie axed the ban on .50-caliber rifles that the bill contained.
In the interests of full disclosure, I’m a gearhead, and a huge fan of recreational shooting and guns as machines. I even once owned the Barett M107 50-cal that this bill would have outlawed. And, by “owned,” I mean “borrowed the $9,000 gun from a friend for six months.”
For some background, the 50-cal BMG round is about the size of a carrot, and was introduced in 1921 as a means to shoot aircraft out of the sky. The Army still uses them in the “Ma Duece” machine guns on Hummers.
In the M107 that I “owned,” the 50-cal had an effective range of about 6,000 feet, and a maximum range of a hair over 4 miles. Out of the thousand or so $4 rounds I shot, I managed to hit a 1-foot-diameter target three times from a bit under two miles in still Florida air. Decent, but not great. By comparison, I could hit the same target with a 30-06 hunting rifle from about a mile.
Here’s why that’s relevant: You can pick up a 30-06 for about $200, buy a box of armor-piercing rounds for $40, and still shoot through a human being from a mile away. It would have cost me $9,000 worth of gun and $4,000 worth of practice just to get good enough to hit the same target at twice the distance. So, how many people have ever been intentionally killed in the United States by a 50-cal rifle?
Hint: Fewer than have been killed by jumbo shrimp.
Can the 50-cal bring down an airplane? Sure. That’s what it was designed to do…when fired at 4,000 rounds a minute, from a four-barreled machine gun placement. And it still can from a rifle…if you can hit a target flying four or more miles overhead and traveling 500 mph with a single round. Assuming that target is flying at less than 22,000 feet — about 13,000 feet lower than the lowest cruising altitude of the crappiest airliner today.
Of course, tighter gun control legislation is always a good thing when it stands to protect us. Always. But when you try to outlaw something that has cost literally zero lives outside of war, and is at the very least WAY too over-kill expensive to be considered for it, you’re only pushing moderate Eisenhower Republicans into frothing Teabagger territory. We’re slowly but surely winning the war on Teabaggerdom, partly because the loudest of them are dying off of infections related to unchanged Depends undergarments. But we’re not going to do ourselves any favors by radicalizing the remaining Republicans who are JUST apathetic enough to keep their mouths shut.
If this bill had passed as it was, Faux News would have gone insane with stories about formal laws passed not to protect the public in any quantifiable way, but as a statement of war on the concept of the firearm itself. And, for the first time in recorded history, Faux News would have been right.
Thank the heavens for Chris Christie shoving us off that legislative platform…politically, intellectually and spiritually, we dodged one Hell of a well-intended bullet.