Leavitt: Did gun control just change forever in one American month?

By Irv Leavitt for Chronicle Media

The New York Post said July 22 that U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) had promised he’d have legislation “with a solution to the ghost gun blueprints by the end of the week.” If he did, he didn’t tell me or, apparently, any other journalists about it.

July was an unnerving month for people who worry about how many Americans get shot in America, which is everybody in America who doesn’t want to shoot other Americans.

In case you somehow missed it, perhaps the strangest incident exploded on the collective consciousness July 19 when a Florida fellow shot dead a guy who pushed him down, and the cops said that was cool with them.

Coming in at No. 2 with a bullet is a U.S. District Judge in Texas refusing to reverse the U.S. Department of Justice, which for five years had fought an Arkansas anarchist’s desire to upload plans for making guns with 3D printers. Justice had recently decided that no, that’s perfectly all right with us. And we’ll pay your legal fees.

If these two nightmares proceed to their reasonable conclusions, you might think they will intersect at the corner of We’re Screwed and What Did You Expect?

But maybe not.

“I don’t care,” said Richard Pearson, who heads the Illinois State Rifle Association, when asked about the government’s sudden settlement on 3D guns. “If you can make a real gun out of plastic, I’ve never seen one.”

Some of the 3D plastic guns we’ve seen in videos, including “The Liberator,” designed by the aforementioned anarchist, Cody Wilson, seem to be doing good if they can get off one shot before they do something bad to themselves and the body of the shooter.

“This is like years ago, when there was always some kid trying to make his own firecrackers,” Illinois gun control advocate Lee Goodman said. “We tried to stay away from that kid. We called him crazy. We also called him Lefty.”

Goodman, of Peaceful Communities, didn’t see the Justice Department settlement with Wilson as appreciably worsening what he considers an already bad situation.

“It’s probably easier and cheaper just to go buy a gun out of the 250 million in circulation,” he said. “It would be much more durable and accurate.”

Goodman readily allowed, however, that one problem with even bad plastic guns is that there are no serial numbers on them. In addition, confirmed crazies who don’t want to go outside until they’re ready to kill a few people can while away their alone time making guns in the basement.

But Goodman said that there’s so little tracking of guns sold at gun shows that he sees these new untraceable “ghost guns” as less of an imminent threat than an opportunity.

“Those on my side, we’re going to get a lot of mileage out of this totally ridiculous and unnecessary settlement,” he said.

The New York Post said July 22 that U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) had promised he’d have legislation “with a solution to the ghost gun blueprints by the end of the week.”

If he did, he didn’t tell me or, apparently, any other journalists about it.

He did, however, sign an angry letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding an explanation for the June 10 settlement.

The United States does, after all, have citizens rotting in jail for uploading bomb plans, so letting the gun plans loose was a surprise. But as that letter was heading through the ether from one Washington office to another, an Austin, Texas federal judge appeared to be settling the issue in his courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman July 27 didn’t say why he turned down three gun control groups’ emergency pleas to stay that settlement, and stop Wilson from uploading plans starting Aug. 1.

But the head lawyer for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for gun makers, had a reason, according to Reuters.

“I don’t see it likely at all that criminals will use this clunky and expensive technology,” Lawrence Keane said.

Despite Keane’s doubts, Wilson says he now has 3D print plans for a working AR-15 rifle. Pearson told me plastic might work for a rudimentary pistol, but it would be unlikely to hold up to the pressure of a semi-automatic rifle.

I told him that very day, I had watched a video of a man flying through the air at 32 miles per hour with a jet-pack assembled from 3D-printed parts. The week before, I saw a video of 3D-printed bones that will soon be used to repair people. So if 3D printing can provide the answer to more than half the world’s fantasies, and also fix humans in a godlike manner, I figure that it won’t take long to fix that knotty pressure problem Pearson referred to.

Beyond that, Wilson also has a 3D printed steel gun plan. No pressure, man.

The necessary computer-milling setups are still a little expensive, but few in the makers market industry expect that to last.

Until then, we will mostly have the relatively cheap plastic guns being churned out. I’ve seen the videos of these guns firing bullets. The bullets make holes in things. If one of them comes at you, they will make holes in you, too. If you’re Superman, you can catch them. If not, you will have a problem.

Ghost guns of any quality could be boons for street gangs that can, relatively risk-free, outfit their entire junior league of 13-year-olds. The adolescents will now be even more perfect to recruit for assassinations of gangster enemies. No long sentences, as usual, for the kids, and now no detectable guns to trace back to the boss.

I once heard gang-bangers chided by the following line: “People use guns because they can’t fight.”

I thought of it this month when that gent in Florida shot dead the guy who pushed him down. Gang-banging aside, this was the perfect example of the premise.

Here’s a gent who decided it’s his mission to tell people who park in a particularly tempting handicap parking space that they are committing a crime against man and God. Michael Drejka, 47, does not call police. He does not take a photo on his handy smartphone and email it to the authorities. Instead, he regularly, accounts say, gets in people’s faces.

Where I come from, that falls under the category known as “Picking a Fight.”

This latest time, he did it with a woman who was waiting in the offending vehicle with her kids. Her old man finally comes out of a store and gives Drejka a push, and he goes down like a rock. And from the ground, Drejka doesn’t just pull his gun and warn Markeis McGlockton not to pick on him anymore. He just pulls the trigger.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the Drejka case is the textbook definition of the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law, which says that if you’re reasonably afraid for your life, you can take somebody else’s. In Illinois, where I live, we have no such law, but we do have court cases pointing in the same general direction.

“What bothers me is that people who like guns in self-defense may have a very inaccurate view of when they can do that,” Goodman said.

As of this writing, Pinellas County prosecutors haven’t said Gualtieri and Drejka are wrong. Or right.

“If you’re trying to figure out how to keep yourself together when you are about to be attacked, you don’t have perspective,” said Pearson, who teaches gun use. “The only perspective you have is protecting yourself.

“You use what you’ve got. It’s you or them.”

The only real standard should be threat to life, not fear of threat to life. There are millions of people who, walking around at night or even in daytime, are frightened of black men who are walking around in their proximity. Justified or not, they are genuinely afraid. We do not, as a society, agree, however, that they should be allowed to assuage their fears by just shooting anybody who appears scary-looking to them.

If we do, we will run out of black guys. This may be the actual intent of the Florida law, but I’m not certain.

Here’s a novel idea. If someone shoots somebody, and there’s no immediate charge, local jurisdictions could investigate. It would be similar to officer-involved shooting investigations most police departments require.

No one who shoots someone should be shy about saying why. It should be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

If we’re not going to have any reasonable standards for shooting each other, and we’re going to allow people to download easy gun plans, we might have some problems on the horizon.

Unlike the U.S., nations all over the world have passed laws against Internet publishing of 3D-printed gun plans. Here, where publication of some of the most vile things imaginable seems to wind up protected by the First Amendment as if it were the prose of Thomas Paine, we may have lost the ability to do that.

It’s the tip of the spear, according to some of those who want it to be. Fox News columnist John R. Lott, Jr., just published a column about 3D guns and the settlement ominously headlined, “This Marks the End of Gun Control.”

Some gun control advocates say they think he’s right. They say that we should come down hard on 3D guns in some way, or the ability to regulate the sale and registration of all firearms will start to slip.

Perhaps, some say, we should take the lead of places like Singapore, which has decreed that possession of an actual 3D-printed gun is punishable by death.

That’s a little much, but the idea of a very strict penalty for possession of an unregistered weapon might be a good way to stop it.

Unfortunately, in this country, you can make all the unregistered weapons you want, as long as you don’t give them to anyone else.

So we might conceivably have wackos all over the country making their own guns and shooting illegal parkers with them. It might be like that 2013 movie “The Purge,” in which, for one night, people can commit all the crimes they want to without fear of retribution.

Only it would be every night and every day.

People aren’t really like that? Maybe not. But some part of some people must find the idea attractive. Four Purge movies have been released in five years, and each one has done better than the last, domestically and overseas. The most recent, “The First Purge,” opened on the Fourth of July and is still in theaters today.

There’ll be a TV show in September.

In between is August, which promises to be another great month in America.



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