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December 17, 2012

Ft. Connecticut


Here’s what’s tripping me up about some of the scenes from in and around Newtown in the aftermath of the shooting massacre. With violence and guns top of mind, and officials hypervigilent about, what? terrorists? militias? (or, most likely, copycats), I can’t tell where mental illness and semi-automatic weapons leave off and so-named “homeland security” begins.

If you just saw what looked like an armed checkpoint in the center of Ridgefield 20 miles down the road today, or you only saw pictures of combat cops moving in on a Newtown church on Sunday, would you think a deranged kid had just committed a massacre? Or, would you think there was something more afoot? Maybe the questions we should be asking after Friday should be even broader. Perhaps the issue is not just how to curtail the availability of assault weapons but how do we as a culture, overall, start to demilitarize?

(photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters caption: A Newtown police officer stood behind a tree with his gun drawn as a Connecticut State Police SWAT team inspected St. Rose of Lima Church, which was evacuated when a death threat was reported. photo: AP. caption: A Connecticut State Police tactical team gathers while searching near an elementary school, which was in a lockdown, in Ridgefield, Conn., Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, after a suspicious person was seen near a nearby train station. On Friday, authorities say a gunman killed his mother at their home and then opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before taking his own life. photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images caption: Connecticut State Police investigate the area around Branchville Train Station after reports of a suspicious person sent schools in the area into lock down as a precaution on December 17, 2012 in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Ridgefield is located about 20 miles from Newtown, the town where the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings occured. The lock down has now been lifted. .)

  • Thomas

    I usually resist commenting because I think the post does most of the work well and I’ll only weigh in if it looks like there’s a particularly helpful contribution to make. What I don’t do enough of is just saying “Yeah, this is really right on. Thanks for making the point and making it well. I hope this notion gets the larger hearing it deserves.” Which this does. It’s an excellent interpretation that is very much worth deliberate consideration.

  • ciclo

    What does a cop think about himself after they strap on all that gear? In the top foto he looks very strange.

    • Scarabus

      He thinks about himself as macho and bad-ass and intimidating. (Some SWAT teams include women, but the majority don’t.)

    • LanceThruster

      He probably feels better prepared to face the potential threat he or she has been trained to respond to. The tools of the trade are different for every profession. Those of law enforcement use lethal force to counter threats of same. The helmet and other protective gear (body armor, knee and elbow pads) are similar to combat troops who will be doing their thing rough and tumble. The accessability of their own weapons, spare ammo, and other accessories for use of force for pain compliance (or neutralizing threat with deadly force) must be portable and self-contained, allowing them to act independently (while being co-ordinated with comm-gear).

      To get an idea of what happens when being outgunned amidst the chaos of an unfolding tactical situation, check out the details of the North Hollywood Bank Robber Shootout of recent memory –

      I see the gear as bulky and pragmatic, much like you find when looking at the history of military field accessories. Not the stripped down versions of Hollywood depictions, but the actual gear needed to do the job. A scene that comes to mind was in the cable series (HBO?) “The Pacific” where the basic training Marine veteran was showing the recruits how a wire rigging could substitute for the asbestos glove used to grab the hot barrel of the Browing machine gun in order to reposition on the quick. Look at how NFL gear has evolve from the beginnings of the game to football to understand the look of your basic law enforcement entity.

  • Jasnis Edwards

    yes. we certainly don’t do it by routinely posting armed cops in schools.

  • Dave McLane

    What’s tripping me up about some of the scenes from in and around Newtown is the first one looks pretty much like Our Military in Iraq, Afghanistan.

    As for how to curtail the availability of assault weapons, the first thing to understand is what exactly are assault weapons. While there’s no clear-cut difference between an assault weapon and a hunting rifle, especially if you read up on the AK-47, the Mother-of-Assault Weapons, on Wikipedia, you find that “Even after six decades the model and its variants remain the most widely used and popular assault rifles in the world because of their durability, low production cost, and ease of use. It has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forces worldwide.”

    Low production cost was accomplished by the stamped (not cast and machined) receiver and ease of use was accomplished by having a lot of play in the parts so they worked went wet and dirty much like the American M911 .45 pistol compared with the beautiful German Luger which didn’t work well when the going go tough.

    Other considerations are they’re relatively short-barreled, can be equipped with a folding stock, and can operate in single shot, semi-automatic, and fully automatic modes. Thus they work well in city streets, and can spread a wide range of fire quickly to damage, but not necessarily kill, large groups which rends the enemy less able to hold their position as they have to deal with the wounded compared to hunting rifles which are designed to quickly kill single targets, at much longer distances.

    In my opinion, besides how they look, the main difference between hunting rifles and assault rifles is their ability to spread a wide range of fire quickly as this requires large magazines (30 rounds), or even drums (75 rounds) while hunting rifle magazines are smaller (6 rounds). As far as I know the shooters who’ve taken down children and other non-combatants haven’t used drums as they’re heavy can’t be carried around unobtrusively. That leaves the question of whether the rifle has a 6 round magazine or a 30 round magazine.

    Outside of the military and police, ordinary people are not allowed to have a gun that can operate in full automatic mode, but ordinary people can have both hunting rifles and assault rifles (and pistols as well) that operate in semi-automatic mode.

    The first bottom line is what’s the difference between ability to spread a wide range of fire quickly in semi-automatic mode versus fully automatic mode. Sine I’m a civilian I can’t test fully automatic, but my AK-47 lookalike (Bulgarian SLR-101s) can pretty much lay down a continuous fire by constantly pulling the trigger.

    The second bottom line is what’s the difference between ability to spread a wide range of fire quickly with a single 50 round magazine and 5 x 6 round magazines. Given that the shooter isn’t under fire or assault, it doesn’t take all that long to drop out one 6 round magazine and jam in another. I’ve never tried it with my AK, but I learned the importance of being able to do this quickly, without looking, with my 9mm CZ75 (16 round magazine) when I took the training at GunSite in order to get my Concealed Weapon permit. Thus with one change of magazine, I can lay down the same amount of fire as an AK-47 with only one magazine change.

    My overall conclusion is restricting the sale of assault rifles and/or restricting the sale of 30 round or more magazines is going to stop the kind of killing sprees that have been going on. Instead, I think we need to think about how come these people do what they’ve been doing in America when they can join the military and take down even more non-combatants and children.

    • Dave McLane

      Ooops. should read “… estricting the sale of assault rifles and/or restricting the sale of 30 round or more magazines is NOT going to stop the kind of killing sprees that have been going on/”

  • SeattleGuy

    What I find most concerning about the documentation of the hours after the attack is that long after the confirmed single shooter was confirmed dead, the quasi-military presence lingered about the area.

    Who felt a show of force was necessary to maintain order, and why?

    I’m find myself feeling profoundly disappointed that people feel they need to rely on _someone else_ to provide safety and security. Of course, in a complex society, there is specialization. I feel true professionals know when they’re usefulness is over and happily remove themselves from the scene. OTOH, I don’t want mobs of self righteous people with no qualifications other than owning a (gun, pitchfork, torch) rampaging through the streets and demanding justice at any cost.

  • Michael Shaw

    Thanks, Dave. Nothing like defining terms.

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