One of the two guns the Connecticut shooter used to murder 20 children and 6 adults was a Glock semi-automatic. This datum is not surprising. The Glock is among the more popular pistols sold in the United States.
The Glock semi-automatic was developed in 1982 for the Austrian army. It was not envisioned that it would be bought by millions of citizens. It is not in fact bought by millions of civilians anywhere but in the United States. The gun should not be singled out for demonization; there are lots of semi-automatic pistols, and lots of semi-automatic rifles, and all of them are widespread and legal in the United States.
But it is worth underlining that Gaston Glock probably did not envision that you and your neighbors would just go into a shop and purchase his weapon.
“The Austrian military made an announcement in 1980 that it would be replacing the Walther P38 handgun – a WWII era weapon. Their Ministry of Defense outlined the basic criteria for this new service pistol. In 1982, Glock learned Austrian Army’s plan to procure a new weapon and begin assembling a team of European experts in the handgun field. He chose a variety of people – including some from the military, some from the police force and he even chose civilians involved in sport shooting.”
It wasn’t long before Glock had his first working prototype. Between Glock’s use of synthetic materials and the newer production technology, the design was very cost effective, making it a viable candidate. The Glock 17 (so-named as it was the company’s 17th patent) passed every endurance and abuse test and was chosen over a number of pistol designs from well-known manufacturers to be the official replacement of the Walther P38. Both military and police forces in Austria adopted the Glock 17 (aka: P80 – Pistole 80) into service in 1982. Many consider the Glock-17 one of the top pistols of all time.”
But here’s the kicker:
” Within its first 10 years, this pistol reached sales in excess of 350,000 in over 45 countries; the U.S. alone accounting for 250,000 of that total. “
So here is what happened: in the first ten years, 100,000 of these guns were sold to militaries and police in Europe, and then the rest went to the civilians and police of the United States. The US took 71% of all Glocks in their first decade, even though the US army rejected them. The US is peculiar.
Can anything be done about the phenomenon of “mass shootings?”
These killings have plagued the US for decades.
Gun advocates might argue that these mass shootings are relatively rare and exact a relatively low death toll in a country of 310 million people. In 2012, there were 16 mass shootings in the US, which killed 88 persons and wounded hundreds. We polish off 14,500 Americans a year with murders (around 9000 of them via firearms), and 30,000 a year in auto accidents. There are also something like 18,000 suicides a year by firearm in the US, about half of the total; perhaps large numbers of those people would still be alive if it hadn’t been so technically easy to take their on lives. Anyway, mass shootings as a subset of lives taken by firearms are a tiny proportion.
One problem is that mass shootings produce a national trauma, and probably are designed to do so. We were all, from President Obama on down, crying for the children yesterday. Isolated murders of adults, however tragic, don’t upset us the way a madman shooting down children does. Although they are few and the number of victims only account for 1% of those murdered by firearms every year, the mass shootings deeply disturb us.
It is also the case that mass shootings are arbitrarily defined as those in which 4 or more people are killed. For those affected, three is pretty “mass.”
Public policy is often made on the grounds of what we find unpalatable. You will note that we are also upset by airplane crashes, and we insist that they are always completely unacceptable. We don’t feel the same way about whacking 30,000 people a year (and injuring like 300,000) in auto collisions.
The problem is getting worse. 10% of all mass shootings since 1982 have occurred in 2012, and 12 percent of the 543 victims since that date have been killed this year.
In addition, however, some 2,000 of the 9,000 firearms murders a year are committed by drug gangs and other criminal gangs, and these are primarily using semi-automatic weapons to commit these murders.
So there is a problem, of increased numbers of mass shootings and increased numbers of victims over time. And there is a problem with the roughly 1 million gang members having military-style weapons and committing 14% of the murders every year in the US.
Is there a solution of the problem?
Even someone who really loves semi-automatic guns– Paul Barret, author of”Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun,” admits of the 1994 ban on semi-automatic rifles:
“The one potentially sensible provision in the Assault Weapons Ban was the imposition of a ten-round magazine capacity, which affected both semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic pistols, including the Glock. You can begin to understand that at least this [limitation] might inhibit the mass shooter because, under that regime, he would at least have to think ahead enough to carry multiple ten-round magazines.”
Personally, I don’t understand why civilians need semi-automatic pistols and rifles at all. And the evidence we have from the mass shootings this year is that yes, the shooter will bring extra rounds. Lots of extra rounds.
But I’ll tell you what, some sort of limitation is better than none, and at least such legislation might establish the principle that guns can be regulated by law.
So how about we propose a law specifying that no civilian may buy a semi-automatic weapon that has greater than a ten-round magazine, and that such weapons for the civilian market be constructed so that extra magazine drums cannot be attached? And we ban semi-automatic rifles altogether.
What about all the semi-automatic weapons already in people’s possession? There are like 280 million guns in the US, nearly one per person. (Though in fact, a small minority owns most of these guns, and the proportion of gun owners in the population has been shinking; fewer and fewer people have more and more guns). Since the 1980s, sales of semi-automatic weapons have been in the tens of thousands annually.
Well, you could have a buy-back program, and could offer people trade-ins. Changing things would not have to be coercive. People would have a choice between having an illegal pistol and a legal one with a smaller magazine.
Contrary to what is often alleged, in any case, used guns are seldom the problem. Most used guns are in people’s safes. The new ones are the problem. Most people who commit mass shootings seem to go on a buying spree first, and gang members likewise most often like to purchase new weaponry.
So there you have it, a step toward a solution. 10-round magazines for the pistols, no semi-automatic rifles for civilians.