02 June 2022

Remember when the U.S. cracked down on mass shootings?

I had forgotten.  An article in the Washington Post reminded me -
They were the mass shooters of their day, and all of America knew their names: John “the Killer” Dillinger, Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

In the 1930s, the violence by the notorious gangsters was fueled by Thompson submachine guns, or Tommy guns, that fired up to 600 rounds in a minute. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was pressing Congress to act on his “New Deal for Crime,” specifically a bill officially called the National Firearms Act of 1934. Informally, it was known as the “Anti-Machine Gun Bill.”..

By 1934, more than two dozen states passed gun-control laws. West Virginia required gun owners to be bonded and licensed. Michigan mandated that the police approve gun buyers. Texas banned machine guns...

A machine gun, of course, ought never to be in the hands of any private individual,” Attorney General Homer Cummings said at a House hearing. “There is not the slightest excuse for it, not the least in the world, and we must, if we are going to be successful in this effort to suppress crime in America, take these machine guns out of the hands of the criminal class.”..

The NRA gave qualified support to the proposed law...

The NRA and groups representing hunters opposed extending the tax to pistols and revolvers. “It is a fact which cannot be refuted that a pistol or revolver in the hands of a man or woman who knows how to use it is one thing which makes the smallest man or the weakest woman the equal of the burliest thug,” argued Milton Reckord, the NRA’s executive vice president. But as for a bill limited to machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, he said, “We will go along with such a bill as that.”
The embedded image is a screencap from an anguished video at this tweet (with a hat tip to reader Lyle).

BTW, there have been at least fifteen more mass shootings since the one at Uvalde last week.   Over the Memorial Day weekend, basically.  How fucked up is it that Americans take guns to holiday gatherings?

Around 19.8 million AR-15 style rifles are in circulation in the US, a nationwide tally that's surged from around 8.5 million since a federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

The more recent estimate comes from a November 2020 statement by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. In the statement, its President and CEO Joseph Bartozzi called the AR-15 the "most popular rifle sold in America" and a "commonly-owned firearm."


  1. A semi-automatic firearm is only as close to a machine gun as your trigger finger allows. If automatic weapons are not the "slightest" bit "excusable," I guess we can say that semi-automatic weapons are semi-inexcusable. Or semi-excusable. Compare firearm consumption with liquor consumption. Plastered, half-drunk or sober might describe three possible states. Used to be we could buy a Tommy gun at the local hardware store. (Literally true.) That's the parallel to plastered. Half-drunk is where we are now, with AR-15s on sale, ready for my consumption, at my local sporting goods store. Australia achieved sobriety, taking all such weapons off the table. I don't see how being half-drunk is a reasonable aspiration. But, there ought to be some honesty about consumerism in general. All consumerism comes with a cost. If we don't think children die, and will die, due to our generally high-consumption way of life we're kidding ourselves. Not to mention every other sentient life form that suffers at our hands. I think we're just generally drunk in damn near every way. The American consumer is always on a bender. Guns are high-profile example, but probably unfairly so, given the violence embedded in every gallon of gasoline we burn. We are childishly literal in our approach to violence. I can't help but think that's another obstacle to creating a culture with a more sane attitude toward firearms.

  2. "West Virginia required gun owners to be bonded and licensed." This seems like a good solution to me: require all guns to be covered by insurance. If each gun had to be covered by insurance, would they sell so many? If insurance companies were on the hook for these massacres, would they then have an incentive to lobby Congress, offset the gun lobby, and push through reforms when needed? At minimum, it would help victims receive compensation, which certainly doesn't seem to happen currently.

    1. "At minimum, it would help victims receive compensation, which certainly doesn't seem to happen currently."

      Auto and homeowners insurance rarely, if ever, cover intentional acts. If you drive your car into a parade, your insurance is not going to cover damages. Most auto insurance policies exclude damages cause by drinking and driving. Homeowners insurance won't pay damages if you build a meth lab in your basement and end up blowing up the neighborhood. I can't imagine that any company would sell a "gun insurance" policy that would cover damages if the gun owner uses the weapon to kill school children or people in a doctor's office.

      Survivors of gun violence can and do sue the gun manufacturer, with mixed results. There is a federal law protecting gun manufacturers from liability, but some state consumer protection statutes citing illegal "sales and marketing" strategies have been used to sue. The Sandy Hook suit against Remington was just settled in February for $73,000,000.


    2. Somehow we manage to insure homes that have flooded a dozen times before. Your points seem like the orthodoxy, not insurmountable problems. Between pricing structures, actuarial science, and possibly government backstopping (a la "too big to fail"), I'm confident they could figure out some way to make it work.

      I'm aware of the settlement, but getting them on their marketing is obviously not a sustainable strategy. Also, it's been almost a decade since that shooting, so not a big help to the victims in their moment of need.

    3. Maybe you missed the “intentional” part. If you do something on purpose to cause your home to be flooded, your homeowners insurance will not cover that. If you drive your car into a crowd of protestors in Virginia, your automobile policy will not cover the damages.

      Most homeowners policy will cover damages if someone steals a weapon from your home and uses it to kill or injure someone, but the liability is usually limited to $250,000.

  3. I don't understand why the AR-15 keeps popping up in conversations. It's no more or less dangerous than any other semi-automatic rifle on the market. Maybe because it's the most popular, but it's no more an assault weapon than any semi-auto. One problem is aftermarket parts and plans available quite openly to make it full auto.

    1. "AR-15 style" is a catch-all designation, but you are correct. For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruger_Mini-14

  4. Here's something I don't understand - as result of some guy named Richard (? not sorry I don't recall his name) put explosives in his shoe and got onto a plane, we now all have to take shoes off at airport. One guy did a thing and everyone's behavior had to change. One guy, one time. School children get mowed down regularly and we do nothing besides cluck our tongues. People at the grocery. People at church. People in a hospital. And on and on and on. Fuck the NRA and the Heller decision. If government forcibly took every gun from every private citizen, at this point, I wouldn't be too upset.

  5. Maybe it's time to remove the federal protect from liability firearm manufacturers have. This seems like an easy, and quick thing to do.

  6. Seeing a lot of naysaying and not a lot of solutions in response to my comment. Disappointing.

    1. Sorry, but it is not "naysaying" to point out a flaw in your proposed solution.

      From Insurance Information Institute:

      "Most insurers do not offer separate, stand-alone gun liability coverage. In considering whether insurance is an appropriate mechanism to prevent mass shootings, it is important to note that no insurer – primary or excess – provides liability coverage for illegal acts. Looking ahead, there is very little likelihood that insurers would develop such coverage."

      "When there is liability insurance, it only covers accidental shootings and in some cases, acts of self-defense. There is no coverage for criminal or other intentional shootings."



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