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December 29, 2012 9:24 AM Wait, This is a Thing?

By Jesse Singal

You know that genre of righteous anger where what immediately follows is shame that you were naive enough to get angry about the thing in question, that you weren’t jaded enough to understand that That’s Just How The World Is?

I got a serious wave of that when I read this Times editorial about gun marketing:

The guns, some of which come in camouflage and desert khaki, bristle with features useful only to an infantry soldier or a special-forces operative. A flash suppressor on the end of a barrel makes it possible to shoot at night without a blinding flare. Quick-change magazines let troops reload easily. Barrel shrouds allow precise control without fear of burns from a muzzle that grows hot after multiple rounds are fired. But now anyone can own these guns, and millions are in civilian hands.
The company’s catalog and ads show soldiers moving on patrol through jungles, Bushmasters at the ready. “When you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers,” says the advertising copy, superimposed over the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet against the backdrop of an American flag. “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered,” said a 2010 catalog, peddling an assault rifle billed as “the ultimate military combat weapons system.” (Available to anyone for $2,500.)
In case that message was too subtle, the company appealed directly to the male egos of its most likely customers. “Consider your man card reissued,” said

Madison Avenue meets gun culture. Results are ugly.

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.

Comments

  • K in VA on December 29, 2012 9:37 AM:

    I have long suspected that much of the violence in this country can be traced to too-low self esteem among men who believe themselves to be, shall we say, under-endowed and, therefore, in search of other ways to strut.

    Put another way, there's undoubtedly a fortune to be made by whoever could invent an effective penis enlarger/extender. Couple that with an effective testosterone diminisher and some peace will reign on earth at last.

  • Barbara on December 29, 2012 9:55 AM:

    When I saw that, all I could think was, rhetoric is a lot easier when the other side makes your point for you. However, do remember, Nancy Lanza was not a man, and I suspect that the real lack here is not sexual at all, it is the inability to communicate effectively. Some people talk. Others seethe in their inability to express their needs and use a gun out of frustration. If you don't believe this, spend some time around toddlers and you will notice that the biters and punchers are often behind the other kids in speech development.

  • c u n d gulag on December 29, 2012 10:12 AM:

    Oh, if only we had a military in this country, so that these soldier boys and girl wannabe's could vounteer, so that they could play with guns all they want.

    And, maybe, every 50 or 75 years, run across a war actually worth fighting for.

    And, until then, practice.

    Oh, and it would have to be a volunteer military, at that.
    'Cause the last time we had a draft, there were a whole lot of wealthier people found that they had 'other priorities.'
    And so, we had to draft and send off the poor whites, blacks, browns, reds, and yellows, because, they, you know, had no pressing 'other priorities' - like staying home, or staying alive, or unwounded.

    Oh wait, that's right - that's why we went to an all-volunteer military in the first place!
    So that the wealthier people, who didn't want to fight, get wounded, and/or die, could legitimately say, when they were running for political office later on, that they didn't dodge nothin'!
    They just didn't volunteer, that's all!

    And so, now, the poor people can fight, get wounded, and/or die, while the people who can afford it, buy guns for themselves, and play-acted like they're real soldiers.
    Or, put-upon patriot's, fighting oppression from their ever-so oppressive government.
    You know the one.
    The one that didn't draft them.

    WOLVERINES!!!

  • c u n d gulag on December 29, 2012 10:21 AM:

    And to think, we poor slob commenters, try to unravel the cryptographic mystery that is CRAPTCHA, cycling through options 'til we finally find one we can decipher - all while the marketing trolls, zip right on by!

    GREAT JOB, CRAPTCHA!!!
    Just feckin' great...

    Hey, maybe if I compliment Jesse, or Ed, or Kathleen, or Adel, in the first sentence, I don't have to type anything in there?

    "Gee, you're the bee's knee's, er... uhm..." Wait, who's writing today? Oh, yeah... "Jesse!"

    Nope, that didn't do sh*t...

  • jhm on December 29, 2012 10:31 AM:

    I don't share the belief that gaming is a factor in exacerbating the problem, the cross marketing and product placement of specific gun brands in games was new to me.

  • zandru on December 29, 2012 10:32 AM:

    Per K in Va, "there's undoubtedly a fortune to be made by whoever could invent an effective penis enlarger/extender"

    Er ... you must be new to the Internet ...

  • cld on December 29, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Hey, gun owners,

    here's your man card for you,

    http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/9154/sgstring.jpg

  • Cap'n Chucky on December 29, 2012 11:26 AM:

    I just realized, this is the way they used to market cap guns to us when I was a kid.

  • dr2chase on December 29, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Wait, you mean you didn't know this already?

    Of course it's about (lack of) white male power, perceived and/or imaginary. It's been this way for years. Uppity women and uppity blacks and uppity liberals and crime at your doorstep. Probably the best way to deal with this is not to make fun of "missing manhood", but to point out that "oppressed" white men have been had: the guys who profit from tax breaks for millionaires (that would be, millionaires) use the women/blacks/crime/immigrants to distract from how they are picking everyone's pockets.

  • artreality on December 29, 2012 11:59 AM:

    Alright....I've had enough....from the pro-gunners to the no-gunners, and I've decided to put my two cents in.
    First, please allow me to presume that among the Facebook Friends I have, and I guess their friends as well, that I am in the minority, and I believe mini minority, in that I, have in fact fired ASSAULT weapons in anger many hundreds of times.That's right, in anger and with malice aforethought, to kill or be killed. In my 19 months in the Republic of VietNam, if you were in front of us, and you weren't us, you were fair game. You were part of a live video/carnival game in which the target was a human being. THE ENEMY...Why, you might ask, would a middle class, Catholic school kid want to kill anyone?? The biggest reason I could think of was...These people are trying to kill ME.They will do anything to insure that I am DEAD. So I took the same approach, and thankfully came home, wounded but alive.
    Now why the rambling story of something that occurred to me 45 years ago ????
    As I said above, my presumption of being in the minority is not so much in my being a combat veteran, but rather the fact that I am positive not more than 5 people who read this, can say they've fired an ASSAULT weapon IN ANGER.
    Not at the Police range, or shooting at paper targets, wooden targets, tin cans, training exercises, whatever... 99% of law enforcement personnel have NEVER fired AN ASSAULT RIFLE in anger.
    And no I'm NOT talking about a service revolver/pistol/shotgun (Ugh!)
    Again, ASSAULT RIFLE. You know...SWAT teams, and other movie induced fantasies.
    Even the police who arrived at Sandy Hook (Aurora, Columbine, Univ. of Virginia , and on and on...) even THEY didn't fire a single shot from their ASSAULT rifles.
    I personally can vouch for the fact that if you are shot with an ASSAULT weapon like the "Bushmaster 223" ( the one used in the idiocy in CT.), you are extremely wounded or close to dying. No if's ands or buts.

    (Minority presumption alert )...From May of 1968 thru January of 1970, I saw many people ( men, women, teenagers, kids and babies ) who had been shot by our (my?) weapons...and no it wasn't on TV, or film, it was 6 feet away from my eyes.These are sights I'll never forget. Nor would anyone else who saw them.
    These HUMANS hadn't died because of earthquake, flood, or things like that.
    These people were shot.
    The 223 Bushmaster is the weapon I carried, used, and tried to KILL people with. SAME GUN!! We called it the M-16, and later on the M-16A1.
    It was manufactured by Colt Industries for the US Military.and after the war(s),Colt and others sold it here in the US as the AR-15 ( any guesses what AR stood for ???).
    It was not an automatic weapon and you had to pull the trigger every time you wanted to shoot the next bullet, as opposed to a weapon that automatically keeps the trigger pulled for you.
    (please all you pro gunners, yes there are a few changes, including the semi-Auto/auto pin, larger clips, etc. Please save your time)
    Okay the point...
    Could there be any other reason in the world, that ....unless you were either a .....
    Collector, Target Shooter, Military Historian, TV Gunsmith show, or ON-DUTY Law Enforcement / Military / Security Personnel.
    that you had a rational reason / excuse as to why you needed an ASSAULT RIFLE?
    WHY would ANY civilian need an assault weapon? Why would anyone (except above) need a clip that holds 30 or more bullets??
    Hell, in VietNam we HAD to change clips after 16 or 17 shots !!
    You sure can't hunt well with the bushmaster, (accuracy problems for long distances (like hunting) and even when you do hit something with ONE of these bullets, there's not much left. Really.The .223 is a tumbler, meaning once it meets resistance, it does it's damage and continues to find places to ricochet in,out and around your body.
    And do you 'Hunters" truly believe

  • c u n d gulag on December 29, 2012 12:26 PM:

    artreality,
    First, thanks for your service to this country - horrible and painful as it was.

    Second, thanks for your rant - though it did get cut short.

    In short, there is no earthly reason for some insecure, probably male and under-peckered, mostly paranoid, and surely delusional, person to have an assault weapon.

    It's bad enough in the hands of trained military members, but in civilian hands?
    They should NOT be available. PERIOD!

    No one wants to take away anyone's hunting rifles, or guns.
    No one wants to take away the shotgun, or handgun, to protect people's homes.
    But, assault rifles serve no useful purpose, unless someone is planning to assault - people.

    And hey, Bubba and Bubbette, if you think you're going to form the 1st Pot-gut Armed Wolverine Unit to fight the government, let me ask you this?
    Is your aim good enough to hit that armed drone coming at your head at something close to the speed of sound?
    No?
    Can you hit an artillery shell coming at you, at that same speed?
    No?
    Then turn that thing in, and either get a p*nis extender, or a prescription for some little blue "quicker-pecker-uppers."

    The only thing left of you, if you decide to take on the government, is a stain that will wash away, after some rain.

  • Marko on December 29, 2012 2:02 PM:

    @artreality - I served too, not in Nam but later in peace time. I agree that the only reason to have an assault weapon is to kill people.

    You want to hunt? There are plenty of fine sport rifles to be had.

    You need home defense? Any shotgun will do.

    You want an assault rifle? Join the Marines.

  • Crissa on December 29, 2012 3:58 PM:

    Shrouds and suppressers are safety equipment that anyone can find useful. To conflate safety features with fast-reload and fast repeating as not features we should encourage is stupid.

    That's how we get bans on guns with random, otherwise meaningless features. Because we let the gun-nuts run the debate.

    It shouldn't matter what features as long as it matters: How fast the gun can be fired, how many rounds before reloading, how long it takes to reload (and how is it done) and most importantly, penetration of a shot at a standard distance. Of, and can any o the safety or limiting features be removed or altered easily or at all.

    We need to put the debate on specifications that are standard across all guns.

  • Fr33d0m on December 29, 2012 10:28 PM:

    In case it hasn't been pointed out yet, the whole screed about features is written without knowledge of the topic.

    A flash suppressor, one good way to identify an assault weapon, is not intended to prevent a blinding flare, it is intended to spread the flash out to make it harder for your opponent to pinpoint your location. The blinding flare is still there and if there were such an object that would prevent it and thus make night use better, then surely it would appeal to hunters. You simply must get these details right.

    Quick-change magazines are no different than magazines in hunting weapons. They are not specially designed to make changing magazines quick to change. Barrel shrouds--otherwise known as a forearm stock exist on hunting weapons because one round through the barrel will make the weapon too hot to handle. There are features on an assault weapon's forearm stock that allows air to flow and cool the barrel faster, because rapidly firing does make barrels hotter, but really, looking at a picture of a hunting rifle would make it clear that this "feature" is really common to all shoulder arms.

  • Fr33d0m on December 29, 2012 10:51 PM:

    Although Crissa is wrong about the suppressor being a safety feature, she is otherwise correct about the rate of fire and capacity of the magazine are features that are more fearful and identify assault weapons. The quoted story would have been more effective to have mentioned these features as well as noting that the .223 Caliber, 5.56 NATO round is designed to tumble when it strikes its target, making a hit near center of mass more damaging. The article is otherwise laughable--if it weren't for the fact that getting simple facts wrong makes it harder to get competent restrictions on these weapons.

  • Litterbox on December 30, 2012 1:24 AM:

    The problem with this entire debate is that the people against guns typically have a very limited education in them. Im not throwing rocks, just making a point. Most of the criteria for the '94 AWB was purely cosmetic and had absolutely nothing to do with the gun itself. Most of these "Assault Weapons" are identical in functionality to standard, common deer rifles. Make them black and add some do-dads on it like a rail system or a tactical flashlight and you have an "Assault Weapon". Thats pretty daft all the way around. Why not leave the cosmetic stuff out of the discussion and focus on what is the key issue; mental health. Every one of these shooters had or has a mental disorder. You can blame the gun all you want but the fact is that a person pulled the trigger and that person was mentally ill. Address that problem and you might actually make some headway on the issue.

  • Litterbox on December 30, 2012 1:24 AM:

    The problem with this entire debate is that the people against guns typically have a very limited education in them. Im not throwing rocks, just making a point. Most of the criteria for the '94 AWB was purely cosmetic and had absolutely nothing to do with the gun itself. Most of these "Assault Weapons" are identical in functionality to standard, common deer rifles. Make them black and add some do-dads on it like a rail system or a tactical flashlight and you have an "Assault Weapon". Thats pretty daft all the way around. Why not leave the cosmetic stuff out of the discussion and focus on what is the key issue; mental health. Every one of these shooters had or has a mental disorder. You can blame the gun all you want but the fact is that a person pulled the trigger and that person was mentally ill. Address that problem and you might actually make some headway on the issue.

  • James M on December 30, 2012 5:03 AM:

    @Litterbox on December 30, 2012 1:24 AM:

    "Why not leave the cosmetic stuff out of the discussion and focus on what is the key issue; mental health. Every one of these shooters had or has a mental disorder. You can blame the gun all you want but the fact is that a person pulled the trigger and that person was mentally ill. Address that problem and you might actually make some headway on the issue."

    This is such a red herring that I almost hate to reply. I wonder if you are aware of the 'triangle of crime' model used by self defense experts? It states that the execution of a crime requires the would be perpetrator to have 3 elements:

    1. Intention
    2. Ability
    3. Opportunity

    In the case of mass shootings, there is not much that can be done about Opportunity, as movies, concerts, schools, shopping centers, etc., offer a nearly infinite number of potential targets. Litterbox refers to the mental state of the criminal, which is directly related to Intention. This, is unfortunately, extremely difficult to control or affect. About the only way to do this would be to make the possibility of successful completion of the crime near zero, but this requires a large-scale systemic response (And I don't think putting armed guards at all potential targets would be either practical of effective).

    What most of are saying is that because it is so difficult to affect either Intention or Opportunity, we should start by limiting the mentally ill person's Ability to execute his intended crime by limiting the power of the weapons available to him/her. If I am off the mark here, please tell me why we should make it easy for deranged people to gain access to combat grade weapons?

  • Litterbox on December 30, 2012 2:21 PM:

    To James M: Actually, Im quite aware of the elements of a crime as Ive been a Deputy Sheriff for over two decades now. I will never support a mentally ill persons ability to gain access to any weapon, but suggesting that yet more laws will prevent these mass shootings is ridiculous at best. Ive also worked directly with acute and chronically mentally ill persons and the warning signs are there in the people that would do these heinous crimes. Whats lacking is funding for better mental health care. I live in Texas and we rank last in the nation for mental health care, but we can spend billions on everything else in the world. Its pathetic. Even if you were to enact new laws today banning all guns, you still have millions upon millions of them in private hands and then, if you suggest that confiscation is the next step, I will tell you that is an impossible job and the bad guys will still have their guns. The only people affected will be you and me.

    Lets look at intent, ability and opportunity a bit. Intent is simply the intention to commit an act. Ability is far more than just getting a gun, is the actor physically able to do the act? was he where he needed to be to commit the act? or numerous other variables that might be considered exculpatory when being investigated by the responding officer. Opportunity is similar to ability in that it too has variables that make the actor capable of committing a crime. Lanza had intent, ability and opportunity and all the laws on the books did not stop him.

    You said "combat grade weapons"...talk about red herring. What makes a rifle a combat grade weapon? Black plastic? flash hider? a magazine holding more than ten rounds? Again, it comes back to cosmetics. I can dress up a Ruger 10/22 to look really scary and kill just as many people as he did but it doesnt make the rifle a combat grade weapon.