Thursday, April 10, 2014

Will Obama Ban Knives?

Now That’s A Knife
On April 9th, according to police, Alex Hribal (Sophomore, 16 years old), at Franklin Regional High attacked and stabbed 22 students wielding two kitchen knives. According to witnesses the attacker “flailed away” running down the hall with a blank expression on his face. It happened fast with many of the initial victims not even realizing they had been stabbed. Hribal was subdued by the school police officer (also stabbed) and the assistant principal (treated for injuries to his hand).
The police arrived five minutes after the attack begin.

Some Reactions

From Political Forum:
I will be very surprised if our resident gun grabbers on this fora are not more inclined to embrace a triple dose of the Clap than to touch this.
From TheTruthAboutGuns:
Wow, I guess all kinds of weapons turn people into crazed killers.
It couldn’t be the people themselves being crazy, or perhaps the system of indoctrination that they are forced to attend, that is responsible for their attitudes.
Must be the availability of weapons. Somebody hide the rocks, sticks, and baseball bats quick!
and …
Was it one of those dreaded hi-capacity assault knives? I hear that they
NEVER run out of ammo! The horror, the horror.
and …
I bet all the anti’s are going through their kitchen drawers so they can register any knife they own (that looks similar to the one used in this crime) with the police. Right?
I’d also like to see drafts of the knife permits and “one knife a month” laws that will be passed in the wake of this tragic event.
From TheFreeRepublic:
So now we need knife control laws, right?

How To Lose The Gun-Control Argument (If You’re Pro-2nd Amendment): High Capacity Assault Knives

The (conservative) snark-response, evidenced above, is perhaps the single most self-defeating approach one could take to the event. These quotes do more damage to the pro-gun argument than Piers Morgan has managed to do in his career. Why is that?

The Pro-Gun Position And The Knife-Control Jokes

The Pro-Gun Position holds that its opponents:
  1. Do not understand guns in general and therefore make stupid generalities about them such as the “Assault Weapons” classification (which plays off the term Assault Rifle—but simply categorizes weapons that kinda look like an assault rifle into an ‘evil-gun’ category).
  2. They claim that schools as gun-free zones (or townships, etc.) invite malefactors who will circumvent the rules anyway. In other words: if there’d been a teacher with a gun in the school, the attacker would go some place else.
  3. They claim that liberals simply demonize guns without paying attention to the scientific realities such as that more people are killed with hammers than rifles each year according to the FBI. Basically that it isn’t the tools that are dangerous—it’s the people.
The fact that these positions are, at least arguably, true, in fact makes the ‘knife-control’ quips more damaging? Why?

The reason the knife-control quips are specifically undermining to the pro-gun position is this: Each part of the position is arguably correct—however, that argument rests on a set of assumptions (i.e. that liberal law-maker’s ignorance of guns means that the laws themselves will be ineffective due to that ignorance or that a cold hard look at the FBI’s facts would force liberals to re-examine their views on gun control). The problem with the Knife-Control jokes is that they make it look like the conservatives are arguing in bad faith—the joke itself suggests that banning certain kinds of weapons based on minor differences in their profile is intrinsically stupid and, at the same time, suggests that since some kind of weapon will always be present, society has no interest in controlling which one a would-be murderer has access to.

Both of these points are catastrophically untrue (and neither is intrinsically germane to the real gun control arguments).


The Omnivore is pro-Second Amendment. I do not believe an assault weapons ban will do much good in stopping mass shootings and, at best, would have some marginal impact on their mortality rates. I find attempts to control extended magazines (of which hundreds of thousands are in circulation) to be equally ineffective. I am not impressed with the assault-weapon classification (there are guns with the same effectiveness profile that lack the characteristics). I am accepting of armed-response in school (NOT every teacher having a weapon). I own guns. I served in the military.
Also: The Omnivore did quip, on Facebook, that the knife in question might have had an ‘extended belt-clip.’ On later thought, The Omnivore regrets that.

The Assumptions And How The Knife- Control Argument Undermines Them

The problem with equating gun control to “knife control” is that it misses a key and obvious fact: the kinds of controls liberals would like to see put in place are an attempt to drive mass slayings in the direction of Franklin Regional High—and this would be an unalloyed good thing could it be done. In other words, it’s tacit agreement that what the Liberals are saying (should some hypothetical gun-law force a person who wants an assault rifle to use a knife instead) is true. Why?

Well, firstly, there are High Capacity Assault Knives, they are called fighting knives or combat knives, and they are illegal in 13 states (Switchblades 18 states, concealed carry of folding knives varies a lot by blade-length with 23 states having restrictions). Knives are regularly and for good reason regulated based on their “profile.” Things like number of cutting edges, how the knife deploys, and how long it is are not necessarily material to a person who has just been stabbed or, at most, have marginal impacts, but if just about every state has these restrictions one should consider that, perhaps, at least some of these are a good idea.

Secondly, the idea that schools, being gun-free zones, attract shooters looks very questionable when Pro-2nd Amendment people use the knife-attack as a justification for armed teachers. It should be plainly obvious from the time-line of the case that no amount of armed force in the school could have prevailed: the attack took seconds—so fast many of the wounded did not even realize they were hit. The police arrived in five minutes, by which time the assailant had been stopped by, so far as we know, two adults without firearms.

The mental picture of an armed teacher firing into a crowded hall as Hribal ran amok should be chilling enough to make anyone reconsider the arming of school staff: you’d want a Navy SEAL for that kind of dense-target high-emotional shock shooting—no teacher on staff could be trusted to do that.

Thirdly, though, and most damningly, is the proposal that ‘there are no dangerous tools—only dangerous people.’ While true, it’s incredibly misleading without a lot more context. There are tools that hugely, hugely more or less dangerous than others. The talking point I linked to above shows that, yes, there are more hammer murders than rifle murders (the handgun is far and away the most popular murder weapon). On the other hand, trying to make the point that hammers are used in more murders than rifles is trying to trick your audience: Rifles are far more dangerous than hammers once they are in the hands of a murder.

What The Omnivore Thinks

Imagine that we did ban guns and then, on the day after the collection, there was a horrendous mass knife attack. Would it prove the gun-grabbers wrong? Likely: No. Here are the killed / wounded for mass knife attacks:
mass shootings
Mass Stabbings

In case it is hard to tell, the average percentage of death from a shooting is greater than 50%. For mass stabbings? It’s closer to 20% (list of mass stabbings taken from Wikipedia). The shooting graph did not include Sandy Hook which was close to 100% lethality. Also, notably: lots of mass stabbings, for unexplained reasons, do involve elementary school children who are more fragile. Simply put: in the mass-combat scenario (the spike in the beginning of 2014 was the chilling Kunming Railway station attack which involved four perpetrators with knives and still only managed a 17% kill rate) you would much rather be the target of a knife wielder than a gunman.

In short, banning certain kinds of knives based on their profile does seem to make sense (almost every state has some law on the books—even Texas bans gravity knives) and, while mass stabbings happen, they are far less lethal than mass shootings.

The jokes that ignore or worse make fun of these facts make it appear conservatives are hoping you won’t notice that for knives the restrictive laws are actually pretty good and that not all killing tools are equally destructive.

No comments:

Post a Comment