Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Were They Hunting With That AK-47?

I simply don't understand this. As I've written about before, it's absurd that these semi-automatic rifles, used in war to kill people, are legal. What animal is so difficult to hunt that only an AK-47 will do?

I have to admit, when I first saw the headline below, I thought "How sad. Didn't Dick Cheney learn the first time?" But then, I realized it was a serious article and of course, gun violence is a serious issue.

Certainly I'm not trying to trivialize this tragedy. It is a tragedy. A horrible, horrible tragedy. The family is devestated forever. And, of course, a child's life was cut far too short.

Let me quote a very wise woman (me):

"It's NOT a violation of federal law to carry assault weapons. WTF????? Why not? Why does anyone need to carry assault weapons like AK-47s or M4s? These are not guns to hunt deer or squirrel or pheasant or whatever else hunters hunt. These are the weapons used in Iraq to kill people. The sole purpose of assault weapons is to hunt people. Why does anyone need these kinds of guns? . . . Can someone explain to me one legitimate reason why anyone needs to own AK47s or M4 assault weapons? And why the hell it's not illegal to own them?"

Teen Shot, Killed In Hunting Accident

Grandfather Says His Gun Accidentally Discharged
POSTED: 3:36 pm CDT June 12, 2008
UPDATED: 5:47 pm CDT June 12, 2008

LAVACA COUNTY, Texas -- A 14-year-old boy was accidentally shot and killed in a hunting accident by his grandfather, investigators said.

According to the Lavaca County Sheriff's Office, Taylor Michalec's grandfather said he was walking behind the teen when the trigger on his AK-47 assault rifle snagged a branch and discharged, striking the teen in the back. (emphasis mine)

The shooting happened Wednesday afternoon near County Road 290, about five miles west of Moulton, Texas, about 100 miles east of San Antonio.

Both his father and grandfather tried to administer CPR, but when EMS responders arrived, the teen was pronounced dead. Michalec had just completed his freshman year at Steele High School, where he was a member of the football team.

Lavaca County investigators said they will not file any charges on the boy's grandfather because the shooting appeared to be an accident.


  1. Hi,
    Well, asking why your allowed to own an AK is like asking why are you allowed to own a Ferrari when you can only drive 60 MPH. The young man could have just as easily been killed with a .22 caliber squirrel rifle. All guns have the ability to kill if not handled properly. For you to sensationalize the fact that it was an AK47 makes no sense. As if the outcome would have been different with a typical hunting rifle.

    How much do you know about firearms? Do you know that your average deer hunting rifle is twice as powerful as an AK47? And yes, people do hunt with AKs and M4s. In fact, here in Ohio it's not legal to hunt with an M4. Not because they aren't a "sporting" rifle, but because they aren't powerful enough to kill a dear in a humane manner.

    Why do people own these weapons? Many reasons. First and foremost because we can. Secondly, they are used for home defense, target shooting, and competition shooting matches. I own a couple M4 rifles myself. The rifles weight, accuracy, and limitless customization makes it one of the best selling rifles in America.

    By the way, what makes one type of rifle suitable for hunting and not the other? What makes a AK "designed to hunt people" compared to a typical hunting rifle? What features make it more deadly? The typical hunting rifle is actually much more potent than the AK, and several times as accurate.

    I hope I was able to shed some light on this issue. I just find it interesting you seemed to focus so much on the particular type of gun the boy was killed with more so than the tragedy itself. Almost as if the outcome would have been different if it hadn't been an AK47. I also hope I didn't come off as crass or disrespectful. I'd love to have an open dialogue with you about this. I also apologize for any grammar or spelling as I'm typing this on my blackberry :)
    Thank you.


  2. I'd also like to add that this terrible tragedy came about not because the weapon was an AK, but because the grandfather did not put the weapon on safety while walking. This was a huge safety rule that was not followed, and tragedy was the result. Had the safety been on, the weapon would not have discharged when the trigger snagged on the tree branch. The results would have been the same with a .22 caliber hunting rifle. The gun did what it was designed to do, go bang when the trigger is pulled. Sadly, the result was tragic. My heart goes out to the family.

    Peace, zak.

  3. Zak,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on this post. Did you read my first (and only other) post on firearms? I link to it at the beginning of the post.

    I understand (as I said in my original post) there are legitimate reasons to own guns and that even though I don't own guns, many members of my extended family in Mississippi are avid gun owners and hunters.

    Here's what I believe:

    Avid gun owners and enthusiasts who are completely against any sort of gun restrictions and those of us who want sensible gun laws will never be able to convince the other side.

    In Chicago, as in other urban areas, we have horrible gun violence problems (as I discussed in my original April 27th post). A 13-year old boy was arrested for taking a gun to his junior-high graduation yesterday in Chicago. We just lived through the NIU shooting and the Virginia Tech shootings a year ago.

    I'm not saying that other parts of the country are immune to gun violence or that gun violence is limited to urban areas. In fact, I think that's part of what keeps the two sides so far apart in the gun debate. Our opinions and experiences with guns are so vastly different.

    I don't have any answers in the gun debate and I don't pretend to. But I do believe that this particular tragedy in Texas could have been avoided.

  4. Hi,

    I apologize as I did not read your post you linked to. I definately will.

    I sympathise with your hi gun crime numbers in Chicago. Here in Cleveland we have a problem with gun violence as well. However I believe to solve the inner city gun issue we need to take the guns from the drug dealers and street thugs, not the law abiding citizens. Our justice sytem is a joke. If we could enforce the gun laws we already had, we wouldn't need to constantly try to enact new ones. Most of the people who commit gun crimes shouldn't be on the street to begin with. Our justice system is a failure. I'm all for paying more tax to build more jails for these thugs.

    Chicago has some of the most strict gun legislation in the country, yet it continues to have high gun crime rates. The fact of the matter is criminals don't obey laws, so the only people the laws affect are the law abiding citizens. When you outlaw guns, only the criminals and police will have them.

    I'm all for sensible gun regulation. No one needs a rocket launcher or a machine gun. But to ban people for owning a semiautomatic rifle because it resembles the rifle the militarty uses is a bit much. The M4 rifle the army issues is fully automatic. Which means it's a machine gun. It keeps firing as long as the trigger is held down. The civilian version of the rifle is semi automatic. Which means just like a hunting rifle, it only fires once everytime the trigger is pulled. Full auto guns are illegal to own and extremely expensive.

    Anyway, thanks for listening to my rants.


  5. One thing that I think might be causing confusion is the term "assault weapon."

    The enti-gun forces in this country coined that term specifically to intentionally mislead people like you who are not firearms experts.

    An "assault weapon" as defined in this case is NOT a "weapon of war."

    Modern (basically, since the 1960's), military "assault rifles" (notice the similar, but slightly different terminology) are capable of burst or fully automatic fire. In other words, they can fire more than one round with a single pull of the trigger. In other words, they are machine guns.

    The "AK-47" in question here was not really an AK-47. It was a civilianized knock off of an AK-47 that does not have that crucial military is not a machine gun.

    The civilian versions of these weapons look similar to the military versions, but that is where the similarities end. They are no different in function than any other semi-automatic firearm and, as ZAK already pointed out, they tend to be significantly less powerful than typical hunting rifles.

    Why do we "need" rifles that look similar to military arms? Because some people prefer them and, in a free country, that's enough of a reason. In a free country, the relevant question is: why SHOULDN'T we have rifles that are no different in function than any other semi-automatic, just because they "look scary" to some people?

  6. Why on earth do you think that the second amendment applies only to hunting rifles? Hunting may or may not be a good thing, but it isn't constitutionally protected (only the weapons are, not the activity).

    The text of the second amendment, as well as its history and the associated court cases, make it pretty clear that the right to keep and bear arms is designed to protect the right of the people to own military-style weapons, it doesn't have much to do with hunting.

    See also, for example, Federalist #46, particularly the last three paragraphs. Madison was assuming that 1/4 of the population was armed (i.e. half the men), and that any federal army would be vastly outnumbered by the armed citizens of the nation as a whole. It was this backstop of democracy that the second amendment was meant to protect.

    Most of the constitutional rights have some limitations--the first amendment applied only to federal laws (until expanded by the fourteenth amendment), the fourth amendment protection doesn't apply against reasonable searches or against searches with warrants, the fifth amendment rights of life, liberty, and property can be abridged by the due process of law, etc.

    But the second amendment is unique in that it has no restrictions at all, it prevents anyone (on its face, every government at every level and even private individuals) from infringing the right. It also has no provision for due process limitations, or limitations on the basis of reasonableness. The right was made absolute, because it is the most fundamental of our political rights.

    But weapons do have an impact on crime. Certainly accidental shootings could be avoided by gun control, but accidental deaths from guns are much rarer than homicides or suicides. The US has a relatively low suicide rate, much lower than the rate in many nations that have strict gun control, so gun control seemingly is not a great barrier to suicide.

    It actually appears that areas with high murder rates have low suicide rates and vice versa. For example, Illinois has more murders than suicides, Virginia (where guns are readily available) has more suicides than murders.

    The record of gun control against homicide also isn't very good. In Chicago, gun ownership was restricted in response to a rising crime rate, and the result is that most of the murders in Illinois now happen in Chicago (by about a 2-to-1 ratio).

    It is like noticing that there are shootouts between criminals and police and deciding that the way to reduce that is to have fewer police. It just doesn't work.

    A uniformed, armed police officer is a deterrent to crime, because criminals see the officer as a threat. When the public is armed, particularly with concealed carry, then everyone becomes a deterrent to crime, because the criminal doesn't know who is defenseless and who is not.

    Here in Virginia, we had a massacre at a local university very shortly after, and seemingly as a direct result of, enforcement by the administration of a gun ban on the Virginia Tech campus. Defenseless students were shot by a deranged killer who was freed by the college administration, and state officials, to kill with impugnity because of the gun ban. I don't think the adminstrators or the governor wanted to create the massacre, but their actions had the effect of making it possible.

    The 9/11 tragedy could have been largely avoided if a reasonable percentage of those who fly had been armed. Instead, they sat helplessly, flying to their doom, hostage to those few who took control of the aircraft.

  7. Mazzula,

    It's my blog and it's my opinion. I published your comment because I was nice.

    But please do not compare gun violence in Virginia with gun violence in Chicago. They are simply not comparible.

    And my original post from April 27th was all about crime. Did you bother to read it? I linked to it early in this post.

  8. Mazzula,

    It's my blog and it's my opinion. I published your comment because I was nice.

    But please do not compare gun violence in Virginia with gun violence in Chicago. They are simply not comparible.

    And my original post from April 27th was all about crime. Did you bother to read it? I linked to it early in this post.

  9. Apparently you forgot that in your earllier post you wrote "Can someone explain to me one legitimate reason why anyone needs to own AK47s or M4 assault weapons? And why the hell it's not illegal to own them?"


    1) It is a constitutional right, I included a reference to a founder's argument, in Federalist #46, as to why it is important. If you are honestly looking for the answer to your question, it is there.
    2) The constitutional right has little to do with hunting or personal protection, and everything to do with fear of tyranny, domestic and foreign.
    3) The constitutional right is uniquely absolute, the only Bill of Rights protection that establishes a specific right with no limitations, and no exceptions for due process or reasonableness, so to weaken it implies that no constitutional right is safe.
    3) Anti-gun legislation results in more violence, more murder, and does not reduce the suicide rate.

    Your recent article was about an accidental shooting, and gun laws probably do reduce accidental shootings, but such things relatively exceptional. By far, most gun-related deaths are intentional--either murders or suicides.

    So the best approach to safety is to defend yourself against being murdered, and to learn to handle your guns safely. And keep that happy disposition.

    I do not understand why you think that gun violence in Chicago is incomparable to gun violence in Virginia. Do you think that people in Chicago care less about human life? But how about the comparison between Chicago and the rest of Illinois? Why is there six times the murder rate within the city limits? Chicago has been made a safe haven for violent criminals.

    If the murder rate in Chicago could have been reduced to that of the surrounding area, where gun control is less strict, it would have saved more than 4000 lives during the past eight years in that city alone.

    One of the first gun laws, the Sullivan Act, was enacted in New York by corrupt politicians whose gangland bosses wanted to be able to operate without fear that citizens could protect themselves. The law does not reduce gun crime, nor was it designed to.

    Although politicians nowadays need to put a happy face on their agenda, these laws continue to function according to that model.

    Gun control is not being done for happy purposes. It is being done because injustice is riskier when the victims are armed.

    Even Ghandi had harsh criticism for gun control. Writing against the Arms Act of 1878 (which forbade private ownership of firearms by any native of India not considered loyal to the British Empire), "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."

  10. Mazzula,

    Here's the thing . . . you're NEVER going to convince me that reasonable gun laws don't reduce crime.

    And I've lived in both Chicago and Virginia and the needs for guns in both places are vastly different.

    As for the absoluteness of the 2nd Amendment, I'll grant you that it's been over a dozen years since I took undergrad constitutional law, BUT I believe that the Constitution is a living document. It can be changed and interpreted differently over time (yeah for women getting to vote, but I'd still like to be recognized as equal). And again, I'll grant you that Jefferson, Madison, et al were brilliant and far ahead of their time when they founded the country and wrote the Constitution and Federalist papers, BUT they couldn't possibly have imagined all the realities of the 2008 world.

    I've said it before, the anti-gun law folks and the pro-gun law folks will never see eye to eye. We simply have different beliefs.

    I have zero desire to live in a world where the cops are walking around with armed machine guns 24/7. If that's got to be the state of our world, then the criminals have won.

  11. The founders would have not had much problem envisioning the murder rates of today, which are no worse than the murder rates of their day (and much better than the peak murder rates of the 1800s). When the colonists left England, it had a murder rate of about 20 per 100,000 people, about triple the rate in the US today. They would have been amazed by how safe we are today, and by our long life-expectancy.

    But the founders didn't enact the second amendment from a fear of crime, or fears that they would be denied the right to hunt (neither hunting nor self-defense rights are mentioned in the Constitution), but because they feared the misuse of a standing army.

    And, remote though these fears seem, given the high principles and subservience to civil authority of our military, 20th century history has shown that these fears are not outdated.

    If you want to see what gun control ultimately looks like, just look at a prison. That kind of asymmetrical power of the state over the people is not a happy situation. The way to avoid that is not by mistrusting and fearing your fellow citizen (although certainly there are some thugs), but by creating the kind of just society where trust is possible.

    Even with our high murder rates, if even 10% of the people were armed the murderers would be outgunned more than 1,000 to 1. That isn't just a deterrent, that's protection. You will never get that with mercinary police protection, even if they all carry machine guns.

    But the second amendment is designed as the ultimate check and balance over the power of the government.

  12. AK-47's and similar style firearms provide one thing that firearms of lesser magazine capacity, but much larger and more powerful bullets, do not. The option of firing warning shots.

    During the riots in Los Angeles, Korean shopkeepers...some of them...were able to protect their stores and their lives from roaming gangs of looters. The Koreans, I am certain, would have defended their businesses with whatever tools they had at hand, but because they had large capacity firearms they could do so without having to resort to ONLY lethal force.

    Had their guns been slower to load, and of lesser magazine capacity, the Koreans would very likely have felt they needed to use deliberately aimed shots that would have killed their attackers rather than warning them away by shooting into the air or into the ground. With fewer bullets to spend on deterrence of an attacker, the old Wild West adage of "make your shots count!" could have come to the fore and resulted in more deaths.

    The attitude of large cities to firearms ownership is contributing to the rise in crime. In places where citizens have not had their Constitutionally RECOGNIZED (not granted, but acknowledged) right to possess weapons, the crime rates have gone down. In places with firearms restrictions, you see larger crime rates. Why? Criminals don't fear committing crimes when they have guns and the other guy doesn't.

    Attacking assault rifles too misses the target, if you'll pardon the pun. The majority of shootings involve handguns, not long arms. Handguns are more easily concealed, and nothing screames "I'm up to no good!" like standing on a street corner with an AK-47 strapped across your back. People would be on the phone to the cops within seconds and if you have an effective and non-corrupt police force, there should be officers responding very quickly.

    Another detractor to using AK-47's in crimes is the price of the things. They are more expensive than many other firearms out there. I had the unfortunate experience of seeing a man from Chicago come to a flea market here in Mississippi who then proceeded to buy all the Davis and Raven .25 caliber firearms he could find. These are cheap guns. In both quality and price. They are just as likely to jam or otherwise mechanically fail (including exploding in your hand) because of their poor designs. But gang firearms purchasers like them because they are cheap and concealable. This fellow who bought them wandered around to three different sellers in this flea market and purchased about 15 of these type pistols. The last I saw of him, he was being loaded into a Sheriff's car because no less than 23 separate people called and reported him as a "suspicious character".

    These guns cost about $85 a piece. The next most popular firearm in terms of cost for a gang would probably be a pump action shotgun like a Mossberg. Down here, they can be had for $150 or so used.

    A semi automatic civilian AK-47 costs something like $500. If you buy a fully automatic machine gun and give your fingerprints to the ATF and pay the 200 dollar tax stamp on the weapon (oh yes, the government actually licenses people to legal own machine guns) then a real honest-to-God AK-47 is going to cost you about $3000 or $4000 dollars. Not the kinds of guns you want to have to thrown down in the back alley as you run away from a liquor store robbery or a murder. The crime you committed might not cover the costs of your lost firearm.

    Could the criminals be getting these guns as stolen weapons? Yes they can and do. If fewer firearms were in the hands of law abiding people, would there be fewer in the hands of criminals? Possibly. But one tactic of gaining firearms by theft is to steal them from people you know will have them....the police! Not to mention the distressing new tactic of asking gang members to join organizations like the police departments of large cities and the military. The walls in cities like Baghdad have now been "tagged" with gang graffiti from the United States!
    Better controls on our recruitment of police officers and military members might serve us better in the future.

    Yugoslavia showed that one ethnic group (or racial group or political group) can choose to enforce its will on another by use of force. When the Bosnians were unarmed, they died in the thousands. After they were armed by the international community, the Serbs decided, "You know what? Killing Bosnians really isn't as much fun when they kill us back." We have a lot of ethnic and racial divisions in the United States. Firearms provide an opportunity for minority
    peoples to have an effective means of defense against the excesses of a majority.

    Having seen some of the aftermath of Katrina, I can tell you that having firearms was not only necessary to kill roving alligators, rats, and packs of violently aggressive dogs (in Galvaston, it is an escaped tiger) but also offered a comfort to people who would otherwise have faced scary nights crouching in their police-free zones with only their hands to defend themselves against the predators of the dark--both four legged and two legged.

    The problem is not in our guns, it's in ourselves. (Shakespere..basterdized)

  13. "if you'll pardon the pun"- Nobody cares if your puns were intended.

  14. Anonymous didn't ask if you cared whether the pun was intentional, but only asked for forgiveness.

    Your claim that your opinion on the matter is universal is clearly false (because the author cared), but are you saying that everyone forgives the pun or that nobody does?

    That is, assuming that puns require forgiveness, are you saying that people should be judged harshly only for the bad consequences they intend or are you saying that blame should be assigned regardless of whether there was an evil intent?

    I seems as though you are saying the latter, that nobody cares about intent, and thus that people should be judged only according to the consequences of their actions, regardless of their intent.

    I am sympathetic to that view, but maybe judgment and forgiveness are different in that respect. If someone steps on my toe, they are equally guilty of causing the injury regardless of intent, but I might be quicker to forgive if it was unintentional.

    Furthermore, punishment may be inappropriate for unintended evil (unless the lack of intent was simply a matter of negligence in thinking about what the consequences would be). So it seems that guilt, punishment, and forgiveness all have different criteria.

    Further, the act and the intent seem to be two different matters, each independently judged, for example, a person might intend harm but be prevented from carrying it out.

    So what is your pronouncement? Does everyone forgive the pun or do we not? How about the intent to commit a pun, do we forgive that?


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