How many times have you heard a TV news anchor, with brow appropriately knitted in concern, talk about the "gunman" who was "...armed with a semi-automatic pistol..." ----the implication being that these are somehow different from other weapons and are the instruments of Satan? I have a headline for that news anchor---with relatively few exceptions, MOST handguns are semi-automatic either in fact or in function. The exceptions are single-shot hunting or target pistols, two barrelled derringer-style pistols and single action, cowboy-style revolvers. Even double action revolvers function semi-automatically---meaning that in order to fire the weapon, one must pull the trigger for EACH and every round discharged. One cannot, with a semi-automatic weapon, pull the trigger once and empty the magazine (that capability is termed FULL automatic). Thus, when I heard Dianne Sawyer, on ABC World News the other night, say that the shooter in Newtown, CT entered the school with a semi-automatic gun that "...could shoot 8 bullets in a second.", I knew she was incorrect because NOBODY can pull a trigger that fast! Since I don't believe Ms. Sawyer made that statement in order to sensationalize the tragedy, I conclude that she just didn't have the background to question an obviously specious data point provided by some staffer. If a weapon could, indeed, discharge 8 rounds a second, that would produce a cyclic rate of fire of 480 rounds per minute which, in turn, would make it the near-equivalent of the M-60 machine gun as opposed to a semi-automatic weapon of any kind.
My point is that all this sort of talk muddies the water around the discussion and inflames the emotions on both sides. In a recent Time Magazine article, Mayor of NYC Michael Bloomberg is quoted as saying that he wants to force votes on Capitol Hill so that if some representatives vote against gun control legislation, he can, during the 2014 elections, make Congressmen "...have to stand up and say. 'I'm with the NRA and support killing our children' or 'No'..." Can you believe that Mr. Bloomberg actually asserted that the NRA supports killing kids? That kind of rhetoric is certainly not helpful when we need to discuss important issues in a reasoned way. But what can you expect from a man whose solution to the obesity problem is banning fountain beverages larger than a given size in order to save people from themselves. This is the sort of fuzzy thinking and emotional speech we don't need in this debate.
For my part, I have no problem with limiting high capacity (21 rounds and larger) magazines. I am for background checks and a reasonable (say one week) waiting period between purchase and delivery. But, in addition, I would also support the sharing of information on mentally unstable people among mental health, law enforcement and educational agencies, and would brook no interference from the ACLU asserting violations of their civil rights.
Also let's take a hard look at the entertainment and video game industries. I know this idea treads close to censorship issues, curtailing First Amendment rights and interfering with artistic expression, but we've got to, at least, have the conversation. This is important because in a recent Time/CNN poll, only 23% of respondents thought the primary cause of gun violence in America was the availability of guns! Of the remainder, 37% blamed bad parenting and another 37% held the influences of Pop Culture to be responsible. So, there is more at work here than the numbers and types of guns.
But, if we don't take the time to make sure we know what we're talking about and get the terminology and the terms of reference correct, avoiding the hot button words, we will continue to talk past each other and nothing good will come of it.