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An observation on guns in the US not temporally local to a massacre making the rounds in the news media (I’m scheduling the post on Dec 29. I sincerely hope we can make it to the post date without a major massacre.):

Observation: Full auto and other such heavy duty firearms are causally relevant to very few deaths (in the US). Nonetheless, most of the discussion seems to compromise around doing more to keep them away from people. Meanwhile handguns take the lion’s share of homicide (and suicide), but they don’t get nearly so much attention. There’s some pretty obvious explanations for why handguns are more popular for homicide, even when compared only to other legal instruments of death. They’re portable. They’re convenient. Just like making suicide a pain in the ass makes it less common, making homicide a pain in the ass makes it less common.

I have three hypotheses, in descending order of likelihood, though I would guess all three play a role in explaining the discrepancy. (I’m assuming if a compromise is to be made, the reasonable place is to restrict the deadlier object, and that that isn’t the compromise demands explanation.)

1. The obvious explanation, smaller arms tend to go with smaller acts. It’s not much of a spectacle. Someone spraying a 60 round clip into a crowd gets a lot more attention than the accumulation of homicides over the course of a day. (There’s approx. 45 homicides per day in the US.) It sells a lot better.

2. The less obvious, though rather damning explanation, people can more easily explain away the day to day homicide as being most skewed towards certain outgroups. Outgroups they are of course not a part of, and are morally unscrupulous enough to not care about. Poverty and violence correlate, so if you’re not in poverty, just blame the poor. Or pick another race and say it’s them shooting each other. Or gangs. So many options. Meanwhile the heavier weapons tend not to discriminate so much. Even an upper middle class white person could be at the next club, concert, or school someone decides to fire into. (See also: the amount of care given to a school shooting being proportional to the average income of the families of the students who attend.)

3. The kinda conspiracy sounding, though quite feasible explanation, the powers-that-be have way more incentive to get rid of heavier weapons than lighter handguns. If there’s any violent resistance to existing power structure, they’d far rather it be something that won’t do much damage. (This connects with 2, but more of a top-down approach. You can defend your home from a random intruder with a rifle just as easily as a pistol. The state and friends cannot be defended against so easily.)

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