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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Never bring a gun to a nuke fight.

I should start by noting that this post will, eventually, become somewhat funny. I should also point out that those who are puzzled by the title to today's post are obviously unfamiliar with the aphorism from which it is derived: never bring a knife to a gun fight. In either form, however, the basic point is the same: come equipped for the situation you're going to face. And in any kind of armed conflict, that essentially means that you need to at least match your opponent's level of armaments or things will be well and truly unpleasant.* Then again, when referring to nuclear weaponry the saying takes on a morbid note as a nuke fight is likely to prove essentially pyrrhic for the victor. As the man said, "I do not know with what weapons World War Three will be fought, but World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones."

I think about these issues sometimes when the question of gun control arises. See, I think the Constitution likely includes provisions securing the right to keep and bear arms** as a way to counter-balance governmental authority. The logic is pretty simple at the heart of it: a government will have a difficult time becoming truly despotic if its people have the weaponry necessary to defend their liberty. It made a lot of sense at the time but, really, times have changed, and I just don't think most people can afford the surface-to-air missile capabilities and tanks necessary to represent a serious threat to the U.S. armed forces. Moreover, even if they could, it's probably not a wonderful idea to have that kind of firepower in private hands since people have been known to do stupid things. In the immortal words of Robin Williams, "I built this cruise missile to keep those damn kids from playing ZZ Top, you know what I'm sayin'?" Nevertheless, I think there is benefit in a moderately well-armed populace.*** In spite of, or perhaps because of, these views, I often find myself rather vexed with the NRA. On the one hand, I do think that our right to own firearms needs protecting. On the other hand, I don't think we really need access to machine guns and armor piercing bullets. So, you know, I really wish they'd stop taking stupid positions. Alas, the NRA can no more shed the stoopid than the leopard can shed his spots.

This sadness, however, pales in comparison to my excitement at discovering that the NRA, in fact, has what amounts to a dimwitted younger brother.

You see, recently I was perusing the madness over on Conservapedia and ran across this rather fascinating little headline:



Or, more plainly:

U.S. Customs has proposed revoking earlier rulings that assisted opening knives are not switchblades. The proposal would not only outlaw assisted opening knives, its overly broad new definition of a switchblade would also include all one-handed opening knives and most other pocket knives.


Leaving aside my amazement that someone thinks that customs can dictate the law to the states, I followed the link and ended up in a place so ungodly stupid that it makes my heart sing with glee. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the website of Knife Rights:



It's difficult to know where to start with something that is so inadvertently funny. Take, for example, their slogan, which is in the upper left hand corner of the page: "A sharper future." See, they want to protect knife rights, and knives are sharp, so the future would be sharper, get it? As slogans go, that one seems to win big in the "blindingly obvious" and "subtly threatening" categories. And don't forget the masthead quote from Thomas Jefferson, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." We'll come back to that later.

Now, for those curious about the story Conservapedia was referring to, Knife Rights claims that the U.S. Government is trying to take away your pocket knives. No, seriously, that's what they claim:



More specifically, the customs bureau is changing a previous ruling that labeled assisted-opening knives as not being the same as switchblades. Now, for those who aren't knife fans**** a switchblade is a type of folding knife that opens (i.e. extends the blade) at the press of a button. Essentially, a coiled spring drives the blade into a functional position. An assisted opening knife also has a spring, but requires that you manually open the knife to some degree before the spring takes over and opens it the rest of the way. Both are in contrast to standard folding knives- like a typical pocket knife- that require you to manually open the blade all the way and a fixed-blade knife, which doesn't fold and is carried in a sheath. Why would you want a switchblade as opposed to a normal folding knife? Well, pretty much why you'd think: it makes it a more effective weapon. See, a fixed blade knife is quick to get access to, but it's hard to conceal. A standard pocket knife is easier to conceal and carry, but more difficult to access and slower to open. A switchblade, though, combines the best of both worlds: it's both concealable and comparatively dangerous as a weapon. And really that's its only advantage over a folding knife- its utility as a weapon- because otherwise the simplicity of a standard folding knife mechanism affords superior durability. So, at heart, the issue is being provoked by a customs bureau effort to curtail the import of knives that are not just usable as weapons,***** but that are actually designed or intended to be used as weapons.

Okay, so why do I find the Knife Rights hysteria so funny? Well, first off, because it's just so damned loony. Yes, obviously, the f-ing customs bureau is somehow, in contravention to all checks and balances in the U.S. government, going to outlaw pocket knives. Clearly this will be followed up by judging the Boy Scouts to be a terrorist organization. Right. Sure. That's gonna happen. I do find it plausible that the customs bureau is trying to close a loophole in import laws that allowed bladed weapons suitable for bar fights into the country, but that's a whole 'nother story.

The second reason I find this funny is because Knife Rights is framing this in terms of liberty and government tyranny. Really? You think that in the dark days of the U.N. takeover when black helicopters are disgorging armed French troops into your town square a bloody three inch switchblade is going to make the difference? Really? I've seen that movie and, I gotta tell ya, it doesn't end well for you:



If the government becomes tyrannical, we're going to have problems because our military is so damned well-equipped, meaning they have tanks, planes, missiles, grenade launchers, and so on. Knives are so low on the list of things that will protect our liberty that it's absurd. We may as well oppose governmental efforts to regulate the private ownership of crossbows and javelins. Moreover, knives that are optimized for fighting are, by and large, not going to be used for fighting or, if they are, will not be used in legally or morally acceptable ways. This reminds me of the guys who think that our right to keep and bear arms extends to silenced pistols. Really? The founding fathers wanted us to have concealable assassination weapons? You really think so? Honestly, the paranoia has gotten so thick that I half expect to see them claim that the U.S. government is also planning on banning ropes, wrenches, lead pipes and candlesticks, which, I have it on good authority, have all been used by Colonel Mustard in the library. Indeed, the entire Clue arsenal is under threat.

I take civil liberties very seriously but, honestly, these guys are just comedy gold.


* Doubtless some of you will observe instances, such as the Vietnam war, where one side had a clear superiority in weaponry and yet still lost. This is not, however, in contradiction to my basic point since the NVA and Viet Cong didn't win by force of arms but, rather, through attrition. And while I don't happen to know any NVA or Viet Cong veterans, I suspect that they would tell you that the experience of fighting a much better equipped opponent was less than enjoyable.

** Note that I am not taking a position on the "well-regulated militia" language, although I suspect that the Founding Fathers did not envision every random asshole who wanted one packing an Uzi.

*** I think I would define the present day U.S. as more than moderately well-armed, but that's not the point.

**** I should probably note that I have carried a decent quality pocket knife for a lot of years, finding that it's a handy way to get out of a lot of trouble. And I don't mean fights, I mean that it's a versatile tool that can be made to serve in a lot of different situations.

***** Virtually any knife can be used as a weapon but that's true of a lot of machines and, indeed, household objects. Nonetheless, there's a difference between a steak knife and a throwing knife even though they are both, at heart, knives.

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1 Comments:

Blogger JLT said...

I found this in Conservapedia's news section (all your fault) and thought it kinda sorta fits:
"Another tragedy from unattended video game playing as a 11-year-old Mississippi boy accidentally killed his 9-year-old brother with a shotgun blast Tuesday as the two struggled over the gun after arguing about a video game, authorities said. "The younger brother allegedly got mad because he got beat at some video games and got the gun," Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson said."

To blame this tragic accident on video games and not on leaving a loaded(?) shot gun in the easy reach of children is really conservapedesk.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 2:27:00 PM  

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