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It’s The Planned Economy, Stupid

November 19, 2010

Somehow I forgot to bring a real notebook, so all my event notes were scrawled in the back of my copy of The Gun, which means there might be some factual inaccuracies because sometimes I can’t read my own shorthand. Blogging: It’s Hard, But I Do It Anyway.

As promised, some notes/thoughts on CJ Chivers’ talk at Pol&Prose on Tuesday. I usually can’t stand extended Q&A sessions – too often they’re just a platform for somebody to prattle on for an eternity about something of only tangential interest to everybody else (just get a blog like the rest of us, buddy!) – but the format worked perfectly here. The audience was small, focused, and knew what it was talking about. Chivers opened by reading a passage from the book about an assassination attempt (pgs. 388 – 39?), then took questions for the remaining time.

The conversation ranged over everything from the role of ammo in the AK-47’s spread and popularity to the design flaws of the AK vs. those of the M-16/M-4 to what happens if NATO just leaves Afghanistan. All fascinating if you’re a gun nerd (or just a defense nerd in general, I suppose), and I might revisit some of that in later posts (or, uh, if just you want my typed notes because you suspect I’ll never write anything again, here you go).

Anyway. What I was there for, and what I’m so glad CJ talked about, was the impact of the AK-47 on civilian populations. Yeah, the AK-47 is only so-so in combat (fun fact: it’s basically useless past 300 yards – so just stay 300 yards away and you’re safe!), but what it does excel at is allowing a small group of people to dominate a much larger population. Chivers calls it a weapon of repression, not liberation, despite all the propaganda to the contrary. This is a gun that numerous governments have turned on their own people. Depressing, huh? Thanks, Soviet Union, for flogging these things across the globe. Well done. Gold stars all around.

But let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who. Let’s figure out what we can do about it! Oh, right, that’s also incredibly depressing, because the answer is “not much.” There’s no political will to move forward with any sort of supply-side control on the part of the big players – Russia and China just don’t wanna, and the US is mired in some really stupid domestic politics around guns. Demand’s just not going down anytime soon. The UN’s Small Arms and Light Weapons Treaty, modeled off the ban on land mines, is essentially dead in the water. Gun buybacks have been proven not to work – if you offer $50/gun, you get a whole lot of broken guns and some new money floating around. Nobody wants to destroy their stockpiles of guns, because that’s like destroying fat sacks of cash – these things are always valuable to somebody, after all.

So our options, according to my understanding of CJ’s comments anyway, seem to be 1) have a war and hope they break through use or 2) don’t have a war and hope the guns get trafficked somewhere else (like, uh, Mars?).

I need a drink.

Anyway, that’s the quick and dirty, which is clearly what I go for in this blog. I’m devoting my Thanksgiving break to reading The Gun cover to cover, so more thoughts to come… eventually. Many thanks to CJ for answering all questions so candidly – and sir, if you ever need some free research assistance or somebody to organize your garage, consider this my volunteer application.


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