Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Contemplative calculations

Oddly enough, this is prompted by a barside conversation about why in hell the cost of good whiskey has increased so far ahead of the rate of inflation. We might get onto that someday, but all that plus the gun control "conversation" ( still more of a screaming match, it seems) made me wonder what we are talking about in the way of economics. How much do assault rifles cost, anyway?

First, if you know little or nothing about firearms, you need to grasp Fact 1: for a civilian without homicidal intent, and assault rifle falls somewhere south of useless. You can't use one as a deer rifle in most states, and if you did, you'd end up with pulled venison. Their defenders like to say they are good for target shooting and shooting vermin. So are many other, more traditional rifles that lack the crippling liability of assault rifles (coming to that), as well as their deadliness.

Being curious, I did some firearms shopping, trying to see if I could match the rural arsenal I had when I came south and gave up hunting. As I recall, I had:
  • a .30 cal bolt-action deer rifle. (Deer were safe around me; I was not a good shot off the range.)
  • a 20 gauge double-barrel Lefever shotgun, a beautiful masterpiece of the gunsmith's art. I'm going to leave this out of the estimate because it's hard to find them now at any price. The one I had would now be about 100 years old, and a collector's item, not a working firearm.
  • a .25 cal "varmint" rifle
  • a .22 target rifle
  • a .22 target pistol
In short, it was a typical collection for the time and place, apart from the Lefever.  I could replace all of the other firearms at today's prices for the average cost of just one assault rifle, and probably have change for ammunition.

Here we see the delusional logic of extremists at work. Most of the people ranting about the government taking their guns away probably can't afford assault rifles. Left to their own devices, most would avoid wasting money on something so worthless. It's no more accurate on the range (probably less) than less extreme firearms. It doesn't kill rats any better than a .22, and every round costs five times as much.

If assault rifles had not been made the icon of the anti-gun movement, how many average people would give two to three weeks' pay to own one? We've been down this road before. In the early 1960s, the workhorses of WWII, the M-1 Garand rifle and the M-1 carbine, came onto the surplus market. Our fathers were intimately familiar with both.  They respected them, but did not love them.*  The Garand was never popular with anyone but militaria collectors. The carbine enjoyed a brief  vogue as a varmint rifle, but the genre that included today's assault rifles soon came along and pushed them  into obscurity. Now, anyone who adds a passion for politics to a passion for firearms does not ask whether an assault rifle is of any use to them, they know only that they must spend as much as $2000 on one, to assert their Second Amendment rights. This would be comical if it weren't so damn deadly, and perhaps we'll be making progress when enough people see the hilarity of their actions.

Sic transit gloria saniae.

*Consider that 50 years ago, a much higher percentage of the population were veterans. That experience cures many people of a desire to play soldier, and I wonder if the fascination with assault weapons reflects unfulfilled military ambitions. In that case I have a suggestion: enlist.



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