[NOTE: 1 Feb. 2013 11:45 pm. I have added an ADDENDUM to this post]
I’ve long been amused — starting way before the current episode of gun control frenzy — with the careless, uninformed errors that characterize so much writing about guns. I even used to keep a file of such things as mystery and thriller authors having their hero or villain click the safety on or off on their Glock (Glocks don’t have manual safeties), but it got too large and I gave up.
You, or at least I, expect gun errors in the New York Times and similar publications (some of which I discussed here) — guns, after all, are an important artifact of a culture the Times finds alien and threatening and wishes was extinct — but I was surprised to see them this morning in the first (and generally quite interesting) installment of a two-part series on guns by Carl Cannon, the Washington editor for Real Clear Politics.
First let me say that the errors I am about to mention are not humdingers of the “Glock safety” variety, they are not fatal flaws in Cannon’s article, and that Cannon obviously is knowledgeable enough to recognize typical expressions of Glock ignorance, such as Glock’s “public relations boost from the movie ‘Die Hard 2,’ in which tough police detective John McClane actually talks about the gun.”
“That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me,” says the detective, played by Bruce Willis. “You know what that is? It’s a porcelain gun made in Germany. Doesn’t show up on your airport X-ray machines, and it cost more than you make in a month.”
Cannon commendably recognizes that “[e]very statement describing the Glock in that scene is wrong,” as indeed they are. There is not now and never has been a “Glock 7”; it is not made in Germany; it is not made of porcelain; it does show up on airport X-ray machines (because its slide and barrel are steel); and it is relatively inexpensive. But unfortunately his own account is also tarnished by a couple of mistakes and one rather curious aside.
Discussing the “deadly and ubiquitous Glock 19,” Cannon writes:
The latter was designed in the 1980s by an Austrian engineer named Gaston Glock, a man who truly built a better — and deadlier — mousetrap.
His firearms were lighter than handguns normally used by police in the U.S. (typically a Smith & Wesson snub-nose .38 or a .357 Magnum) and had half as many parts. Because it is so much lighter, the gun has less recoil, which makes its more accurate, and it can hold 17 bullets instead of the six or seven in the average revolver.
First, the standard magazines of the Glock 19, the ones supplied with the pistol, hold 15, not 17, rounds (though it can accept the higher capacity magazines of other Glock models). More substantially, insofar as Glocks recoil less than other handguns, it is not because they are lighter. In fact, of two handguns of the same caliber loaded with the same ammunition, the lighter gun will recoil more, not less, than the heavier one. True, a snub-nose .357 Magnum will generate much more recoil than a Glock 9mm, but not because the gun is heavier. The .357 Magnum is simply a much more powerful round.
Finally, Cannon concludes by stating, “The right to bear firearms, if it is a right — and if that right is derived from the U.S. Constitution — is not a right to hunt deer or go skeet-shooting.” He’s right; the right is not limited to hunting or skeet shooting; and he’s also right that some Second Amendment enthusiasts emphasize its role in enabling citizens to protect themselves “from an overreaching or tyrannical central government,” although my sense is that most of that analysis is concerned with original intent.
Perhaps Cannon’s second installment will explain what he means by the otherwise inexplicably odd and discordant “if it is a right — and if that right is derived from the U.S. Constitution.”
I’ve just re-read Cannon’s article, and there’s something else about it that bothers me. I’m tempted to call it Glockaphobia — demonizing Glock pistols in much the same manner gun controllers and their friends in the mainstream press demonize “assault rifles,” and with the same flaws: Glocks, like the “assault rifles” that are so widely owned, are functionally indistinguishable from other semi-automatics.
Cannon, however, writes of Glocks as though they are especially, singularly evil. He writes approvingly that the Washington-based Violence Policy Center “quite properly described” Glocks as “efficient killing machines.” Well of course they are; they’re deadly weapons. But they are no more efficient at killing than any other semi-automatic pistol on the market, many of which come with even higher capacity magazines than Glocks.
He describes one of the weapons used by Seung-Hui Cho in the mass shooting at Virginia Tech as “the deadly and ubiquitous Glock 19.” Again, of course it was deadly, but the only way it was deadlier than Cho’s other weapon, a Walther semi-automatic, is that it was a 9mm and the Walther a .22.
As I quote above, Cannon writes that the Glock pistol “was designed in the 1980s by an Austrian engineer named Gaston Glock, a man who truly built a better — and deadlier — mousetrap.” Glocks are fine pistols and no doubt deserve their striking success in both the police and civilian markets, but they are no “better” and no “deadlier” than semi-autos made by Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Beretta, Ruger, Heckler and Koch, Kahr, Springfield, and a host of others — just as AR-15s available to the public are no deadlier than any other semi-automatic rifle (and less deadly than the many available in bigger calibers).