The Corner:

Wow--Rich Lowry over at National Review Online published an email from me in The Corner. He'd asked for letters about the soon-to-expire Assault Weapons Ban, and I wrote this:
"Dear Sir:

I'll leave aside the usual (and truthful) complaints about the AWB, as you'll get them from others. I want to address instead a current argument in favor of extending the ban. The Violence Policy center has put out a press release on the AWB that states that 41 of the 211 police officers slain between 1998 and 2001 were killed by assault weapons.

The argument is that these weapons therefore present a clear danger, and need tighter rather than looser regulation. There are several things to be said about this. I'll say three of them:

1) The VPC's definition of an assault weapon seems to be any semiautomatic longarm. This is actually a more coherent definition than the AWB uses, as it seems to look at cosmetics instead of function. As you will hear at length from others, there are many functionally identical weapons for sale on the market that, because of a plastic stock instead of a wood one, are banned by the AWB. The VPC is at least consistent in wanting to ban all weapons capable of similar function. The VPC report should be read, "41 of 211 dead policemen were killed by semiautomatic longarms."

2) But isn't that astonishing, given that longarms are used in such a tiny percentage of crimes? Well, not really. It's true that longarms are uncommonly used in criminal activity--I seem to recall it is something like two percent of gun crimes that involve longarms, but you'll want to check that number.

However, the statistic here is cops killed, not cops wounded or shot at. Longarms are (a) more accurate than sidearms, and (b) generally capable of defeating body armor. If the statistics were compiled in such a way as to show all occasions in which policemen were shot at, the percentages would be much smaller.

3) But so what? We're obviously ceeding the point that longarms are much more dangerous than handguns to serving police officers, right? Well, yes, obviously they are. They aren't particularly useful for crime, however, because they can't be easily concealed or carried (thus the tiny percentage of crimes which involve them). They certainly are a danger, but so are baseball bats. You don't ban everything that's dangerous.
Longarms are the weapons most useful for hunting, for home defense, and for militia service if--as it is no longer impossible to contemplate--a terrorist organization manages to create an emergency on a scale such that the militia would need to be raised. They are not useful for crime as a rule, though when they are used for crime their deadly nature does take a toll on serving policemen. As a rational matter, though, the VPC's position desires the banning or tight regulation of the least criminally-useful class of firearm: that is to say, it is a very far reaching proposal indeed."

"Task Force Viking":

Apparently led by US Special Forces, Task Force Viking uncovered that mobile bio-lab in Iraq. More to the point, though, they were the first forces on the ground in the north. A story about them, and the search for WMD, in the London Spectator.

Some thoughts and rumors about the recent bombings, from the Moscow Times.
Cool if True File:

An alleged plot between the United States and Iran to limit Hezbollah terrorism.
Looting and Violence in Iraq:

Shoot to kill looters? That was last Wednesday's story, one which sadly proved not to be true. It is necessary to get a handle on the chaos in Baghdad if anything positive is to come out of the business. However, there is no clear evidence that the US Army forces are going to take the steps necessary to command the city. Time is running out, as forces from Afghani mujahedeen to Iranian militants are occupying the city. The New Republic reports that Hezbollah has entered the city as well. The Army seems remarkably calm about all this. An official speaking anonymously said "`We have about a month to get that under control; after that, it will be too late.''
But a month seems to me a remarkable estimate.

It need not be this way: the emerging recovery of Mosul demonstrates that the looting can be stopped, although admittedly Mosul's commander had the advantage of using Force Recon Marines backed by a MEU (SOC). (An aside--you'll recall that a MEU (SOC) is a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable. See the archives of this blog if the concept isn't familiar to you: I did a piece on special operations forces on 24 April. MEU (SOC) is pronounced "Meew-sock," as if it were a cat toy instead of a horde of deadly warriors.) Something on that order needs to be dispatched to Baghdad, the rules of engagement need to be changed to permit the use of emphatic force, and it would be a good idea to see that Bremer has the authority he needs to command the military forces as well as the diplomatic efforts.