In this brief essay, I’ll be discussing three relatively new technologies that have been nearly as transformative to modern society as Gutenberg’s 1448 invention of the movable type printing press.
The Armalite Rifle (AR) family of selective fire and semi-auto rifles, pistols, and shotguns have become ubiquitous in the early 21st Century. They have been produced for the U.S. civilian market since 1959. There are an estimated two million new ARs produced each year for private use by American families. There are now roughly 20 million in residential closets and gun safes. Many of those ARs have changed hands — often multiple times. So it would be just about impossible to track down even half of them if they were ever banned. Civilian ownership of ARs keeps Americans roughly on par with contemporary infantrymen. This fulfills the intent of our Founding Fathers when they wrote the Second Amendment. They wanted us to be on an equal footing with “the king’s army”, and the AR has helped keep us there.
The M16/M4 and its civilian equivalents (such as the AR-15 and M4) come from the factory with a 30-round magazine. That is also the standard issue magazine for all branches of the U.S. military. So “30” is the answer when someone asks what is a standard capacity rifle magazine. That is NOT high capacity. And, in fact, anything less than 30 rounds should properly be termed a reduced-capacity magazine.
The presence of 20 million ARs and another 12 million+ other semi-auto rifles and carbines (M1 Carbines, Min1-14, AK, SKS, FN/FAL, HK, and hunting rifles like the Remington 742) make it just about impossible for a would-be tyrant to subdue the American populace. Thanks to the ubiquity of ARs, for the foreseeable future at least, America will be just about impossible to either invade or subjugate.
Just as the AR transformed rifle technology, the Glock has transformed handgun technology. The Glock 17 9mm was just the first of a plethora of polymer-framed striker-fired semi-auto centerfire handguns. Collectively, they are mass-produced, with tens of millions sold each year. These typically have 14-round to 17-round magazines. The original Glock Model 17 was accepted by the Austrian Army as their service pistol in 1983. The Glock 17 began to be marketed in the United States in 1986.
This Glock 17 comes from the factory with a 17-round magazine. So “17” is the answer when someone asks what is a standard capacity handgun magazine. That is NOT high capacity. And, in fact, anything less than 17 rounds should properly be termed a reduced-capacity magazine. The Glock brand is the best-selling handgun in America. They essentially own the law enforcement market. The Glock 19 (a semi-compact 9mm model) is the best-selling model purchased by the general populace, for self-defense — both in their homes and on the street. The Glock 19 comes from the factory with a 15-round magazine. But there are factory-made magazines as large as 33-round capacity that will fit both the Glock 17 and 19.
There are now dozens of other “Glock-like” striker-fired polymer frame pistols on the market including the S&W M&P, the SIG P320, and a slew of others from makers like Springfield Armory such as the XD, Hellcat, and Echelon. Permitless concealed carry is now legal in 26 states, and roughly 48 states now have “shall issue” carry permits. But a couple of states still make it so difficult that most citizens don’t even bother to try getting a permit. Thankfully, that is likely to change soon, given recent court decisions. Those states may drag their feet for a few years, but inevitably they must begin issuing permits to their citizenries.
For most of the 20th Century, many state governments experimented in discouraging concealed carry. That was a colossal failure. But in the 21st Century, most states have now conceded that We The People have a right to both keep and bear arms. With the recent Heller and Bruen decisions, the Supreme Court has strongly affirmed that right. So it is just a matter of time before most state and Federal gun laws are repealed. One important benefit of more widespread concealed carry is the fact that most criminals and terrorists can no longer assume that they will be going up against unarmed victims. We shoot back. And increasingly, we do so quite well.
Starting with pocket cellular phones, and eventually smartphones, people all around the world have changed the way that they interact. Smartphones represent amazing technology. Ponder this: They combine a cellphone, GPS, a microcomputer, an MP3 music player, a still photo digital camera, a stopwatch, a pager, a video camera, a web browser, a social media platform, an e-book reader, a document scanner, and a flashlight, all in the palm of your hand. But I’ll be blunt and provide you this definition forthrightly: A smartphone is a device that allows for surveillance, audio monitoring, and the continuous tracking of its user. A bonus feature is that it can also be used to make phone calls.
Here is an important hint: Don’t buy any cellphone unless it has a battery that is easily removable so that you can go into stealth mode, as needed. Are you planning to attend a gun show, establish (or check on) a cache, or attend a controversial political meeting? Either leave your phone at home, or remove its battery before you depart.
If you believe that you safely live in a “remote” area where there is minimal electronic surveillance, then take a look at Wigle.net. They’ve now logged and geolocated one billion routers. It gives me some anxiety to see that amateur “wardrivers” have mapped and identified an estimated 98% of the wireless routers in the country. (The other 2% are either in hidden a.k.a. “invisible” mode or they are so far off of publicly accessible roads that they haven’t been detected.) So, here is another hint: All of your routers and hotspots should be set to hidden mode!
A Tool For Liberty
Though smartphone surveillance can degrade our liberty, these devices can also be used as a tool to enhance our liberty. They empower private citizens in a way that is somewhat analogous to privately-owned firearms. In 2014, just as smartphones were becoming ubiquitous, my son Robert and I launched The Constitution First Amendment Press Association (CFAPA). The goal of CFAPA was to turn America’s citizenry into a legion of citizen journalists. With a built-in video camera, the Smartphone was the enabling technology. CFAPA makes free press credentials available to any responsible adult citizen in the 50 States. I’m pleased to report that hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded press credentials from CFAPA. With those credentials in hand, we are dissolving the barrier between “the press” and “the people.” Hopefully, within a few years, police officers and other public officials will no longer attempt to command: “You can’t take pictures or shoot video here.” Such phrases are already being spoken less and less. The fact is — and the Supreme Court has affirmed — there is no expectation of privacy in a public place. An increasing number of public interactions are now being recorded by citizen journalists. We The People, in the Internet Age, Are The Free Press!
These new technologies bring with them some challenges. We need to be vigilant about preserving our God-given liberties. We cannot allow ourselves to become overly dependent on new tech, nor should we shun having too much tech. Going Full Luddite would be a mistake.
Pick and choose the technologies that you use, and the extent that you use them. Maximize their benefits and minimize their hazards. Don’t become a slave to your smartphone. Don’t get caught up in doomscrolling or develop a social media addiction. Like any other technology, an AR, a Glock, or a Smartphone can be tools for good OR for evil. The choice is up to you, and your conscience. – JWR
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