One of these things is not like the others…


Unless they are…

Note: This is the first Around the Block post in over a month. Why? For a number of reasons. I’ve been busy doing research for a collection of short stories I’m writing. I’ve also been catching up on both my leisure and educational reading. But most of all, the lapse in posting Around the Block commentary is that I’ve discovered that there’s not much I can add to what’s already been written and/or discussed in the past several weeks. Perhaps it’s fatigue. Perhaps it’s because Trump is gone. Perhaps it’s simply that the litany of GOP/right-wing lies, duplicity, mendacity, not to mention down-right stupidity, is just numbing. Maybe a break was just what I needed. Having said all that, the events of the last few days changed things. While I can’t promise that today’s post will herald a new, more consistent Around the Block – which might be good news for many of you (although there might be a second one to be posted in the next day or so – which might be bad news for many of you). But, perhaps it will herald a new chapter in this blog: occasional musings on what piques or, rather, discomposes my interests.

Many of you may remember the great Sesame Street song, “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others.”

Incongruously, I thought of that song as I watched, and then read, the coverage of yet another mass shooting in America, this time in Boulder, Colorado.

I read that the shooter wrecked his deadly havoc using an AR-15 “pistol.” Actually, his weapon of choice was a “Ruger AR-556 pistol,” a “pistol” version of Ruger’s AR-556 rifle, which is the company’s take on the AR-15. Aside from being among the most popular firearms in America, AR-15-style rifles are also commonly used in high-profile mass shootings.

According to Ben Markus of Colorado Public Radio, “The pistol AR-15/AR-556 is a little lighter, a little less expensive and, for some gun enthusiasts, a little more fun to shoot*, while still being as deadly as other guns. The confusion around it extends to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In the waning days of the Trump administration, that agency opened a comment period to talk about better defining what makes a pistol a pistol. They abandoned the effort after just five days when they were inundated by complaints from the gun industry and enthusiasts worried they were going to lose the right to buy it.”

(*Thanks Ben for letting us know that these killing machines are “a little more fun to shoot.”)

Why is the Ruger AR-556 a pistol and not a rifle?

Firearms are defined and categorized at the federal level under the Gun Control Act, which was passed in 1968. That Act defines a pistol as a weapon intended to fire a bullet with a short stock that is “designed to be gripped by one hand.” The photos that accompany the definition on the ATF’s website show a common depiction of a pistol, not the longer-barreled weapon bought by the Boulder killer.

A rifle is defined under the Act as a weapon intended “to be fired from the shoulder. The definition doesn’t note anything about the length of a barrel, meaning longer pistols like the Ruger AR-556 that mirror a rifle can still be categorized as a pistol if it meets the criteria.

So, what did our ingenious gun manufacturers do? They came up with a workaround to the criteria.

Pistols are not regulated by barrel length. But pistols cannot have buttstocks and are typically not fired from the shoulder. To get around the rule that a rifle, but not a pistol, has a “buttstock, they equipped these “pistols” with a “Pistol Stabilizing Brace” which allows the “pistol” to be fired like a, well, you know, a RIFLE!!

With 18 innocent people murdered by men with guns (8 in Georgia; 10 in Colorado) in the last two weeks, we will now begin the great American legislative dance, the “Gun Control Waltz.” Unfortunately, after that waltz ends with no passed laws, I fear that the next mass killing will bring us the “Assault Weapons Ban Cha-Cha-Cha” and then the “Gun Purchase Waiting Period Merengue”…and the band plays on.

I couldn’t end without going back to the song that precipitated this rant. With regard to the gun issue, at least, the Sesame Street folks got one thing wrong – the second line, “One of these things just doesn’t belong.” For our purposes today, it needs to modified (grammar be damned):


Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy. Besides writing Around the Block, Ted is also a guest columnist for the Palm Beach Post.

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