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Surprise! The Texas Shooter and the Ukraine Military Get Their AR-15s From the Same Place
Like many pundits, Michael McFaul took a quick break this past week from his usual area of “expertise.” Instead of pontificating 24/7 about the need to funnel massive amounts of uncontrolled arms into Ukraine, he adroitly pivoted to pontificating about the need to more stringently control arms in the US. McFaul, a former Ambassador to Russia who is currently working with the Ukraine government to formulate war-related policy recommendations, issued the following command:
Few figures on the punditry scene are more adept at getting themselves into comical face-plant scenarios than McFaul — or more useful at highlighting unexamined contradictions of the yammering liberal commentariat. In this instance, McFaul demonstrates why he and likeminded commentators are so steadfastly determined to compartmentalize their positions on foreign policy versus domestic policy. Because it would apparently never even occur to McFaul that there might be some tension between his passionate calls to aggressively curtail gun circulation in the US, and his similarly passionate calls to circulate a giant number of guns in Ukraine.
McFaul and company demand both policies with roughly equal ardor, voicing them in the standard register that has come to define almost all left-liberal advocacy: “this thing must be done right now or everyone will die.” Meanwhile, they evince not even a hint of awareness that the positions could represent contradictory impulses. On the one hand, they want to ensure that the American populace is prevented from obtaining certain high-powered rifles. On the other hand, they want to ensure that the Ukrainian populace is enabled to obtain these same high-powered rifles. Both positions somehow manage to co-exist seamlessly alongside one another, like two of those inflatable tube things floating merrily downstream — never even coming close to clashing.
Is it possible that any contradictions between these stances could be resolved with some sort of reasoning or argumentation? Sure, it’s possible. A liberal who holds both positions could theoretically argue something along the lines of: “In the case of Ukraine, my purported belief in the sacrosanct necessity of gun control is superseded by my belief that unlimited, unregulated, uncontrollable proliferation of guns in Eastern Europe is necessary to Defend Democracy.” Or whatever — something to that effect. And then followup counter-arguments could be raised, such as: “Shouldn’t the mass proliferation of uncontrolled guns in Ukraine, which is occurring as a result of the policy you favor, call into question how vehemently you really value the principle of gun control? Because if the policy you favor in Ukraine is totally inimical to your stated belief in the absolute paramount necessity of gun control, shouldn’t that at least raise the bar for whether the Ukraine policy is justified?” And so on.
The point being, tensions between these two counterposing positions would at least require some argumentation to resolve. But what makes today’s McFaul-style advocacy so notable is the complete and total obliviousness to any such tension even existing in the first place. As they issue their emotionally-heated policy demands, most Democrats appear to have no concept whatsoever that there might be some discordance between their desire to increase regulation on gun ownership at home, while simultaneously obliterating any regulation on gun ownership abroad. Members of the media, the activist class, and the wider punditocracy lack even the basic cognizance that would be needed to broach the subject. So, as usual, the McFaul-style advocates just barrel zealously forward, demanding these two policy prescriptions with equal, unmitigated gusto — without anyone ever pausing to ask for clarification.
And there are plenty of good reasons why clarification might be sought. Here’s how an investigator for Amnesty International reacted to one of the many influxes of weapons to Ukraine ushered in recently by Congress and the Biden Administration. (Yes, the batches include thousands and thousands of assault rifles):
Does anyone feel as if these guns rapidly pouring into Ukraine are being subjected to adequate “control”? Because whenever US officials are given an opportunity to speak candidly on the topic, they grudgingly admit the weapons are dropping into what they call “a big black hole.” Which gives the strong impression that no “controls” are being applied, at least according to the criteria that would ordinarily be demanded by gun control proponents.
And yet amidst the frantic cries for domestic “gun control,” US policy continues to facilitate less “control” of guns entering key foreign markets. The newly-revived “Lend-Lease” law — enacted with near-universal backing from Congress — provides for certain Ukraine-specific exemptions from the Arms Export Control Act, the main statutory mechanism for “end-use monitoring of defense articles and defense services” that the US sends abroad. As one “defense” industry trade publication put it, the main allure of the new Lend-Lease law is that it “will trim the bureaucracy” involved in getting weapons to Ukraine as quickly as possible — eschewing the usual types of restrictions which would ordinarily govern these shipments.
So here we have Michael McFaul appealing to every gun manufacturer in the US to stop producing the AR-15. Plenty of Democrats and liberal pundits echo this exact sentiment: that the US must cease disseminating so-called “weapons of war,” lest they continue getting into the wrong hands. Special ire has been directed at Daniel Defense, the Georgia-based company that manufactures the AR-15 style rifle used by the school shooter in Uvalde, Texas. McFaul implores them to halt production.
Does McFaul know that this would also halt the production of AR-15 shipments to the Ukraine government? Because they get their rifles from the same place the Uvalde shooter did: Daniel Defense. The Ukraine Border Guard — which has been on the front-line of some of the war’s most fierce fighting — revealed as much in a statement announcing their conversion from shoddy old Kalashnikovs to a new modern rifle called the “UAR-15.” The parts for these new rifles come straight from the US, they proudly revealed: “The barrel and the trigger mechanism, on which the accuracy of firing directly depends, are made in the USA by the Daniel Defense company,” the statement reads.
Photos posted on the subreddit dedicated to fans of Daniel Defense purportedly show unidentified pro-Ukraine fighters posing on the battlefield with the exact same model that the Uvalde shooter used:
A website for Special Ops impresarios describes the fancy new Ukraine rifle as such: “The new addition to the small arms inventory of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is a UAR-15 (Zbroyar Z-15), which, as you can easily guess, is one of the many clones of the AR-15.” The site further notes that “American company Daniel Defense obtained the license” on behalf of a Ukrainian company “to produce weapons based on the worldwide AR-15 and AR-10 systems.” Daniel Defense, it would seem, is critical to this ongoing campaign to “Defend Democracy”!
And it’s not just this one newly-reviled company. A smaller manufacturer, Adams Arms, has been celebrated for delivering “more than 1,000 piston driven, semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles into Ukraine for civilian use” since the war started. They even put out press releases touting these shipments, indicating that they thought their pro-Ukraine disposition would be good for business — and were showered with laudatory media coverage for their efforts. Is McFaul saying he wants to shut down Adams Arms, thereby preventing them from continuing to ship rifles into Ukraine?
There have even been photos of Azov Battalion fighters brandishing the despised AR-15s…
I realize people will nonetheless insist that there is just no conceivable tension at all between the indiscriminate dumping of guns into a warzone, and the demand that these same guns be strenuously controlled in the US. But that’s just a testament to how carefully the two issues have been compartmentalized, as is very often the case with foreign policy and domestic policy.
Dreaded gun industry lobbying outfits have even released helpful tip-sheets for domestic US manufacturers, detailing how these companies can secure the necessary authorization to “donate” guns, ammo, and other equipment directly to Ukraine. One would assume McFaul also yearns for this practice to be shut down. But chances are, he’s never thought the matter through. Like most others shrieking for the AR-15 to be proscribed, while at the same time shrieking for AR-15s to be ferried off to the Donbas, the connections between foreign and domestic policy have never crossed their minds. They might be shocked to discover that even the relentlessly demonized NRA has found common ground with McFaul and ilk. As an NRA spokesperson told the Washington Times: “The NRA and our members support the efforts of firearms and ammunition manufacturers helping the people of Ukraine.”
Remington, the gun manufacturer that’s been sued into bankruptcy after being found liable for the Sandy Hook school shooting — because the perpetrator used a gun they produced — has also joined the frenzy to arm Ukraine:
Do McFaul and his ideological peers want to shut down Remington’s ability to send boatloads of bullets to those brave warriors fighting on the frontlines of Democracy?
There’s obviously no direct, concrete, empirically-verifiable connection between the recent mass shootings in the US and the ongoing military escalation in Ukraine. But at one point, it was at least contemplated that US foreign policy could have some extenuating role in conditioning a certain subset of the population toward excess violence. In Bowling for Columbine, which became the most financially successful documentary of all time when it was released in 2002, Michael Moore makes the case that the prevalence of mass shootings in the US is not exclusively or even primarily explainable by the availability of guns.
Moore cites what he says are comparable rates of gun ownership in the US and Canada — and the far lesser prevalence of mass shootings in Canada — as reason to believe that other cultural and political pathologies unique to the US are to blame. In the movie, Moore goes out of his way to note that on the day of the Columbine shooting, April 20, 1999, Bill Clinton dropped more bombs on Yugoslavia than were dropped on any other day of that particular war. Moore further explained his theory about the prevalence of gun-related violence in the US by reference to cultural attitudes, such as those which say “It’s OK to reach for the gun whenever you have to resolve a dispute. Whether it’s personally with your neighbor, or someone in your family. Or whether it’s with Saddam Hussein.”
I don’t bring up this aspect of the Bowling for Columbine thesis to assert that Moore is 100% correct — only to point out that the connection between US foreign policy and mass shooting events at least used to be commonly discussed, including by the most successful documentary-maker of all time. And yet today, if you even mention the US shipping high-powered rifles into Ukraine as a potentially relevant factor to consider when talking about gun control in the US, you’ll draw blank stares. And that’s if you’re lucky. More likely, you’ll draw angry reproaches from people who are indignant that you’d dare to “go there,” when the only place you should be going is to support the latest 10-point plan for gun control furnished by one of Mike Bloomberg’s lavishly funded advocacy groups.
Since Bowling for Columbine came out two decades ago, a few mass shootings have given some credence to Moore’s thesis. In 2018, a veteran of the Afghanistan war named Ian David Long killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, before killing himself. According to a report by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Long was “a machine gunner in the US Marine Corps who had true combat experience while serving in Afghanistan,” having fought there from 2010 to 2011 — the period when the “surge” orchestrated by Barack Obama and David Petraeus produced more US casualties than at any other point of the 20-year war. According to the Sheriff’s report, ex-girlfriends of Long attested that he was “suffering emotionally from witnessing the travesties of war,” and was afflicted with PTSD. In the year or so before the shooting, he had become heavily isolated. Investigators concluded Long was motivated by “strong disdain for civilians, or individuals not associated with any branch of the US military,” in particular college students — hence his decision to target a “College Night” at the bar.
That’s one example of US foreign policy potentially having some conceivable bearing on a mass shooting. And you could go back further; one of the first mass shooters of the modern era, Charles Whitman, honed his skills as a Marine sharpshooter before firing at random from atop the Clock Tower on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, all the way back in 1966.
So yes, sometimes there are theoretical connections that can be posited between US foreign policy and mass shootings, like a society-wide habituation to violence, as was suggested by Michael Moore. Sometimes you can get a little more tangible, as when an Afghanistan vet with PTSD shoots up a college bar. And sometimes you can even draw connections between the actual rifle used, such as when the Texas school shooter got his AR-15 from the same US company that also produces the AR-15 used by elements of the Ukraine armed forces. Don’t hold your breath for any “national conversation” about that latter connection, though.
Because all the while, Michael McFaul continues to spout off his desire to “increase arms to Ukraine,” even as he simultaneously calls for the shuttering of US gun manufacturer production lines — which would result in the cessation of arms being sent into Ukraine. But yeah, no tension at all between these dueling positions. Sure thing.