Confidence in the System

Image via KTLA

Image via KTLA

Back in August, a pair of men in an SUV were being pursued by the LAPD, allegedly for reckless driving, when they decided to pull over onto a highway onramp. One of them got out of the car and opened fire on the police cruiser behind him with what the LA Times describes as a “high-powered, assault-type rifle.”

The men then sped off, trading gunfire with police in a mile-long “rolling gun battle” along the freeway before ultimately abandoning their vehicle and fleeing into an industrial area of South-Central. The LAPD called in a SWAT team, a pair of helicopters, and K9 units to hunt for them. After two hours, dogs found one man, unarmed and hiding in a dumpster; officers arrested him after disabling him with a flashbang and pepper spray.

As for the other suspect, who was still carrying his assault rifle, the LAPD found him, too, and moved to intercept with a BearCat armored personnel carrier. According to the LA Times, the man then “peppered the BearCat with bullets, striking [a] SWAT officer, before he was killed by return fire.” According to a police spokesperson, “Thank goodness we had that armored vehicle as a shield because a regular police cruiser would have been Swiss cheese.” Thank goodness – and thank the taxpayers, too, since that BearCat (one of the LAPD’s two) cost them $150,000. As for the make and model of the “rare” gun carried by the alleged shooter (since identified as Andre Maurice Jones), I can’t find an exact description in any reports, but if I had to guess I’d say it was a heavily modified SKS outfitted with a 75-round magazine, a weapon configuration that’s illegal under California law but which you can acquire easily enough, magazine included, for under $400.

Anyway, all this happened over a month ago, so why is it in the news today? Well, it seems that all those drivers whose commutes were disrupted by that gun battle and hours of subsequent evidence collection were re-routed through automated ExpressPass lanes – and then billed for it. Although the company which administers ExpressLane billing, Xerox Service, is working to undo the tolls, and is deeply apologetic for the inconvenience, people are nonetheless quite out of sorts. Said one commuter, “I know it’s just a buck, but it’s the principle of the thing. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the entire system.”

Yes. Of all the parts of this story, that one-dollar fee really is the thing that should inspire a crisis of confidence in “the entire system.”

2 thoughts on “Confidence in the System

  1. Lyndsy Simon

    You asserted that the weapon in question is one that “you can acquire easily enough”. That’s not the case, at least not in California. Weapons sold on Gunbroker must be shipped to a federally licensed dealer in the buyer’s state of residence.

    The easiest way for a California resident to acquire that gun would likely be to travel to a neighboring state and purchase it face to face. Doing that is a violation of both state and federal law.

    Finally, the SKS is not an “assault rifle”, as it is not select-fire. In fact, the SKS has no automatic fire mode whatsoever even in its original configuration as used by the militaries of Russia, China, and North Korea. It also doesn’t technically have a detachable magazine – it is designed to be loaded by pulling back the bolt, inserting a stripper clip, and pressing down to load 10 rounds at a time.

    1. Pat Blanchfield Post author

      Hi Lyndsy! Thanks for reading. I’ve shot my share of SKSes over the years – both Norinco and old-school Yugoslav ones – and am familiar with how transactions via FFLS on Gunbroker work; I include a link to the site just so a reader can get a sense of the pricepoint. Presumably the weapon used in this crime was either bought in a CA-legal configuration and then illegally modified, purchased at a gun show in another state, etcetera. Also, and this a material for another post, but as we both know, the definition of a what constitutes an assault rifle is contested – both as a technical category and as a legal kludge (viz. this article here on the history of the term, which goes all the way back to the Sturmgewehr and traces its use as a marketing term popularized by US weapons manufacturers, who were referring to semi-automatic weapons they wanted to give a “military” sexiness to). And finally, just for the record, and as I’m sure you also know, converting an SKS to full-auto is far from impossible, you can buy kits for this purpose (albeit broken into pieces for CYA-reasons) at gun shows easily enough, and conversion manuals like this one are available online and in print.


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