The Guardian

The Guardian April 12, 2000


Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Gun-nut's dream

It can shoot three bullets in 1/500th of a second, at its fastest firing 
rate it pumps out bullets at the unimaginable rate of close to 60,000 a 
minute (that's one thousand a second), and it's designed and built 
right here in Australia.

The bullets are apparently stacked in line up the barrel. An electronic 
pulse travels through all the bullets sending off the last in the line the 
moment the one in front of it has left. The extreme speed is needed to make 
the weapon accurate.

The prototype handgun shown to the press on April 4 has one barrel and 
holds only seven bullets.

But Metal Storm, the colourfully-named Brisbane company that invented this 
little horror, has plans for a multi-barrelled version capable of firing 
anything from a single shot to a single barrel-load to a hail of bullets 
from every barrel.

Presumably this accounts for the handgun's ludicrously North American name 
of "Variable Lethality Law Enforcement" (VLLE) electronic gun. What does 
"Variable Lethality" mean? At its lowest setting it misses a lot?

Lethal  like pregnant  is not a condition that lends itself to 
"variability", so we must assume that VLLE means that one shot from the 
weapon may not kill you but at its highest setting a full load of bullets 
will cut you to ribbons.

They will collect your remains with a broom and a shovel.

A gun-nut's wet dream, this nasty is being marketed to people who 
specialise in killing other people: US police forces  where else? Sounds 
just the thing for making mincemeat of innocent unarmed black tourists (a 
police specialty of late in New York).

The company already has designs and prototypes for military versions in the 
form of rifles/machine guns intended for sale to the US army. Presumably 
the company hopes to capture the helicopter gunship market as well.

The US Department of Defence has also asked them to develop a prototype 
Advanced Sniper Rifle.

Makes you proud to be an Australian, doesn't it? The company was floated on 
the stock exchange last year and the report of its latest killing device 
was carried (with a huge photo) on the business pages of The 
Australian.

After all, there's got to be money in anything that merges current 
favourite high-tech with old-time favourite armaments, don't 
you think?

* * *
Play money
If any further proof was needed that the share market no longer bares any real relationship to the actual value of the companies whose shares are being traded (more correctly, speculated in), the chaos in high-tech and internet stocks last week should do the trick. Investors buy stocks not because they believe the company concerned produces something of benefit to the world or even something that will be popular. They invest solely because they believe that that particular stock for a wide variety of reasons, some sensible, some trivial, some ludicrous will rise in price. The rise may not be permanent or even long lasting, but if they can sell while it is still on an upward curve, they will make a profit on the transaction. An increasing number of investors in the US are borrowing money to engage in this speculation. It's called margin borrowing: you borrow the money, buy shares, the shares go up, you sell them, repay the loan and pocket the profit (the margin). Of course, if the shares go down, as so much Nasdaq-listed stock went down last week, then you have to make good the loss in order to repay your loan. The US stock market now has a huge exposure to margin borrowing: some US$265 billion has been loaned to investors to use in speculating on stocks and shares (that's $435 billion Australian). Margin borrowing has increased by 85 percent in one year and has gone up 45 percent in the last four months alone. If people were recommended to "invest" in speculating on the outcome of roulette games at a casino, most would regard the "investment" as strictly a gamble and certainly less than sound. And yet gambling is what the present grossly over-priced stock market is currently all about. The constant propaganda about "the market", with the rise and fall of "the All Ordinaries" and their ilk being reported nightly on the news like the cricket scores, that in the USA, at least, an estimated 50 percent of people have shares! When the crash comes and under capitalism it will come it will be like nothing that has ever been seen before.

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