United States — August 13, 2012 1:27 pm

For Lives and Liberty: Banning Assault Weapons in America

By

We’ve reached a tipping point in the debate over gun control in America. Twelve died in the shooting in Aurora, Colo.; thirteen at Fort Hood in Texas; six in Tucson, Ariz.; and seven in Oak Creek, Wis. In news less publicized, there were 1.8 million emergency department visits for assault in 2011. Of those, 11,500 civilians would die from firearm homicides. Given recent tragedy upon tragedy, perhaps it’s finally “appropriate” to discuss gun policy in America, and in particular, the unnecessary and harmful role of assault weapons in society.

Assault rifles make up only 1.7 percent of all guns in America. Their function in society is dispensable. A 2005 Gallup poll found that 67 percent of gun owners carried firearms for protection, 66 percent for target shooting, and 58 percent for hunting. None of these activities—the three most popular for gun users—requires assault weapons. They are inaccurate, highly visible, and bulky. Given assault weapons’ limited practicality, why even involve the risk?

President Obama visiting victims of the Aurora shooting

Proponents of assault rifles may claim a ban on guns violates Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Other supporters perceive any gun control laws as unnecessary restrictions on American freedom. Some also fear an aggressive ban would spawn the creation of a black market, and have limited impact. The three arguments carry little weight.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution stipulates, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Guns were deemed legal not to secure personal liberties, but to provide for the state’s collective defense. Yet America no longer maintains statewide militias connected to the federal government; rather, we depend upon a standing army for defense.

Even the claim that banning assault weapons would limit Americans’ freedoms is largely unsubstantiated. If anything, I’d argue the reverse. Legalized high-powered weaponry forces public safety agencies, mainly the FBI, to attempt to monitor more civilian activity. On its domestic terrorism homepage, the FBI states that a major part of its job is “preventing homegrown attacks before they are hatched.” Their mission would involve, in theory, extensive research into the lives of many who purchase assault weapons or massive amounts of ammunition, even if both purchases were made legally, as in the case of Aurora shooter James Holmes. WHAT ABOUT IN PRACTICE?

In addition, a ban would help public safety agencies root out domestic terror threats more effectively. Instead of worrying about the intent of certain assault rifle owners, agencies could go after all assault weapons, period. Individual privacy and independence would increase, as would America’s collective security.

Assault weapons provide a clear and present danger to society which far outweighs the threat of a black market. According to one estimate, assault weapons may be involved in up to 7 percent of homicides. According to the FBI’s handbook on gun regulations, an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle based loosely on the military’s M-16, “will fire automatically merely by manipulation of the selector or removal of the disconnector.” With relative ease, assault rifles can be made to mimic weapons of war. Their potential for destruction is staggering.

James Holmes’ shooting in Aurora lasted for, at most, a minute and a half. Within two minutes, twenty-five police officers had responded to the scene. Within six minutes, over two hundred officers swarmed the theater. Despite the limited time, Holmes killed twelve viewers and injured fifty-eight others. Scarier still, Holmes’ .223 caliber assault weapon, a semi-automatic AR-15, jammed during the shooting. When we hear about the massacre in Aurora, we must remember only twelve were killed. An AR-15 is capable of carrying a 100-round drum magazine and of shooting between 50 and 60 bullets per minute. It’s incredibly fortunate more lives were not lost.

Following violent tragedies, the media often tends to focus on the perpetrator and any victims. We know much about James Holmes’ personal life and possible motivations, as we do about Jared Loughner (the Tucson shooter), Nidal Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter), and Wade Page (the Oak Creek shooter). In parallel, news stories flood the airwaves about weeping families and distraught communities. Reform is discussed, debated, and far too often ignored. Gradually, life moves on. Society is so intent on searching for new heroes and answers, we take for granted the heroes we live with everyday: police officers, medics, and other first-responders. These brave men and women serve America, yet as a country, we have a bizarre way of expressing gratitude.

In 2004, Congress failed to renew the Federal Assault Weapons Ban originally passed in 1994 under President Clinton. Since the law’s expiration, police deaths from gunshot wounds have increased substantially. In 2009, 49 police officers died from gunfire, a 24 percent increase from 2008. In 2010, 61 officers were shot and killed, a 37 percent increase from 2009. And in 2011, 68 officers died from gunfire. In fact, 2011 represents the first year of the past 14 years when the leading cause of on-duty police officer death was from gunfire and not from traffic fatalities.

As a society, we choose to arm our police officers. Yet, if we allow both officers and criminals to obtain high-powered weaponry, we’re simply asking for death and instability. Banning assault weapons would not only save civilian lives, but also would help protect police officers on duty. The move would allow for tighter, more aggressive enforcement of the law. The fight against assault weapons should be framed not as a limitation of rights, but as a stand against criminality and criminal violence. The net benefit to society is positive.

On multiple levels, a renewed ban on assault weapons seems a commonsense approach to curtailing gun violence. Would all mass killings stop and the crime rate drop instantly? Likely not. Public education efforts would help further, as would improved techniques to identify and treat mentally disabled individuals. Nonetheless, banning assault weapons is a step forward—it’s a measure against crime, against homicide, against terrorism, against fear. It’s a measure in favor of personal liberties for all Americans.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

  • ShadrachSmith

    We passed the tipping point some time ago, and the 2nd Amendment won (See: McDonald v. Chicago).

    If you want to worry about gun control, how did Obama lose control of a couple thousand cartel-grade guns in Fast and Furious. That is what needs to be investigated, and Obama is now stonewalling subpoenas about the creation of Fast and Furious on the basis of privileged deliberations. Before the subpoenas arrived Obama claimed he never heard of it.

    This is not a winning issue because the right to own guns is a good idea, politically popular, and Obama has blood on his hands.

  • true american

    Guns will get in to criminals hands no matter what. You could ban guns all together and you would see the murder rate raise exponentially. What happened when Hitler took all guns and made them illegal? The public had no way to defend themselves. The government fears a society with freedom and as soon as you start losing that freedom is when you have given your life to the government, not your country. Oh and by the way, only approximately 60% of the parts in an M-16 and an AR-15 are the same. If you remove the disconnecter in an ar-15 then the gun will not fire, there is also no “selector” on an ar-15.

  • Sean

    First i’d like to state that my heart goes out to the family members and victims of the shooting. Obviously it is as you stated a tragedy and everyone wishes that things like this never happen.

    About the article I found quite a few things bothersome. For one this article is completely full of fallacies. You are uneducated about your topic and don’t quote any of your sources. Try not to speak in absolutes when trying to convey a point. You’d probably reach a wider audience.

  • Patriot

    “The Second Amendment of the Constitution stipulates, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Guns were deemed legal not to secure personal liberties, but to provide for the state’s collective defense. Yet America no longer maintains statewide militias connected to the federal government; rather, we depend upon a standing army for defense”

    Whoever wrote this needs to take a Constitution class and understand the real meaning of the 2nd. The colonist had essentially the same types of firearms that the the British troops had. If the government today has ar-15′s and joe and mary citizen has pistols and shotguns….how will that provide protection against a tyrannical government if citizens are not armed the same as the government????????????????

    Taking so called “assault weapons” away from law abiding, licensed citizens will only give government more power to implement tyranny. The founders context was that citizens should be as well armed as the government.

    You also say that militias are not needed anymore. Where does it say in the founders documents that there should be a time that militias should cease to exist?????? You are right, America no longer maintains state wide militias…..this is the problem!!!!

    Remember, the Continental Army was already organized when the Constitution was created. People had better read and learn your history before you try to impose your tyrannical, anti-gun, socialist world view.

  • Patriot

    CO does have conceal carry laws, BUT, the theater specifically had “No guns allowed” signs. So, it was a “no gun zone” . How did that turn out??? The lunatic murderer must not have seen the sign indicating that it was a gun free zone???

    For all you commenting how a CCW holder could have negotiated the smoke and dark and perhaps actually shot the perpetrator. Well, if a person trains with their firearm and knows how to use it, don’t you think there may have been at least a better chance at stopping more carnage???

    The key is training. I advocate anyone who is licensed to carry a firearm, should be required to do so many hours of actual training with that firearm.

    Do you think the CO shooter would have had his rampage interrupter if someone was shooting back at him??? I guarantee it. But, sadly, no one shot back, thus allowing him to continue on his murderous rampage. A trained gun owner, may have very well saved many lives that night.

    Criminals do not obey “No Gun Zone” signs. And, the police will never be there to protect you from evil, which can happen anytime, anywhere.

  • ur dum

    Yea maybe if guns were allowed in places like that someone might actually have one when they need it the most. Dont blame the guns. The only reason you live in a great society like this is because of assault like weapons to defend against those that intend to use weapons harmfully towards their fellow man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.leach.36 Rebecca Leach

    Criminals won’t care if assault rifles are banned, that’s why they call them CRIMINALS. HELLO!!! Oh, btw, I DO believe in gun control……give me my gun and i’ll control it. Besides that, its not the GUN that’s dangerous……it’s the people BEHIND the gun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.leach.36 Rebecca Leach

    Criminals won’t care if assault rifles are banned, that’s why they call them CRIMINALS. HELLO!!! Oh, btw, I DO believe in gun control……give me my gun and i’ll control it. Besides that, its not the GUN that’s dangerous……it’s the people BEHIND the gun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1665747614 James Johnson

    There is always a Militia in the States, even if not formally made out to be so. Jefferson commented in a letter to fellow philosopher, Destutt de Tracy, “The governor is constitutionally the commander of the Militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms.”

  • Miles Buroqe

    YOU ARE ALL GAY

  • guinnessman

    The CO shooting was not a failure of gun control but success of gun control. out of the 500+ people only one person has a gun. For liberals 1-500 is a victory and not its out come.

  • RiskyJim

    Look at crime on the whole. Since the assault weapons ban expired, violent crime has decreased, not increased. In states where there are stricter gun bans and state assault weapons bans, crime has not decreased as much as the national rate. How do you explain that? Also, the statistics quoted in this article deal with only police related deaths with non-specific firearms, not just assault weapons. Just how is a law that bans assault weapons going to stop criminally involved shootings? Are violent criminals going to all of a sudden start paying attention to the very laws that they break routinely? Isn’t murder already illegal? Also the thought that taking guns away will somehow reduce gun violence makes as much sense as the war on drugs. Has banning illegal drugs stopped people from obtaining them? No, it hasn’t. The answer isn’t in the banning and restricting of guns, it is in the acceptance of personal responsibility. Be a good parent for your kids. Stay engaged with them and teach them right and wrong. Teach them that there are consequences to their actions and that they should treat others with respect and not contempt. The problem is not with animate objects (guns) but rather with our society. Stop blaming everyone and everything for all the bad things that befall us. Work for societal change and get to the root of WHY people turn to violence instead of blaming.

  • Bill

    There is no point in arguing gun control- anti gun people are anti gun and pro gun is pro gun. If needless loss of life is the question why is alcohol never brought up. There are just as many innocent people, including thousands of children, are killed every year by drunk drivers. I guess those deaths are not important. We tried banning alcohol and where did that go. And if I’m not mistaken so are drugs. Where are we with that too?

  • Anthony

    You’re a troll with a large platform to speak from. The addition of one descriptive word can distort facts beyond their actual meaning. Calling an assault rifle “inaccurate and bulky” in an attempt to show why they are uselessfor hunting is an uneducated attempt at fact.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526662903 George Patrick Shiflett

    you are a fool, first of all that operation started in 06 on Bushes watch Obama inherited it , and as far as keeping his mouth shut and using exec priv, is because of sensitive material not getting into the hands of a congress that can’t keep its big mouth shut , meaning people like Bohener who was busted in 07 for shooting his mouth off on a supreme court decision that was secrete, you cannot trust a congressman or a senator to keep his mouth shut if he thinks it will give him political points, when it comes to secretes politicians are the most traitorous individuals you can find , right there with the news media

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526662903 George Patrick Shiflett

    well i guess i will go out and buy a tank, it is with in my right to bear arms

  • RebuttalDick

    No the M-16 copied the design of the AR-15 and added full auto and a few other upgrades. I take it this jake mathews wrote this article that is full of falsified information. Look at everywjere in the world where they keep stats and have banned guns or greatly restrict the use thereof. England, illinois, california. Tell me where the high gun crime rates are.

  • RebuttalDick

    No the M-16 copied the design of the AR-15 and added full auto and a few other upgrades. I take it this jake mathews wrote this article that is full of falsified information. Look at everywjere in the world where they keep stats and have banned guns or greatly restrict the use thereof. England, illinois, california. Tell me where the high gun crime rates are.

  • KathyJ

    “Nonetheless, banning assault weapons is a step forward—it’s a measure against crime, against homicide, against terrorism, against fear. It’s a measure in favor of personal liberties for all Americans.”

    Arguing that a ‘ban on assault weapons is a measure in favor of personal liberties’ is unsupportable. May I refer to: David E.Young, Constitutional scholar and recognized authority on
    Founding Era Second Amendment developmental history and documents.

    “First and Second Amendment protections were
    always given the very strongest possible restrictive language –NO law shall be
    passed – shall make NO law – inviolable – NOT be deprived or abridged – NOT be
    restrained – shall NOT be infringed – nor shall the right be infringed – shall
    make NO laws touching – shall make NO laws to infringe. The Second Amendment’s
    “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall NOT be infringed”
    language was clearly NOT intended to allow for extensive reasonable regulation.
    Rather, it was intended to prevent all laws and regulations that would result
    in the people being deprived, abridged, restrained, narrowed, or restricted in
    the exercise of their fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”

    Also, do not forget the 1994 Supreme Court rulings, D.C. vs. Heller, and McDonald vs. Chicago. For Mr. Matthews to write such a claim is, in my view, subversive.

  • xdsxds

    I really cant believe they would let someone so misinformed write an article like this….not only is he clueless on firearms , but his take on civil rights are way off!! The first amendment gives him free speech, freedom from religious persecution, and freedom of the press…his second protects his first!!! They ratified these amendments to protect from a tyrannical government….maybe thats why the Constitution start with WE THE PEOPLE…..

  • Liberty Incarnate

    i personally think it a load of shit. The Article above is of a single sided libertarian group. I being from Louisiana where most everyone has assault rifles and plenty shotguns and pistols. Particularly near where I reside there is very little gun violence. Mainly be due to the fact most bad people with guns know that they are outmatched. I will never hesitate to put evil in the ground.. Weapons don’t assault people. People assault people. The only thing that can stop a evil person with a gun is a good person with a gun.

  • Liberty Incarnate

    i personally think it a load of shit. The Article above is of a single sided libertarian group. I being from Louisiana where most everyone has assault rifles and plenty shotguns and pistols. Particularly near where I reside there is very little gun violence. Mainly be due to the fact most bad people with guns know that they are outmatched. I will never hesitate to put evil in the ground.. Weapons don’t assault people. People assault people. The only thing that can stop a evil person with a gun is a good person with a gun.

  • Barnaby Miller

    The ban was allowed to expire because it had no impact on criminal activity whatsoever. These so called “assault” weapons aren’t any different than most other rifles. They simply look a little scarier. It is asinine how people with no personal knowledge of firearms continue to repeat these uninformed myths over and over again. You are more likely to die from lightning than a mass shooting. Cars kill MANY more people every year than the few deaths from gun violence that aren’t suicides. Quit repeating tired myths and overreacting emotionally. Go look at the numbers,

  • Barnaby Miller

    Wow – what are you drinking?

  • Scott L

    You can ignore the facts all you want. Assault weapons are a grandstanding issue, and will provide no safety from gun homicide.
    A Handgun is the weapon of choice for murderers everywhere, yet we will never get that type of legislation passed, and that would be a violation of the 2nd amendment anyway.
    Start talking about the real issue, why our society is driving people to insanity, how any sane individual could walk into a school and shoot down those poor innocent children.

    But look further, and take a look at all the kids in the inner city dying. The ones that don’t get the press the most recent tragedy did. Kids not much older than those killed die daily in the streets, yet no one takes up the cause when that happens……
    Have we truly reached a point in this country, where your life is only valuable if you come from money? Based on the press, you might think so.

    You can either continue addressing the symptoms, or take a look at the real issues. Up to you.

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