Something CAN Be Done
It’s a familiar cycle. A horrible massacre occurs somewhere in the United States. Dozens of innocents are killed for no apparent reason. The gunman is declared insane, how could anyone who does something so senseless be anything but totally nuts? The NRA quickly reminds us that said horrible massacre is not about guns or our right to carry them. We shuffle our feet, wondering why but finding no real answers. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
But the thing is, it IS ABOUT GUNS. And it always has been.
Now this is not a post about the 2nd amendment and what the founding fathers did or did not intend with those 27 complicated words. This is not a post about whether or not I believe people should be able to carry fire arms of any kind. This is a post about a very specific kind of gun, a kind of gun that has no business being in the hands of every day Americans, a kind of gun whose prohibition would in no way infringe on the people’s right to bear arms, the kind of gun that drives up death rates in these horrible, senseless massacres.
I’m talking about semiautomatic assault rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines. These military style fire arms are created to kill people quickly and efficiently. And in most states they are absolutely legal.
Of course they weren’t always legal. In 1994 Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which banned semiautomatic weapons and any “large capacity ammunition feeding device.” Of course there were loop holes and the gun makers ended up creating thousands of these weapons before the ban went into affect, making them legally available even after the ban had become law. In 2004, when the assault rifle ban lapsed, Congress failed to extend it, leaving it up to the states to provide their own assault rifle bans.
Today only five states (California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut), plus Washington DC ban assault rifles while only three (Minnesota, Virginia and Maryland) regulate them. That leaves 42 states in which assault rifles like the one that allowed James Holmes to shoot over seventy people without needing to reload, are completely legal for almost anyone to buy.
It is true that we cannot always predict who is going to commit these terrible atrocities. It is true that this country will probably never sacrifice it’s freedom to bear arms. But there is something we can do to protect ourselves. We can demand that military-style assault weapons and large capacity magazines be banned in the United States. We can demand that guns whose sole purpose is to quickly and efficiently kill humans be kept out of the hands of ordinary–and possibly mentally unstable–individuals.
When polled, most Americans insist that our current gun laws are adequate and yet at the same time, they judge more strict regulations than the ones that are in place, to be ideal. It’s clear that most Americans are not familiar with the gun laws of their state or this country. As citizens it is our duty to educate ourselves about the gun laws in our community and to speak up when we find them lacking.
We may never know what drives someone to stand in front of a crowded theater and start shooting people at random. We may never be able to predict who will orchestrate the next unfathomable tragedy. But we absolutely can make it harder for those people to employ military-style semiautomatic weapons when they wreak their havoc. Really, that is the least we can do.
For more information on gun control efforts in the United States please visit the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence at smartgunlaws.org.