Sensible gun laws required
In the United States, a mass shooting occurs every nine out of ten days. This week, alone, two shootings have occurred in high schools in Texas and Kentucky and 11 shootings have occured at US schools in the last 23 days.
The most famous shootings are typically ones in which more than five people are killed: the University of Texas Tower shooting, the Virginia Tech massacre, the Pulse nightclub shooting, and, perhaps most prolific, the Las Vegas shooting, where 64-year-old Stephen Paddock murdered 58 and wounded 546 music festival attendees by firing out of a hotel room window. The shooting was the deadliest in United States history.
The issue of gun control in our country has been a controversial and heavily debated topic for years. It is a deciding factor for many voters regarding politics- Republicans tend to be anti-gun control and Democrats tend to be pro-gun control. President Donald Trump advocated in favor of gun rights during throughout his campaign and was endorsed by the National Rifle Association. After the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, where 20 children were killed, the House of Representatives did not take serious action to prevent future mass shootings, and a bipartisan bill to increase background checks on a majority of private party firearm sales failed in the Senate due to threat of a filibuster by opponents of the bill. Then-President Barack Obama said of the incident, “Right after Sandy Hook in Newtown when 20 six-year-olds are gunned down and Congress literally does nothing…that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted. I was pretty disgusted.”
The United States has the highest rate of mass shootings in the world, according to a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine. This is due in part to the lack of strict gun control throughout the nation. For example, mass shooter Stephen Paddock owned 47 guns and obtained all of them legally. In the United States, there is no limit on how many firearms a person can own as long as they pass background checks.
The fact that a person can own nearly 50 firearms without any kind of legal retribution in our country is appalling, especially considering that many were semi-automatic guns. Semi-automatic weapons automatically reload but the shooter must pull the trigger separately to fire another round. These weapons were designed to enable shooters to kill multiple people in a short amount of time. Even more appalling is the legality of bump stocks. According to the New York Times, “A “bump stock” replaces a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. It frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger, causing the rifle to rapidly fire again and again. The shooter holds his or her trigger finger in place while maintaining forward pressure on the barrel and backward pressure on the pistol grip while firing.”
Twelve of Paddock’s guns had been modified using bump stocks. This is how he was able to injure over 500 people in the span of 10 minutes.
Only days after the shooting, politicians began discussing gun control and the possibility of banning bump stocks. Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, introduced a bill to ban bump stocks alongside Democratic representative Seth Moulton from Massachusetts. “This common-sense legislation will ban devices that blatantly circumvent already existing law without restricting Second Amendment rights.,” said Curbelo in a statement regarding the bill. While the bill had bipartisan support originally, it was never voted on and no other legislation has been considered since.
Robert Gafaar, a survivor of the Las Vegas massacre, has been campaigning for gun control since the event. “The screaming is something I will never forget,” he said to NBC news. With no sign of gun control legislation a month after the massacre, Gafaar is surprised and disappointed. “It’s a joke. It’s an absolute joke… this stuff is just so common sense. What I heard, the continued rapid fire, nobody should own anything like that.
Banning bump stocks would save lives. They are not necessary for self-defense in what situation would a person need a gun modified to behave like an automatic weapon to save themselves? Without access to bump stocks, the Las Vegas killer would not have been able to injure 546 people in ten minutes.
How many lives are going to be taken away before politicians realize that they are enabling mass shootings by refusing to vote on gun legislation? Are our elected officials afraid that they won’t be reelected if they vote to increase gun control? Of course, they are- and because of this they have blood on their hands. They have the blood of 20 elementary school children on their hands. They have the blood of 49 nightclub goers on their hands. They have the blood of 58 music festival attendees on their hands.
Our representatives and senators may be afraid of losing reelection but I and so many others are afraid of going to concerts, to the movies, and even to school because of the possibility that we will be murdered at the hands of someone filled with anger and hate, who was able to act on their anger and their hate because in this country a person can buy firearms online without a background check.
The next time a mass shooting occurs, whether it happens because the killer was a violent felon who was able to avoid a background check or because he could modify his gun to mimic an automatic weapon or because he can legally own multiple guns at once, the men and women who vote against the laws that attempt to prevent those very things from occurring will be responsible. Whoever dies next, whether it be churchgoers or schoolchildren, blame the shooter- but think about why they were able to carry out their attack and who enabled them to do it.
For as long as I have been alive, citizens of the United States, typically left-wing or left-leaning have protested the use of firearms. Liberal politicians have been passing legislation that prohibits, hinders, or downright bans some firearms and firearm parts.
There will be two pieces of legislation that I will criticize.
- The National Firearms Act
- Federal Assault Weapons Ban
Some laws, like the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, parts of the National Firearms Act, and parts of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 are reasonable laws. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requires background checks for most firearms purchases. the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 requires gun manufacturers, importers, and persons in the business of selling firearms to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL). It also prohibits the transfer of firearms to certain classes of persons, such as convicted felons. The National Firearms Act mandates the manufacture and transfer of explosives, machine guns, and disguised or improvised firearms. Part of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 raises the minimum age of buying a handgun to 21.
The National Firearms Act, more commonly known as the NFA, was passed in 1938. It makes sense to make the process of obtaining machine guns, explosive ordnance, heavy weapons and disguised or improvised firearms more difficult than buying a semi-automatic AR-15. However, it also damages the ability to acquire suppressors, and short barreled rifles and shotguns.
Short barreled rifles, more commonly known as SBR’s, refer to a shoulder-fired, rifled firearm with a barrel length of fewer than 16 inches (41 centimeters) or an overall length of fewer than 26 inches (66 centimeters). To get an SBR, buyers must print off a 12-page form, fill it out, pay the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) $200, and wait a period of time around a year. This process is not extremely difficult, but it is tedious and extremely time-consuming. All to get a barrel that may be 14.5 inches, or 12 inches, or 10 inches. That does not make that much of a difference in the long run. If the firearm was to be used for criminal intent, the perpetrator simply would not bother. The criminal could purchase an upper portion on an AR-15 with a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches, and a lower portion that has a stock or a lock to add a stock. That would go completely around the NFA, it would be highly illegal to do, but do criminals follow the law? I mean, we have laws against murder, but according to the FBI 17,250 people were murdered in 2016.
Suppressors, not silencers, are also affected by the NFA. They are made to help with the sound signature of a firearm. Suppressors have been given a bad reputation by the modern media. Every movie or video game that features a suppressor on a firearm always makes the gun give off a soft, quiet, sound. So quiet that somebody 10 feet away cannot hear it. This is an extreme misconception. An AR-15 shooting a 5.56×45 NATO round has a sound signature of 167 dB, while a Boeing 727 jet taking off is 165 dB. An AR-15 with a top of the line suppressor, which can cost approximately $1,430.00 (Knights Armament Co. suppressor) on a $1,000-$3,000 rifle only drops the dB level 29 points. 138 dB is right next to the threshold of ear pain, 140 dB. With such a small decrease in dB, you may be thinking, “Well why would anyone want one in the first place?” Hearing protection, that is why. By making the firearm have less of a boom, it helps keep your eardrums less damaged. Of course, you are supposed to shoot firearms with ear protection, such as earplugs or earpro, but without ear protection, many would rather suffer 138 dB than 165 dB.
In 1994, Congress approved a ban on “assault weapons” even though there is no clean, technical definition of that. The ban targeted the rifle. Any semi-automatic firearm, where the trigger is pulled once and one shot is fired, that had a pistol grip and a bayonet lug, an attachment point for a bayonet, was deemed an “assault weapon”. Models of AR-15s and AK-47s were put to the political chopping block, as well as 18 other firearms and “military-style features”. Disregarding the fact that the affected firearms were NOT fully automatic, as fully automatic firearms have been reigned in since 1934, it had no consideration for fire rate and was based solely off of looks. An AR-15 has a pistol grip as well as a bayonet lug, a holdout from the rifle’s original design and part of the mechanism that helps the rifle fire. The ban expired in 2004, with politicians having no interest in renewing it, but during its 10-year reign, it made the firearms mentioned above illegal to be manufactured for use by private citizens. Also, magazines that were considered “high capacity” were illegal. This made 10 rounds the legal limit. The firearms that were made illegal by politicians were only used in 2 to 8 percent of gun crimes. The ban was a thorn in the side of law-abiding citizens, as laws only apply to those who CHOOSE to follow them. Gun laws of this outrageous level are still in effect in some states. Shaneen Allen is a single Black mom with two kids from Philadelphia. She had a lawful conceal and carry permit along with a gun, both obtained after she was robbed twice. In October 2013, she was pulled over for a traffic stop while moving to New Jersey. She admitted to the officer of her legal permit. New Jersey, in its infinite wisdom, made her license void. Allen, who had no criminal record, was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of hollow point bullets. The now illegal possession of the handgun is a second-degree felony punished by a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. When she appeared in court, she faced 11.5 years in prison, ten for possession and 18 months for the bullets. She had no pretrial intervention, and the only plea bargain for her was five years with a 3.5-year wait for parole. All for having a valid Conceal and Carry and the bullets for that gun.
The Federal Assault Weapons Ban mentions, at its core, the “assault rifle” or “assault weapon”. The term is frankly uneducated, and too broad to maintain its place in society. Many video games containing firearms usually have a category called “assault rifles”. Call of Duty, Battlefield, The Division, and many others contain the category. These games flood the entertainment market, games that sell millions and are beloved by many. The “assault rifles” in these games are characterized as automatic, with low recoil and a high magazine capacity. An AR-15, Ak-47, and many firearms in between are characterized as “assault rifles”. Weapons that can cause massive loss of life in an instant. In television news coverage, the term is always thrown around when a shooting happens. The firearms used in the 2012 Aurora shooting, Sandy Hook, Vegas, San Bernadino, and now the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. All were categorized as “assault rifles” or “assault weapons”. This term has and is being associated with extreme sadness, tragedy, and negativity. That a rifle is immediately called an “assault rifle”, with no knowledge of its true purpose, is due to influence from the media. “Assault rifles” are considered to be baby killers, and that when someone picks one up, evil deeds happen. AR-15s are commonly bullied by the term “assault rifle”. The AR-15 is popular because the platform is easy to use, accurate, price effective, and replacement parts and ammunition are relatively inexpensive. www.gunquester.com has a list of over 386 companies that sell AR-15s and AR-15 parts. Many think that “AR” stands for “assault rifle”. While in fact, it does not. It stands for “Armalite Rifle”, as Armalite originally produced it for civilian usage. Nothing about the rifle make sit deserving of the title “assault rifle” or “assault weapon”.
Advocates for gun control have consistently stated that it will decrease crime. However, Switzerland disputes this argument. Until the late 1980’s, Switzerland had extremely loose gun control laws. Males were required to serve in a local militia for a time and were required to keep their service rifle and ammunition at home. And for a time, it held the title of “the safest country in the world” due to these lax gun laws. But the crime level started to rise when Switzerland complied with the European Union gun control laws.
As a counterclaim, some would point out that in 1996, Australia began a massive restriction on firearms. The Australian government destroyed approximately 650,000 firearms, both semi-automatic and automatic. They also established a ban on semi-automatic rifles, automatic rifles, shotguns, and more. The gun homicide has decreased by 59%, and mass shootings are apparently non-existent. But the gathering of all the firearms from private hands ended up costing the Australian government upwards of $500 million. That may have worked for Australia despite the massive cost, but it is so disconnected from the world that one success is nothing compared to the broad range of data concerning firearm restriction. In 1997, Great Britain conceived and implemented a ban on civilian possession of nearly all handguns after the Dunblane Massacre. The rate of intentional homicide shot up to 1,047 offenses and is still higher than it was in 1996 (the year before the law took effect.) In addition, countries such as Israel and Switzerland broadly permit firearm ownership and concealed carry of handguns, and they enjoy relatively low rates of homicide. (Enjoyed for the Swiss, as they applied the EU’s gun laws and lost that piece of mind.) The evidence for lower crime rates as a result of greater gun control is selective and far from conclusive. reinstating the fact that 17,250 people were murdered in the United States during 2016, gun control only applies to those willing to follow the law in the first place. If magazines can only hold 10 rounds, the criminal will undo the blocker in the mag. If specific firearm parts are banned, criminals will get them from an underground market.