Beto O’Rourke has guts. You have to give him that. When asked at the Democratic debate last Thursday whether his gun control policy included confiscation, O’Rourke responded “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15.” No other candidate has been so blunt and truthful. The standard Democratic Party line has been to talk about sensible restrictions on gun ownership, but remain vague on what that actually means.
Not O’Rourke. He has finally said what needs to be said. No, America, you do not need access to assault weapons. Those are weapons for hunting people.
What do nearly all of the mass shootings in America have in common? The killers used assault weapons like the AR-15.
Let’s take a look at some of the arguments against an assault weapons ban put forth by the conservative National Review (https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/assault-weapons-ban-bad-policy-arguments-against/):
- Most gun deaths are suicides, and people don’t kill themselves with assault weapons
- Assault weapons kill fewer people annually than knives, or even feet or fists
- There is no evidence that banning assault weapons would prevent mass shootings
- The idea behind banning assault weapons is that it would decrease the lethality of any given mass shooting, but that idea is purely speculative
If you are scratching your head right now, you are not alone. That last argument in particular is a real circular whopper: because we don’t have any evidence that banning assault weapons would work (shocker, because we haven’t banned assault weapons), let’s not ban assault weapons.
Here is the National Rifle Association’s take on the assault weapons ban (https://www.nraila.org/articles/20190915/tell-your-lawmakers-no-semi-auto-and-magazine-ban):
- The AR-15 is “America’s rifle”
- Semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 are just the next evolution in repeating firearms
- Like revolvers and other rifles, they fire only one shot at a time
- Law-abiding Americans use AR-15’s and similar weapons for home self-defense
The trends in these arguments seems to be that AR-15’s aren’t the problem. They are just another gun like the many other guns that American’s use for self-defense. But if the NRA believes that the AR-15 is just another gun like revolvers and other rifles, then Americans can protect their homes just as well using those other guns.
The argument is really, therefore, that people are the problem. In other words, the familiar slogan: gun’s don’t kill people, people kill people.
The problem with that argument is that it is nonsensical. Of course a gun doesn’t shoot itself.
Just like a car doesn’t drive itself through crowded streets at 100mph. But yet, we prohibit cars from driving 100mph through crowded streets because of the danger it poses to pedestrians.
And that is the nub of the question here: there are trade-offs that need to be made in the best interests of society. Banning the weapon of choice for the recent spate of mass murders shouldn’t be a difficult tradeoff to get behind.
It isn’t. Even a Fox News poll confirmed that the majority of American’s support banning assault weapons (https://thehill.com/homenews/news/457481-two-thirds-support-assault-weapons-ban-fox-news-poll)
So what is the problem? It sounds cliche, but if the majority of Americans support the ban, there must be powerful special interests like the NRA who are convincing politicians not to support it. Politicians live and die by public opinion, but they also need money to run their campaigns. And so far, money has won the battle for their votes.
A discussion on gun control wouldn’t be complete, of course, without a nod to the Second Amendment. The complexities of recent rulings and the origin of the right to bear arms are better left for a separate in-depth article. But I will leave you with my general view on this:
The Second Amendment was adopted shortly after America had won the Revolutionary War against the British. The America then feared a strong government influence that could, among other things, come into your home and take control of it for their own purposes (i.e., quartering soldiers). And there was no overwhelming centralized American military or police force. The Second Amendment in that context made sense—Americans truly could defend their homes not just from intruders, but from an oppressive government. There was a real risk that America could become just another dictatorial regime and citizens needed the ability to rise up again if necessary. History was not on Democracy’s side.
But that is not where we are today. An American with an AR-15 will not be able to fend off military or police, or overtake a dictatorial government. That ship has long sailed. Citizens are overwhelmingly outmatched,and democracy is firmly entrenched. So that rationale no longer makes sense.
It is time for us to put an end to the mass murders that occur all to frequently in this country.