In the wake of the Newtown shooting massacre and related gun rampages, it is important to note there is no easy or quick solution to solving the epidemic of mass gun violence in America. A comprehensive multi-pronged approach is needed by the public sector and private sector alike to address a broad range of issues related to firearms, including:
1) Strong enforcement of current gun laws, or lack thereof.
2) Closing legal loopholes, such as no background checks at gun shows.
3) Studying the relation between mental health, age and gun violence.
4) Regulating industries which desensitize young people to gun violence.
5) Leveraging Big Data to improve background checks and gun tracking systems.
6) Enacting stronger deterrents and harsher penalties for those who violate gun laws.
7) Increasing citizen engagement through enhanced public education and awareness campaigns.
8) Fostering non-partisan partnerships to promote sensible gun laws.
Sensible First Step
The first sensible gun measure the government should implement immediately is reinstating a more stringent version of the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Any new version of this prohibition would have to close unintended loopholes the firearms industry successfully exploited while the ban was in effect for a decade. Military-style high power ammunition, clips and magazines should also be banished from public use.
Based on the latest public and political pronouncements, it appears there may be a national consensus building for a new assault weapons ban. This would be a good start and a fitting first step in a larger strategy. Swift action needs to be taken now, while the issue of gun control is still front and center.
Like tens of millions of Americans, I personally support the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. However, non-military weapons are already lethal enough. Please don’t tell me that sportsmen need semi-automatic weapons to hunt down Bambi and her friends in the woods.
Logic and Common Sense
As President Obama previously said about military-style firearms, “Weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets.”
If that’s not the essence of logic and common sense then I don’t know what is? The President is reportedly seeking potential solutions from top Administration officials, including consideration of the assault weapons ban. On Sunday, he spoke in Newtown about the tragedy — see video clip here.
The assault weapons ban should be revived because, “We are killing each other [with frequency] and we are the only industrialized country in the world doing it,” as Mayor Bloomberg of New York City stated on “Meet the Press” (NBC).
In fact, Americans are 20 times more likely to die from gun shootings than citizens of any other developed nation on the planet, according to a study from the Journal of Trauma cited by Diane Sawyer on “World News Tonight” (ABC).
Even West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a pro-gun advocate and avid hunter, acknowledged, “I don’t know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I don’t know anyone who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting.”
NRA: Major Obstacle
Yet there is one major obstacle standing in the way of a new assault weapons ban: the infamous National Rifle Association (NRA), which wields herculean strength on Capitol Hill. The NRA has many members of Congress in its back pocket due to large campaign contributions and key political support.
The influential NRA is the main reason why the prior assault weapons ban was not renewed eight years ago. Yesterday, protesters marched on the gun lobby’s Washington office shouting, “Shame on the NRA!”
Interestingly enough, the NRA may be running scared for a change – at least for the time being. The powerful gun lobby has refused to comment thus far on the Newtown shooting rampage or explain why the assault weapons ban should not be reinstated. The NRA has even muzzled itself on social media, which in today’s digital age is like going into the witness protection program.
Although the Supreme Court has consistently upheld gun rights, it has also stated that in certain circumstances reasonable restrictions on firearms are consistent with the Constitution.
Considering the raging epidemic of mass gun violence in America, it should not be considered unreasonable to ban military-style assault weapons for civilian use. Isn’t that the least we can do as a reasonable and rational first step toward curtailing gun massacres? Isn’t that the least we can do to honor the victims of Newtown and so many other gun-related mass murders in America?
The purpose of using military-style assault weapons is to kill as many people as possible as fast as possible.
When the Founding Fathers penned the Second Amendment, did they really expect federal courts to render legal rulings allowing citizens to arm themselves to the teeth with some of the most deadly types of firearms, those once reserved only for military warfare?
Regardless, enough is enough already.
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* All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.