The tragic events that befell Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 left 26 murdered and millions of Americans in mourning, and this horrific massacre has, once again, sparked the national debate over gun control.
In response to the Newtown tragedy, President Obama has pushed for a ban of “military style” assault weapons to prevent another Newtown. But is a ban the right way to approach the issue?
Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza killed 26 people with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, a “military style” assault weapon. Many Americans are calling for their prohibition because there is no need for these killing machines and a ban will prevent shootings like Aurora and Newtown.
Gun control advocates cite the drop in gun violence during the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban as proof that a ban works. But while the graphs do show a drop in violence, “the impact on gun violence has been uncertain,” according to a Department of Justice study.
Though assault rifles were made illegal, there were many grandfathered assault rifles—guns purchased legally before the ban—still available, and they were already so rarely used in crime that the ban was unsuccessful. With the AR-15 being the most popular rifle in America, it is impractical to believe that people won’t be able to get a hold of grandfathered rifles.
Another part of the study still holds true: assault rifles are rarely used in crime. In 2011, out of 12,664 murders, 6,220 involved handguns, 1,694 involved knives, and 396 involved violence without weapons. Rifles killed 353, second to last only to murders where the firearm used was unknown.
If part of the goal is to reduce violence then logically the first step would obviously be to ban handguns—which by the way wouldn’t work, seeing as Chicago effectively banned handguns, but still has the highest murder rate in America. And I think a knife ban would be a tough sell in Congress.
Banning assault weapons seems like the wrong starting point in an effort to curb gun violence. Granted, the majority of these murders are not with legally purchased weapons, and the majority of the weapons used in crime had been reported lost or stolen.
So, in my view, improving gun safety and promoting responsibility instead of just making it illegal for normal gun owners to buy them would be much more effective at combating the issue.
Along with curbing gun violence, many hope that an assault weapons ban would prevent more tragedies like Aurora and Sandy Hook. Unfortunately, that is very unlikely.
Psychopaths don’t need a Bushmaster AR-15 to kill massive amounts of people. Seung-Hui Cho used two handguns to commit the second deadliest school shooting in America at Virginia Tech in 2007. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh killed 168 innocent people without a single firearm in the Oklahoma City bombing. And the list goes on.
Making assault weapons illegal, sadly, won’t deter psychopaths like Adam Lanza from committing atrocities; it will just prevent responsible Americans from exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Instead, we should invest more resources into improving our mental health system and strengthening background checks so firearms don’t fall into the hands of people like James Holmes or Adam Lanza. Responsible gun ownership should be made a requirement, not an option.
In the end, we can’t blame tragedies on guns—unless someone can pull the trigger, it is just a piece of metal.