Gun Control: What Will It Take To Ban Assault Weapons In America?

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( As a career educator, I can still remember vividly how I and others in my profession felt during the 1999, Columbine High School shooting massacre. The perpetrators, twelfth-grade students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered twelve students and one teacher. At the time, it was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. History.  Since Columbine, there have been over 389 school shooting incidents in America and more than 357,000 students have experienced gun violence at school.

Parents, educators, and concerned citizens across America thought that especially after the December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook school massacre, elected officials in Congress would pass gun laws. And if members of Congress did not pass new gun laws, they would at least reinstate the 1994 assault weapon ban that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law expired in 2004. However, even after the heinous Sandy Hook massacre, Congress refused to act.

Gun Control: What Will It Take To Ban Assault Weapons In America?

Assault Weapons—The Mass Shooters Weapon of Choice

There have been more than 5,000 mass shootings since Columbine.   A mass shooting is defined as an act of public firearm violence in which a shooter kills or injures at least four victims. Compared to other developed countries, the US has more than 10 times the number of mass shooting events. The National Institute of Justice assesses that shootings in the US have increased in frequency, with more than half occurring since Columbine.  The weapon of choice in these mass shootings is an AR15-style assault rifle.

According to Everytown Research, assault weapons make mass shootings exceptionally deadly. Assault weapons are high-powered, semiautomatic firearms designed to fire rounds at a velocity greater than the average firearms. When combined with high-capacity magazines, an assault weapon enables a shooter to fire a devastating number of rounds within minutes. In other words, an assault weapon is the quickest, easiest, and fastest way to kill a vast number of human beings in the shortest amount of time possible.

Mass Shooting Since Sandy Hook

Many parents and educators thought that surely after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where twenty children—many being little blond-haired, blue-eyed first graders—and six teachers were gunned down, Congress would pass sensible gun laws. One month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, an Assault Weapons Ban was introduced in the 113th United States Congress by Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, on January 24, 2013. The bill was defeated in the Senate on April 17, 2013, by a vote of 40 to 60.

Since Sandy Hook, the carnage has continued. Some of the mass shootings that made national headlines are:

  • June 17, 2015, a racist shooting occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine African Americans were killed and a tenth was injured during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • June 12, 2016, at a Nightclub in Orlando, FL, 49 were killed and 53 wounded.
  • October 1, 2017, during a Harvest Festival concert in Las Vegas, 60 people were killed and 411 wounded.
  • November 5, 2017, a mass shooting occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX, 25 killed, and 20 wounded.
  • February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, using a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killed 17 people and injured 17 others.
  • October 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an antisemitic racist attack took place at the Pittsburgh synagogue. The perpetrator killed 11 people and wounded 6, including several Holocaust survivors.
  • August 3, 2019, in a racist Walmart store attack in El Paso, TX, 23 were killed and 23 were wounded.
  • May 14, 2022, a mass shooting occurred in Buffalo, New York, at a Tops Friendly Markets supermarket in the East Side neighborhood. Ten people, all of whom were black, were murdered and three were injured. The shooter, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron prior to his heinous act wrote a manifesto describing himself as an ethno-nationalist and a supporter of white supremacy who is motivated to commit acts of political violence.
  • May 24, 2022, Uvalde, Texas, Robb Elementary School shooting: A local man shot and killed 19 children and 2 adults before being shot dead by police. Eighteen other people were hospitalized.
  • October 25, 2023, Lewiston, Maine mass shooting: A shooter opened fire at a bowling alley and a local bar, killing 18 people and injuring 13 others. He was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound two days later.

Everytown Researchers point out that hate is the motivation for many of the deadliest mass shootings:

“Misogyny and white supremacist ideologies motivated many mass shootings, and men were involved in all of the 10 deadliest. Three of the shooters had a history of domestic violence against their girlfriends, mothers, or other women in their lives; two others made public misogynistic comments. This finding corroborates research findings that 96 percent of public mass shootings were committed by men, over half of whom were under 40. In addition to being mostly men, nine of the 13 shooters were white. At least two of these shooters expressed support for white supremacist extremism before committing the mass shooting.”

Gun Laws Save Lives

We must come to grips with the reality that the only reason people buy automatic AR15-style assault weapons in America is not for home protection, target practice, or hunting. An automatic weapon is not needed to do these activities. Assault weapons are only used for one thing—to kill the largest number of people in the shortest time possible. These mass killings occur in vulnerable places where regular everyday Americans are going about their lives: schools, churches, grocery shopping, a movie theater, a concert, a bar, or a bowling alley, etc. These shootings happen at places that don’t really affect politicians or their donor class. Nor does it do any damage to their financial investments or social living spaces. But if these mass shootings started affecting the pocketbooks of the super-rich and the social comfort of the well–to–do and federal politicians, we would see changes to our current gun laws.

As polarized as our country is today, it is virtually impossible to pass any law related to sensible gun regulations—such as a background check for gun purchasing, increasing the age to purchase a firearm, or closing the Gun Show loophole where you can go in and buy as many firearms as you like with virtually little or no identification.

In America, it is easier for an 18-year-old to buy a gun than it is for that 18-year-old to buy a can of beer. Stricter gun laws—even on the state level, reduce gun deaths. A new study by Patrick Sharkey and Megan Kang at Princeton University reveals that stricter gun laws passed by states reduced gun deaths in those states, and states that had weak gun laws experienced more gun deaths.

Saving Our Unifying Pastime

The only thing that seems to unify Americans across different races and ideologies is sports.  If you support a team, and come into the stadium wearing that team’s paraphernalia, it doesn’t matter your race, gender, religion, or politics—you are accepted by those who are rooting for the same team as you.  When fans enter the stadium, the only thing they are thinking about is hoping their team wins. Sports in America, whether at the game or watching it at home, is what many Americans use as their escape from the daily activities of life and the political, social, and religious walls that divide us.

God forbid (and I pray that it never happens) if a legally purchased assault weapons domestic terrorist mass shooting were to occur during a major sporting event during primetime while the nation is watching: at a South Eastern Conference (SEC) game such as Alabama vs. Georgia, a Monday night Professional Football game, an NBA Final game, or the World Series—there would be more done by Congress to curtail gun violence in America than just giving the usual, “thoughts and prayers” comments.  Nor would America just quickly move on in a few days to the next news story. There would not be the usual, “Oh well! It didn’t happen in my neighborhood,” attituded.  Now is the time to act to save our unifying pastime.

What Will It Take?

What will it take to outlaw assault weapons in America? There seems to be no moral will in the political arena to address this question. However, most Americans appear to support such a law. According to a survey conducted in February 2023 by global data company Statista, “53 percent of all registered voters in the United States strongly supported banning assault-style weapons. Opinions were divided based on political party, with 73 percent of Democrats saying they strongly support an assault weapon ban and 29 percent of Republicans strongly opposing such a ban.”

Clearly, nothing illustrates America’s collective insanity than our love affair with guns. If we don’t act to curtail the AR15-style assault weapons mass shooting in this country, we may find ourselves confronting a domestic terrorist attack reminiscent of the helplessness we felt on September 11, 2001.

Staff Writer; Robert J. Walker

This brother is a retired Mississippi Educator. He is the author of several books including; 12 Characteristics of an Effective Teacher and The Plan of Salvation KindleHe lives in Walls, Mississippi.

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