As the funerals and memorial services take place in Newton, CT, the recent school shooting is still fresh in all of our minds. Partly because the news media won’t report on anything else, but that’s a topic for another day. There have been countless media reports, blog posts, Facebook discussions, and dinner table debates around who was to blame and how to prevent another incident like this and the many that have come before it. The unfortunate truth is that attacks like these will continue to happen, regardless of the social, political, and legal reaction to them. But as members of this society and members of a species, don’t we have the responsibility to do anything and everything we can to prevent the large-scale loss of life? I believe we do.
Although we can never fully prevent bad people from doing bad things, we can make it more difficult for them to do bad things to large numbers of people in a matter of seconds. A ban on assault rifles would not totally prevent people from obtaining them. What it would do however, is prevent a teenage kid, without the means to obtain an illegal one, from getting his hands on one from his parents’ house. It would make it much more difficult for a school, movie theater, or shopping mall shooter to walk into such a place and immediately fire 100 rounds into innocent people. Sure, he could still walk in with handguns and fire away. But at a much slower rate, and only until someone brave tackled him or fired back.
There is no reason any American citizen should have a need for a firearm that is capable of producing a body count in the dozens in less than a minute. The Second Amendment defense does not apply here. I would never advocate a ban on all guns. It would be ineffective and largely unenforceable. But in the spirit of public safety, guns like the AR-15 should be prohibited from purchase.
How many citizens have protected themselves from attack or tyranny with an assault rifle? I can guarantee that number is dwarfed by the number of victims from shootings with a legally-owned assault rifle.
In the end, I’m not claiming to have the answer to preventing events like the recent shootings from happening. I agree that we need better security in schools and more effective medical care of mental illness. But along with that, if we can make it more difficult for someone to obtain a weapon capable of ending so many lives, then we are potentially saving lives. You can argue that it won’t save lives, that bad people will find a way, and that I’m assuming too much. What a ban on assault rifles will NOT do, however, is raise the body count. If it has the potential to lower the body count, and certainly that potential is there, then we, as parents, neighbors, and humans, should advocate for it.