The New Assault Rifle Action is Crucial, But Not Enough


Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

There’s no other way to put it: America’s gun violence crisis is out of control.

We are not even four months into 2021 and 160 mass shootings have spilled blood and ruined lives this year. President Biden called it an “international embarrassment,” but these words are not appropriate for describing its true extent: it is slowly killing our people and our nation.

But, as expected, it has become a point of political tension. With Democrats proposing more stringent action to tackle the problem at the guns themselves, and Republicans emphasizing the role of mental health while defending Americans’ gun rights, very little compromise has been made and angry debates abound.

At the expense of sounding partisan, I believe that a common-sense approach to gun violence is long past due, one that addresses the factually-based components while keeping in mind our Second Amendment. The gun control action being proposed in Congress, and the new executive orders from Biden, are steps in the right direction, especially for Florida, but still not enough.

By executive order, Biden made it harder to obtain “ghost guns,” which are technically illegal firearms made without serial numbers to dodge existing restrictions. He also limited access to pistol stabilizing braces that make shooting more efficient. The National Firearms Act would supposedly have oversight of stabilizing braces. 

He is also looking into investments in violence prevention in vulnerable communities, which somewhat, albeit to a limited extent, reflects demands of protest movements.

At the same time, the Justice Department is expanding red-flag laws that target potential mass shooters by temporarily confiscating their weapons, something that could have prevented the Parkland shooting. Studies show that this reduces the frequency of homicides and shootings.

Gun control supporters argue that Congressional action is needed to generate any substantial reform, and I agree, especially in terms of loosely addressed loopholes that have enabled mass shootings in the past.

However, I would argue that even more action is needed. Some time ago, I endorsed Beto O’Rourke’s plan: to enact strict background checks, buy back assault rifles, and take the fight to the National Rifle Association (NRA) for promoting restriction-free gun sales and ignoring gun deaths of Black Americans. Another overlooked but crucial step is passing gun control while addressing racism at the same time, to prevent continued incarceration of Americans of color.

I understand that Congress is highly unlikely to pass these measures and that the political risks of such moves are extreme, especially in the South. I also can see gun-friendly states like Idaho fighting back with full force. However, refusing to take action not out of genuine concern for citizens’ rights, but in the name of protecting special interests, is quite extreme too.

To be clear, Biden’s actions do not violate the Second Amendment, in my eyes. I understand the concern that citizens have, including Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who called some gun control measures “evil” and “tyrannical.” She cited that mass shootings have occurred in gun-free zones. Some people I have met say that gun control only serves to harm black and brown communities.

The Second Amendment reads as follows: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In this text, it is not explicitly indicated that any weapon will be appropriate, or that removing one type of weapon would infringe upon the well-regulated Militia.

To be sure, I will never support a government in America that slides into autocracy. And I also support gun ownership by responsible individuals who pass strict background checks. I believe in the Second Amendment, and our right as Americans to defend ourselves.

However, what Biden, O’Rourke, and myself support is merely the banning of the most unnecessarily dangerous weapons when they are being used to kill innocents left and right. This seems fair when you consider that the government has tanks.

Plus, some assault rifles like the AR-15 can be converted to a different caliber, making bans on its ammunition not entirely effective. And unlike hunting rifles, assault rifles can shoot many rounds at a time, 600 per minute for the AR-15, enabled by bump stocks and other tools that must be outlawed.

Plus, although I am no fan of whataboutism, it is certainly hypocritical to hear these concerns from a GOP that embraces voter suppression and has cracked down on black gun owners.

Many facts show that ambitious actions like these have an effect. Australia bought back assault weapons and made it harder to buy guns. Today, that country is a very safe and free democratic society, with deaths from mass shootings taking a nosedive. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 appears to have reduced deaths from mass shootings over a ten-year period.

Plus, relying solely on addressing the mental health of potential shooters has not exactly brought down the number and extent of mass shootings, although this action is crucial regardless, and could indeed reduce deaths. Threats to take action have led to more gun sales, so the action itself should be prioritized.

Gun advocates have said that bans in technology will lead to more changes in it, highlighting the need to buy back the guns entirely, and say that background checks do not stop violence. But the analysis says otherwise.

Florida has high gun ownership per-capita, a growing population that has seen countless shootings and very lax gun laws. The state has outlawed tracking gun ownership, essentially creating a libertarian haven for anyone to buy and use a deadly weapon. As a result, the state stands to benefit from Biden’s measures, and would save many lives should Congress take more aggressive action.

All in all, the White House is stepping in the right direction, one that will hopefully pave the way for more willingness to tackle gun violence. Ultimately, feasible solutions must incorporate all sides on the issue to construct something that will work for everyone, and help heal our bitter divisions. Otherwise, the cycle of madness will never subside. Unless our leaders act, we could be next.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

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