So What Are The Chances Of Passing A New Assault Weapons Ban In Congress?
Even though there is precedent for it: there was a ban in place for 10 years, from 1994 to 2004. And AR-15 style rifles like the one used by the shooter in Florida to kill 17 people were included in that ban. So it’s already passed the test of constitutionality. (And for the record, we don’t support taking everyone’s guns away, we just support common sense.)
The original ban was spearheaded by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who’s still in Congress. Even though Democrats controlled both the House and Senate back then, they had to make the ban temporary in order to get the bill passed. It lapsed during George W. Bush’s Presidency, with little interest in renewing it.
After the Las Vegas shooting last year Feinstein reintroduced it: nothing. Even a measure Republicans said they supported to ban devices used by the Las Vegas shooter that effectively turned semi-automatic weapons fully automatic faded and went nowhere. Fully automatic weapons are illegal for civilian use. (Anyway, it seems the Florida shooter did not borrow a page from the Las Vegas shooters playbook: we listened to audio of the shooting and even though the gunfire was rapid, it did not sound continuous.)
The Miami Herald has a video clip of a classroom under attack. It is not terribly graphic, but its horrifying enough that we are not going to show it to you here, but we will link to it. We think it’s important not to shy from the reality of the hell these kids went through, even those who didn’t get shot. But be warned.
The 1994 law was ridiculed as ineffective on the basis that only about 2% of violent crimes were committed with assault rifles, and it’s an argument that’s still used today as evidence Liberals don’t know anything about guns. It is true: AR-15 style assault weapons are used in a very small percentage of crimes overall, so we have to ask ourselves, is our immediate goal to broadly address gun violence? Or is our priority to expressly end mass shootings like the one we just saw?
Because while AR-15 style assault weapons may be used in a very small percentage of crimes overall, as this screenshot from CNN shows, they have been used in about 100% of all recent mass shootings.
And there’s another reason: arms manufacturers in the U.S. are highly protected by the government, and assault weapons are among their biggest sellers at the moment, far outpacing “traditional” bolt action rifles. There’s a slightly dated but great article in Slate about how damn popular AR-15s are and why, even though they’re not particularly good for home defense, for robberies, or for hunting.
But doesn’t a teen with a semiautomatic weapon killing 17 people, most of them high school students change anything?
President Trump Tweeted:
And we ask with all sincerity and not in an accusatory way at all: what’s your plan for that? Surely it’s something you’ve spent time thinking about since mass shootings are hardly isolated incidents anymore. After the Las Vegas shooting the President said he’d talk about gun laws “as time goes by.” Well, time has gone by…
And an 18 year old in Florida walked into a gun store, passed a background check and walked out with an AR-15 style rifle and a bunch of ammo. (The AR-15 is a version of the military grade M16, only it’s not fully automatic).
And if Trump sincerely believes that this is a mental health issue, not a guns issue, then let’s do something about expanding access to mental health. Cutting back and capping Medicaid benefits is not a good start.
The President this morning indicated that is indeed how he’s going to spin it. And while what he Tweets isn’t wrong, he ignores that at least part of the problem is due to the fact that the country is awash in guns:
The shooting was the 18th at a school this year, according to Michael Bloomberg’s gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. Which means there’s been an average of one school shooting every 1 1/2 school days so far this year. Fortunately, most of them are not this deadly. One shooting was accidental. Unfortunately, they continue to happen at such a pace we don’t even hear about many of them anymore.
That doesn’t mean we should be desensitized, and the surging level of violence should be increasingly ignored. We’ve got to do something. Does that mean big protests in the streets? We’re in! Let’s hope people aren’t too fatigued or too divided to demand protection for our kids.