Another week and more mass shooting deaths of innocent Americans. In fact, the number of mass shootings and associated death tolls is increasing at an alarming rate. There were two major ones just in Texas alone in the month of August: in El Paso, 22 dead, dozens injured, and this weekend Odessa, 7 dead and 19 injured, in a state with lax open carry laws and the most guns of any state.
What’s the solution? If you ask the NRA and their obedient Republican politicians, we need to solve the mental health problems in our country. And yet, America has no more serious mental health issues than other developed countries that don’t have anywhere near the mass killings we have.
Now, there’s talk of maybe doing something nationally about universal background checks on all gun purchases or red flag laws that allow withholding guns from those considered to be dangerous to themselves or others. Yet, the NRA opposes all of these as dangerous steps toward taking away people’s guns, and threaten any Republican who supports them. One of their favorite talking points is that universal background checks most likely wouldn’t have prevented most of the recent high profile mass gun slaughters, and they may be right. So what are we to do to protect ourselves from rampant gun violence?
The only common element in all of the mass gun slaughters with high death rates is one thing: all of the shooters used high-powered military-style assault weapons with high capacity magazines. These guns are designed for one purpose only — to kill as many people as possible in the shortest possible time. They are weapons of war, and have no place in the hands of ordinary Americans. No self-respecting hunter would ever admit to using them, and having them just for target practice is a lame reason for owning them. The 2nd Amendment does not guarantee one’s right to have one — any more than it guarantees their right to own a fully automatic machine gun (outlawed in the United States).
In each and every mass shooting, if the shooter had not had an AR-15 or AK-47 style assault weapon with 30-100 round magazines, the death toll would have been far less before the shooter was finished, and hundreds of lives would have been saved. In fact, it’s likely that some of the perpetrators would have declined to attempt their murderous rampage in the first place without access to such military-style weapons of war.
We need a nationwide ban on assault weapons with their high-capacity magazines now! We already know such bans work, from the ban we had during the decade 1994-2004. Studies of the effectiveness of that ban have shown that it significantly reduced deaths from mass shootings from levels before and after the ban. Other countries that have banned assault weapons have few if any mass gun slaughters. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible to get these weapons off the street since there are so many out there. We are Americans, and if we can set a goal to walk on the moon in ten years from a cold start, we can do anything we set our mind to.
We don’t have to live in fear every day that we or our children or grandchildren might be gunned down in cold blood, or buy them bullet-proof book bags, or have them spend hours in mass shooter/lock down drills at school, or design schools with “shadow spaces” to hide in if a shooter is loose in the building. It’s our choice.
Mike Brown writes from Cambridge.