A really good article, Marty. Thank you.
A few points, though.
First, this quote: “Do we really need military style weapons in the hands of the general public?”
The U.S. government certainly thinks so; it has sold many hundreds of thousands of real military weapons to citizens. There’s even a program to encourage Americans to learn how to shoot them.
There is a semi-automatic rifle that is capable of accepting magazines holding up to 30 cartridges. There are clips to bind two magazines together so that a shooter has only to release the magazine, flip it over, and reinsert it to have 60 rounds on tap. It can have a flash hider, a bayonet lug is standard, and some versions had pistol grips and folding stocks. Bayonets are plentiful and cheap.
Before October 1968, you could order one of these by mail for about $25-$20, plus shipping. No yellow form; no background check.
It’s called Carbine, Caliber .30, M1 or the M1 carbine. Over six million were produced. virtually all of them were sent to other countries as military aid or sold to U.S. citizens.
The M1 carbine has been exempted by every single federal assault weapons ban enacted or proposed, except for new production replicas of the paratrooper version with the folding stock.
Here’s an explanation of why the AR-15-style rifle is the best-selling type of rifle today.
The firearm industry’s trade association estimates that Americans own about 16 million of this style of rifle and the Kalashnikov designs such as the AK-47. The Colt AR-15 Sporter was announced in November of 1963 and the first copies of the AK appeared in the U.S. about 1976.
In the first 50 years following the introduction of the AR-15, ARs, AKs, and M1 carbines were involved in 13 of 90 mass or spree shooting incidents.In the past ten years, ARs and AKs have been used on on hand in 23 out of 75 incidents.In the past five years, they have been used in 20 out of 50 mass shootings.
Out of those 16 million rifles, fewer than 100 have been used in mass shootings in the past 55 years and that’s counting the 22 Stephen Paddock had in his Las Vegas hotel room.
According to FBI data from 1995 to 2017, the average rate of rifle use in homicides has been more than 20% lower since the Assault Weapons Ban expired than it was during the ban.
Frankly, I am just not seeing the need for a permit here. The percentage of “evil black rifles” used in mass shootings is only slightly higher than the percentage of Dodge Challengers used to ram into crowds of protestors.
Second, I am a little tired of the complaints about ”thoughts and prayers.” They’re insufficient, yes, but at least they are usually heartfelt and they beat the heck out of callously using the tragedies to promote an agenda that would not have saved them.
Third, it’s true that a license is required to operate a motor vehicle on public roads. There are about six million traffic accidents every year so that tells you about the quality of driver education and the difficulty of getting a license.
Moreover, once you get a license from any state, even the ones that issue them after you send in a couple of boxtops and the required postage and handling charges, you can then operate a light vehicle on any public road in any state in the Union.
Put another way, after mastering the skills needed to pootle around a city street at speeds perhaps reaching 40, and maybe a brief foray onto a freeway where you drive slow enough to incite road rage in everyone behind you, you are now free to blast down State Highway 130 from Interstate 35 in Williamson County to U.S. 183 in Travis County at 80 miles an hour in anything up to a Class 4 truck.
Let’s see: Two hours a night for ten nights, mostly watching videos; 20 hours of behind-the-wheel training (see pootling above); take a multiple-choice test, drive slowly around a course and show that you have mastered the art of parallel parking. Then it’s up to the clerk; smile for the photo; hand over the $20.00 for a six-year license; and you’re out the door with a paper receipt that lets you drive anywhere immediately.
So if we mandate 20 hours of a bored instructor showing us educational gun videos; 20 hours of instructions from a guy who will show us how to hit the broad side of a barn 70% of the time from seven yards with a .22; a multiple-choice test and a demonstration of the ability to shoot fish in a barrel with the aforementioned .22; see the clerk; smile for the photo; hand over the money; and you’re legally walking down Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive with your .44 Magnum.
Heck! Where do I sign up?
The big difference though, is that driving isn’t a civil liberty and gun possession is. You may not like the term “God-given right” but the right to keep and bear arms is regarded as one of those rights with which “all men are endowed by their creator,” as Thomas Jefferson put it.
You can’t license a civil liberty because it then becomes a privilege. In addition, licensure is a de facto form of registration and the federal government is already prohibited by law from creating a registry of guns or gun owners (Public Law 99–308, Section 106, paragraph 4).
Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of requiring completion of some form of safety training before a person buys a gun. I am just not sure how to implement it. Do I think it would have major impact on crime? No. Will it stop mass shootings? No. But it might prevent more deaths and injuries from accidental gunshots and that would arguably mean more lives saved than have been spared by background check or appeals to constitutional rights.
In 2000, there was one state that didn’t require a permit to carry a handgun if you were over the age of 16. Open or concealed; it didn’t matter.
As of March 2019, there are fifteen more states that no longer require a permit for state residents and some of those don’t require a permit at all. Considering that eight of them are among the ten states with the lowest homicide rates in American, it seems to work.
Right now, the discussion revolves around anecdotes supporting one side or the other. Somebody had a bad experience; somebody stopped an attack; somebody’s tired of “thoughts and prayers.”
It’s swell storytelling but it doesn’t really help other than perhaps as catharsis for the writer or speaker.
What does help is a willingness to suggest that neither side is addressing the issue and that different ideas need to be entertained. That’s why I clapped for your article.