Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why it’s Time to Reinstate the Assault weapons ban—my proposal after the Sandy Hook tragedy

Yet again a community in America is dealing with the deaths of innocent adults and children due to senseless gun violence after the horrific tragedy in Newtown. Lest we forget the movie theater shooting in Aurora,  the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, the mall shooting in Oregon, or the seemingly innumerable shootings that have taken place in recent memory there seems to be a never ending cycle of mourning the victims then shortly thereafter forgetting about whatever happened—and the same  thing will happen again this time—or maybe it won’t.  

Folks across America are beginning to try to end this pattern by demanding change to our nation’s gun laws. I wrote after the Aurora shooting of my feelings on guns and gun related tragedies, but I think that far too often general thoughts are buried amongst the avalanche of emotion surrounding gun control/gun rights topic (for  thoughts on gun culture, try here and here).   So, I’d like to propose something very specific—that America must reinstate the assault weapons ban. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was passed in 1994, banning certain types of semi-automatic firearms or “assault weapons.”  The law was limited to a ten year period and expired in 2004.  There have been multiple attempts to reinstate the law, all being unsuccessful so far.

I know, I know, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But people are using guns to kill those people—and that’s my problem (When steak knives become the leading instrument used in violent deaths, I’ll be the first one to propose new regulations on steak knives).  But to be honest, guns do kill people—there are over 500 accidental gun deaths a year. There’s also the argument that more guns would make people safe. There are roughly 300 million guns in America, what will make us safer? 400 hundred million, 500 hundred million? Gun rights activists correlate the lack of gun deaths in Switzerland to the prevalence of guns among the populace.  Yet nations such as Britain, Australia, and Japan with very strict gun control laws and very low gun related deaths  defy the argument that taking away the guns will make law-abiding citizens less safe.  Britain and Australia both enacted tough laws after similar gun massacres so those now calling for more gun control in the wake of this tragedy are not without precedence.

All the young victims in CT were shot with an “assault weapon,” and similar weapons were also used in Aurora and Oregon.  The shooter in Wisconsin used extra-capacity magazines for his handgun. Yes, handguns are used to kill people every day, but these assault  weapons increase the death toll exponentially. Oddly, the weapons used in Aurora, Oregon, Wisconsin, and CT were all purchased legally yet were not used illegally until they were used in accordance with their designation as “assault weapons.”  There is no reason for the public to have access to these dangerous weapons; they represent a serious public health risk.  Gun advocates will counter that guns are for protection, sporting, or hunting.  OK, let’s go with that.  I have no problems with hunting rifles, and I’ll even concede handguns for protection, but it’s the assault weapons that need to go.  So, I’d like to propose reinstating the AWB with some modifications. 

First, I propose banning so-called assault weapons. As evidenced by the fact that the CT shooter’s gun was “grandfathered” in despite stricter gun laws being enacted, simply restricting future manufacturing or purchasing of these weapons is not enough, rather all of these weapons must be taken out of the public.  For such I propose something like the following, returning the gun to the manufacturer in exchange for another gun or allowing these weapons to be permanently stored at gun ranges.  The latter would solve the fear of the “government taking all our guns” and still allow them to be used for “sporting.”  If such weapons really are just for “sporting,” there should be no complaints about them only being available at a gun range.  Privately owned businesses could store the individual’s weapons for them and make them available for use at the range only.
Second, I would propose limiting the sale of high-capacity magazines.  As evidenced in Wisconsin and Aurora, such magazines allow an individual to do a large amount of damage without even having to reload.   Again, gun advocates claim these are used at firing ranges, fine—then these same folks shouldn’t have any problem keeping them at the range only.
Finally, for those who fear the “slippery slope” that limiting some guns will lead to the eventual illegality of all guns, I propose the law also have an expiration date, such as the initial AWB did in 2004.  For the period of time the law would be in enactment, I propose independent studies be implemented to examine the effectiveness of the law. For example, did the ban on assault weapons lead to a decrease in death by assault weapons?  At the end of the period, the law would be re-examined, utilizing the studies to determine if the law was effective. Such could be done repeatedly.

This is my proposal, some will think it goes way to far, some will think it doesn’t go far enough, but either way, something has to change.   Our nation cannot continue to suffer repeated tragedies and sit idly by—this can and must be a defining moment in the history of our nation.  Will we take steps to create a safer society? Or will we simply kick the can down the road and forget all about this horrible tragedy and whether anything could be done to prevent it…until the next tragedy strikes? 


  1. Part 1
    For lack of time, I have children and many responsibilities, I will make my comments brief. My hope is that this brevity does is not interpreted as a lack of thought or a hostile response. If I may I would like to take a moment and grade your paper.

    First I would like to address the quality, clarity, and understandability of your writing. For this I would give you an A+. Your paper is well written and appears as if you took your time writing.

    Next I would like to grade the quality of thought and creativity. For this I would give you a B. Your paper is NOT an unfounded, wild rant like many may produce.

    Given the name of your blog I would also like to grade you on a theological basis. For theological content I must take note that there does not seem to be any? So for now, pending revision, I must give you an incomplete. I would like to start my response here.

    Theology to Christians is the “end all” solution for every problem that this nation or any other has ever encountered. When someone lies, when someone kills, when someone cuts you off while driving, all can be addressed using theology. So I wonder why you chose to look at an important national problem without mentioning God? This is by far the most important way to address your concern about guns.
    For a short time I would like to address some of the concerns mentioned in your paper and hopefully point away from man-made solutions and point to those given by God.

    First “guns don’t kill people...people kill people.” Yes, this statement has been used to death...sorry it was the best way to say it! In reality it is true though. Several months ago a crazed drunk man ran a stoplight in Pueblo and killed three Colorado teens returning home after a church concert. In fact over 30 times more people die every year (>30,000) in violent accidents than accidentally by gun. So when it came time to point the finger at laws preventing this from happening again......well it didn’t happen because drunk driving is already banned. (like the idea of banning alcohol? That worked well in the past didn't it!) In our great capital, Washington, guns have been banned completely for several years. Did this slow the crime rate??? NOPE, the crime rate went up! Do laws stop the lawless?

    Ah, the assault rifle tirade has separated many a friend. Unfortunately if there was only one weak point in your paper it would be the lack of gun knowledge. I would wager that the majority of anti-gun Americans have little, if any, true experience with guns. Thus it would have been best, to the accuracy of your paper, had you spent some time behind the guns you write about. I recommend this to you on the basis that it would be inconceivable if someone that had never driven a car decided that they would start making laws to govern driving. This is a great weakness in your paper to think that guns should be stored at a “safe” location until some sporting needed to occur. Should cars be stored at a safe location, given only to the owner after proving that the driver would be safe to society? Then how would the time and return of the gun/car be regulated? The answer to this question is inevitably more restriction on where guns are used and by whom they are used. I could think this out more on paper, however, it would lengthen my paper greatly. Thus I implore you to think through how this would actually work after you have been hunting and have a few thousand rounds through several guns. After you complete this task you will see further into the topic and be able to further understand the reality of gun control. This may seem to be a tid bit “thrown in here” but please keep in mind that there are thousands and thousand of “assault” rifles owned by law abiding citizens. Please see part II

  2. Part II "The Short Conclusion"
    Something to consider

    Assault weapon can refer to any weapon used to assault someone......right!

    99% or more of assault weapons sold to Americans will never be used to assault

    Lawless people do not obey laws!

    I hope to convey one thing through this entire response guns are not to blame for the death of the innocent, cars are not to blame, knives are not to blame, blunt objects are not to blame, poisons are not to blame, explosives are not to blame. What you may ask is to blame then? Let look to the Bible!

    Romans 1:28
    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, MURDER, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

    I encourage Christians reading this to not fall into the trapping of the world that blame everything on others and other things. This is simply a way to ignore the real cause of tragic events. MANS SIN. How many people have mentioned “hey the first person this guy killed was his mom.....I bet they had a great relationship!” We as a nation have gotten really good at blaming and taking no responsibility for anything. Thus God has given this nation up. Want an answer to why this happens and how to prevent it?....Look to the name of this blog....Look to God, submit to Him! This is the ONLY solution!

  3. Anonymous,

    Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments, I'll respond to some. First, there are laws in place requiring significant training before one can operate a car. State laws require a potential driver to complete training and pass a test before being licensed. Secondly, I have handled and shot guns. While it may be a fair critique that I have not shot an AR-15 for example, I notice you do not hold yourself to the same standards. Do you have the appropriate training as an educator or theologian? Yet that lack of experience did not seem to hinder your responses. Third, if you read the subtext of my title, you'll notice that this blog is about other things besides religion and theology. Further, cutting and pasting bible verses doesn't represent any theological aptitude. Anyway, thanks for reading and your comments are always welcome.

    1. Mr. Richmond
      I will, at this juncture, remove myself from debates regarding gun control. I have received no response to the fact that, banning guns will not remove guns from the hands of criminals. Banning alcohol did nothing to stop its use thus gun control is not an argument of reality or logic but rather of scapegoating. Instead, I would like to point out one thing, "foolish speculation." Although this is not a pleasent phrase I think it best describes the culture that we live in. The younger generation, often 30 and younger, seem to be of the mindset that they know everything because they went to school, heard it from a friend or news media.
      I will again bring the Lord back into the discussion..... Since I know only that you are a divinity student and do not know your personal study or teaching habits, I will not have a contest of the degrees. This would be a waist of time given that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God....1 Corinthians 3:19 and

      1 Corinthians 2:12-13 "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us BY GOD. 13 And we impart this in words NOT TAUGHT BY HUMAN WISDOM but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual."
      To respond to your question, I do have "the appropriate training as an educator or theologian"! Although, I do not consider my formal education to be a product of mans knowledge. Instead, it is a working of the Spirit within me. I also do not consider my own time spent in Gods word to be a personal act of gaining knowledge. ALL KNOWLEDGE IS IMPARTED BY GOD! Finally, as a learned theologian, one discovers that there is nothing else besides religion and theology when discussing social and political quandaries, this seems to be the error in many(I have not read them all) of your speculations concerning the world that we live in in. Please, take some time to give Gods word a chance to answer your questions. It is the only place that you will find truth!

    2. An addendum to my response above. Forgive me, it is late and I did not proof read before posting. "from a friend or THE news media" and "this would only be a WASTE of time." I am sure there are more but I must retire.

  4. Great article!

    I'd gladly give up my gun rights if it would end these types of shootings. But I don't think it will, and instead I think it would lead to a stronger government and a weaker people.

    Here's a different perspective that puts mental illness at the forefront of the discussion, with evidence that the gun control measures of the past few decades have had no impact on the recent increase in mass shootings:

    As far as gun rights/controls, my suggestions are quite opposite of your proposal:
    - get rid of gun-free zones (schools, malls, theaters, army bases, etc.)
    - increase public knowledge of firearms leading to more widespread training and use

    By 'use' I mean the primary usage of a firearm, as a deterrent. If there was a good chance that people in these places were armed, the cowards that commit these violent acts wouldn't have a weak audience to prey upon. Their goal is to die and inflict harm on society in the process, similar to a terrorist. And the media coverage helps them by spreading their message to the masses.

    Also notice that the media in our country is focused on the gun rights/control debate, because that is what sells newspapers and advertising. They've not publicized the assault on school children in China that happened on the same day as the Connecticut shooting. In this case there were no deaths and no guns, instead a mentally ill individual used knives to do a lot of damage, but arguably as much damage as was done in Connecticut, since those kids will have to live the rest of the lives with mental and physical damages.

    1. It is odd that I really don't care to waste my time bringing up the second amendment of the constitution in these just doesn't mean anything anymore!

  5. Loren, I have a great article that I think all people considering this topic should read so as to be better informed on the true issues and make their own decision from there. Please read the entire article as it becomes more informative as it goes. Something to think of as you read is that in 2009 according to the CDC there were 11,493 homicide deaths by guns. At that same time there was an estimated 310,000,000 guns owned by Americans (not including the military). Run the numbers and that means that .0037% of guns were used to kill someone. Adversely, 99.9963% of guns were not used to kill someone. Jump forward to 2011 and we see a reduction in deaths by guns(8,483) yet an increase in guns (over 20,000,000 were purchased in 2010&2011 combined). Again I think the article covers many of the issues in an educative manner and might give you a better background to debate such issues.

    1. Oh, I forgot my "smart talk." If you graph the above numbers and evaluate for correlation the data suggests that there is no statistical correlation between the number of owned guns and the amount of gun related deaths. Oh how I love "smart talk" it proves that I didn't waste 50k!.....or did I???