After a series of horrific mass shootings, many people in America are finally admitting that it’s time to take a closer look at our gun laws. Among the proposals has been a call for a federal assault weapons ban.
I can’t really say that I’m thrilled about an outright ban on assault weapons because it distracts us from bigger issues like handgun violence and an inadequate mental health system, but I definitely say it’s worth a shot. If anything, maybe it will be a step closer to dismantling our nation’s homicide-obsessed culture. Even if it’s only symbolic, it could be constructive.
What has really frustrated me, more than the potential impotency of an assault weapons ban, has been the fact that nobody has tried to dispel some of the most repeated, and most easily disproven, arguments against the assault weapons ban. Not the crackpot ones about an impending doomsday or a real-life “Red Dawn,” but the ones that actually try to pass for rational arguments that nobody in the media or politics has bothered to shoot down.
Specifically, many people argue that the pistol grip, adjustable stock and attachment rails on an assault rifle are just “cosmetic features.” This is like claiming that the seat on a bicycle is a “cosmetic feature.” I mean, I guess you can stand on the pedals and still get to the same place, but the seat is going to make you get to the finish line faster, easier and more comfortably.
If these cosmetic features just make a gun look pretty, then why does the military use them? The answer is that they make it easier to quickly kill multiple people, especially in urban environments. By improving the ergonomics, stability, customizability, and other aspects of the rifle, they make them much more effective at doing military jobs.
You don’t need these things to shoot a deer, or a duck, or to defend your home – your grandparents got along just fine with a 12 gauge and a loud-but-lovable hound dog. The “cosmetic features” of an assault rifle may very well make the gun more efficient for hunting animals than traditional long guns, but they also make it more efficient for hunting human beings. Don’t pretend that they’re just another decoration.
Or, consider this notion that a semi-automatic assault rifle is often less lethal than a high-powered hunting rifle. Sure, if by “lethal” one means the actual killing power of the bullet coming out of the gun, then yeah, an assault rifle variant firing a .223 Remington round will be less lethal than an elephant gun.
The thing is, though, nobody uses an elephant gun in a mass shooting, while recently people have started to use popular assault rifles. Additionally, the cosmetic features that make a gun an assault rifle make them more lethal in mass shootings because of the added mobility and ease of use.
Of course, there is the argument that the efficiency of these guns justifies their ownership for self-defense reasons. What people conveniently forget, however, is that the government already restricts what we can do with our rights. No matter how efficient I may think it is, I can’t jaywalk because it creates a danger to myself and others. If we want to agree on the principle that the government can’t control how we choose to live our personal lives, that’s fine with me, but I’m not sure the hardcore conservative groups fighting gun control want to be seen supporting the right to choose.