John L. Micek, 8/15/2019 [Archive]

32 Seconds to Make the Case for Banning Assault Weapons

32 Seconds to Make the Case for Banning Assault Weapons

By John L. Micek


Thirty-two seconds.

That's how long it took for the madman responsible for the carnage in Dayton, Ohio to shoot 26 people, killing nine, including his sister, and wounding 17 more before he was killed by police.

According to CNN, the Dayton shooter (he will not be identified here) was armed with a 223-caliber high-capacity rifle with 100-round drum magazines. As USA Today reports, the "AR" variants used in Dayton and the El Paso killing that claimed 22 lives barely 24 hours earlier, were legal, as were the high-capacity magazines employed in the shootings.

"Those rifles usually come with 30 or fewer rounds in a magazine. But increasingly gun manufacturers have catered to shooters looking to have 40, 60 or 100-round magazines that traditionally were shunned because they were heavy and cumbersome," USA Today noted.

These weapons of war are so far past what the Founders, who lived in an age of muskets, envisioned when they crafted the Constitution. These semi-automatic weapons, with their extended magazines, aren't intended for hunting, or self-defense, or even sport shooting. Their only purpose is to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Recognizing this, the United States banned these weapons for a decade, from 1994 to 2004.

We need a new ban. And we need it now.

As NPR reports, the old ban, formally known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, "prohibited the manufacture or sale for civilian use of certain semi-automatic weapons that could be converted to fire automatically. The act also banned magazines that could accommodate 10 rounds or more."

In an Aug. 11 op-ed for the New York Times, former Vice President Joe Biden, who was chairman of the U.S Senate Judiciary Committee when the original ban was enacted, summed up the argument expertly.

"We have a huge problem with guns," Biden wrote. "Assault weapons - military-style firearms designed to fire rapidly - are a threat to our national security, and we should treat them as such. Anyone who pretends there's nothing we can do is lying - and holding that view should be disqualifying for anyone seeking to lead our country."

As PolitiFact notes, "in raw numbers," researchers at New York University's medical school found that mass shootings decreased when the ban was in effect and rose afterward.

In fact, "the death toll from mass shootings went from 4.8 per year during the ban years to 23.8 per year afterwards." Still experts are split on whether there was a causal effect between the ban and a reduction in gun deaths.

But "that doesn't mean that the ban was ineffective - only that we don't know and probably cannot determine the answer given that the outcome of interest (mass shootings) is so rare," Duke University expert Philip Cook told PolitiFact.

As The Hill reports, momentum for a ban is growing in the majority-Democrat House. It will be a far harder lift in the majority-Republican Senate. But that doesn't mean the House should not act.

There is a baseline case to advance a new, and constitutional, assault weapons ban. If we had one before, we can have one again. And if the data shows even a modest reduction in deaths, that's an outcome good for society as a whole.

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate a potential federal ban, they can strengthen it in two very important ways: by authorizing a gun buyback and extending any sunset provision included in the new ban. In the 1990s, backers were forced to capitulate on both fronts so they could cobble together the votes to pass it.

An assault weapons ban won't solve everything. Fighting gun violence requires a holistic approach that includes expanded background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and earlier identification and treatment for those who might be inclined to carry out horrific acts of violence.

But those are still only half-measures if the weapons of war that enable the wholesale slaughter of innocents in mere seconds are still readily and easily available.

America banned these weapons once and was safer for it. We can do it again.

-

Copyright 2019 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at jmicek@penncapital-star.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.

Editor's note: This column was updated to include the correct year the assault weapon's ban ended.



Download John L. Micek's color photo - Download John L. Micek's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to John L. Micek's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

NRA Mitch
By: Steve Sack

August 11, 2019

Mass shootings and gun rights
By: Rick McKee

August 8, 2019

Mass shootings and gun rights
By: Rick McKee

August 8, 2019

Guns and Hammers
By: Pat Bagley

May 18, 2018

Guns and Hammers
By: Pat Bagley

May 18, 2018

NRA in Dallas
By: Bill Day

May 4, 2018

NRA in Dallas
By: Bill Day

May 4, 2018
   

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829 sales@cagle.com
Billing Information: (805) 969-2829billing@cagle.com
Technical Support: support@cagle.com

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service