School Shootings and Banning Assault Rifles


I try to avoid politics here, but sometimes I can’t.  Any mass-murder spree is horrific and tragic, and school shootings are particularly awful. We are the only nation in the developed world that regularly experiences these tragedies. Semi-automatic military-style rifles (commonly and incorrectly called ‘Assault Rifles’ in modern parlance) are used in almost half of these mass-killing sprees.

We have a problem in this country, and it’s not guns. We have created a toxic culture that spawns spree-killers. We need to address that fundamental truth. It’s not going to be easy, pleasant or fun but it has to be done or the killing will not stop. We cannot simply dismiss this as a ‘mental health’ issue; this is inaccurate and unnecessarily stigmatizes the mentally ill.  Most school shooters have not been diagnosed with a mental illness. Oh, don’t get me wrong- they are not ‘right in the head.’ But generally speaking they are neither clinically nor legally insane.

No, they do not share commonalities like Satanism, Heavy Metal music, Goth Culture or violent video games.  Mental-health professionals actually maintain that playing violent video games provides an outlet for aggressive impulses and may actually help prevent violent outbreaks. Nothing so simple.

I am not a mental health professional or a sociologist; but you don’t need to be a pilot to recognize that a plane has crashed.  I don’t know the answers here- but I know that we need to ask the right questions before we’ll have a chance of finding out.

The simple and easy response here is to blame something, anything- to do something.  Anything. In this case to ban ‘assault rifles.’ If this were possible it would prevent mass shooters from using them. It won’t stop them from killing people; the most common mass-shooting weapon is actually a handgun, so I imagine they’ll use those. They are at least as easy to get as semi-automatic rifles.  Banning those is problematic; in Heller Vs. DC the Supreme Court ruled that individual Americans had the right to possess arms for ‘lawful self defense’ and that handguns could not be banned as a class because they were ’eminently suited to that purpose.’  Limit the weapons available, limit the number of bullets they can hold… the ideas go on and on. But banning tools is like slapping a band-aid on a sucking chest wound- beyond giving the illusion that you have done something it’s not going to help the root cause.

Not to mention that in places where people have trouble getting guns- or where the would be at too great a risk of being shot- people use bombs. ‘It’s a lot harder to make a bomb than it is to get an assault rifle’ is the standard argument. Hogwash.  I could root through my kitchen cupboards and come up with a bomb in less than thirty minutes- and anyone with internet access could do the same.  Google is a weapon of mass destruction in the wrong hands…

Did you notice that I said ‘If this were possible’ regarding banning assault rifles?  Because I am not sure it can be done with any level of effectiveness. The previous ‘assault rifle ban’ had the primary effect of making these weapons more expensive. It did not take them off the streets and it didn’t keep people from obtaining them.  Proponents of the ban point out the decrease in homicides, but in fact they were decreasing before, during and after the ban at about the same rate. The ban had no chance of being effective because it didn’t do what it said- it did not ban these weapons, merely made them tougher to import and more expensive to buy.

To have even a chance of being effective a ban would need to take away the guns that are already out there, and the logistics of that are nightmarish because we don’t know how many there are or who has them. At a (very) conservative estimate there are over 8,000,000 AR15-based rifles out there, then there are all the millions of AK-based rifles and other platforms that are in private hands… I’m going to go with tens of millions of guns that fit the current definition of an ‘assault rifle.’ That’s the legal ones, which are the only ones that you can get rid of by legislation. Legal property, legally purchased by American citizens. Can you spot the problem with confiscating them?

Yep. It’s unconstitutional- it violates some of those pesky civil rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  OK, so buy them back at fair market value. Oh, and hire people to accept them and dispose of them properly- and maybe some more police to make sure they don’t just turn around and sell them on the black market. If we can spend billions to subsidize profitable businesses and military adventures overseas surely we can spend a paltry few billion to save our children.  Of course there is precious little interest in saving, caring for or educating our children under the current regime…  OK, that was a cheap shot. Doesn’t mean it’s not true.

OK, we have established a pool of money to buy back the guns. How do we find them, who is going to do it, and what do we do if people aren’t inclined to volunteer them? Go door to door and forcibly search houses without a warrant or probable cause?  We’re going to need more police. A lot more police. Maybe we should encourage children to rat out their parents? Pay rewards for people to turn in friends and family members? Yeah, that’s totally the precedent we need in this society.  That won’t piss people off enough to cause acts of violence and rebellion.

Oh, and since those police will be looking for people with assault rifles they are going to need military grade body armor, flash grenades and what? Say it with me now… assault rifles. Not a fan of ‘militarized’ police? Tough- because that’s what it will take.

‘But law abiding citizens will turn them in!’ Yep, some will- but some will consider keeping them an act of civil disobedience; we have a long and storied history of this in America. You’re going to have to track those people down, take their guns, arrest them and put them in jail. People will get shot. Some of them will be formerly law-abiding citizens responding to what they perceive as an injustice and government overreach. Some of them will be cops. Everyone that dies will be someone’s child, someone’s parent, sibling or spouse. It’s going to be a mess.  But in the end we will get most of them.

Congratulations- but we’ll still be living in a toxic society that breeds spree killers- and we cannot ban household chemicals, fertilizer, fuel,  laundry detergent, pressure cookers, plumbing pipe, trucks and cars, machetes (which have been used as a weapon of mass-destruction in Africa,) and all the hundreds of other items that can be used to kill a lot of people in a hurry… but we will have the militarized police to try, and we’ll have to do something with all those militarized cops…

Yeah, this will end well.

Maybe it would be simpler to find ways to keep people from wanting to kill a bunch of people in a hurry… like studying and dealing with the real causes of the problem.

Let me add this disclaimer- when it comes to this sort of rifle I can take ’em or leave ’em. I’m not a crusader for them, I don’t love them and haven’t made a hobby- let alone a lifestyle- of them. My main concern with banning them is that it will give too many people the illusion that they have done something useful to address the problem without actually accomplishing anything useful.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 19 Feb. 2018

8 thoughts on “School Shootings and Banning Assault Rifles

  1. Thomas

    Hi there Tinker,
    As an outsider to the “American view of self” (the world looks on in horror with each mass-shooting, that seem to increase in frequency), I have a few thoughts for you.

    I imagine, you have easy access to the acquisition of Firearms (I do not), you own guns (I do not), and that you are a responsible owner of said guns.

    You can call them tools, but they have but one purpose… to kill.
    It is the power to point and click and take life… in the hands of anybody.
    Semi-Automatic Weapons just multiply this a 1000 fold.

    Why should anyone have the right to such power unchecked?

    Is your right to “be able to kill at distance” worth the life of a child?
    A 100 children?
    A 1000?
    How many children is it worth?

    Would you kill for that right?

    You write about the mess it will be to enforce a ban, of lives lost and battles fought.
    That may be so… but will the country not be better for the generations to come?

    Australia banned guns, and it went smoothly and no mass-shootings since.

    You could give America a chance to do that Great as well.

    1. tinker1066

      Comparisons to Australia are invalid. They are not America. They do not share our culture and history, and frankly are not broken in the way that American culture is. Australia did not have an epidemic of mass killings- they had one. They also did not have to deal with tens of millions of weapons- and I submit that if access to these weapons was the root of the problem we would have multiple incidents every day. The problem is social and cultural, and an effective solution must also be a social and cultural.

      My right to ‘kill at a distance’ would be unaffected by a ban of assault rifles by the way- unless all firearms were banned. This could only happen by amending the Constitution, which is a very protracted and difficult process, and frankly unlikely to succeed. The measures that it would take to confiscate these weapons might put us in a worse state- for generations to come- because they will not address the reasons that these killings are happening. The evidence of history and the current state of the world suggest very, very strongly that the killing will not stop unless we address the reasons that these killings are happening to begin with- because there are always other tools.

      Let’s also address your assertion about ‘killing at a distance.’ School shootings do not occur ‘at a distance.’ They happen at very close range. Very few mass killing sprees occur at a distance- the Vegas shooting was an exception, not the rule, and horrific as it was it was a pretty ineffective attack for the numbers of rounds fired. The overwhelming majority of mass killings are up-close and personal

      An ineffective ban of these weapons-like the original ban- will have no effect because it will not remove these tools from society. Implementing an effective ban would require disregarding the rule of law and creating the sort of conditions that will inspire more, not less, killings.

      1. Thomas

        Alright! Set Australia aside. The population density is much lower, and their mentality is way different.
        From my point of view, there is a problem with the american selfimage and the contract between Society and Citizen.
        Why should anyone have the “Right” to the ability to spray hundreds of bullets into crowds of ones fellow citizens?
        Why should the Society not be able to say “This is not acceptable behavior!”?

        In the same way laws say “you are not allowed to drive at any speed you desire anywhere you wish it, because it is too dangerous. And if you do, you get in trouble with the enforcers”
        You need a license to drive a car and can’t get it until you are deemed ready.

        You saturate your communities with lethality and it shows in the sheer amount of gun related deaths per capita, that far exeeds that of any two other countries combined.

        I just do not get why anyone would accept it let alone wish to raise children in such a country.

    2. Will

      Australia now has made stabbings rather than mass shootings. Good job. Wouldn’t exactly call that “smoothly”, mate.

      1. tinker1066

        It is in fact not a right to spray hundreds of bullets at your fellow citizens and society has already said ‘This is unacceptable.’ They expressed this by making it a crime to do so. As to the capability to do so society is weighing in as we speak, but as I point out in the blog it’s not as simple as it sounds to do so effectively. The barn door is open and the horse has well and truly fled. We can argue about whether banning these weapons will help make the problem less severe, but it will not solve the problem. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- ban them, don’t ban them, whatever- but for God’s sake find out why we are creating these killers and figure out how to fix it so that we stop!

  2. Gary L Wright

    i am with you almost 100% on this one. i do own a couple of black guns. an AR15 and an LR308 and they are dressed to the gills but only as an investment. the LR308 is my long range hog gun, the AR15 is just show piece. i can not in my mind see why anyone wants to do this. i spent 4 yrs in the Marines during the Vietnam war and i never wanted to shoot anyone in anger and i never have. my problem arises when officials have been made aware of a threat and they piss it off. these days you cannot just ignore warning signs. hasn’t the world trade center convinced anyone of that. if i were in charge of the FBI and one of my underlings knew of a threat and ignored it, that one would be in some deep manure. i am 66 years old and i still have tears in my eyes every time this happens. tears for the victims and there relatives and friends and tears for the society we live in now a days. we seem to be going down hill in a lot of ways, however we shall survive because we are AMERICANS.

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