Twenty students and six staff members from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Six Sikh temple worshipers from Wisconsin. Twelve moviegoers in Colorado. Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, from Arizona. These 50 people were killed in the most infamous mass shootings from the last two years, and each one of them might still be alive if the U.S. had a way to curb gun violence.
I understand that there is no easy solution to this problem. I also understand that some U.S. citizens hold their Second Amendment rights close to their hearts. But the point is that people and children are unnecessarily dying and it seems like it’s happening more and more frequently. One of the most obvious solutions I can think of is to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004. According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, when the ban went into effect in 1994, crimes involving the weapons named in the bill fell 66%. While the number of crimes using these weapons has remained steady since 2004, the number of mass shootings has increased seven-fold. It is only logical to try it again. I cannot think of any safe activity that can be performed with an assault weapon, but not with another type of firearm. Unfortunately, on April 17, the U.S. Senate voted the ban down 40-60.
Even more troubling is that the Senate voted down the Manchin-Toomey Amendment 54-46 that would have mandated universal background checks for all gun purchases. Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the senators it controls have decided that such background checks would be an invasive violation of constitutional rights. Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, received a deferment from serving in Vietnam because of a mental disorder.
I know that an assault weapons ban and universal background checks will not prevent every instance of gun violence, but they are a huge and logical step in the right direction. I just wish that the people who decide public policy in the United States would understand that one’s right not to be shot trumps one’s right to have a firearm. I dream of the day when logic and common sense dominate over money and special interests.
Printed in the 4/19/13 edition.