The justifications to keep these weapons available are fictional and flawed. And the supporters for maintaining them should be called out.
As our country, and the Congress, lurches tentatively towards some sort of even modest gun control, apparently the ban on assault weapons is dead. Of all the possible proposals, this one would seem to be the most logical and perhaps the easiest to accept and pass. But it turns out it is the toughest; and the reasons have no rational basis.
So, why is the assault weapon ban so aggressively opposed? There are two main reasons. The first is the assumed protection of the Second Amendment, along with the “fear” that if assault weapons are banned, it would be the first step in “taking away our arms” and a loss of a constitutional right. The second is the paranoid fear the NRA has been able to perpetuate (especially among its members) about having an armed populace to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government who may subvert our liberties.
Starting with the constitutional issue, no national leader – of any political stripe – has ever suggested banning arms entirely, and virtually all respect the constitutional right for citizens to own a variety of arms for hunting, sporting activities, and even self protection in specific cases. The problem with harking back to the Second as an uninhibited “right” is that it does not confer that right without limitation; and further, it was written at a time when both the societal and weaponry environment was far different.
America in 1789 (when the Second was first drafted) had a population of about 2.5 million, not including slaves or Native Americans. Less than 1 percent of our population today. It was a rural country – the largest city was Philadelphia with 40,000 inhabitants. There were no tightly packed urban communities like say the south side of Chicago. The rural inhabitants, while mostly farmers, also used their arms to shoot game – not as today’s sportsmen do, but to put food on the table. And the reference to a “well regulated militia” clearly was related to the fact that we had just fought a brutal war of independence, with a tiny standing army, and a dependence on multiple state militias.
As far as literally interpreting the Amendment as the “bible” for ownership of assault weapons, the fact is the Second is subject to vague interpretation. Indeed, since it was adopted in 1791, it has been the subject of over 31 Federal court cases of various kinds. Six in U.S. District Courts; 19 in U.S. Courts of Appeals; and 6 which ended up in the Supreme Court. To describe the outcomes of these cases alone proves the confusion surrounding the Second Amendment – but suffice it to say, it in no way “blesses” the ownership of any weapon… of any kind… by anybody.
Which brings us to the raison d’être given to own such weapons; the protection of our citizenry from a ruthless government. To begin with, our Democracy has lasted for over 200 years, through a variety of traumas from a civil war, to the 20th century resignation of a president. Through it all we have persisted, and have never in our history been threatened by an omnipotent dictator. The allusion to such an event is a straw man and pure fantasy, and the thought of protecting ourselves with assault weapons (or even greater firepower) is frankly absurd. The result of such a turn of events would put the populace against the greatest armed forces the world has ever known. And, the ownership of even assault weapons would be useless. Arming ourselves to the hilt is not only dangerous for our society, but meaningless. We do better using the ballot box as our preferred weapon.
Further, extending this logic (protection from a potentially tyrannical government), then we should allow even greater firepower for the people – weapons capable of putting up a better fight. Would the NRA promote this as part of their logic? Looked on this way, the whole concept of a heavily armed populace prepared for battle, in today’s world, is irrational.
The reality is, assault weapons – military weapons to be clear – are designed for one mission: kill people! Is that what we, as a society, really want? A proliferation of weapons designed to kill people? And using the cover of the Second Amendment provides no better defense for allowing military-style assault weapons to be sold and owned. The Second still provides the constitutional right of citizens to own guns; just not guns of all kinds, by anyone regardless of mental stability or other stipulations. The constitution is in fact a living document (with 27 amendments) so it must be relevant to America not in the 17th Century, but as our nation is in the 21st Century.
No, the logic being used to perpetuate the purchase and ownership of military-style assault weapons of fallacious and flawed. To be a safer more secure nation, it is essential that we ban the ownership of assault weapons as a crucial part of our proposed gun control legislation.