The Need to Reform Assault Rifle Ownership … and Congress

In three hours, Omar Matteen fired more than 200 rounds of ammunition at clubgoers and police at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Using an assault rifle originally designed for military use that he had purchased legally, Mateen shot 103 people, of whom 49 were killed. Weapons like assault rifles pose challenges to the basic desires for firearm ownership and are extravagant options for self-defense and sport.

The use of assault rifles in mass shootings is unfortunately all but too common. The perpetrators of the recent mass shootings in San Bernardino, California; Roseburg, Oregon; Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado, all utilized legally purchased assault rifles. While Timothy McVeigh’s use of ammonium nitrate to carry out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing prompted the Department of Homeland Security to track and regulate ownership of the chemical, and the 9/11 attacks led to the creation of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), no significant reforms have been made to address the recurring use of assault rifles in mass shootings.

Given the continued use of these weapons for malice, it is simply irresponsible to not improve regulation of assault rifle ownership. The National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) currently regulates ownership of automatic rifles, that is, firearms that can fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull. The process to acquire such a weapon is very lengthy: an application must be filed, a $200 federal transfer tax must be paid, passport photos must be submitted, a chief law enforcement official must sign the application and fingerprints must be taken — in addition to an FBI-led background check. Failure to comply with the NFA constitutes a 10-year prison sentence. The process to acquire semi-automatic rifles should be regulated in a similarly extensive manner. While a single trigger pull is required for each shot, quick reload and high capacity magazine functions still make it possible for mass shooters like Mateen to repeatedly fire round after round without hesitation. With the capability to fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute, there’s a reason that semi-automatic rifles are the weapon of choice in mass shootings.

Reforming gun laws does not infringe upon constitutional rights. While the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, the right is not absolute, nor should it be. For example, the Second Amendment does not permit a civilian to keep a surface-to-air missile system in his or her backyard. With repeated mass shootings involving weapons initially designed for the military, Congress should extend the limitations of the amendment. As previously noted, a semi-automatic rifle is an extravagant option for sport and self-defense. Plenty of guns —  designed for the home rather than the battlefield can suffice the rudimentary desires of gun owners. A single-shot pistol can be used for self-defense; a bolt-action hunting rifle can be used for sport. One does not need to fire 45 to 60 rounds in a minute to fend-off a burglar or catch dinner.

The parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School are now suing Remington, the manufacturer of the AR-15. Holding the belief that the gun should not be allowed in civilian hands, the parents are challenging a seemingly unbeatable piece of legislation. The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act court case protects gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their product is used to kill. However, protection is not extended when the manufacturers sell their product negligently. Effectively, this means that if a gun retailer sells a gun to a person drunkenly yelling that they are going to shoot-up some place, the gun retailer is no longer immune from prosecution. The Sandy Hook parents are suing on the basis that selling civilians weapons with quick reload and high capacity capabilities is negligent from the get-go, irrespective of a specific negligent sale, and is reason enough to prosecute Remington. Whether or not the parents will be successful in court remains unclear. However, they have had success already in bringing attention to the case against civilian ownership of assault rifles.

Unfortunately, congressional action towards gun reform is met with constant roadblocks, most notably the National Rifle Association (NRA). Comprised of over four million Second Amendment-loving, anti-gun regulation members, the NRA wields remarkable influence in Congress. Since 1998, the NRA has doled out $3,781,803 to nearly 300 active members of Congress. In fear of losing that financial support, these members of Congress have subsequently taken firm stances against gun control legislation. Prostituting themselves to the NRA’s financial support, members of congress have unfortunately abandoned core values in order to remain in office. As a result, these NRA-financed members of Congress vote against bills that limit gun rights in order to maintain the flow of special-interest-group money. In light of the Orlando tragedy, Congress considered four different gun control bills. Not one passed. This NRA-driven stagnation comes in spite of mass murders becoming seemingly more common than bipartisan-approved legislation.

Justifying the ownership of these semi-automatic rifles by citing the Second Amendment is an unsound practice. When the founding fathers were designing the Bill of Rights, “arms” did not signify extended magazine, quick-reloading semi-automatic rifles capable of murdering dozens in seconds. Technology changed, and so should the law. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind” and that “as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change …  institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.” This demonstrates the framers’ intention for the Constitution to be a continually updating document. Afterall, we seem to forget that the term amendment is synonymous with “revision” and “improvement.”

Reform needs to take place. Whether it means banning assault rifles, improving background checks or a combination of both, the regulation of military-grade weaponry is needed in a 21st-century America. Reformation of the way Congress operates must also occur. Jefferson even wrote, “The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety,” and by blocking legislation that can prevent future tragedies, the government fails in its most basic function. Protecting people should take priority over partisanship. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time until another mass shooting takes place.

Brian Taggett is a College sophomore from Kalamazoo, MI

11 comments

  1. Avatar
    Bostonterrier97 3 years ago

    The Rifle Omar Mateen used was a Sig Sauer MCX. This rifle ONLY LOOKS like an Assault Rifle. But it isn’t an Assault Rifle. An Assault Rifle is capable of BOTH Semi-Automatic and Automatic Fire. This rifle is strictly semi-automatic and therefore not an Assault Rifle, and NOT designed for military usage.
    It is NOT a military grade weapon.
    The weapon itself did not kill people, it was strictly a tool used by Omar Mateen to kill people.
    It didn’t turn Omar Mateen into a Homicidal maniac.
    What did cause Omar Mateen to kill people was his religion (Islam) hatred for homosexuals, and mandated death sentences for homosexuality. It was also the fact that Omar Mateen was a closet Homosexual who had a lot of self hatred and rage for himself and for other homosexuals, and a strong desire to redeem himself in the eyes of his religion by killing other homosexuals.

    That is what murdered 49 people. Islamic intolerance and self hatred.

    Omar Mateen was:
    A Muslim
    A Homosexual
    And a Registered Democrat

  2. Avatar
    Stasis Equals Death 3 years ago

    Bostonterrier97 coughs up NRA “bullet” point #78: Obfuscate the issue of powerful bullet-shooting murder weapons falling into the hands of civilians by arguing over what is or is not a category of bullet-shooting murder weapon.

    The parents of Shady Hook Elementary School students don’t care about your terminology or NRA defense strategy.

    The wives of five Dallas police and transit officers don’t care about your terminology or NRA defense strategy.

    The family members of 49 guests at an Orlando dance club don’t care about your terminology or NRA defense strategy.

    Powerful, multiple-round bullet weapons do not need to be in the hands of mentally healthy Americans and most certainly need to be kept away from the mentally deranged or morally corrupt.

    Until gun fetishists can come up with a way to determine who is deranged and corrupt, these weapons of mass destruction should be treated like nuclear components.

    Of course we know that this is unlikely because, well … Congress is immobilized because the NRA owns them and cracker barrel voters live in fear.

    While children in schools continue to be mass-murdered.

    While blacks worshipping in church continue to be mass-murdered.

    While post office workers continue to be mass-murdered.

    While revelers in a gay disco continue to be mass-murdered.

    You should be real proud of yourself, Bostonterrier97.

    Stasis=Death
    #Enough
    #EndGunViolence
    #DisarmHate
    #DisarmFear
    #DisarmEgo
    #DisarmAnger
    #DisarmIgnorance

    1. Avatar
      Yeshua Can 3 years ago

      What is true is that events around the world happen with much more strict gun laws, shootings and all other kinds of events that could be prevented with greater gun ownership. Has it been so long since gunmen shot up Paris’ nightclubs that we have forgotten?

  3. Avatar
    GreginVA 3 years ago

    “Reforming gun laws does not infringe upon constitutional rights” as a college sophomore it is amazing that you have already obtained such a god like stature that you can, despite over 400 years of self defense jurisprudence decide what infringes on the rights of 320 million citizens and the future generations. This high stature not withstanding it is unlikely that you could even give a third grade legal definition of what is or is not an assault weapon. You say an AR15 is? We will change the name to DX16 then VZ27 and so on. The quivering gun control cult define assault weapons by pieces of plastic attached to the rifles meant to allow the device to be held in the human hand. Is that what you are suggesting? A ban of anything that fits into the grip of a human. Finally Mr. Jefferson also wrote that the tree of liberty must be from time to time be watered with the blood of tyrants, Infringement is the creed of tyrants.

  4. Avatar
    Yeshua Can 3 years ago

    There is no definition of an assault rifle. You might as well say you are going to outlaw dingleberry processing.

    When Clinton-era Congress passed a supposed ban on assault rifles, it was a feel-good measure. The impact of the legislation was precisely negligible.

    1. Avatar
      John 3 years ago

      .

  5. Avatar
    Stasis Equals Death 3 years ago

    And Yeshua Can (clever, that) argues NRA “bullet” point #167: When you criminalize guns, only criminals will still have guns. While reinforcing NRA “bullet” point #78 (referenced below). No American civilian — sane, patriotic, mentally ill, or radicalized — needs to have access to any semi-automatic bullet weapon. Treat them as we treat nuclear components and then you can keep your hunting weapons safe by your bedside.

    Massachusetts AG has the right start and even lists weapons without regard to the semantics of gun fetishists: http://www.mass.gov/ago/public-safety/awbe.html

    Deal with your fear. Deal with your hate. Deal with your ego. Deal with your anger. Draw strength from something other than weapons designed to kill easily other human beings with multiple rounds.

    1. Avatar
      Cory Standerfer 3 years ago

      So all semi automatic rifles, pistols, shotguns, etc should be illegal? What is your justification for making them so? Since when does the second amendment have one thing to do with hunting?
      If you go about making everything illegal, that some use inappropriately, then there won’t be much left that is legal, that includes automobiles, alcoholic beverages, kitchen knives, and rope. all of these things have killed more people than the media dreamed up term “assault rifles”
      I notice you reverted back to the normal libtard argument of what a person needs. I have re-read the Constitution, and there is not a provision for limiting the second amendment right,with the qualification of need. No more than there is a qualification for the first amendment based on what a person needs. These rights are, as the framers of the Constitution intended inherent rights, that the government of the people, for the people, and by the people, can’t take away, or modify to suit it’s political agenda.

      So now control people like the author, are calling for “reform” for something that they have yet to define, they simply lump together all firearms that make them wet their pants when they see them, and decide that somehow because with their vast life experience being a sophomore in college, they have the wherewithal to determine what needs to be regulated.

      If the author would have taken more than the time it took to read a bloomberg lie, that semi automatic rifles are the weapon of choice, he might have discovered that rifles only constitute a about 1% of all deaths by firearm. So few, that the FBI doesn’t even track the numbers.

      Be careful what you want an all too powerful government to regulate, because if given enough power and authority, they will be able to regulate free speech, your ability to go to the church you choose, and will make sure that you don’t get to protest any of these things. Especially if they have taken away your ability to defend yourself, first.

    2. Avatar
      John 3 years ago

      Deal with reality. It’s called the bill of rights, not the bill of needs.

      How about we limit the rights to vote: If you can’t answer three simple questions about our government, you can’t vote.

      1) How many years does the POTUS serve in a term?
      2) How many senators are there in the U.S. senate?
      3) How many stripes on the American flag?

      That would limit a lot of ignorant voters right off the bat.

      You don’t get to decide what rights get to be exercised.

  6. Avatar
    BBaller98 3 years ago

    I will need you to shoot a gun an reevaluate your position. There are multiple points to be made here:

    1) An AR is a generic name. It is synonymous to calling a glock a glock. If you had actually did your research, you would find that only a few brands refer to their rifles as “ARs”. You will also find out that the weapon used by Omar looks nothing like the rifle you have pictured in this article. He used a sig.

    2) If you then did further research, you will see that laws do not have a clear definition of what an Assault rifle is, meaning, just because smith and wesson refers to its .223 as an AR, doesn’t mean the law does. They define an assault rifle based on a myriad of things, such as attachments, stock types, etc. These definitions are not determine by the range and velocity of the weapon like so many might think. You want to know why? Because then you would be referring to a lot of weapons than just the one purposely shown in this article.

    3) And lastly, the MOST important point, in which you did touch on in this article, is that he had the ability to fire 45-60 rounds per minute. But you are basing your argument off the premise that handguns do not have the same type of extendable or drum style magazines that rifles do. Furthermore, you are overlooking the fact that he was in a jammed packed, confined area. OF COURSE HE’S GOING TO KILL/INJURE LOTS OF PEOPLE. In addition, I feel you are not thinking critically if you cannot conclude that a projectile fired from a handgun would have gone the same short distance. Where did this fallacy come from that one can pull a trigger faster on a rifle than they can on a handgun? They are both semi-automatic. One can obtain magazines with large capacities for both handguns and rifle. It you are 10 feet in front of me, I’m going to hit regardless of what I’m using. Heck, I rather take a .223 than a .45 from a handgun. The later is a big, slower moving bullet. That will really do some damage compared to a smaller .233 that is more likely to go in and go out. Remember the Virgina tech shooter? He carried out his attack with only 2 handguns and killed how many people? I’ll let you research that. The Sandy hook shooter? How many kids did he managed to kill with his rifle? Look it up and compare. The problem in this case is not that he had a rifle, it was that he was able to get off so many rounds in the first place. Earlier, I said that you need to shoot these guns before making a conclusion. The truth is, rifles are more bulky and cumbersome to operate than handguns. Had the guy had a glock, the bullet would’ve traveled the same distance but the casualties would be much higher. Why? Because it is easier & quicker to reload, aim, and discharge a handgun than it is a rifle due to its size and mechanism of reloading. I know this through experience. People are just intimidated by its sheer size, but a rife isn’t oh so powerful as one might think; it varies per the circumstance. Yes, the Dallas shootings did demonstrate that rifles hold an upper hand at long range, but what was his hit rate? How many shots did he get off to kill those 11 people? These mass shootings do not occur from long range. And if they do, the casualties are much lower than if someone brings a handgun into a restroom full of people and shoot them while they are on the toilet.

    In summary, it is not the type of weapon used; it was his ability to fire so many rounds in a confined area that led to so many casualties. You might see that as the manifestation of magazine capacities being too large or as the absence of someone who could’ve stopped him before he shot so many. Either way, that is the real issue at hand, not the gun itself.

  7. Avatar
    John 3 years ago

    The writer of the article clearly knows NOTHING about the subject.

    A club full of “men” and no one could do anything?

    Color me not surprised.

Comments are closed.