Guest editorial: It’s time for Congress to regulate the sale of semi-automatic weapons
As we reflect on the horrific mass shooting events of the past week, it occurs to me there is a way to handle gun ownership and still respect an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights. When the average person sees the term “assault rifle,” they think of automatic weapons used by our military and commonly in action movies. These automatic weapons are defined under the National Firearms Act as class III weapons. As an individual, you are not allowed to purchase one of the weapons unless approved by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, pay a hefty tax, and pay a heftier price for such weapon. Have these measures deterred gun violence? Yes! There are almost no documented cases of murders by owners of automatic weapons. Those that do occur are with illegally obtained weapons and even then, it’s not common.
What is legal and relatively easy to purchase is a semi-automatic weapon, the only difference being the shooter has to pull the trigger for each shot. As we have seen in these mass shootings, even a semi-automatic weapon can be extremely lethal. So, if Congress and the courts have deemed restricting ownership of automatic weapons doesn’t violate one’s 2nd Amendment rights, why can’t that do the same for semi-automatic weapons? The answer is they can and with just a stroke of a pen. Under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 semi-automatic weapons were banned. This law expired in 2004 and since then we’ve seen the sale of semi-automatic weapons grow. Part of this was due to gun manufacturers making these weapons “cool” by offering many accessories and customizable options.
When the 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791, what were the “arms” available at the time? The answer is muskets. These weapons are loaded single shot at a time and even the best Minutemen could only load two rounds per minute. Modern day muskets are called black powder weapons and are still used by hunters. How many mass murders per year are committed with black powder weapons? Almost zero as they are difficult and time consuming to re-load.
When you consider a popular pastime enjoyed by millions of American including myself, you should ask if semi-automatic weapons are allowed in this sport. The answer is generally no, but if allowed, the magazine capacity is limited to four rounds. So, a ban on high-capacity magazines would not negatively affect the hunter. What about competitive shooting, as seen in the summer Olympics? As a former shooting competitor, again the answer is there would be no negative effect as most the competitive shooting sports are single shot or dual shot matches. When I poll my fellow hunters and shooting sports participants, no one believes their 2nd Amendment rights would be violated if Congress limited access to semi-automatic weapons. Most, as I am, are in favor of tougher restrictions on gun ownership to help weed out those individuals who’d be better off being turned away. A process and tax similar to that required for purchasing a fully automatic weapon is an easy step.
While making it more restrictive to own high-capacity ammunition and semi-automatic weapons won’t end all gun violence, it’s a trade-off most of us gun owners are willing to make.
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