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Ban Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons

Daniel Lewin |
December 16, 2012 | 10:57 a.m. PST


Screenshot of local news coverage. (Michael Juliani)
Screenshot of local news coverage. (Michael Juliani)
When the news broke Friday morning of the attack on a Newport, Connecticut elementary school, Americans were shocked and horrified by the unimaginable evil laid before their eyes. We are grieving for the lives lost. We can’t help but picture ourselves in the place of the victims’ families, trying to comprehend the evil that exists in this world. We hug our families a little bit tighter when we realize that something like this truly is incomprehensible.

The national anguish we go through after an event like this is becoming tragically common. We’ve witnessed mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a Christian university in Oakland, California, a mall in Portland, Oregon, and now at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. At this point, is it really fair to say we are “shocked” anymore? How many times do we have to wake up to grieving facebook statuses from our friends and breaking news headlines on CNN before we stop pretending that shootings in the U.S. are unusual?

Anyone who tries to bring up gun control in the aftermath of a tragedy will be immediately accused of “politicizing” the tragedy, as if “politicizing” is a dirty word. But what does “politicizing” it actually mean? Certainly, our elected officials should not try to capitalize on tragedy for personal or partisan political gain. But that does not mean we shouldn’t acknowledge and address the underlying issues of the shooting, including gun control. So-called “political opportunists” who raise this very relevant topic of discussion related to gun violence, which continues to rock the nation on a regular basis, are the exception to the millions of people who are unwilling to even talk about the problem, much less actually implement a solution.

Refusing to address the underlying issues behind our grief is counterproductive and illogical. Our reaction to other types of prominent tragedies makes it very clear that gun control in relation to mass shootings is the only type of tragedy that is treated this way. Did we refuse to talk about the weaknesses of our national infrastructure system and disaster management capabilities after the levees broke in New Orleans? Was everyone too afraid of being insensitive to talk about terrorism and airport security in the wake of 9/11? Of course not. The only reason gun control opponents urge us to hold off on that debate is because they dont' want to face the ugly repercussions of their ideology.

Perhaps banning all guns would be too extreme, but reforming our gun policies to ban, at the very least, the massively destructive semi-automatic assault weapons that are almost always used in mass shootings, seems like a no-brainer. One of the most-frequently cited arguments for keeping guns legal is self-defense. Even if we accept that there is merit to this argument, we should not and cannot extend it to semi-automatic assault weapons. Semi-automatic assault weapons are nothing more than killing machines, designed to wreak as much destruction as possible - which is exactly what Adam Lanza intended to do yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The .223 caliber semi-automatic assault weapon he used to open fire is a legal gun to own in the United States today, and has been since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was not renewed in 2004. The NRA and its advocates fight tooth and nail against every attempt to bring some semblance of sanity back to our gun control laws. And while it is true that banning these ultra-dangerous weapons would have a relatively minimal effect on crime overall, given that most violent crimes involve a handgun, it would have saved a lot of lives at places like Aurora and Newport. There is no sensible reason for these types of weapons to be available. To me, the uncompromising opposition by the NRA to any kind of sane gun reform is a morally indefensible one, a fact that is only highlighted in the wake of tragedies like the one that occurred this week.

Call it politicizing or call it sanity, the time has come to bring reasonable gun control laws back to our society. So go ahead, “politicize” the tragedy. Don’t do it for partisan gain, do it for the memory of those who lost their lives to a weapon that has no place in our society in the first place.


Reach Contributor Daniel Lewin here.



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