Let’s be sensible about gun control. There is no justification for civilian ownership of multi-round pistols or multi-round assault rifles.
I speak from the perspective of a farm boy who grew up hunting in the backwoods of Mississippi and as a retired FBI agent with 31 years of service. My firearms experience in addition to hunting includes the Mississippi Army National Guard for nine years, the Mississippi State University Rifle Team for two years, 23 years as an FBI firearms Instructor and the FBI National Pistol Team. In my lifetime, I’ve fired more than 200,000 rounds in training and seven shots in line of duty.
I speak from the perspective of the grandfather of three children in public school. And I also speak as the father of a career law enforcement officer who daily goes into harm’s way. My constant concern is that he will confront a crazy man with an assault rifle. A civilian with an assault rifle easily outguns a law enforcement officer with standard equipment, i.e., pistol and soft body armor. We saw that in Boulder, Colo., in the King Sooper mass shooting.
A sportsman does not need a multi-round semi automatic rifle as a hunting weapon. In my hunting experience, I seldom get a second shot. I don’t need a multi-round magazine.
As originally designed, an assault rifle is built for one purpose: to be used by the military to maim and kill human beings as quickly as possible. It is not a sporting or hunting rifle. The design of the AR-15 bullet is too light for deer, too heavy for squirrels, but just right for humans. Why then does a civilian need such a rifle?
U.S.: The Most Heavily Armed Population in the World
The American gun culture was created by our Second Amendment history and by male life experiences of growing up watching cowboy movies in the 1950s and ’60s and current media glorification of wild shootouts with the multiple deaths of only the bad guys. The media make a false representation of real-life experiences, which some crazies have bought into and for which we are all paying.
It appears that “open carry” is the way to go in current American gun culture. One sees men openly carrying assault rifles and handguns daily. Is a man openly carrying an assault rifle preparing for a mass shooting or just going to the supermarket? Is there something lacking in their maleness for which they’re trying to compensate?
The National Rifle Association uses Second Amendment protection to justify its role in protecting personal gun ownership. It is a strong force in national politics. It has generated a climate of fear for personal safety, which has resulted in a nonsensical thirst to own multi-round pistols and military-type assault rifles for personal protection. Some gun owners justify their gun ownership as necessary for personal or home protection, believing those weapons make their home safer. Sadly, the opposite is true. A 2018 University of California Davis study found that 61% of 39,740 gun deaths in the U.S. were due to suicide and 35% by domestic homicide. Accidental shootings, police shootings and murders caused the other 4%.
A gun in the home results in more deaths from accidental shootings, suicides or domestic homicides than it does in instances of protection from an intruder. Most homes do not have gun safes, and the guns are kept in a closet or in a chest with an admonition of “don’t touch the gun” to adolescent children.
The United States has the most heavily armed population of any country in the world; 40% of adult Americans either own a gun or live with someone who does. There were an estimated 393 million civilian-owned guns in 2018. Easy ownership of guns has created an opportunity for anyone to purchase multi-round pistols and assault rifles to use against innocent children and the public.
A civilian armed with an assault rifle easily outguns a law enforcement officer who is wearing normal patrol officer equipment. This equipment would include bullet-resistant body armor with a “level III” ceramic plate capable of defeating a .44 magnum, generally accepted to be the most powerful handgun round. Equipment and gear for a patrol officer weighs around 25 to 28 pounds. However, this officer’s body armor is no protection against an assault rifle round that easily penetrates the standard armor unless it has a rifle plate that adds 16 to 18 pounds of additional weight to the equipment an officer carries. That means 41 to 46 pounds of equipment for a law enforcement officer to be “safe” responding to a mass shooting.
What Is Sensible Gun Control?
The National Firearms Act of 1934 prohibits personal civilian ownership of machine guns, silencers, sawed-off shotguns, hand grenades and other weapons without a special transfer license. The Act has been tested up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court. The NFA should be amended to include all assault rifles including the AR-15 types, the AK-47s and other military-styled assault rifles. If you want to keep your assault rifle, then pass a background check and pay your $200 for the license.
Pistol magazines should be restricted to no more than 10 rounds. Some pistol magazines carry as many as 33 rounds, such as the Glock pistol used in the 2007 Virginia State University shooting which killed 32 people.
Improve background checks for all firearms purchasers. The Atlanta Spa shooter purchased his pistol the same day as the shooting. The Boulder King Sooper shooter purchased his assault rifle a week prior to the shooting after passing a background check. More complete background checks in these instances would have created different results.
We need national legislation limiting rifles to no more than five rounds—four in the magazine, one in the chamber. For pistols, 10 in the magazine.
Deaths of 20 First Graders and Six Educators.
Absent sensible gun-control legislation there is one alternative. Take the gun makers to court and sue for wrongful death.
The 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school mass shooting resulted in the deaths of 20 first graders and six educators. The shooter used a Remington Bushmaster assault rifle (AR-15) owned by his mother to kill her first and himself last. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 affirmed that relatives of Sandy Hook shooting victims can sue Remington Arms. Sue not only the gun makers but gun sellers; put them all out of business. Or, alternatively, have sensible gun control.
In fairness I must state that I own an assault rifle. It is a muzzle-loading rifle supposedly used by my great-great-great grandfather at the Battle of New Orleans with maximum fire of two or three rounds per minute. It is the type of weapon the writers of the Second Amendment had in mind. The popular mass shooting rifle, the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, has a maximum rate of fire of 60 to 90 rounds per minute. It makes no sense for civilians to own such a killing machine. Use common sense to prevent mass killings.
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.