Ban as­sault weapons now

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS -

Acom­mon thread links the mass slaugh­ters of first-grad ers in New­town, Conn., of county work­ers in San Bernardino, Calif., and of night­club pa­trons in Or­lando: The killers used as­sault­style weapons that are ef­fi­cient ma­chines of mur­der. Such weapons are ac­cu­rate and quick, fir­ing with just the twitch of a fin­ger, per­fect for mow­ing down hu­man be­ings, par­tic­u­larly if equipped with high-ca­pac­ity magazines. They have be­come the weapon of choice of peo­ple in­tent on may­hem, most re­cently Omar Ma­teen in Or­lando, who brought an AR-15 semi­au­to­matic ri­fle to the packed night­club where he killed 49 and wounded 53 early Sun­day.

Con­ve­niently for as­pir­ing mass killers, such weapons are easy to buy legally in most states. Which is one rea­son that af­ter just about ev­ery mass shoot­ing, there are calls for a na­tional ban on this style of weapon, orig­i­nally de­signed for war. And to out­law the high-ca­pac­ity magazines, with more than 10 rounds, that help make them so deadly. While as­sault weapons equipped with high-ca­pac­ity magazines are used in only a small per­cent­age of crimes, hold­ing down the size of magazines could save lives, Johns Hop­kins’ re­searchers re­ported in 2012. Even if the ban even­tu­ally pre­vented only 20% of those in­ci­dents, that would trans­late into 100 fewer homi­cides and 500 fewer peo­ple wounded by gun­shots per year. The 1994 law might have been even more suc­cess­ful had it been crafted more strictly. But gun mak­ers are adept at finding le­gal loop­holes, and this was no ex­cep­tion. They tweaked their prod­ucts and sold the re­vised ver­sion legally. A tighter mea­sure could do more, while ex­plic­itly ex­empt­ing hun­dreds of hunt­ing ri­fles and shot­guns. An at­tempt to do just that failed in the Se­nate in 2013, even in the wake of the massacre of ele­men­tary school­child­ren. The ever-pow­er­ful gun lobby stands in the way of such log­i­cal changes by twist­ing any move to limit the sale of cer­tain kinds of guns into a men­ac­ing at­tempt to take away all guns. The abun­dance of as­sault weapons, and the ease with which they can be pur­chased in the USA, is a gap that gives mass shoot­ers an edge and has buoyed even the na­tion’s worst en­e­mies. An Amer­i­can-born spokesman for al-Qaeda ob­served in a 2011 video that “Amer­ica is awash with eas­ily ob­tain­able firearms” and asked as­pir­ing killers, “So what are you wait­ing for?” As Amer­i­cans mourn the deaths of 49 in­no­cent peo­ple, they should be ask­ing the same ques­tion of mem­bers of Congress stand­ing in the way of com­mon-sense gun safety mea­sures. — USA To­day

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