Violent actions of few does not justify limiting rights of many
In the wake of the tragic shooting that occurred in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, many politicians, as well as commentators and members of the general public, called for stricter gun control measures.
Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced new legislation regulating assault weapons. The proposed legislation is meant to be a renewal and expansion of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which expired in 2004. Its provisions include banning magazines or clips holding more than 10 rounds, as well as requiring gun owners to federally register their guns.
Sen. Feinstein is proposing a simple solution to a complex problem, a solution that has more to do with her ideological beliefs and goals than crafting a logical response to the Newtown shooting. Punishing the millions of law-abiding American gun owners for the violent actions of one man would be draconian.
Merely banning high-capacity magazines will not prevent shootings. For example, the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 occurred under the ban, which dictated how many and what kind of attachments were allowed on a rifle, including sights, scopes and bayonet lugs. An “assault weapon” refers to magazine capacity and attachments (both cosmetic and functional).
Assault weapons, as detailed by the ban, are not automatic weapons. Automatic weapons have been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934, and are extremely difficult for members of the general public to possess. Firearms regulated by the ban are semi-automatic.
Even if all guns were banned, those who seek to wreak death and destruction on the innocent will always find a way, For example, in 1995, Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing with a bomb made largely from fertilizer.
There are far more law-abiding gun owners in the United States than there are people who harbor intentions like shooter Adam Lanza’s. Lanza was murderous and mentally unstable and, like McVeigh, would have found a different way to perpetrate his crime if he did not have access to a gun.
Rifles are rarely used in crimes, so a renewed assault weapons ban would not measurably impact gun crime, which has been steadily decreasing in the United States even as gun ownership has risen. There are a multitude of factors that could have contributed to Lanza’s rampage, as well as that of James Holmes’ at a Colorado movie theater.
Some point to violent video games, as Norwegian shooter Anders Breivik allegedly played Call of Duty to train. However, the more likely culprit for mass shootings is the lack of attention given to the mentally ill.
Connecticut recently defeated a bill allowing “involuntary outpatient commitment,” where a judge can compel a person to undergo psychiatric treatment or be forcefully hospitalized. All but six states have such laws.
It is uncertain whether Lanza would have been recognized as a threat before his rampage, and the benefit of hindsight might inflate what the defeated bill’s effect would have been. However, such legislation has the potential to prevent violent crimes in the future. Political efforts focused on demonizing guns and gun owners, rather than addressing the mental health problem in this country, are disgraceful.
— David Weissman is a journalism junior. He can be reached at
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