CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the addition of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our Founding Fathers saw fit to ensure that Americans would always have the means to defend our rights from threats, both foreign and domestic. Following the Revolutionary War, James Madison, among others, declared that citizens would always have the power to keep and bear arms to operate a well-organized militia.With several mass shootings in the minds of the American public, the topic of banning "military-style assault rifles" has come up. While this idea is pure of heart, it is not sound of mind for several reasons.What is this "military-style assault rifle" that gun control proponents want to ban? No one knows.The term "assault rifle," is hotly debated on Internet forums running both sides of the gun ban argument, with no clear definition. Dictionary.com defines it as: "1. a military rifle capable of both automatic and semi-automatic fire, utilizing an intermediate-power cartridge," or "2. a nonmilitary weapon modeled on the military assault rifle, usually modified to allow only semi-automatic fire."How can the government ban an item that has not been clearly defined?The National Firearms Act of 1968
already set forth stringent restrictions on fully automatic machine guns (weapons that fire more than one round per trigger pull), so the new proposals would only serve to restrict the use of semi-automatic rifles and handguns, which fire one round per trigger pull. Those under particular scrutiny are militaristic in appearance -- especially the AR-15, which is the civilian equivalent of the M-16 -- though they are not necessarily better suited for killing than the average sporting rifle in the wrong hands.For example, the Ruger 10-22, a small caliber semi-automatic weapon frequently used for target shooting, can be customized easily with the addition of aftermarket accessories, from the wood grain stock and simple barrel of the traditional hunting rifle to a weapon shockingly similar in appearance to those carried by our servicemen and women. Yet the stopping power and firing capacity do not necessarily change.How would the proposed gun bans treat weapons such as these? Would they ban the whole model or just the "intimidating" military-style attachments?
Gun owners want to keep the public safe as much, if not more than, any other focus group in America. However, they cannot, in their right minds, support overarching and unclear bans that impinge on their civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.In wake of tragedies such as the Aurora, Colo., movie theater and Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, Americans are left in mourning. We are looking for answers, ways these events could have been prevented and ways to ensure that history does not repeat itself.Currently, citizens are holding semi-automatic weapons to blame for the massacres and clamoring for ways to remove the guns from society, but the weapons are not to blame. We must shift our focus from how these acts were committed to why they occurred.Who chose to commit these nightmarish acts, and for what reason? These are the questions we must answer.In order to create a more secure society, we need to better understand the behaviors of our fellow man, so interventions can occur before disturbed individuals take drastic measures. Enhanced mental health care for potentially dangerous individuals, better security systems and safety drills would be significant steps towards decreasing threats of violence to society.Americans have long relished the right to keep and bear arms as awarded to them by the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, some deranged people have abused this right and used weaponry to inflict atrocities upon helpless civilians.We must not allow the actions of a few limit the liberty of the greater population. Banning semi-automatic weapons will not effectively increase our safety, but it will strike another blow to our rights.
We cannot sacrifice our right to own reasonably advanced guns, such as semi-automatics, for the hope that we may curb violence. If we are to truly engineer a solution, we must strike at the heart of the problem, and address the why of violence, not just the how. (For more on school security and the causes of school shootings, I highly recommend "The War on Kids," an independent documentary available on Netflix)