Scott Underwood column: People kill people; assault weapons enable the act | Opinion

Second Amendment


Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

How often have we heard that from Second Amendment zealots who will fight to the end before surrendering any political ground to limit gun violence and, in particular, mass shootings?

They’re right, you know. A gun requires a person to pull the trigger to kill another human being.

But then, the following point is also obvious:

A person without a gun — or a bomb — is limited in the number of people they can kill in short order. In most mass shooting situations, if the person were armed with a knife instead of a gun, they could hope to kill only a few instead of dozens.

The Second Amendment does protect our rights to bear arms, including guns. We should be able to use them for protection, for lawful hunting and for target sports.

But the legality of semiautomatic weapons — like mass shooters’ weapon of choice, AR-15-style rifles — can’t be justified for those purposes. These killing machines can wipe out dozens of human beings in a matter of minutes.

Not only can assault rifles be fired rapidly, up to 180 rounds in a single minute, but the bullets they fire do far more damage than traditional ammunition. And the 2019 ban on bump stocks, which effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into machine guns, was recently overturned by an appellate court in New Orleans.

“Assault weapons … cause a condition called cavitation, meaning that as the projectile passes through tissue, it creates a large cavity,” Dr. Ian Brown, a trauma surgeon at UC Davis Health in Sacramento, California, told NRP in June 2022.

“And that does a ton of tissue damage, both initially at the impact, and then even further as that tissue begins to necrose, or die off.”

Bullets from semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15 travel three times faster and strike with more than twice the force of those shot from a traditional revolver, according to Cynthia Bir, a researcher in the ballistics lab at the University of Southern California.

Clearly, semiautomatic weapons enable mass shooters to kill with cold efficiency. But some argue that making them illegal would simply mean that the criminals have them and nobody else does.

Well, if you adhere to this line of logic, you believe in no laws at all. You believe in anarchy. What you’re arguing is true with all laws — the vast majority of people follow them, criminals break them.

The power of the law, rather, is that it makes illegal things more difficult to do, so that even determined criminals have difficulty procuring the illegal item, and they run the risk of being caught and punished.

Gun ownership and gun laws should be matters of public safety and individual rights. But through organizations like the NRA, these matters have been politicized. The NRA’s annual convention in Indianapolis over the weekend drew tens of thousands of people to the city, including Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis and other Republic Party darlings.

All march in lockstep with the NRA because they fear its lobbying power.

These leaders and their legions of followers deflect the need for greater gun control by focusing on the mental health of the killers.

Of course, if you want to kill people, you are by definition insane. Mental health care is a key to stopping the action, and so are red flag laws. But mental illness will always exit. Semiautomatic weapons enable the criminally insane to victimize dozens in a single act.

Meanwhile, the people of Louisville are just beginning to emerge from the deepest shock waves of a downtown mass shooting a week ago.

Louisville, Dayton, Indianapolis, Cincinnati … mass shootings have bloodied our regional backyard, striking at familiar cities that draw us for cultural and sports events. Mass shootings aren’t someone else’s problem. It’s a problem for all Americans, regardless of who you are or where you live.

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

Yes, but without semiautomatic weapons, they couldn’t indiscriminately mow down school children learning to read, bank employees showing up for work, parishioners bowing down before God, concert-goers dancing in the streets and anybody, anywhere doing anything.



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