I really try to ignore the ridiculous “debate” regarding banning AR-style “assault” rifles, but at some point I just feel I have to speak out, even though I doubt it will do any good. The arguments put forward by those opposed to banning these combat weapons are, to be blunt, quite stupid, and someone needs to call it out.
Stupid argument #1: “I need that rifle for home defense!” A respected police sergeant once told me that the most effective weapon for home defense is a shotgun. But beyond that, unless you are manufacturing and dealing drugs from your home, the risk of a home invasion is so vanishingly small as to be inconsequential. To think that there are hordes of bad guys “out to get you” is to inhabit a world of paranoid narcissism. Get over it; you’re not that special. Seek therapy.
Stupid argument #2: “I need that rifle to protect against a tyrannical government!” Seriously? You do realize the government has tanks, attack helicopters, and drones with hellfire missiles, right? Assault rifles are really good at shredding the bodies of elementary school kids (which, based on recent events, appear to be their primary purpose) but not so good against armored vehicles. (Ask the people from the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas about that. Oh, wait! You can’t! They’re all dead because, you guessed it, armored vehicles.) Frankly, #2 has to be the stupidest of the stupid arguments. And in any case, people often forget that WE are the government. It only becomes tyrannical if we let it. If elected representatives appear to be inclined toward destroying democracy (you know, by supporting insurrection and denying election results), then you vote them out at the next election. That’s how the system works. So far, it seems to be.
Stupid argument #3: “If we ban guns, people will use other things to kill, like knives and cars!” Well, first of all, almost no one in any position of authority is talking about banning all guns, just assault rifles. Remember when Clinton got elected, and the NRA screamed “He’s coming to take your guns!”? He didn’t, of course, but gun sales went up anyway. Then when Obama got elected, we heard the same thing: “He’s coming to take your guns!” He didn’t either, didn’t even try, but gun sales went up. And then when Biden got elected…well, see the pattern? Most democrats have no issue with rifles for hunting, or shotguns for skeet shooting, or pistols for target shooting (or even for home defense, if you’re of the paranoid type), but the Second Amendment means even if they wanted to, politicians can’t take away all your guns. But, of course, the NRA knows this. They just use the election of Democrats to drive up gun sales.
Second, yes, of course, knives and cars can be used to kill. So can chairs. But no one is going to be able to walk into a school and murder 20 kids with a chair. A favorite corollary to stupid argument #3 is “Are we also going to ban cars and knives?” But cars and knives and chairs are not made for the express purpose of killing. They’re made for transportation and cooking and sitting. Assault rifles, on the other hand, are expressly made to kill as many humans as possible in as short a time as possible. That is their only purpose. That’s why they were originally designed for combat, and it’s why they simply don’t belong in a civil society. That fruitcake in Las Vegas would not have been able to murder 58 people and wound hundreds more from his hotel window with a chair, or even a shotgun.
I mean, what’s next? Will the NRA start demanding that people have to right to own rocket-propelled grenades? After all, the Second Amendment doesn’t specify what “arms” we have the right to bear. Keep in mind that when the Second Amendment was written, the only weapons available to anyone were muskets. Since the United States was still at risk of invasion by foreign powers, it made sense to have an armed populace that could be called into a well-regulated militia. If the framers knew a rapid-fire, high-capacity, high-velocity firearm would be available at some future time, you can bet your bottom dollar they would have explicitly banned it for civilian use. And why does everyone always forget that the right to bear arms was expressly predicated on its association with a “well-regulated militia”? Supreme Court decisions to the contrary are clearly unconstitutional.
And finally, stupid argument #4: “There’s no point in passing a law to ban assault rifles, because criminals will ignore it.” Well, duh. Criminals ignore all laws. That’s what makes them criminals. By the twisted logic of this argument, we shouldn’t have any laws at all. How stupid is that? It’s true that Mexican drug cartels will probably still be able to get their hands on assault rifles if they are banned, but at least your average, disturbed, angry nut-case won’t be able to walk into a gun shop and buy one, then use it to slaughter people a few days later. This, after all, seems to be the pattern.
This debate has become completely polarized along political lines, with Democrats almost unanimously backing an assault rifle ban and Republicans almost unanimously preventing one from becoming law. If you want to know why, just follow the money. Every time there is a mass shooting, gun sales go up. Gun manufacturers make big profits, which they use to buy off Republicans (either directly or through the NRA). The Republicans prevent any meaningful change, because they like those sweet, sweet campaign contributions. In other words, mass shootings are actually good for them, and they know it. Keeping their cushy jobs is more important to them than the lives of American children. So all we ever get from them is empty, meaningless, insulting “thoughts and prayers.”
If you vote Republican, you are tacitly supporting this round robin of dead kids, more gun sales, campaign contributions, meaningless platitudes, no action, and more dead kids. I’m sure you don’t mean to support this terrible cycle, but that is nonetheless the practical result of your vote. So maybe, just for the next couple of elections, don’t vote for the purveyors of death. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for a Democrat, don’t vote at all. If enough Republican and independent voters do that, maybe, just maybe, we can bring a little sanity back to a country and society that seems to have lost its collective mind.
Formerly from San Diego, Jim Mastro is a biologist, former university professor, and author or co-author of eight books. He has traveled widely, spent over 30 years working for the US Antarctic Program, and remains keenly interested in science, geopolitics, public safety, social justice, and the environment. He is currently a full-time writer and occasional director of comedies for community theater.