Fourteen children were killed because Nikolas Cruz had an assault rifle. Fourteen children who were loved, who had a future, and who went to school on a perfectly average day died in a half-hour shooting spree. Three caring adults lost their lives trying to protect the kids. Fifteen people were wounded; hundreds will live their lives with the memory of that day. All of us were, in some way, terrorized.
Nikolas Cruz was not an evil genius who would have found some way to slaughter children no matter what. He was a depressed, angry teenager who acted on impulse. Angry, impulsive people can do awful things, but it’s hard to kill that many people without a very powerful weapon.
Fifty-eight people died when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd with assault rifles in Las Vegas in October, 2017. Omar Mateen killed forty-nine people with an assault rifle in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016.
I’m going to say the obvious: these weapons should not be available to the public. I don’t care how many responsible gun enthusiasts enjoy using them at firing ranges. Their enjoyment is trivial compared with the lives lost and the havoc created when these guns are used for mass murder. I don’t even care that some people feel they need an assault rifle to protect their homes from burglars. They can do that perfectly well with a revolver.
The United States should ban assault weapons. By ban, I mean: it should be illegal to buy, sell or transfer assault weapons or ammunition. Perhaps even owning one should be illegal. They did this in Australia, with the government buying back those weapons in circulation (and they haven’t had a mass shooting there since).
Obviously, this would be anathema to the gun lobby and the politicians who support it. That should not stop Progressives from taking a firm stand against assault weapons. This is a matter of public health and safety and plain common sense; and two thirds of Americans support it.
As for why gun restrictions don’t get political traction, I’m quoting from an article in yesterday’s Dispatch:
Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, said, “It’s mostly hyperbole that campaign contributions can directly buy votes in Congress.”
Instead, he said, the issue falls on strictly ideological grounds: Republicans rarely stray from the party’s stance of opposing new gun restrictions while Democrats — once far more divided on the issue – have dug in on the notion of additional restrictions.
“The debate is on clear party and ideological lines,” he said.
And while Democrats have become more vocal on the issue, it’s episodic. No one is shutting down the government over gun ontrol.
“It’s not like it’s the No. 1 issue in the Democratic Party,” he said.
This is an issue on which we need to stay active. We can’t just react to the latest shooting and then move on to something else a week later. We need to communicate to the political candidates we support that protecting the public from gun violence is a top priority. And as far as the politicians who won’t listen to that argument: you already know. We need to vote them out.
Please note that not all these groups are advocating for an assault weapons ban – but they are working for more sensible gun laws that will help to reduce gun deaths in the state.