Like many of the serious problems in America, banning assault rifles will make some people feel better but it will not address the root of the problem.
By Solomon Smith, Managing Editor
For some, the silhouette of the AR-15 or M4 represents violence and death. For U.S. sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines, however, it is a symbol of the tools of the trade and pride of service. Assault rifles (even the term is scary) are not the problem, our culture and our laws are.
Banning assault rifles will make some, who do not understand the problem, feel better but will have a negligible effect upon the number of gun deaths in the country or the issues that lead up to them.
The highest cause of gun deaths in the country are the result of self-inflicted wounds from suicide. The overwhelming majority are committed with handguns. According to an article in the National Institute of Justice, an organization known for its studies on gun violence, the facts are clear about gun violence.
“Most homicides in the United States are committed with firearms,” reads the article, “especially handguns.”
Banning assault rifle is about image, not substance.
As a black man, I am more likely to be killed by a racist cop. For me, the idea that going to a white neighborhood at night to visit a friend means I could be shot to death (with a pistol) by the local security guard.
The rise in white nationalism and domestic terrorism is pressing for me. This is more in the front of my mind over the worry of mass shootings. Homegrown terrorism is on the rise in the nation. The fear that a parent could lose their child because an officer views them as a threat is much more real than some general fear of an AR-15. For people of color, it is about who is holding that weapon.
The suggested ban will lead to more guns in wealthy hands as these laws are often not fairly executed. Phillando Castille was murdered by a police officer in 2016 after telling the officer he had a legal gun in the vehicle. The officer shot him with a pistol.
Gun reform is necessary. We need it and we need it now. It needs to be dealt with in a reasoned way that addresses the roots of the problem; racism, mental health, violent culture and easy access are big issues but politicians have chosen to give Americans a visual, simplified representation of the problem, the assault rifle, and deal with the symbol rather than the problem it represents.
Magazine size, wait times, background checks, more safety classes, red flag laws, better gun locks and safety mechanisms, registration and regulation, the fair application of the law; all these things could put a significant dent in the issue. The shooter in Odessa, Texas may have been stopped if the loopholes in the already existing laws about background checks were applied, according to an article on BuzzFeed.
“The gunman … couldn't pass a firearm background check,” wrote Claudia Koerner of BuzzFeed, “but he purchased a gun in a private party sale that didn't require any scrutiny of his history.”
America needs to stop pretending that the type of weapon involved in these crimes has anything to do with the crime itself. That fearful silhouette of the M4 is a shadow issue. When the country can face the reality of its failed gun policies and acceptance of violence against all of its people then, maybe, the country can move toward ending gun violence.