Editorial

Access to assault rifles: ‘enough is enough’

Friday, October 13, 2017

The recent massacre at an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas has many Americans wondering.

Wondering how such a thing could happen, how it could have been prevented and how long before we as a nation have had enough? Are we willing to discuss ways to prevent mass shootings?

According to an article published by the Washington Post, one performer at the country music massacre in Las Vegas, which left 58 people dead and more than 500 wounded, posted a lengthy message on Twitter detailing his personal response to the attack.

Caleb Keeter, guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band and a life-long proponent of the Second Amendment, said living through one of the worst experiences in his life caused him to change his views on a very touchy subject in our country: Gun control.

“A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of fire power,” Keeter wrote. “These rounds were powerful enough that my crew guys just standing in close proximity of a victim shot by this man received shrapnel wounds. Enough is enough.”

In 2010, the National Rifle Association, the leading lobbying group for the gun industry, launched a partnership with the Nashville music scene, called NRA Country. The country music scene, its fans and performers, have traditionally been Second Amendment supporters, and there is no reason for that to necessarily change.

But, as Keeter pointed out, the tragedy was due in large part to the shooter’s “access to an insane amount of firepower.”

The Los Angeles Times recently featured an interview with rising country singer Margo Price, who said, “Politicians offer ‘prayers and thoughts’ but then take money from the NRA. People have had all these opportunities to speak out, and instead they just say vague things like, ‘This is a song against hate’ but not talk about reforming gun laws. They’ve got to get their heads out of the sand.”

It’s obvious that whatever we are doing now is not working.

A compromise needs to be considered. The Second Amendment guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms, but when the Second Amendment was written, assault weapons were not available.

The Second Amendment does not protect semiautomatic assault weapons, and the federal government and states can outlaw them.

According to CNN.com, the federal government banned military-style semiautomatic assault weapons for 10 years between 1994 and 2004, and deaths from mass shootings fell.

According to data assembled by Mother Jones -- a reader supported non-profit news organization -- in its open-source database, there were 15 mass shootings with 96 deaths during the 10-year ban. The ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed, and mass-shooting deaths increased. During the next 10 years, there were an astounding 35 mass shootings and 195 deaths. Since then, the rate of mass shootings has continued to rise.

Do we really need the right to purchase and own such weapons?

Australia, which is a lot like the United States in its politics and its libertarian streak, strictly bans such weapons. According to an article published by CNN earlier this month, Australia suffered a number of mass shootings involving semiautomatic weapons in the 1980s and 1990s, including a horrendous mass shooting in 1996 known as the Port Arthur Massacre. The government of the time took decisive action, banning such weapons. Since then, there has not been a single mass shooting with semiautomatic assault weapons and very few cases of multiple homicides.

Gun ownership by responsible Americans is a perfectly just thing.

Target practice, hunting and home protection are rights every American can choose to enjoy, and most do so responsibly.

Nobody needs a semiautomatic weapon to hunt anything but other humans. These guns were designed to do the most damage to the most targets in the most efficient way. Taking assault weapons off of the shelves is one way for NRA members and all Americans to compromise.

If we want fewer instances like the blood bath in Las Vegas, we need to talk about the issue, and not be afraid to disagree as long as we can all agree to work together toward a solution.

As a nation, we have faced trying times before, and we have survived and grown stronger. Strong enough to admit when we are wrong, and strong enough to change things that aren’t working. After the Civil War, the majority of the nation came to the realization that abducting strangers from foreign lands and forcing them to work on plantations was inhumane, it was simply wrong.

Some took longer than others to become accustomed to the idea, but the point is, we were wrong, we realized we were wrong and we made changes that conformed our way of thinking, our behavior and our laws to reflect the ideals of our Constitution. Equal rights mean equal rights for all of us.

Our nation, at one point in history, denied females, half of its population, basic human rights, including the right to have an opinion in electing our leaders. We denied women many rights as people, until we realized, again, that we were wrong.

So, we admitted, we learned, we changed, we evolved and we moved forward, becoming a proud and independent nation of civilized humans. In some nations, women are still horribly oppressed. We hope that someday, these nations will realize they have been wrong. We hope that they realize, admit and change.

Until then, we will continue to be a nation worth learning from. A civilized nation.

America the beautiful.

Groups like the National Rifle Association are not inherently bad, but their inclusion into politics with lobbyists needs to stop.

Personal-interest groups, and their deep pockets, have no place in politics. Laws should be laws because we believe they should, not because the group with the most money wins.

This issue should not be about money, it should be about what we are willing to do to stop the senseless carnage and the loss of innocent lives to the whims of one angry man or woman with a weapon designed to kill as many people as possible in the most efficient manner possible.

Can we admit that we don’t “need” the freedom to purchase and own assault weapons? Can we say, from our hearts, that we never want to see innocent people slaughtered at random in our own country?

Enough is enough.