Gun debate continues, assault weapons unnecessary

Spencer Murphy | Staff Columnist 


In the current environment surrounding the debate on gun control, it is hard to reach a satisfying position. The general disagreement, at least currently, is focused on automatic weapons and if the right to own such weapons is justified.

Many people want these weapons outlawed for a simple reason: the conservation of life. They feel that these weapons rob them of their ability to feel safe. With countless mass shootings in recent years, this position is not without merit.

However, on the flip side, there are those who argue that the Second Amendment includes the right to assault weapons, or that the outlawing of such guns would leave them only available to criminals. Recognizing the validity of both arguments makes moving forward complicated. However, with a careful analysis of key questions, it is possible to reach a stable answer.

The first has to do with the effectiveness of a gun ban if it were to be implemented. Of course, we can only speculate, but intelligent inference is possible. If we look at the 1996 Port Arthur incident in Australia, we see a mass shooting which claimed more than 30 lives and effectively ignited gun control laws that soon took effect. After the banning of assault style weapons in Australia, there has not been a single mass shooting in the 20 years since.

This, compared to our own country in which we can recall multiple shootings off the top of our heads (Sandy Hook, Pulse nightclub, and the Vegas concert incident) is shocking.

The UK has seen similar results after banning all modern assault-style rifles some decades ago. The difference that we see between the U.S. and countries like Australia and the UK is remarkable. Such drastic change means that not only is this grisly reality curable, but it’s already been cured elsewhere.

There’s no denying that there are many differences between these countries and our own, and saying that a ban on assault weapons is a definite cure would be an overstep. But the idea that such a gigantic problem could be rectified gives hope, and with its track record of success, it seems a viable route worth sampling to determine its success.

Next, we must question if the proposed ban would step on the rights of Americans by stepping on the Second Amendment. I am of the opinion that no, it does not. My reasoning comes from an analysis of intentions, not an analysis of what currently is, but of the government that implemented this amendment.

As we all remember learning in school, our country was founded out of a struggle to throw off an oppressive government. As such, many of our laws and systems were implemented to ensure that such oppression would not rise from our own government. The prevention of search and seizure, the illegality of forcible housing for soldiers, and the right to bear arms are codes to uphold this tyranny-free system.

However, we must also consider that when such rules were implemented, the weapons that were available were simple. Muskets, rifles and bayonets were the tools of the time, and these were primarily used for hunting and militia work when necessary. The point is that such weapons were not capable of killing large groups of people in the fashion that has become all too normal in the modern age. Given the intent of a right to self-defense and means of providing, a simple rifle or shotgun is fit within this category.

Beyond the ability to do those functions, a gun’s extra capabilities become unnecessary. Furthermore, an archaic perspective in which we cite old examples of gun laws is outdated and dangerous. Advancement of weaponry means that whatever laws and safety measures we put into effect must be as current as the weapons themselves. So while the spirit of our constitution should be present in all legal motions, it should not be a singular guide that we are afraid to deviate from.

Assault weapons are unnecessary items whose existence offers no purpose in the hands of civilians except to contribute to disaster. While this topic walks a very thin line it is important to avoid devolving into overly anodyne statements.