News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Renew the ban on assault-style weapons

The semiautomatic rifles that have been used in 23 percent of mass shootings in the United States are variations of the AR-15 “assault-style rifle.”

According to an NPR report, “In 1963, the U.S. military selected Colt to manufacture the automatic rifle that soon became standard issue for U.S. troops in the Vietnam War. It was known as the M-16…Colt ramped up production of a semiautomatic version of the M-16 that it sold to law enforcement and the public, marketed as the AR-15…other manufacturers began making similar models…the popularity of the AR-15 turned it into a generic term for all types of AR-15-style rifles.”

Fully automatic weapons have been tightly restricted in the U.S. since the 1934 National Firearms Act, which was directed against machine guns. However, a bump stock — a legal device in many places — can be added to a semiautomatic weapon to approximate an automatic rifle. The Las Vegas shooter had a bump stock, which brought the device to national attention, and has led to calls to ban it in the current gun debate.

Although mass shootings account for a small percentage of gun deaths, 135 percent more people were shot in mass shootings than in other gun incidents, and 57 percent more deaths resulted from mass shootings than other gun-related incidents.

The following is a partial list of the most highly publicized mass shootings using an AR-15-style weapon: May 24, 2022: Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas;19 students and two teachers dead.

May 14, 2022: Buffalo, New York market; 10 dead.

Feb. 14, 2018: Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida; 17 dead.

Oct. 1, 2017: The Las Vegas slaughter of 58 people.

The Pulse nightclub, Orlando, Florida; 49 dead.

Dec. 2, 2015: San Bernardino, California; 14 dead.

Dec. 14, 2012: Sandy Hook Elementary School; 27 dead.

A federal ban on assault weapons was in place in the United States from 1994 to 2004.

A study that compared mass shooting deaths from assault-style weapons during the ban to the 13 years before the ban went into effect and the 13 years after the ban was allowed to sunset, estimated that a prohibition on assault weapons would have prevented 314 of 448 mass shooting deaths.

Drawing upon the Justice Department’s database of mass shootings, James Kitfield writes that over the past half century, nearly 98 percent of mass shooters have been male, many of whom have experienced childhood trauma and nurse an identifiable grievance; they often study and find inspiration in past mass shooters, and they increasingly are radicalized online. They also tend to leak their plans for mass murder before acting.

Other developed nations also have troubled young men with similar backgrounds. The frequency of mass shootings in the United States can be explained by troubled young men having ready access to firearms, particularly assault-style weapons.

Eleven million variations of the AR-15 are estimated to have been sold by gun manufacturers. Ryan Busse, former gun industry executive: “There was lots of discussion in marketing-planning meetings about how you could get your gun model placed in a movie or a video game. That represented a solution to the problem, which was: How do we attract a new market segment away from this graying, older market segment that’s not growing?”

Busse says gun manufacturers have embraced military-style weapons and tactical gear, branding them as symbols of masculinity and patriotism.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in April 2021, gun owners are roughly as likely as non-owners to support preventing people with mental illnesses from obtaining guns.

And sizable majorities of adults who own guns and those who do not both favor background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

Let us take one more step together, and insist that congress renews the assault-weapons ban, saving American lives


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