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Breqlyne Johnson

13 April 2018
Ben Henderson
Persuasive Policy Essay
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A New Take on the Assault Weapons Ban

Intro

Parkland, Vegas, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech; the list goes

on. The places change, the numbers change, but the choice of weapon remains the same, guns.

Specifically, military grade assault style rifles. Easy-to-obtain assault weapons, once banned

under U.S. law, are a common thread connecting many of the deadliest mass shootings that have

occurred in our nation’s history. The gun industry has for many years marketed military-style

firearms and accessories to civilians, including assault weapons, large-capacity ammunition

magazines, and bump stocks. Most people who own guns use them while hunting and/or for self-

protection, but when modified or paired with different magazines and bump stocks, these

weapons are not intended for self-defense or even for hunting; they are specifically designed to

make the weapon more efficient at what it was designed to do, kill.

There is an apparent need for a policy to fix this nightmare we are living in today. These

weapons can be easily obtained in the United States today, for example, “The perpetrator of the

school shooting in Parkland, Florida purchased his military-style assault weapon legally. So did

the man who shot more than 400 people in Las Vegas in October of 2017. So did the man who

gunned down 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016. And so did the man who gunned

down 26 worshipers at a church in Texas in November 2017” (Washington Post). Because of

shootings like these, just a few weeks ago, on March 24, an estimated 800,000 people marched

for the March For Our Lives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. to demand that their

lives and safety become a priority and that our country end gun violence and mass shootings in

our country today (March for Our Lives).


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Justification

On average, there is a mass shooting, defined broadly as four or more people injured or

killed, almost every day in the United States (Dietz). According to the Mass Shootings Tracker,

there have been over 10,000 victims of mass shootings since 2013 alone. Gun violence in the

United States costs $229 billion a year. To put this into perspective, this is more than $700 per

American every year, and more than the total economic cost of obesity, an estimated $147

billion, according to the Center for Disease Control. In 2010 alone, guns took the lives of over

31,000 Americans. This is more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.

A starting comparison is this, between 1955 and 1975 the Vietnam War killed over 58,000

American soldiers- less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average

two-year period (Giffords Law Center). While there are many statistics concerning gun

consumption, usage, and possession, many experts agree that there are somewhere around 3.75

million AR-15-type rifles in the United States today; frequently the weapon of choice in mass

shootings. If there are around 3.75 million firearms in the U.S. today, that means these auto-

loading assault-style rifles make up around one percent of the total arsenal. And keep in mind,

the AR-15 is just one of the many assault style rifles on the market. The Coalition to Stop Gun

Violence defines an assault weapon as a firearm with certain features that make it easier to shoot

large amounts of bullets across a wide area in a short period of time. Some assault weapon

features, like pistol grips and bump stocks, make the weapon easier to wield using two hands.

This allows the shooter to riddle an area with bullets without having to aim. Others attachments,

like detachable magazines, make it easier to maintain a high rate of fire for an extended period of
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time. These features, most of which were specifically designed for the military, are unnecessary

for hunting or self-protection circumstances.

American Gun Culture

The American gun culture we know of today originated during the revolution when the

patriots, who were hunters and farmers, used their weapons to overthrow their tyrannical British

government. But due to a lack of weapons they were forced to take guns from the British in

instances like the raid on Harpers Ferry. In order to protect themselves from other tyrannical

governments or coups from the military, our forefathers made it a constitutional right for every

American to own weapons and have the ability to form a well-regulated militia. That sentiment

has stayed with the American people throughout history and the extreme sense of nationalism we

have developed and our deep love and respect for our military and their weapons has amplified

the love and respect these people have for the Second Amendment. American gun culture is an

anomaly and no other nation can be compared to America in that aspect. According to historian

Michael A. Bellesiles, “It is assumed that the nation’s love affair with the gun is impervious to

change, since its roots are so deep in our national history and psyche. The origin of this culture of

violence is routinely understood to lie in our frontier heritage. With guns in their hands and

bullets on their belts, the American frontiers men conquered the wilderness and created modern

America. In the imagined past, ‘the requirements for self-defense and food gathering…had put

firearms in the hands of nearly everyone.’ The almost universal ownership of guns in the

eighteenth century was enshrined in the Second Amendment to the constitution, and its

constitution is defended with ferocity by the National Rifle Association.”


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Policy

In 1994, after a string of mass killings committed by people with assault weapons,

Congress passed a law, similar to the one proposed by the author, banning specific assault

weapons. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban—officially, the Public Safety and Recreational

Firearms Use Protection Act, named 19 specific models and also banned copies or duplicates of

those models. In addition, the law outlawed guns that have two or more specific assault weapon

features. Guns that were legally passed before the effective date of the law remained legal. The

1994 assault weapons ban included what is called a sunset clause; this means the law would be

automatically repealed on September 13, 2004. President Bush indicated support for renewing

the ban but refused to lobby Congress to pass new legislation. Congress failed to act and extend

the ban, thus causing assault weapons to become legal under the provisions of federal law.

The first step to answering our nation’s cry is to implement a policy that will cease the

sales and distribution of assault style rifles, large-capacity magazines, and bump stocks. The

policy the author proposes is very similar to the former AWB which banned the sales of assault

style rifles and firearms containing a detachable magazine, but the author’s policy will

additionally ban large capacity magazines, and bump stocks. As with the AWB, previously

owned assault style rifles as well as the additionally accessories included in this policy will be

included in a “grandfather clause” allowing for the possession of such items that were otherwise

lawfully possessed on the date of enactment. This policy will make it unlawful for a person to

manufacture, transfer, or possess an assault style rifle, large capacity magazine, and/or bump

stock (Congressional Research Service).

In the almost 14 years since this ban was repealed there has been a drastic increase in

mass shootings. Louis Klarevas, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston,


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collected data on every mass shooting from the years 1966 to 2016. His focus was to see whether

there was any change in the number of mass shootings while the 10-year federal ban on assault

weapons was in place. Klarevas calls the results “staggering”, “Compared with the 10-year

period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and

the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in

2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239

percent increase in massacre deaths” (Klarevas, 70).

Rebuttal

At the mere mention of “gun control” many people get frustrated, assuming nothing will

work, or are reluctant to try anything at all. But there are many people who are trying to

implement change in our country and are pushing for better policy and gun regulations. While

keeping in mind that our Constitution states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the

security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” we

need to also acknowledge that our laws do not coincide with the world we live in today. Yes, it is

important to abide by the constitutional laws our forefathers set for us but it is also important to

create new laws to protect the people our constitution is addressed to. An important phrase we

can find in the second amendment that is often overlooked is, “A well-regulated Militia…”, right

now our gun industry is not well regulated and we need to do something about it. There is a

glaring gap in federal law that allows people to buy guns without first having gone through a

thorough background check. But the background checks are not the key here because, “The

killers in recent incidents like Las Vegas, Orlando and Sutherland Springs were each able to

walk into a gun shop in the days and months before their attacks, and legally purchase their
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assault weapons and magazines after passing a standard background check. Under an assault

weapons ban, that wouldn't be possible” (Washington Post).

The key is to keep assault style weapons and accessories out of the hands of a vast

majority of American citizens because they simply aren’t necessary. A common argument

against any sort of gun control is, “Well I have the right to protect myself!” Primarily, assault

style weapons are not needed to protect oneself in a majority of circumstances; but also, the

amount of times guns are used defensively per year is lower than gun advocates make it out to

be. Assault style weapons are not designed from a defense standpoint; they are designed from an

assault standpoint. These weapons are designed to be efficient killing machines, not a weapon

used to defend your home. “The gun lobby has often cited to a thoroughly debunked statistic that

guns are used defensively 2.5 million times per year in the United States. That discredited

estimate came from a 1995 study that suffered fatal flaws, including its reliance on only 66

responses in a telephone survey of 5,000 people, multiplied out to purportedly represent over 200

million American adults” (Giffords Law Center).

Conclusion

As the fatalities and injuries add up, our nation continues to cry out for change. We are

not living in 1791 when the Second Amendment was written, we are living in 2018, where the

ability to pass a background check and obtain a weapon is not foolproof. The ease of which one

can go about obtaining a firearm insinuates the desperate need for further action to be taken.

Though we have a constitutional right to bear arms, we also have the basic human right to live

safely, without being in constant fear of gun violence. It is also our constitutional right to speak

up and demand legislature that guarantees the personal safety of our citizens and anybody

visiting our country. Mass shootings are occurring at alarming rates with frightening amounts of
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casualties and suffering at the hands of people who have no business owning assault style rifles,

large-capacity magazines, or bump stocks. By allowing the purchase of these weapons and

accessories, our government and the gun lobby are enabling these people to commit these

atrocities. This policy, very similar to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, will stop the sales of

these unnecessary weapons to prevent dangerous people from hastily purchasing them with

deadly intentions. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California says it best, “This [policy] won’t stop

every mass shooting, but it will begin removing these weapons of war from our streets. Yes, it

will be a long process to reduce the massive supply of these assault weapons in our country, but

we’ve got to start somewhere.”


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Works Cited

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"Ban Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines." Center for American Progress, 9 Mar.
2018, www.americanprogress.org/issues/guns-crime/reports/2018/03/09/447720/
ban-assault-weapons-high-capacity-ammunition-magazines/. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Bellesiles, Michael A. “The Origins of Gun Culture in the United States, 1760-1865.” The Journal of
American History, vol. 83, no. 2, 1996, pp. 425–455. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2944942.

Berkowitz, Bonnie, et al., editors. "The Terrible Numbers That Grow With Each Mass Shooting." The
Washington Post, 14 Mar. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/
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Cameron, Darla, and Samuel Granados, editors. "Mass Shootings: How U.S. Gun Culture Compares with
the Rest of the World." The Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/
world/mass-shootings/?utm_term=.5e028acd5686. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences." Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5 Mar. 2018,
www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes.html. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.

Dietz, Kevin, editor. "U.S. Has the Most Public Mass Shooters in the World, Study Shows." ABC 12:
KSAT, WDIV, 14 Feb. 2018, www.ksat.com/news/
us-has-the-most-public-mass-shooters-in-the-world-study-shows. Accessed 11 Apr. 2018.

Hovey, Creg, and Lisa Fisher. Understanding America's Gun Culture. Lexington Books, 2017.

Ingraham, Christopher, editor. "It’s Time to Bring Back the Assault Weapons Ban, Gun Violence
Experts Say." The Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/15/
its-time-to-bring-back-the-assault-weapons-ban-gun-violence-experts-say/?utm_term=.321bf19f64b2.
Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

Klarevas, Louis. Rampage Nation. Prometheus Books, 2016.

"Large Capacity Magazines." Giffords Law Center: To Prevent Gun Violence, lawcenter.giffords.org/
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"Mission Statement." March for Our Lives, marchforourlives.com/march-in-dc/. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

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Washington Post, 14 Mar. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/
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