August 3rd, 2019, the terrifying shooting in El Paso, TX was being covered on the news. It was yet another senseless act by a deranged individual that was able to get his hands on what I call a "Personal Weapon of Mass Destruction." (PWMD)
At the same moment I was watching this story unfold, I was preparing to head out to meet with friends, acquaintances, and people I had yet to discover. A mutual friend had passed away a short time before, and our friendly neighborhood brewpub, the place where I had met this man some ten years ago, was hosting the memorial event, sponsored by his family.
The pub was hopping when I arrived, stuffed wall-to-wall with people joining together to celebrate my friend's life. There was music, chatter, and an open mic where people could share their memories of him. I took a turn at the mic myself despite my lifelong, deep-seeded anxiety, encouraged by the positivity I felt from the people around me, to read an article that my late friend had written and published on the Huffington Post.
In this setting, amongst people sharing memories while they smiled and laughed through their grief, I felt I was experiencing the very best in human beings.
I headed home sometime later, and enjoyed the rest of the evening at home with my wife.
And then Sunday morning came. I awoke to the news that another shooting had occurred overnight. This one was in Dayton, Ohio, and the weapon of choice was an all too familiar type of PWMD.
In so short a time, I had personally witnessed the best in people, but on the news were stories of horrific acts carried out by human beings that had lost their way. Clearly, these events demonstrate the duality of man. Infinite kindness co-exists with unimaginable cruelty on opposite ends of the gauge of human behavior.
But why? What is it exactly that is driving men to do these things? How has the hate within the perpetrators of these insane acts risen to such a height that the choice to pick up a weapon and kill, not just one person in particular, but to kill as many people as possible, seems like a reasonable course of action? There are those that blame the violence in movies and video games. The failing educational system and poor parenting have also been named as contributing factors.
Certainly, there is no single thing. It is not just poor parenting, schooling, a desensitization of violence in media, religious fanaticism, or even the recent resurgence of racism or xenophobia. It is a combination of all these things and more, more factors than I can even think of, that lead to the creation of a mass shooter.
As for myself, I have watched violent movies and played violent video games. I, at one time, was a member of the NRA, owned a PWMD, and some 25 years ago, I would not have been so apt to jump on the side of banning a firearm of any kind, for any reason. But today, things are different. Some people are not buying the AR-15, AK-47, or an alternative, for recreational purposes. That is, for some leisurely fun on an outdoor range, or a personal exercise of the Second Amendment.
These semi-automatic weapons, capable of firing a large number of rounds at awesome speeds, are only limited by the amount of bullets they can carry in a magazine, and being a tool, are at the mercy of the intent of the owner. If the weapon is stolen from that owner, its not even up to them anymore. Good intentions are literally out the window when a firearm is stolen and chances are it will be used in a crime.
Even without being fully automatic, an AR-15 or assault weapons like it, make for poor home defense devices. They are too cumbersome to use in the confines of a home. The .223 round itself was designed to tumble through the air and tear flesh, making it non-ideal for hunting. The component of an assault rifle called the receiver, where the bullets travel from the magazine into the chamber, and are then launched, can be used in other custom applications. Gunsmiths can build short-barreled, pistol-like weapons around these receivers, making something compact and light. But there's still a problem. The resulting machine-pistol is still not a good home defense weapon, but they're perfect for drive-by shootings.
Weapons like this have one purpose and they've become so very efficient at it that they have achieved obsolescence in a world we wish to call civilized.
Let me say that again and a bit differently for those that suspect I've made a typo: Semi-automatic assault rifles are so efficient at what they do, they are obsolete in the hands of civilians.
So, given the fact that the AR-15 and AK-47 are the weapons of choice for mass shooters, how about we just suspend manufacturers from building more? Why not? We don't need any new ones, the market is saturated. The people that really want one in their display cases, or to use them on a shooting range, in an all legal and above board manner, will have little to no trouble tracking down some other law abiding citizen that wants to sell theirs.
Waiting periods are not enough. Background checks are also not enough. A complete ban on the selling of these PWMDs is the only answer to curtailing mass shootings. There will be no complete cessation by such a ban, but it is a much needed step in the right direction. As a proponent of the Second Amendment myself, I am sad to admit that such a ban seems necessary, but it is clear that a small percentage of the American populace can no longer handle the responsibility of gun ownership or are altogether unfit to be allowed anywhere near one.
The incident in New York on August 6th, where the noise created by some motorcycles and a falling sign sent people running through Times Square, is a display of the current pulse of the American populace. Anxiety and distrust of our fellow man is at an all-time high, and it trickles down from the highest office in our federal government, like kerosene splashed onto a bonfire.
There is no more time for engaging in the same old arguments that a ban on assault weapons means that the government will eventually take all guns. It's an impossibility. No one wants to come to your door and take your pistols, hunting rifles, or your shotguns.
There is no more time for the excuses that gun owners throw out there saying guns aren't the problem. Assault weapons are part of the problem, so let's do something about them.
There is no more time to simply label those that carry out these atrocities as mentally ill. Instead, let's help reduce the ability for the unstable to make poor snap decisions in the form of a mass shooting.
There is no more time to compare statistics of what kills more people, assault weapons or illnesses. These are just distractions from a particular problem. Let's not look at any more graphs and charts that pro-gun or anti-gun statisticians create to favor their arguments.
It is time to do something, even if it's only a little something for a short while, to at least allow the tensions that have risen among Americans to be eased.
Who knows? Maybe once something is done about assault weapons, Americans may realize they're happy with a little progress toward tranquility. Discovering a little more faith in their fellow man would certainly be nice. A return to civility is just what this country needs to focus on the future. Americans may like themselves a little more if a little growing up is allowed to happen.