THE BLOG

Without Presidential Action On Assault Weapons, U.S. Mass Killings Will Continue

Political platitudes are an insult to the dead.

07/11/2017 1:53 PM AEDT | Updated 07/11/2017 1:58 PM AEDT
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
"Thoughts and prayers are not enough. These guns are designed for one thing, to kill people."

"In dark times such as these, Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms." -- Donald Trump.

The President left a few final words off the end of his statement. It should have read: "We join hands. We lock arms. And we do nothing".

Political platitudes are an insult to the dead. The inaction of America's leadership in removing semi-automatic, assault-style weapons from proliferation throughout the suburbs of the United States has allowed the bloody parade of mass killings to roll on. Sutherland Springs. Las Vegas. Orlando.

The blood of the dead has settled upon the hands of federal politicians.

This is not a recent stigma that can be laid at the feet of the current Administration alone. Republicans and Democrats alike are culpable for their lack of action in ensuring the safety of the American people from domestic terrorism at the hands of lone gunmen.

On June 16, 2016, President Obama addressed the American people following the massacre of 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was the 14th such speech during his time in Office and still there was no federal push to ban assault-style weapons. Indeed, Obama was still struggling to ban the sale of armour-piercing ammunition across the United States.

The AR-15 assault rifle and similar weapons are designed for one thing. To kill people. They are not an effective hunting weapon relative to the myriad of precision rifles available, designed for taking down deer and other game at extended ranges.

In fact the NRA, manufacturers and supporters of assault style weapons readily admit that the AR-15 and weapons like it are primarily marketed for home and self-defence. Self-defence against whom? Invading armies?

Some U.S. administrations do have tighter gun control than others. Assault weapons are banned in Washington D.C. as were handguns until relatively recently. The City's fight to maintain workable restrictions on access to certain firearms has been undermined by successive rulings in the U.S. Supreme Court that aspects of D.C.'s gun control laws were 'unconstitutional'.

Doing what is right is not always popular. And for those beholden to the powerful U.S. gun lobby it could be career ending. Therein lies the problem. No Administration has been prepared to take on the gun lobby and rid the nation of semi-automatic, assault-style weapons. Until decision makers are willing to put their own skin in the game, as happened in Australia in the mid '90s, nothing will change.

Australia suffered its most hateful and deadly mass murder in April 1996 when Martin Bryant murdered 35 people, including children, using legally available semi-automatic military weapons.

Australia's newly elected Prime Minister John Howard took immediate action, implementing federal firearm laws over and above state legislation. Mr Howard risked his own political future by implementing federal legislation to ban all assault weapons and restrict all other semi-automatic rifles to rural landholders deemed to have a genuine need to manage feral animals. The Government issued an amnesty and gun buyback at a significant cost to the federal budget bottom line.

At the next election, around a dozen Members of Parliament from the Howard Government lost their seats, in no small measure due to the stand the Government took on gun laws.

The price was worth it. Since 1996 there have been no repeats of the mass murder perpetrated at Port Arthur, while at the same time the rights of recreational shooters -- like myself -- to own firearms have been upheld.

Both sides of Congress have been afraid to take on 'big guns' for fear of being hounded out of office, accused of impinging upon individual rights under the second amendment.

The second amendment has been used as a cover-all, allowing military grade weapons to be proliferated throughout the suburbs of America. And yet the logic is false. If the 'right to bear arms' is the constitutional reasoning that prevents a nation-wide ban on assault-style weapons, why is there a ban on fully automatic weapons? If I have the right to own an AR-15 that discharges one bullet each time I pull the trigger, why not a weapon that can discharge the entire clip in seconds?

Perhaps because it's not in the interest of public safety to allow fully automatic military weapons to rest in the hands of civilians. And yet a semi-automatic version of the same weapon meets the public safety test? Ludicrous.

The precedence of the Australian example and what we are seeing on almost a monthly basis in the United States, places it beyond reasonable doubt that national legislation banning assault-style, semi-automatic weapons will help reduce the likelihood and severity of mass shootings.

Every month of inaction by Congress and, indeed, the President himself, to ban assault-style weapons, hastens the next breaking news story flashing across screens around the world, of another mass slaying in suburban U.S. by a gunman using an AR-15.

More On This Topic