On Jan. 24, 2013, President Barack Obama unveiled a plan to reduce gun violence. The plan includes a few primary facets: a proposal to reinstate the ban on high capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons that expired in 2004, close loopholes pertaining to preventing and prosecuting gun crimes, beef up background checks and research, and put an emphasis on mental health treatment and counseling. Additionally, the plan provides that Congress confirms a director to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which has not had a confirmed director since 2007.
“Arguably the most divisive proposition included in the president’s plan is the ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” according to the White House government site. The term “high-capacity magazine” pertains to any magazine holding more than 10 rounds. The assault weapons mentioned in the President’s plan are semi-automatic versions of automatic machine guns designed specifically for the military and characterized by specific attributes, including but not limited to pistol grips, barrel shrouds and detachable magazines. “Among these is the popular AR-15 rifle,” according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
According to senator Dianne Feinstein’s website (D-California), she proposed a bill in the senate banning the same weapons that President Obama proposes banning in his plan. In a press release relating to her bill, Feinstein defended her effort against gun enthusiasts and those opposing the ban. “We must balance the desire of a few to own military-style assault weapons with the growing threat to lives across America”, She says. “If 20 dead children in Newtown wasn’t a wakeup call that these weapons of war don’t belong on our streets, I don’t know what is.”
The public, however, are not firearm connoisseurs. The term “assault” is not a comforting term, it does not conjure up pleasant images. Add it to “weapon” and tack on “military-style” and it becomes fiery and emotionally charged.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cited a general misunderstanding of assault weapons by the populous as a major problem. “This entire discussion does not concern machine guns, and yet I would venture to say a large percentage of Americans do not understand that”. In fact, machine guns have been illegal without special permission since 1934 under The National Firearms Act.
A ban on military-style assault weapons and 10 round magazines is an infringement on the rights guaranteed to United States citizens by the second amendment: the right to bear arms. According to GunCite, In the court case United States v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court defined arms as “the kind in common use”. The AR-15 and other military-style assault weapons are arguably in common use.
“Law abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals,” Wayne LePierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association, said in a Congressional hearing on the prevention of gun violence. “Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families.”
GunCite said the most effective argument against a military-style assault weapons and 10 round magazines ban is the fact that gun violence is not entirely a gun issue, it is a people issue.
“On Jan. 26, 2013, President Obama signed 23 executive actions (which are different than executive orders) reflecting the goals of his previously proposed plan in an effort to jumpstart his push for stricter gun laws,” according to the Washington Post.
Interestingly enough, of the 23 executive actions the President signed on Jan. 26th, none of them mention a ban on military-style assault weapons despite being a pivotal part of the preceding plan. The Washington Post also explained, “they instead focus on the ATF, school security, background checks, mental health, and research.” These notions are incredibly reasonable, all geared towards reform and improving effectiveness.
Washington Post also stated that, Vice President Joe Biden calls stricter gun laws and the President’s plan a “moral obligation.”
“I believe first gun control should always start with gun safety,” Says Kyle-Cortez Davis, 25, Psychology. “Background checks on mental disorders is a definite must.”
Although the proposed ban on military-style assault weapons and magazines that hold 10 rounds or more is unreasonable and ineffective, the 23 executive actions that President Obama signed on Jan. 26th are well-researched and provide real solutions in prosecuting and preventing gun crimes.