The misguided gun war

By Michael Ball

Our country again finds itself in the midst of a debate on gun-control. Common threads in recent mass-shootings are both the poor treatment of mental health patients and the failure to properly integrate mental health into the National Instant Checks System (NICS). Politicians and the media fixate on the guns themselves (often incorrectly referring to them as assault weapons) and standard capacity magazines instead of the motivation behind these shootings.

Tigresblanco/ Flickr

The recent Washington, D.C. Navy Yard shooting highlights the recent obsession with so-called assault weapons. As the tragic event occurred,  Piers Morgan was advocating for a ban of the AR-15 rifle. When the media discovered that the shooter used possibly the most common hunting shotgun in the United States, however, the New York Times kept their story romantic by referring to the Remington 870 as a “law-enforcement-style shotgun.”

Americans can’t collectively fix the root of the problem because gun control advocates crusade to impose ineffective bans. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which expired in 2004, was ineffective for two primary reasons. First, the so-called assault weapons were in reality common pistols, rifles, and shotguns that the uneducated found scary. Too many people can’t even differentiate an assault weapon from any other gun.

Second, despite the false claims of firearms such as the AR-15 being so dangerous, the FBI reported that only marginally more than 300 murders in 2011 involved all classified rifles, of which so-called assault rifles are only a subset. An additional 1,587 murders were committed with unspecified firearms.

So the supposedly most dangerous of these guns were only used in slightly more than two percent of 2011 U.S. murders. Compare the 300-plus deaths to more than 6,000 handgun deaths, 1,700 cutting instrument (e.g. knife) deaths, and 1,200 deaths due to blunt objects and brute force So as a country, we must dump all our effort into banning a firearm that is no more dangerous than any other firearm, and isn’t even used in as many homicides as knives?

The second point that the gun-control advocates can’t seem to let go of is magazine capacity. These are people that know so little about firearms, some of the strongest proponents of these bills weren’t even aware that magazines are re-usable. Law-enforcement, military, firearms instructors and avid shooters all know that a standard magazine saves effort and lives. Practicality demands gun users to carry only one or two magazines.

This reality is backed up by cold, hard facts related to both the low-hit percentages of rounds used in self defense, and the instances of street violence and mass shootings. Only one quarter of the shots fired by the Columbine shooters resulted from a firearm designed to use magazines with more than 10 rounds. The deadliest shooter in the United States used two handguns, one of which exclusively had 10 round magazines, the other of which had a mix of 10 and 15 round magazines.

The State of Virginia’s official report concluded that a magazine capacity ban would not have had an effect on the outcome of the shooting at Virginia Tech. The Navy Yard shooter used a pump action shotgun, which doesn’t accept detachable magazines and takes a considerable amount of time to reload. A 2004 U.S. Department of Justice study determined the 1994-2004 assault weapon ban to only result in mixed success in reducing criminal use of the banned guns and magazines.

I hope that someday the gun-control crowd can work with those of us who want true common-sense steps towards reducing violence taken, instead of waging a war plastic, aluminum, and springs. As the chief of training of the UMass Gun Club, one of the fastest growing and most popular registered student organizations on campus, I encourage and invite anyone who wants to know more about firearms to contact our club so they can learn about these firearms and how to use them. Only with education and understanding will both sides be able to come together to move toward everyone’s best interests.


Michael Ball is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]