Should Congress renew the Federal Assault Weapons Ban?I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Assault weapons can't really be defended under the current interpretations of the Second Amendment, so I don't see any reason not to renew the ban. That said, most gun violence comes from single-shot handguns, not automatic weapons, so I don't think that the ban will have any real effect; people will just commit their violence with the guns available. Additionally, most gun-related violence comes from illegal activities such as gang violence and felonies; what purpose are gun laws to a criminal? Remember, only law-abiding citizens are affected by laws; if you already break laws on a regular basis, why would a renewed assault weapons ban make any difference in your life? The idea that it will somehow prevent the assault weapons from existing, legally or illegally, is silly; making them entirely illegal and preventing gun-makers from building them won't work either because converting weapons to automatic is fairly simple.

Renew the ban. It won't stop criminals and violent people from illegally obtaining weapons. Instead, enforce the existing laws better.

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dkaye's profile pic

dkaye | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Yes.

While I happen to think it's ridiculous that Americans are so armed in general (especially after living in two other countries with more resetrictive gun control laws and a commensurate reduction in gun violence), I would never advocate to change the basics of the second amendment.  It's a complicated point of view, but it essentially boils down to this--guns are more trouble then they're worth, but messing with the Constitution could set a dangerous precedent.  As someone who knew a child who died from accidental, preventable gun violence, I wish our country could do some serious, grown-up, non-politicized thinking about the consequences of having so many private citizens with guns. However, I feel even more strongly that our country should continue to look at the Constitution as a set document that shouldn't be changed or amended lightly.

That said, there's no reason why we shouldn't approach gun control in other ways.  Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are an obvious place to start--you don't use them for hunting or self-defense.  They are instruments of war and mass killing, and while there are arguments to be made that they are appropriate in the hands of soldiers defending our country, I have yet to hear any that make the case for putting them in the hands of citizens.  

If you're really angry at someone and you only have your fists, you could beat someone.  If you've got a handgun, you could shoot them, and potentially five other people.  The bigger the weapon, the more devastating the results.  Even if we screen gun buyers (which we should be doing more aggressively and consistently), if one crazy or disturbed person gets through the screening and can only buy a handgun or hunting rifle, the failure is bad enough. But if he buys an AK-47, the potential effects are bone-chilling.

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

While I can understand your interpretation of a militia, I respectfully disagree with your position.  The debate over the ratification of the Constitution was highly centered on adding much needed stability to the central government while still ensuring individual rights.  It had only been a few years since the colonists had won a hard fought war against a tyrannical King, and the new nation was very concerned about giving a federal government more powers.

Noah Webster articulated the need for a guarantee of the people to be secure from the forces of government when he stated

Before a standing army can rule the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.

Based on this argument, one wonders if the same can be said today.  Again, I am against the ownership of automatic weapons, but I can understand the logic behind an argument that they would be necessary to secure our liberties from an unjust state.  The Declaration of Independence states that if the people have the responsibility to overthrow a government that doesn't protect the natural rights of the people.

During that time period England was severely limiting the rights of its people to bear arms.  George Mason pointed out

"to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them . . . by totally disusing and neglecting the militia."

Again, I can certainly see the many viewpoints on this issue, but there is substantial historical evidence to suggest that many people viewed the second amendment as a way to ensure protection of the people from a tyrannical government.

That is indeed the other side of the coin when it comes to the historical context of the Second Amendment. An armed citizenry was a staple of republican thought going all the way back to Machiavelli. 

But recent scholarship tends to go in the other direction when it comes to the intent of the Second Amendment, suggesting that it was understood more by elites, especially, as a sort of collective right. To be honest, its a (historical, not so much a modern political) issue I go back and forth on, as I suspect many of the Framers did.

I've linked below to articles by the late Don Higginbotham and Lawrence Cress, both noted Second Amendment scholars, on the subject. For an opposing point of view (what historians call the "standard model,") see Robert Shalhope's "The Ideological Origins of the Second Amendment." It's far from a settled issue. Of course, one can also always question whether it much matters what the original intent of the Framers was, but that's a different debate.

 

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lentzk's profile pic

Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

While I can understand your interpretation of a militia, I respectfully disagree with your position.  The debate over the ratification of the Constitution was highly centered on adding much needed stability to the central government while still ensuring individual rights.  It had only been a few years since the colonists had won a hard fought war against a tyrannical King, and the new nation was very concerned about giving a federal government more powers.

Noah Webster articulated the need for a guarantee of the people to be secure from the forces of government when he stated

Before a standing army can rule the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.

Based on this argument, one wonders if the same can be said today.  Again, I am against the ownership of automatic weapons, but I can understand the logic behind an argument that they would be necessary to secure our liberties from an unjust state.  The Declaration of Independence states that if the people have the responsibility to overthrow a government that doesn't protect the natural rights of the people.

During that time period England was severely limiting the rights of its people to bear arms.  George Mason pointed out

"to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them . . . by totally disusing and neglecting the militia."

Again, I can certainly see the many viewpoints on this issue, but there is substantial historical evidence to suggest that many people viewed the second amendment as a way to ensure protection of the people from a tyrannical government.

Sources:
rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In reply to Post 3, your concerns about the Second Amendment are well-founded, but if we're justifying the legality of semi-automatic weapons on the Second Amendment, we should note that it posits the importance of a well-regulated militia, which in any case it frames as an instrument of the state, to be utilized in its defense. In response to the original question, I think that common sense ought to prevail. Like so many other issues in this country, this one is driven by a very noisy, often paranoid, extremely well-financed special interest group. 

mizzwillie's profile pic

mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I agree with the post 2 because there simply is no need for such weapons in the home.  I don't have a problem with the weapons deer hunters or duck hunters use, but nobody needs fully automatic or semi-automatic guns.  They out-gun the police on the street who risk their lives every day.  Yes, there are police bad apples who ruin the respect for the rest,  but most of them truly want to serve the good of the public.  They shouldn't have to fear that the criminals have better and more guns than they do.

lentzk's profile pic

Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I agree with the post above on many levels.  My concern is lies with "what's next."  You stated that fully automatic weapons are already banned, so we should go ahead an ban certain semi-automatic weapons.  Again, I agree with the thought that there really is no need for many of the weapons that are legally out there, but if you start taking some away where does the final line get drawn?

On the other hand, with the Second Amendment stating that a militia is necessary to the security of a free state, one could certainly make the argument that both semi and fully automatic weapons would be necessary if the militia were ever to need to protect the freedom's people from the government like they did in the American Revolution.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I’ll go with “yes” for two reasons. 

First, even if we accept that people need weapons to protect themselves against government tyranny, assault weapons are not that likely to help.  It’s not as if an assault rifle will help you a lot if the government actually wants to send in tanks, mortars, etc. 

Second, assault weapons are not really necessary for defending your home and your family.  I accept that people should have the right to have guns for this purpose, but it seems that something that can fire 10 rounds from one clip (the limit under the old ban) is sufficient for home protection. 

Therefore, I think that banning these weapons is acceptable.  We already ban fully automatic weapons, so why not semi-automatic weapons beyond a certain clip capacity?

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