Wissot: Our best weapon to combat gun extremists
After another senseless, pointless, needless, tragic taking of innocent lives with an assault rifle that recently occurred at a leafy Christian elementary school in Nashville, the first question often asked is: What was the motive of the shooter?
My response? I don’t care. Would it help me to understand why very young children had to die if I knew that the shooter hated her father or just broke up with her boyfriend? It sure as hell wouldn’t. All I know is that a woman who ends the lives of innocent children who did nothing to hurt or harm her is certifiably crazy. The basis for her insanity is for shrinks to ascertain and doesn’t interest me in the least.
In order for crazy people to easily and legally gain access to weapons originally designed for use in a war zone, another group of mentally troubled people, gun worshippers, have to adamantly oppose legislation that would limit the purchase of these weapons of mass destruction.
Soldiers and law enforcement officials need these guns to do their jobs. Extreme anti-gun control advocates who oppose banning weapons like the AR-15 don’t. These wannabe warriors whose battlefield experiences are limited to video games seem as delusional as the wackos in the extreme anti-abortion movement who suffer from fetus fetishism. Think I’m exaggerating? Bushmaster, one of the leading manufacturers of AR-15s, told its customers in an ad, “CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD REISSUED.” I really think these men would feel better about their manhood if they just renewed their Viagra prescription.
A large swath of Americans own AR-15s. To be more specific, 16 million or 1 in 20 U.S. adults own these weapons. In a country of around 330 million people, they represent almost 5% of the population. Five percent of anything is statistically significant, especially in a democracy where people are free to vote their values. I don’t think most of the 16 million AR-15 owners are part of the mucho macho moron crowd I so derisively characterized as mentally disturbed. Many of them simply think that the Second Amendment grants them the absolute right to own these guns. They are mistaken.
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For 10 years from 1994-2004, we had a federal ban against the sale of assault weapons. The ban was constitutional then and would be constitutional if it were re-enacted now. The reason we don’t have the ban now is that Congress let it lapse in 2004 and the political will to reinstate it no longer exists.
There are clones of Charlton Heston who think that the 2008 Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, which offered a revisionist interpretation of the Second Amendment granting the right of gun ownership to individual citizens, prevents legislative bodies from banning these deadly weapons. Again, they are wrong.
Antonin Scalia, the key justice in the Heller decision, clearly stated in his majority opinion that the right to gun ownership does not include the right to own every type of gun manufactured. In Scalia’s own crystal clear language, “Like most rights, the right secured in the Second Amendment right is not unlimited … It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Translation: no one has a Second Amendment right to own an assault weapon.
We are a car-loving, drug-loving, gun-loving culture. We love our cars, drugs, and guns with a religious fervor. For whatever reason, we don’t have a problem placing prohibitions and enacting restrictions on how we drive cars and use drugs. We do, however, have enormous difficulty applying similar regulatory controls when it comes to gun ownership.
Nobody has the right to drive drunk because of the harm it can cause. We don’t permit Americans to purchase and use any drug they wish to take. Some drugs require a doctor’s prescription; others are banned outright. The government in 21 states gives us the thumbs up when it comes to pot, but every state in the country flashes the thumbs down sign when it comes to heroin.
The same, sensible, reasonable, restrictions should be possible when it comes to assault weapons. It won’t ever be, however, if all we do is wring our hands in frustration and pray to God to save us from ourselves every time a lunatic shoots up a school, church, synagogue, supermarket, mall, movie theater, Walmart, night club, music venue.
Want to turn the tide on the extreme anti-gun control crowd? Get up from the couch and to the polls come Republican primary season at the state and national levels. Cowardly, spineless, Republican lawmakers have followed the dictates of the craziest voters in their party when it comes to gun control legislation.
There is nothing that gets a politician to change his or her mind on an issue than the threat of being voted out of office. When NRA-funded candidates begin losing primary elections to more moderate opponents supported by voters who want to see something done about assault rifle massacres, then meaningful legislation to stop the scourge of senseless shootings in public places will be possible.
More moderate Republicans who formed a coalition with Independents and Democrats came within a little more than 500 votes of booting gun-toting Lauren Boebert out of Congress in last fall’s general election. Republican primary voters can guarantee her departure by making sure she’s not the party’s nominee in 2024.
Until we get the sane majority in this country to act with the best weapon we have as citizens, our votes, we will continue to live the nightmare of choosing the rights of killers over that of kids.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at email@example.com