Wissot: You need an assault weapon because … that’s what I thought (column)
March 9, 2018
Not too long ago, I wrote a column for this paper after 17 students and teachers were brutally murdered at a Florida high school ("We've got to do something, but you know we won't," Saturday, Feb. 17).
I tried in the column to be diplomatic toward the gun culture and gun lobby in this country. I didn't attack them outright. I acknowledged the fact that given the hundreds of millions of guns and gun owners in this country, I didn't think that this latest school massacre would result in significant gun-control legislation.
I came down on the side of caution, avoided writing what I really felt about the latest tragedy and, at the end of the column, offered several tame suggestions for reducing the number of inevitable future school shootings. I treated a highly charged emotional issue such as gun control with casual banality. After I finished writing, I felt empty and discouraged because of what I did not say. I failed to be honest with you and myself.
Now after re-reading it countless times that disappointment has changed to shame. I'm ashamed of myself for being such a coward. I'm pretty sure that the outcry and demonstrations coming from the students at the Florida high school where the massacre took place had a lot to do with it. They were much braver than me in expressing exactly what they felt. They shamed me into writing this column. Consider this my attempt at redemption.
So back to the title of this column: Please tell me, dear readers, why you need to own an assault weapon? What's that you say? You don't need an assault weapon. You have a right to own one. The Second Amendment guarantees you that right.
No, it doesn't. The Second Amendment guarantees you no such thing. The Second Amendment makes two points: 1. A well-regulated militia is necessary. 2. The rights of citizens to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. There is nothing in there about assault weapons. Federal law banned ownership of assault weapons for 10 years from 1994 to 2004. The law wasn't challenged in court. The Supreme Court didn't rule against it.
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Let's try that question again, shall we. Why do you need to have an assault weapon? I was waiting for that answer. You need protection against criminals breaking into your home carrying AR-15s. Question: How many shoot-outs occurred in 2017 involving homeowners trading assault weapon gunfire with home invaders?
Let me answer that for you: none. In contrast, according to the Washington Post ("No, there haven't been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong," Thursday, Feb. 15), 150,000 students at 170 primary and high schools in this country have experienced a school shooting since Columbine here in Colorado in 1999.
Sorry, friend, your need to have an assault weapon to fire back at bad guys in the extremely unlikely possibility they invade your home takes a back seat to protecting the lives of thousands of school kids in much greater danger than you of being victimized by the same weapons.
You were more than willing to put them in danger because of your obstinate opposition to banning the weapon. I'm just returning the favor on their behalf.
What else you got for me. You need the weapon to go hunting. What are you killing with a rapid-fire rifle? Bigfoot? The Lochness Monster? Godzilla? You're like the guy who goes to the zoo, shoots a caged lion and calls himself a big-game hunter. You don't need that weapon to hunt animals. You need it to massacre them. No dice.
Next? Oh, right, you need an AR-15 or its equivalent for target shooting. I'm going to dispense with this one quickly. Too bad. You want to fire a war weapon then join the military. We've got school classrooms and hallways looking like killing fields. We don't need to provide target practice for wannabe warriors. Find another fantasy camp experience.
I've got space for one more reason. You need to own military-caliber firepower for the time when the damn liberals so weaken the Second Amendment that the government comes knocking on your door to confiscate all your guns. I'm about to go apoplectic. Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?
Look, pal, we're not fighting the British with muskets and bayonets anymore. I have a strong feeling your AR-15 is going to be a poor match against drones, hand grenades, rockets and fighter jets strafing your house. If you want to make it a fairer fight, then expand the meaning of the Second Amendment so you can get your hands on some nuclear weapons.
I'm disappointed. I was waiting for the excuse that banning the AR-15 is futile because there are so many ways to turn other rifles into military-caliber killing machines. No worries. Please send me a list of all the ways that can be done and we will include banning those transformations in the legislation. You can own fertilizer, but you can't use it as the basis for an explosive so powerful that you can take down a federal building in Oklahoma City.
I'm about done. I don't believe what I wrote will change your position on assault weapons. I only wrote it as an apology for my last column. Real change will come when being supported by the National Rifle Association becomes a heinous association that gets you booted out of Congress.
Politicians, after all, do value life: their own political lives. For that to happen, it will take an awful lot of protests, demonstrations and civil disobedience on the part of school children shaming the adults who have failed to keep them safe at school. For their sake, I hope to god they succeed.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail.
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