Why AR-15 Assault Weapons Must Be Banned

It's a Weapon for War, Not for Peace

Credit: Pat Byrnes, PoliticalCartoons.com

In response to U.S. Federal Judge Roger Benitez’s ruling on June 4, 2021, to overturn California’s 32-year-old assault weapons ban, which compared assault weapons to a Swiss Army knife, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a news release, “There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army knives.”

Most relevant is why the California Legislature passed the 1989 Assault Weapons Control Act. The playground at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, was filled with children at recess on January 17, 1989, when a white man with an AR-15 assault weapon murdered five Asian children: 6-year-old Sokhim An; Thuy Tran, Oeun Lim, Ram Chun all age 8; and 9-year-old Rathanar Or; and severely wounding 29 others — before killing himself.

The Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA) was passed quickly after the tragic mass shooting on a schoolyard in Stockton. This was a direct response by the California Legislature to the brutal shooting deaths of schoolchildren on the playground of their school.

The Assault Weapons Control Act is a California law that bans the ownership and transfer of over 50 specific brands and models of semi-automatic firearms, which were classified as assault weapons. Most were rifles, but some were pistols and shotguns.

With limited exceptions, California prohibits anyone from possessing an assault weapon (as defined by state law), unless they lawfully possessed the firearm prior to the date it was defined as an assault weapon and registered the firearm with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) within the timeframes established by California state law. There are 185,569 registered assault weapons in California. As of now, all assault weapons in California must be registered. As the currently most popular weapon, there are approximately 20 million military-style assault weapons in the United States.

NOTE: if you are a California resident and have an assault weapon that is not registered, you can turn it in anonymously at the CAGV gun buyback on August 21, 2021. Assault weapons have been turned in at prior gun buybacks.

Between 393.3 million and 434 million … that’s how many guns were in U.S. civilians’ hands in 2020, about 120 guns for every 100 people, according to a study by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey. There is very little hard data on the number of guns in circulation because the federal government doesn’t track those figures, but the United States is generally believed to have a far higher gun-ownership rate than any other country.

What can you do with a Swiss Army knife? Consumers report: among its more than a dozen tools are the standard large and small blade, tweezers, bottle opener, and scissors. Consumers report using the large blade for such tasks as carving wood and gutting fish; the small blade for cleaning fingernails and opening letters; and the scissors for cutting string.

What can you do with an AR-15? This weapon is accurate, relatively lightweight and has low recoil. Assault weapons can basically shoot as quickly as the trigger can be pulled. The ability to add a high-capacity magazine to this weapon is certainly one factor that makes them attractive to people looking to commit mass murder. A 30-round magazine is fairly standard (although some states cap the capacity to 10 or 15 rounds), but “drums” holding as many as 100 rounds are also available.

Importantly, what is Judge Benitez’s goal in creating this firestorm focused on a weapon that is the choice of mass murderers? Notably, the Second Amendment begins with three words: “A well regulated.” Then goes on to say: Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

“Like most rights, the right secured by 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.” This was importantly stated by late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

It is notable that currently approximately 60 percent of Americans favor an assault weapon ban.

Dr. Heather Sher treated the victims of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. They weren’t the first mass-shooting victims she’s seen — but their wounds were radically different.

“The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than — and imparting more than three times the energy of — a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

“As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned observing these wounds and caring for these patients. It’s clear to me that AR-15 and other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet.

“Banning the AR-15 should not be a partisan issue. No consensus may exist on many questions of gun control, but there seems to be broad support for removing high-velocity, lethal weaponry and high-capacity magazines from the market, which would drastically reduce the incidence of mass murders. Every constitutionally guaranteed right that we are blessed to enjoy comes with responsibilities. Even our right to free speech is not limitless. Second Amendment gun rights must respect the same boundaries.”

I have friends who own AR-15 rifles; they enjoy shooting them at target practice for sport and fervently defend their right to own them. But I cannot accept that their right to enjoy their hobby supersedes my right to send my own children to school, a movie theater, or a concert and to know that they are safe. Can the answer really be to subject our school children to active-shooter drills — to learn to hide under desks, turn off the lights, lock the door, and be silent — instead of addressing the root cause of the problem and passing legislation to take AR-15-style weapons out of the hands of civilians?


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