The gun used in Newtown was a Bushmaster AR-15, a military style assault weapon which is essentially a civilian version of an M-16. Such weapons are not tools for hunting or self-defense, they are high-powered instruments of destruction designed to kill and maim human beings. What is the social utility of allowing the general public access to such weapons? Does it in any way make our lives better? There is also no legitimate reason for lawful gun owners to possess high-capacity ammunition magazines like those reportedly used in the Newtown tragedy.
The gun lobby has responded to renewed calls for sensible gun laws with a variety of familiar but inherently flawed arguments. Given that the gun lobby is largely funded by firearms manufacturers, it is not surprising that their most common contention is that the solution to gun violence is more guns. Under this “Wild West” theory, the solution to mass shootings is an even more heavily armed general populace capable of defending themselves with equal firepower or deterring violence in the first place. As an initial matter, compelling educators to carry concealed weapons while teaching young children is an absurd notion. And the evidence demonstrates that the theory that more guns makes us more safe has zero validity. In the U.S., firearms are the most numerous and gun laws are the most lax in the South, which is also the part of our country with by far the highest violent death rate. In contrast, gun laws are the toughest in the Northeast, which has the lowest violent death rate in the country.
Unfortunately, banning assault rifles or high-capacity ammunition magazines and other more sensible gun control laws by themselves are unlikely to prevent all senseless horrors like unfolded in Newtown. Mass shootings do occur in other parts of the developed world, albeit with much, much less frequency than in the U.S. But the empirical data indicates that more rational firearms laws will, at the very least, reduce the everyday rates of gun violence in this country. At long last, the time to implement such common sense public policy that will keep us all safer is now.
Bethlehem Town Board member