By State Representative, Leon D. Young
In the aftermath of the horrific slaughter and senseless maiming of innocent concertgoers in Las Vegas, politicians on both sides of the aisle have begun talking about what was once thought to be the unthinkable – at least in Republican circles – implementing a measure of gun control. After all, it didn’t work after mass shootings at a nightclub in Orlando, college campuses in Virginia and Oregon, a church in Charleston, or at a movie theater and high school in Colorado. Or after two lawmakers survived assassination attempts. But after a gunman killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 at a Las Vegas concert, Democrats are going to try again to revamp the nation’s gun laws.
But now, some key Republicans are showing interest in a narrowly written Democratic gun control bill to ban “bump stock” rifle attachments that enable rapid firing. The bill offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, responds to revelations that some of the weapons Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock used to commit the worst mass shooting in U.S. modern history Sunday were apparently outfitted – legally – with bump stock devices. A gap in current law allows shooters with semiautomatic weapons to accelerate the rate of fire by attaching bump stocks, slide fire devices and other similar accessories. The bump stock automatically forces the trigger back against the shooter’s finger after each shot.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, is on record of having said that trigger accelerators are “something that I think bears looking into, and I talked to Chairman Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I believe that once the investigation is complete and we learn all aspects of what contributed to this event, then we should have a hearing and consider it.” In addition, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of Senate leadership, said some of his colleagues are “at least interested” in learning more about “that narrow issue [banning bump stocks].”
But, let’s not get this thing twisted. This in no way is to suggest that all Republicans are on board and drinking from the same bipartisan goblet about imposing a bump stock ban. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has clearly indicated that it was “premature” to discuss “legislative solutions, if there are any,” when asked whether he could support a ban on equipment to convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones. Not to mention that Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., shut down talk of limiting bump stocks quickly. “I’m a Second Amendment man, I’m not for any gun control,” Shelby said.
This article would be remiss if it didn’t mention the fact that most Americans are supporters of “common-sense” gun control measures, i.e. – preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns; banning assault-style weapons; barring gun purchases by people on the no-fly or watch lists; background checks for private sales and gun shows; and creating a federal database to track gun sales. But, there continues to be no movement in Washington to combat this gun violence danger.
The truth be told, most Republicans view the Second Amendment as if it were some directive from heaven, and an absolute right. This is simply not the case. Responsible gun ownership should be seen more as privilege rather than some unrestricted right.
According to the Congressional Research Service, there are roughly twice as many guns per capita in the United States as there were in 1968: more than 300 million guns in all. Not only is the United States the runaway world leader for gun ownership – it also suffers mass shootings at more than 11 times the rate of any other developed country, according to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences.
Hence, simply having more firearms in our midst doesn’t make us any safer. Just like the narrow ban on bump stocks won’t do enough to arrest the random gun violence that confronts this nation. There must be a comprehensive approach to gun control, anything less will be woefully inadequate and doesn’t serve the public good.