BY SEAN HELWIG, CONTRIBUTOR
America’s gun debate is frequently ruled by emotion on both sides. One of the left’s most common talking points is to ridicule conservatives’ fears of gun confiscation as irrational fearmongering. Recent events have demonstrated that gun confiscation is now a mainstream Democratic objective.
H.R. 1296, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, seeks to ban all of semi-automatic assault weapons. The term assault weapon is an amorphous term even within the firearm community, and the bill would include any rifle with a pistol grip under its outright ban. To be clear, a pistol grip is simply the handle for the firearm. It is an ergonomic design feature that does not affect the capacity of the weapon to inflict violence. The bill is replete with similar clauses that demonstrate the technical ignorance of its authors. If passed, the bill would ban one of the most common class of firearms in the nation, making it illegal to “import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon.” Enforcing this bill would require door-to-door confiscation.
This and similar legislative efforts aren’t happening in a vacuum, but are being supported by numerous prominent Democratic presidential candidates. Beto O’Rourke proclaimed that “hell yes” he was coming for America’s AR-15s. Joe Biden endorsed a similar policy. Perhaps most stunningly, Kamala Harris said she would give Congress 100 days to fix the gun problem, and then would take executive action to implement a bevy of gun control policies — some of which are legislative in nature and can only be legally enacted by Congress. This comment is especially rich, considering that many of Harris’ stump speeches feature her rallying against what she believes to be Trump’s numerous infringements against the Constitution.
The engine behind these efforts is — according to their advocates — the scourge of mass shootings. To be clear, staunching senseless violence is a laudable goal, and I have every belief that the legislators are doing what they are with good intentions. Despite this, the data does not support their actions.
Let’s examine American homicides, of which mass shootings are just one category. Handguns are the most commonly used murder weapon by far in the U.S. In 2017, just over 7,000 murders were committed with handguns. Rifles accounted for approximately 400. Murders with blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.) numbered at 467.
Perhaps the numbers are different for mass shootings. After all, the typical image of a mass shooting is in a public place with an AR-style rifle. Despite this media image, a significant plurality of mass shootings are committed with handguns over rifles.
Gun confiscation would not solve the problem.
The lessons of history warrant great caution when the populace is disarmed. The recent attacks on civilians by the military in Venezuela should be fresh in people’s minds, or perhaps the dictatorial evils of Hitler, who systematically disarmed the people who would eventually be his victims.
Consider our own history. In World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) put thousands of Japanese Americans in internment camps without due process. American citizens were stripped of their rights and frequently lost their property with little to no remuneration. Government power can be abused. Firearms are a deterrent.
Mass shootings are horrific and must be addressed. But no matter what Democratic candidates or legislators claim, banning and confiscating semi-automatic rifles won’t fix mass shootings — and it won’t fix American gun violence on the whole.