Assault Weapons Ban Mulled Again, CT School Shooting Casts Pall Over Debate

An “assault weapons ban” seems to be one of the most discussed calls to action after the Newtown school massacre, but the debate spurs more questions than answers as Americans struggle to meet common ground on the issue of legal gun ownership.

The term “assault weapons ban” itself is one fraught with ambiguity — proponents of a ban on what are deemed assault weapons argue that the style of firearm often banned is one no one “needs” to own, while detractors say that such designations are “cosmetic.”

Further complicating the matter is the previous assault weapons ban in existence from 1994 to 2004. Allowed to expire under the Bush Administration, the legislation was said to be fraught with so many loopholes that it never managed to make much of an effect on the overall impact of such weapons.

On this morning’s Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough (himself a gun rights advocate now in flux after the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre), an assault weapons ban was the topic of conversation at hand. Scarborough himself made an emotional statement about his changing gun policy perspective, and NRA-rated conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia spoke to the now-undeniable issue high-capacity, rapid-fire gun legality presents for America.

Manchin said:

“I don’t know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle … I don’t know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting.”

Previously, Manchin had tweeted:

This awful massacre has changed where we go from here. Our conversation should move beyond dialogue.

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) December 17, 2012

Everything needs to be on the table, and I ask all my colleagues to sit down to talk about firearms, mental health and our culture

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) December 17, 2012

sandy hook elementary school

What seems apparent as an assault weapons ban is considered anew is that the one thing Americans need to drop immediately is the idea there is a “freedom or guns” dichotomy from which to choose. Many argue that they think incidents like the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings are just a smokescreen to carry out a long-desired disarming of America — but people think a lot of things, their misunderstanding is unfortunate, and no one has to heed this sort of lunacy or give it credence.

Many self-labeled Libertarians argue our framers were clear in their intent with the Second Amendment. But you cannot argue the men who drafted this framework would have worded it the same way had such weaponry advances existed back in the 1700s.

These men were champions of liberty, willing to lay down and die for their beliefs and forge a nation that grew to be the most powerful in the world just 200 short years after her birth. But they weren’t stupid, and even allowed for language to make smart choices about guns down the road. There is no evidence they would have rejected a reasonable approach to militarized arms centuries ahead.

A “well-regulated militia” could still exist in the presence of a ban on what have been called assault weapons. But the time has passed for this single-mindedness to rule our debate in America, for gun lobbies and the NRA to drive the debate over what is and is not acceptable in the hands of American citizens.

To continue along on a path where the status quo has devolved into mass-murder as an acceptable consequence is an insult to the memory of our Founding Fathers and their intent for this nation’s progress.

A solution will only be reached with give and take, and it seems the gun rights side needs to give on the issue of an assault weapons ban. No manner of background checking, citizen investigating or mental health screening will prevent future bloodshed without it.