After seventeen innocent people, most of them high school students, were murdered in yet another mass shooting, I went on Twitter to remark about two verifiable facts: most of our mass shootings have involved so-called "assault weapons," with high-capacity magazines; and when the Assault Weapons Ban was in place, there were fewer crimes involving these weapons. Agreed, people who wanted to commit murder were able to get other weapons; but weapons like the AR-15, and high-capacity magazines, which could kill large numbers of people quickly, were no longer easy to get. And many studies showed the ban did make a difference, although of course, it was not a panacea.
So, I suggested it was time to restore the Assault Weapons Ban that Republicans allowed to lapse. (In fairness, this isn't entirely partisan: some Democrats, and many Republicans, have taken campaign donations from the National Rifle Association. But there was a Republican president and a Republican-led congress that allowed the ban to expire.) I did NOT say I wanted to revoke the Second Amendment, nor did I say I wanted the government to take away all guns. But of course, that was the predictable response: you liberals want to ban all weapons. Not true. It is worth noting that many liberals and progressives appreciate the Second Amendment; I have friends who enjoy sport-shooting, for example.
But what most liberals and progressives do not support is Second Amendment absolutism: that's the belief of some conservatives that, according to their interpretation of the Second Amendment, they have the right to carry any gun anywhere at any time. I don't want to argue about the intent of the Second Amendment--there are varying interpretations, and that's a good debate for another day, preferably not while we're still thinking about the kids who were murdered by an angry and emotionally disturbed nineteen-year-old who had no problem buying an assault weapon and lots of ammunition.
Truth be told, Congress has passed laws placing restrictions on just about every right in the Bill of Rights. No right is absolute, in other words. We live in a society where our behaviors affect other people. I may have freedom of speech, but I cannot slander someone; there's freedom of the press, but it does not protect unscrupulous people who use their position to libel someone they don't like. And while congress shall make no law about an establishment of religion, there have been rulings about prayer in the public schools.
So, I fail to see what the issue is with keeping assault weapons out of the hands of average folks-- to me, the only people who need such weapons are in law enforcement or in the military. There are plenty of weapons folks who want to hunt or sport-shoot can use, and plenty of choices for those who want to protect themselves. But we seem to be living in a culture where certain people (often egged on by the National Rifle Association, which has a vested interest in selling more guns) think all that matters is their rights.
Meanwhile, grieving parents are asking, "What about my rights? Don't I have a right to send my kids to school and know they'll be safe?" Again, the predictable reply from some conservatives on social media is "We need more guns! Let's have armed guards in every school!" But this school did have an armed guard. Unfortunately, Florida is a state where it's really easy to get an assault rifle. We currently have a congress that is big on offering "thought and prayers" and small on taking on the NRA. So... I ask you: which right is more important-- the right to own weapons meant for war, or the right to protect our kids? Which right matters more-- the right to buy any gun at any time, or the right to raise our kids in a less violent society? I'll be interested to hear what you have to say, because this should not be a liberal versus conservative issue. And yet, these days, it seems that everything is...