Sunday, December 16, 2012

Banning and Buying Back Assault Weapons

In 1995 there were approximately 200,000,000 guns in possession of private citizens in this country. Now the estimate is 300,000,000 or almost 1 gun for every man, woman and child in this country. It is suggested that about 48,000 people will die as a result of gun violence in the United States during the next 4 years if no action is now taken.

What is the true benefit of future gun control laws unless we somehow address the issue of the almost incomprehensible present proliferation of weapons?

On December 15, 2012, 2 Brooklyn Churches offered a $200 gift card in exchange for a buyback of weapons. 134 weapons were collected. Since the program began in July 2008, a joint effort of the New York City police department and Brooklyn churches, approximately 9000 weapons had been recovered.

On that same day, a gun buyback program was announced in Evanston, Illinois, Camden, New Jersey, San Francisco and Oakland, and Durham.

In 1996, in reaction to the death of 35 people in a shooting massacre in Tasmania, Australia passed legislation banning semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and instituted a mandatory government buyback for these weapons. Nearly 700,000 guns were purchased from a population of approximately 12,000,000 people. In a study done a decade later, it was found that the firearm homicide rate declined by 59% and firearm suicides by 65%. There was no reported corresponding increase in homicides and suicides in non-fiream related incidents. Furthermore, mass shootings have declined to 0 since full implementation of the law.

In 2007 HR 3766 was introduced in the 112th Congress. By its provisions the Secretary of HUD would be permitted to make grants to local governments to conduct gun buyback programs. This proposed legislation was a renewal of the terms of HR 2493, which was before the 110th Congress in 2003. It followed earlier attempts. None got out of committee.

On September 13, 1994 Congress passed the Federal Assaults Weapon Ban, a ten year prohibition on the sale of 19 semi-automatic firearms and many high capacity magazines. In 2003, there was an attempt to renew the ban for an additional decade. Despite having 111 co-sponsors, the bill failed. Efforts to reintroduce the ban in later years met a similar fate.

If we are going to get serious about the issue of gun control, if we are going to enter into an actual debate, then we should consider a number of simultaneous measures. There has been recent talk, as there is each time a massacre occurs, of inadequate screening of those who purchase guns, especially those capable of mass (and massive) destruction. There is also the inevitable conversation relating to the mental health care challenges that are not met as one of the instrumental predicates for disaster. Yes, both of these are relevant and important.

But we fail to see the forest for the trees covered in guns. In addition to reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban, why can Congress not pass simultaneous legislation outlawing the possession of these weapons for the general public at present? And, in conjunction therewith, enact a law that would provide states with the resources to buy back these weapons, much as they did in Australia. The cost of doing this, given the enormous increase in gun ownership in our country, would be very significant. I suggest that the cost of not doing this is, and will continue to be even higher.


Anonymous said...

I agree strongly with the approach of doing several things simultaneously to stop the madness. The NRA should be made to shoulder the cost for it. It is not impossible to tame the NRA; one by passage of laws restricting the sale of more advanced weaponry, 2. weaken their organization by shining a light on their campaign contributions, and 3. create a tobacco-like settlement in lieu of liability lawsuits for the death and destruction they have created--RE

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