Opinion | Semi-automatic weapons are instruments of mass killing

Gun Rights

If you haven’t read my column published on Nov. 7, I highly recommend you go take a look. I promise that my words are short, however the list of names and identifiers I collected of the victims of mass shootings is long. Since publishing my column last week, I can fortunately say that there have only been six shootings since. Five deaths, 23 people injured.

Only six shootings — we’re very lucky. On some days on the Mass Shooting Tracker, there were half-a-dozen events in a single day. Sometimes more.

As much as I want to sit here and scream into the void about how tired I am of gun violence and how sad it is I feel a sense of relief that there are only six more shootings since publishing my last column, that is not the purpose of what I want to publish here today. This piece is about the disturbing carnage that guns leave in their wake. It is about what used to work in our country to quell the massacres. It is about the unbelievably disrespectful responses from those whose inaction allows people to experience such deadly gun violence in the first place.

As I stated in my last column, I will not pretend we live in a violence-free society. I won’t pretend we live in a country where break-ins don’t happen, where people are not threatened or where individuals don’t need to act in self-defense. A gunless society is a dream only the most peaceful of individuals can hope for. But we live in far too violent a country. Imagining a world where the use of a gun isn’t ever needed is simply too distant of a reality to even consider.

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I could write a whole column about how the United States’ overconsumption and overuse of guns is leading to a terrifyingly violent and deadly society. But today, I want to attack one lone bad guy that stands out among the rest — military-grade, assault, semi-automatic weapons. The ones that fire dozens of bullets a second. The kind that would rip apart a deer if you took it hunting, and the same kind that rips apart children when it is brought into a school. I’m talking about the AR-style and AK-style semi-automatic weapons that lead to the deadliest shootings here in America. Fully automatic weapons are technically illegal in America, but as military.com so delicately puts it, “You can still legally buy a fully automatic AK-47. Because this is America.”

An assault weapon makes a shooting much more deadly and dangerous. 2.3 times more people die and 22.7 times more people are injured when such a gun is involved in a shooting. Of total mass shootings where four or more people are injured, around 59% use one of these semi-automatic weapons. Assault weapons can literally “liquify organs” due to the high velocities their bullets travel at. They tear apart the body, and bodily tissue crumbles in the hands of doctors. Due to the speed of the bullets, they travel in a non-linear path, making the damage to the body much more deadly and difficult to recover from. If you click on the previous link you can visually see the slaughter of these bullets. Though, it is not for the faint of heart.

Despite the absolute magnitude in which these guns fire bullets and the destruction they leave behind, they are referred to by the gun lobby as a “commonly used firearm” and are advertised as such. This is because the Supreme Court ruled that commonly-used guns are protected by the constitution. But there is nothing common about shooting or using a gun that fires that many bullets in that many seconds. They serve one purpose and one purpose only — kill. And man, do they do a good job at it.

To those that think owning a military-grade assault weapon is your “God-given right” as an American, think again. Bill Clinton passed a Federal Assault Weapons ban in 1994 that proved to be successful in diluting the number of deaths and shootings. The act made it illegal to manufacture the guns and gun accessories listed in the bill for 10 years. However, the semi-automatic weapons owned by the people prior to the ban were allowed to be kept and sold without punishment. 

During the ban, researchers found there to be a 25% drop in “gun massacres” and a 40% drop in fatalities. In the 10 years after the ban expired, there was a 347% increase in shooting fatalities. Post Clinton’s ban, gun-manufacturers ramped up production of these kinds of weapons, making them much more prevalent and pervasive than they ever were before. Before 1994, manufacturers produced around 100,000 units each year. Now they produce somewhere in the millions.

After the Lewiston shooting a few weeks ago, the “thoughts and prayers” tweets made me sick to my stomach. Many of these messages came from the same people whose animosity to gun legislation allows this violence in the first place. Reading and hearing the words “thoughts and prayers” does absolutely nothing to undo the deaths and take back the weapon the shooter used. Inaction to the issue speaks a thousand times louder than any of your thoughts or prayers ever will.

Politicians are allowing themselves to be bought off by the NRA and other lobbyists while sitting in their ivory towers, looking down on all of us while we fear every day our lives could end to the barrel of a gun. They are choosing the right to own a gun, a tool designed to do nothing else but kill and slaughter, over our right to live. Our right to live peacefully without fear.

I’ll let you keep your handguns and your hunting rifles for right now, but please take semi-automatic weapons off the streets. If your ego rides on the fact that you own a weapon that could steal the lives of dozens in mere seconds, it’s time to think long and hard about the kinds of things you value in life. Nobody needs such a gun. Nobody needs such an ability to kill another person. 

Owning a gun is a responsibility. You must keep it locked away, the bullets separated and out of reach of children. There is no responsible way to own a semi-automatic weapon. The mere fact that everyday citizens, people like you and me, can so easily get one is irresponsible in its own right.

Just know that if someone ever chooses to point one of these guns at another individual and chooses to pull the trigger, they are ripping apart another person’s body. They are destroying and tearing apart another’s organs and melting their insides. They are not giving them any sort of chance to live. They have no care for the sanctity or value of another person’s life. There are not enough thoughts and prayers in the world to save them from the kind of damnation that will follow.

Livia LaMarca is the Assistant Editor of the opinions desk who misses using the oxford comma. She mostly writes about American political discourse, US pop culture and social movements. Write to her at [email protected] to share your own opinions!

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