Ending Public Access to Military Style Weapons

When troubled youth Nikolas Cruz picked a fight with a classmate who was dating his ex-girlfriend he was expelled from high school. Three days later he bought an AR-15. The gun dealer reportedly suggested an accessory to make the rifle fully automatic. Anger prompted Cruz to show up at the Parkland, FL school on Valentine’s Day and fire 160 rounds, slaying 17. For doing little to launch follow-up intervention, let’s blame the school administration.

Police reportedly responded 39 times to circumstances at the home where Nikolas lived after the deaths of both his parents. Let’s blame the local authorities for not considering this behavioral pattern worthy of greater attention.

Let’s blame Donald Trump for undoing even the minor preventive measures three previous presidential administrations had put in place. Note NRA support for Trump’s election was $30.3 million.

The FBI learned a person with this name had used social media to announce intention to become a school shooter. Though they had little power to apprehend Cruz and receive millions of such alerts, let’s blame the FBI for inaction.

The school maintained an armed security guard who didn’t challenge Cruz. We could blame him for not intervening.

Cruz was a member of his high school’s junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps that promotes young persons’ interest in weapons. Let’s blame the ROTC.

Cruz evolved as a racist. We need to confront this country’s slave owning Founder’s constitutional justification of chattel slavery and argument that – as they held dominion they must be racially superior. We need to confront the legacy and posture of every holder of public office since that time that has not taken a public stance to correct this historic falsehood. It was the assassination of President Lincoln – the peacemaker who sought to bind up the nation’s Civil War’s psychological wounds – that allowed a fateful shift to punishment of the South for the Civil War. This, in turn, launched the South’s resentment measures, Jim Crow and the deep racism that has, ever since, held this country in its grip.

It may surprise the reader to learn that in the first 45 days of 2018 there have been 18 gun incidents in our schools, 8 of them involving wounding or death. The United States is unique at generating such statistics. We can no longer assume it is safe to send children to school in the morning.

There is a raging debate whether the nation’s 3-million teachers should be armed with handguns. What have we come to? In our watch, national pride has become national shame.

The response to this most recent mass killing has been predictably outrageous. House Speaker Paul Ryan defensively referenced the 2nd Amendment, asserting this was not the time to threaten citizens’ constitutional rights. Donald Trump declared sympathy for the victims and their families but avoided mentioning guns.

Hillary Clinton favored improved gun controls but that only funneled campaign money to opponents. With few exceptions, for decades the response to these tragic events by the makers of our laws has been what I must characterize as, “Blah, blah, blah.” The lobbying and contributions from gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association corrupt our officeholders.

In its 2008 landmark decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Washington, DC ban on hand guns – implemented to reduce city gun deaths – violated Dick Heller’s 2nd Amendment right to keep a gun in his home for self defense.

But we know Supreme Court decisions are invariably political-party-based interpretations of the Constitution. The majority five in this decision were all Republican appointees – loyalists to the party most resistant to stricter gun laws.

Embedded in the decision are these positive notes. “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatever purpose.” Protected weapons are those “in common use” while those not protected are those which are “dangerous or unusual.”

The Court’s political bias ignores history. Lacking a national army during both the American Revolution and the Civil War, George Washington, then Abraham Lincoln, summoned state militias to serve. Southern colonies had demanded the 2nd Amendment in order to bear arms against potential rebellion by their slaves.

All these “blamings” are intended distractions favoring the greedy gun industry and immoral NRA. Despite a history of instability, Nikolas encountered no difficulty in purchasing an automatic rifle and sufficient ammunition for multiple murders. Let’s level the blame on Congress for decades of failure to pass legislation confronting the national proliferation of military-style weapons that are repeatedly used to kill the innocent, particularly our children.

There are more guns than people in this country. A substantial number of these are designed for the sole purpose of killing people. It is time to not only confiscate all military-style weapons but to make their possession a serious felony.

Carl Doerner is an author, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He can be reached at carl9327@gmail.com. Read other articles by Carl, or visit Carl's website.