Law making should be based on facts. We estimate 13.7 million semiautomatic rifles of the type wrongly termed “assault weapons” are in the hands of Americans. They have been in the public market since 1964 and are the nation’s most popular rifle, used for a variety of legitimate purposes, including hunting, target shooting and personal defense. They should not be banned.
More accurately termed “modern sporting rifles,” they fire one round with each pull of the trigger and come in several calibers. They are no more powerful than other rifles. What differentiates them is cosmetic, such as the type of stock that makes the conventionally operating rifle look more like a military firearm.
These rifles are not machine guns or automatic firearms, which were severely restricted from civilian ownership under the 1934 National Firearms Act. The “assault weapon” term was conjured up by anti-gun activists to deceive the public into thinking they were machine guns.
We have been down this road before. The expired 1994 assault weapons ban had no discernable effect on violent crime. The best the Justice Department under the Clinton administration could conclude was that the effect of the ban “has been uncertain.”
Instead of banning America’s most popular rifle, our focus should be on preventing criminals and the seriously mentally ill from obtaining any type of firearm. Since 2013, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s FixNICS initiative has improved reporting of all criminal and adjudicated mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and it has led to 16 states adopting reforms.
Through the end of 2016, the number of disqualifying mental health records submitted rose 170% to nearly 4.5 million, from about 1.7 million in December 2012. Gun control groups may take credit, but we were the ones at work in the states. We must turn to the Defense Department to ensure all its appropriate records are submitted to the NICS.
Lawrence G. Keane is general counsel and senior vice president of government relations and public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry.
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