Photo of handgun in backpack taken in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (PHOTO: © 2014 Randy Schafer,

Many Americans' hearts broke as everyone read the news of the most recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the attack, the shooter used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 17 people and injure 15 others within the school.

While angered students push Florida legislature for gun control, a positive push to curb mass shootings, the focus on banning assault weapons won’t stop future mass shootings. The main reason being that the ban has been done before with minimal results.

On Sept. 13, 1994, President Clinton banned assault weapons for ten years. The ban, which barred the manufacture and sale of guns with military features and the sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds, had no proof it contributed to a decline in mass shootings.

In fact, the number of mass shootings stayed relatively the same before and after the ban. From 1976 to 1994, there were 18 mass shootings a year. 1995 to 2004, the time period when assault weapons were banned, saw 19 shootings a year. From 2005 to 2011, there were 21 shootings a year.

This is because assault weapons are not the deadliest gun in America: handguns are. Handguns comprise 80 percent of gun related deaths each year. The victims of mass shootings only make up less than 1 percent of gun homicide victims, according to non-profit Gun Violence Archives.

An assault weapon, such as the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting, can dispense 45 rounds a minute. It might be the easiest gun to use in a mass shooting, but it’s not necessarily the only one. Having multiple loaded firearms or legally modifying firearms to do more damage offers just as deadly results in a mass shooting.

The 1994 ban on assault weapons was like taking whiskey away from an alcoholic; they’ll just use another drink to fill their vice. During the ban, other weapons were plentiful to commit mass murders. For example, the Columbine shooters used a semi-automatic handgun and a double barreled sawed-off shotgun.

This isn’t to say that obtaining a military-style assault weapon shouldn’t be made difficult, with the would-be purchaser undergoing scrupulous background checks and mental health screenings. Even banning assault weapons would be a good move for the eradication of needlessly deadly weapons, but it isn’t the end-all to mass shootings.

Assault weapons have become the symbol of mass shootings, and a ban on them would ease the students of Parkland as well as other survivors of assault weapons. But in a society drunk on violence, the underlying causes of mass shootings will not go away simply by banning the most popular gun for a mass shooting. Another gun will always fill its place.

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(1) comment


"Assault weapons" have been highly restricted since 1986. It is no longer possible for a civilian to own, purchase or import one manufactured on or after May 1, 1986. The AR-15 is not and never has been an assault weapon. The key distinction is that it is not select fire. It is only a lowly semi-automatic. The AR does not mean assault rifle, as is presented here. It means Armalite Rifle, and merely designates the model number assigned by the manufacturer, much as the earlier AR-5 and AR-7 are bolt action survival rifles, not "assault rifles."

The assertion that guns are the only outward expression of violence and limiting them will somehow stop it is laughable. In the UK and much of the rest of Europe, handguns and now knives are heavily restricted. Those wishing to harm others have simply turned to using caustic acid, hammers or vehicles instead. The problem is much bigger than guns, and merely banging on about background checks and mental health will not cause even an iota of change, even if all of the proposed policy and legal changes (bans, mental health screenings, background checks, etc.) were placed into effect.

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