This has been written about before, but until the problem is solved, it’s worth writing about over and over and over again. Omar Mateen, the shooter who massacred scores of people at an Orlando nightclub, bought his guns, a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle (similar to an AR-15) and a Glock 17 semi-automatic handgun, legally. Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the two shooters who carried out the San Bernardino massacre, acquired their weapons, a pair of AR-15 type semi-automatic rifles as well as two 9mm semi-automatic handguns, legally. Adam Lanza, the deranged killer of twenty children and seven adults in Newtown, Connecticut, used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S, a weapon based on the AR-15, to carry out his crime. It had been purchased legally by his mother, with whom he lived. James Holmes, the perpetrator of the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, bought the weapons he used, a Glock 22 semi-automatic handgun, a Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, and a Smith & Wesson M&P15, an AR-15 variant, legally.
These horrible acts, and, sadly, many, many others, were made more deadly by the weapons the perpetrators were able to acquire. Semi-automatic rifles like AR-15 variants were designed as weapons of war, despite what any gun advocate says to the contrary. They are made to facilitate the killing of people. Because they are semi-automatic, they are capable of firing rounds quickly. Because they have detachable magazines, they can be reloaded quickly. That means a shooter using a semi-automatic rifle can pour many more shots into victims than someone armed with a bolt-action hunting rifle.
I have no problem with people owning and purchasing guns. But it is well past time to do away with the fiction that people need to have weapons that are designed to kill other people.
Regardless of any mass shooter’s motivations, whether it be terror, hate, or insanity, our gun laws are making it easier for these individuals to kill. Rate of fire is the reason shooters choose the weapons they do. It is not a coincidence that every shooter listed above used weapons based around the AR-15. The AR-15 has proven time and time again that it is a fantastic platform for killing people.
Although I have very little confidence that any gun control legislation will follow the latest massacre in Orlando, sensible measures have to include simple ways to reduce the rate of fire of rifles, handguns, and shotguns.
California already has some decent laws on the books. Semi-automatic rifles sold in the state must have fixed magazines that either have to be top-loaded one round at a time, or have to be detached using a tool. This slows down rate of fire by adding to the time it takes to reload a weapon. Indeed, this was such an onerous restriction to the San Bernardino shooters that they illegally modified their weapons for quick reloading.
The California statue is a good start, but it can be gotten around, as the San Bernardino shooters showed. Legislation with real teeth would ban magazines that are detachable at all, making modifications more difficult. California also has a 10-round maximum, but this is still too high.
If part of the aim of gun control legislation is to make weapons less lethal to groups of people, then any rifle manufactured and sold in the United States should be bolt-action or single-action, should have a magazine that is part of the rifle with a capacity of no more than five rounds, and should have to be reloaded one round at a time. The same ideas, restricting magazine size, reload speed, and rate of fire, can be applied to handguns and shotguns.
I don’t know how to stop mass shootings, other than banning guns completely and initiating a repressive law enforcement regime to root out guns. But ways to make mass shootings less deadly are obvious. We have been inundated with weapons designed to kill people in this country. Is it really any surprise that killers are using these weapons against us?