Like most Kentuckians, I have watched TV coverage of events in Washington as if they were a new series on the History Channel. Discussions regarding the ballpark shooting have centered on how we can better protect members of Congress, what motivated the shooter to do what he did, and if the entire affair is a natural follow-up to the nation’s angry discourse. Commentators often cite President Donald Trump’s belligerent words encouraging his supporters to resort to acts of violence at campaign rallies.
Yet why do our gun laws allow anyone with obvious mental problems access to military assault weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds in a matter of seconds?
Assault weapons and larger clips were used in most recent shootings, including the one in the Virginia ballpark, employing an assault weapon that could fire 40-60 bullets without reloading, overwhelmed and out-gunned the police who were equipped with pistols and shotguns.
Since the shootings, I have seen nothing in the coverage, either by elected officials or the media that even raised the question: Why does Congress not ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity clips to anyone but the military and police? Assault weapons were designed and intended for the killing of humans, not for hunting quail.
The answer, I believe, is clear: Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, march to the drumbeat of the National Rifle Association. The NRA gives them millions of dollars in campaign contributions and Congress, in turn, votes for anything the NRA wants. In 1994, Congress did approve a ban on assault weapons, but it expired 10 years ago/ Attempts to restore it have since failed repeatedly.
What all this boils down to is that America is largely populated by gun lovers who cast their votes for those protecting their gun rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Of course, there were no assault weapons when the Second Amendment was written by our Founding Fathers.
Republicans gained control of the White House, both houses of Congress and, to some extent, the U.S. Supreme Court, largely due to their constant theme of “Democrats want to take away your guns.”
Voters have kept assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the hands of madmen by supporting candidates who will never oppose anything asked of them by the NRA. Where does the NRA’s millions of dollars come from except the American public? It seems that the NRA will not rest until every American home has an arsenal of eight or 10 loaded weapons in the closet, including assault weapons.
Congress should ban assault weapons, keeping them out of the hands of anyone except the military and trained police. If someone is found owning or harboring an assault weapon, much less using it, all of that person’s guns should be confiscated and not sold at auction, but melted down. On second offense, such owners should face serious jail time and never as long as he or she lives be allowed to own or keep a weapon of any kind.
Loopholes in current laws should be closed. The law now permits the buying, selling and trading of assault weapons at gun shows and over the Internet. There are virtually no restrictions on such gun trafficking. If you have the money and desire, you could own an assault rifle before the day is over.
It will be interesting to see whether Congress will reconsider a ban after the ballpark shooting and if Rep. Steve Scalise, who was critically wounded, will change his staunch support for watered-down gun restrictions and the NRA.
Frank Ashley of Lexington is a former Courier-Journal reporter and served as press secretary to Govs. John Y. Brown and Brereton Jones.