OPINION: Why we must assault assault rifles
I’ve lost a brother to gun violence and I also have a brother who is gay. Every act of gun violence is personal to me as it should be to all of us.
What happened in Orlando was a hate crime committed by an American-born male who was an angry, homophobic, wife-abusing, wannabe cop, twice interviewed by the FBI and despite all of that, was still legally able to buy an assault rifle and high capacity ammunition magazines. This is an act that defies comprehension. But we must comprehend it to stop it from happening again.
Almost anybody can legally buy an AR-15 platform assault weapon, like the deadly Sig Sauer MCX assault rifle used by the Orlando killer, on the web with just a few clicks. Or out of the trunk of someone’s car where there’s only the soft rustle of cash and the metallic sounds of the weapon being caressed and checked out. No questions, no paperwork.
The massacres at Orlando, Sandy Hook, Aurora and San Bernardino were so deadly for one reason. The type of weapon used: an assault weapon. This class or weapons was designed by the military for the military with a sole purpose: to kill as many humans as quickly and efficiently as possible — on the battlefield.
Our country is not a battlefield. Yet the AR-15s and its variants have been used time after time after time to shred the bodies of our children in schools, friends praying in houses of worship, loved ones simply going to the movies, a mall or night club.
What makes the AR-15 and other assault weapons such horrific killing machines? Muzzle velocity. That’s the speed with which the AR-15 bullet travels after it’s fired — about three times the speed of sound. That along with the enormous kinetic energy it unleashes when it strikes.
When an AR-15 type of round hits a body, the force is so great blood vessels are shredded and flesh turns to jelly. Just ask any trauma surgeon who has had to deal with assault rifle wounds. Or anyone who’s managed to survive that kind of wound. Or anyone who has had a victim’s gore sprayed on them even as they themselves were not shot. Madness.
Couple that with magazines that hold 30 or even 100 rounds that can be emptied in seconds and there’s a bloodbath just waiting to happen. We cannot let that happen.
Since Congress has refused to act on the simplest, most basic common sense gun laws, we need to act at a state and local level while keeping the pressure on Washington.
Congress needs to follow New York’s lead and pass Universal Background Checks so nobody can anonymously buy one of these war weapons out of a car trunk. We need to ban assault weapons and keep high capacity magazines off the market so mass murder with a few trigger pulls becomes much less likely.
There is a lot of unfinished business here in NY. Just because NY is safer than other states is NOT an excuse to slack off. We ask the Governor to waste no more time and develop and implement the Point of Sale ammunition background check system – that was part of the 2013 SAFE Act — and get the legislature to step up and fund it. We ask Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to use their executive authority and the purchasing power of NYC and NY State to demand smart guns and microstamped guns for the NYPD and State Police.
Assault weapons have their place: In a war zone. Not your neighborhood. Any shooting, whether deemed a mass shooting or not, is an act of terrorism to the person being shot, to their friends and family, and to their communities. We need to restrict the means to carry out these violent acts of hatred.
And remember as you read this, another 92 Americans will die from gun violence today. And another 92 tomorrow. And the day after — unless we do something. Now.
Leah Gunn Barrett