The Limits of Proposed Gun Laws

Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Ohr HaTorah

Another tragedy has ripped open a national wound that will not heal. People cry out that we have to do something.

I want to offer a basic truth: The only gun control that would make a significant difference in mass shootings would be banning the sale of and confiscating all semi-automatic weapons.

I’m not talking about an “assault weapon” ban. That doesn’t go far enough, because many semi-automatic firearms don’t fall into this category. Even if the notorious AR-15 — the rifle used in the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla. — were made illegal, plenty of models just as deadly would still be available. Banning the AR-15 or its lookalikes would accomplish nothing.

The elimination of all semi-automatic rifles leaves handguns, the weapon used in the vast majority of gun homicides in the United States each year. A mass shooter without a rifle could use a handgun.

If the U.S. bans all semi-automatic long guns and handguns — those fed by magazines — only relatively slow-to-load bolt- and pump-action long guns, revolvers and the like would be legal to own. We’d probably have to repeal the Second Amendment.

Furthermore, a ban without confiscation means that some of the 300 million or so firearms already owned by Americans could find their way to an illegal market, where a measure such as background checks would make no difference.

Gun control laws are not bulletproof.

In November 2015, 130 people were murdered in a mass shooting in Paris, yet France has strict gun control. In 2011, 69 people were murdered in a mass shooting in Norway, a country that also has strict gun control. Mexico has gun control laws, yet that country’s interior ministry reported there were more than 29,000 homicides there last year. Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador and Uruguay all have gun control laws, but each has twice to several times the number of gun homicides as the U.S., per capita.

To address the issue of mass shootings and our atrocious homicide and suicide rate, we must confront the fact that we live in a violent society. In addition to laws banning and confiscating weapons, we will have to look at the inner lives of people who want to kill others or kill themselves.