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Not all students fall victim to the political machine known as public education. Some have the capacity to ask questions and draw conclusions independently of the professors and their leftist agendas. One in particular, Clayton Vickers, went against the grain and penned an impressive defense of AR-15 rifles. 

Throughout his paper, Vickers dispelled many gun control myths by presenting verifiable data that is contrary to the inaccurate statements commonly made by anti-gun politicians. He then went on to suggest viable solutions that address violent crime without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.   

If students associated with the March for Our Lives and similar movements could abandon their willful ignorance and desire for [short-lived] fame, they might be capable of evaluating the data and drawing the same conclusions. As it stands, however, they are only advocating for more policies that have been proven to be completely ineffective or dangerous. 

The ArmaLite Rifle: A Villainized Non-Issue in America

The AR-15, properly known as the ArmaLite Rifle, has been the subject of routine criticism by gun control proponents, public figures, and advocacy groups alike throughout the most recent decades. The rifle’s cosmetic features, exaggerated ability and ballistics, and purpose have been called into question in the hopes of deterring future mass shootings by cutting off the availability of such firearms to all law-abiding citizens. The notoriety surrounding the rifle has been further amplified due to the political activism radiating from self-proclaimed ‘objective news journalists’ at every opportunity. Rather than focusing on other factors that influence the reoccurrence of mass shootings such as shortcomings from law enforcement, the constant presence of altering anti-depressant medication or mental illness among active shooters, or issues with narrow reporting of criminal history to a flawed background check system, gun control advocates center their focus narrowly towards the firearm used in the act. Although AR-15’s seems to be becoming more common in these events due to the copycat nature of mass shooters, the firearm in question is extremely underrepresented in all crime, and even all mass shootings. Barring the ownership of such firearms, even to those under 21, will fail to accomplish the intended goal of gun control measures, and strip law abiding citizens of the expressed purpose and acknowledged right outlined by the 2nd Amendment.

To begin, AR15s are not as prevalent in mass shootings, much less homicides, than the public has been led to believe. In a study conducted by Clayton E. Cramer examining the trends of mass murders in America, it was observed that semiautomatic rifles, not just the AR-15 specifically, have been used in merely 8.6% of all mass shootings, while semiautomatic handguns have been used in 49.6%, and even revolvers were used in 22.4% as well (Cramer, 2018). Shockingly, the study finds that shotguns matched semiautomatic rifles with an exact

8.6% usage, and bolt action rifles or other variations of rifle actions (such as lever actions) have been used in 9.6% of mass shootings, a percentage point above their infamous counterparts (Cramer, 2018). Even more intriguing is the fact that a third of all mass murder in the United States don’t involve firearms, so all percentages previously cited shrink once non-firearm related incidents are included. Specifically, semiautomatic rifles shrink to a mere 5.7% of all mass murder.

Additionally, mass shootings account for barely 1% of all homicide involving firearms (Cramer, 2018), and the difference between usage of handguns and rifles widens further when we observe the categorical trends of usage of firearms in homicide. According to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting, Table 8, handguns are used in an average of 6,000 murders annually between 2010 and 2014, and rifles are used in a mere 300 murders in the same allotted timeframe (FBI UCR, 2014). This category of rifles includes all types of rifles, not just semiautomatic rifles, so it can be assumed that this number is even lower for such rifles. For comparison, shotguns are used at an almost exact rate as rifles, averaging 300 a year, while knives account for 1,600 murders annually, blunt objects account for almost 500 annually, and personal weapons (hands, feet, fists, etc.) account for nearly 700 murders per year. It seems that blunt objects, knives, and our own appendages outperform all rifles, not just semiautomatic rifles, by a substantial margin with each new year timeframe (FBI UCR, 2014).

Now that we’ve established that AR-15s are not notable in murder or even mass murder within America, we must examine the policies prescribed by those that wish to strip them from the hands of law abiding citizens in the name of preventing mass murder (which we have now established is not a viable solution in previous paragraphs but nevertheless). Becoming more popular in political discourse is the notion that raising the age limit to purchase and own all firearms, the intended target being the AR15 and rifles like it, will prevent the event of the next mass shooting. This becomes an issue however, when we examine an investigative article from USA Today, which was heavily cited in the aforementioned study by Clayton E. Cramer, which found that the average age of mass shooters in America ranges from 30 to 33 years old dependent on gender (USA Today, 2013). The youngest perpetrator of a mass shooting was also 14, and certainly there have been others under the age of 18, so it would seem that this policy would do little to deter shooters in the least. There are many other avenues to halt potential juvenile shooters, as we will examine in following paragraphs.

Another claim that has been chanted loudly by gun control activists and politicians is that banning the AR15 and rifles like it will prevent the mass shootings the American people have collectively grown to despise. This would seem a simple solution to a problem in need of remedy, but when more closely examined, the problem of mass shootings grows ever more complex than gun control proponents would allow the American people to believe. To begin, as we determined earlier, AR15s and all semiautomatic rifles are not overrepresented (only 5.7%) in mass shootings, suggesting that banning them would certainly just change the tool used rather than prevent the event of a mass shooting. However, counter to what was previously stated, it would most likely not change the tool. In a document published by the Congressional Research Center in 2012 found that the estimated number of firearms in the American civilian population was 310 million by 2009. (CRC, 2012). This number has most likely grown exponentially since that time with the event of Hillary Clinton almost being elected president, as fear of gun control toting politicians seizing the reins of power create a predictable spike in firearms sales, and for good reason. Out of this number, Pew Research Center found that among gun owners, 62% of these individuals own a rifle (Pew Research Center, 2017). Any modern firearm typically used for home defense is a semiautomatic firearm, and thus presumably a sizeable percentage of these rifles in civilian possession would be semiautomatic firearms. We can infer then that there are tens, if not hundreds of millions of semiautomatic rifles within the US already in circulation, and a shooter would not have to do much to obtain one. This is not a bash on private firearms ownership or the ownership of such rifles, as the lawful use of firearms and the firearm’s we specified is undoubtedly beneficial (we will discuss this concept in a moment), but more of a spotlight on the fact that tools are readily available to those who wish to cause harm through illegal avenues. Attempting to go door to door and confiscate these firearms from those who obtained and utilize them lawfully will not solve the problem we wish to remedy, or rid their presence from the population in any substantial way.

In fact, there was a period of time, that being between 1994 and 2004, in which an “Assault Weapons Ban” (AWB, 1994-2004) was enacted under the Clinton presidency. Many who hold gun control as a net good, those like Diane Feinstein for example, have hailed this act as an effective and correct action that had an positive impact on crime. However, in an article from the New York Times, it was concluded that the decline in crime through the 1990’s could not be attributed to the Assault Weapons Ban, and that the ban had little to no impact, and would have similar non-existent results if reinstated (New York Times, 2014). According to Pew Research Center, 56% of the public has remained unaware that the rates of gun homicides have been declining markedly since 1993, by 49% in fact (Pew Research Center, 2013). The assault weapons ban was not only an ineffective and unnecessary infringement on the rights of the American citizen, it failed to prevent a number of mass shootings in its ten-year timeframe, including the infamous Columbine shooting. The policies that took effect during this time mandated a host of gun control regulations most advocates could only dream about, and currently hope to reinstate, and yet this shooting and others still took place. Many states have made strives to ban and penalize the ownership of these firearms currently, and their actions will yield no positive result as proven by our previously cited statistics on the matter. The notion that stripping law abiding citizens of their means of protecting themselves from tyrannical foreign and domestic threats through the execution of unconstitutional legislation is reprehensible and clearly violates the intent of the 2nd amendment. Further, the deadliest school shooting in American history at Virginia Tech was carried out by an individual with 2 handguns, in which he was able to murder upwards of 30 people. Banning semiautomatic rifles will not limit the lethal ability of school shooters by any considerable margin, or prevent their reoccurrence. As stated before, and concluded in Clayton E. Cramer’s study, the abolishment of certain firearms will not curtail criminal activity, it will just swap the weapon being used (Cramer, 2018).

We have now established numerous realities surrounding the issue of mass shootings within the United States. Those being that AR15’s and rifles like it are not the source of murder or even mass murder in the US, that barring ownership of them to individuals under 21 will to effectively nothing to prevent these events, and that banning them outright has been ineffective previously and would certainly remain so today. Unfortunately, many of the same aforementioned states have taken recent action to bar the ownership of any firearms to those under 21, a clear slash against the constitutional rights acknowledged and held by adults between 18 and 20. The constitutional, inalienable rights of individuals we have determined to be adults, and therefor subject to all rights under said document, should not be taken in the name of an ineffective security measure. Any state, or even federal action that goes against these fundamental principles acknowledging the right to self-preservation is immediately condemnable and should be repealed and barred from future repetition (as it should have been by the constitution itself). If we are to give these individuals the mantle of adulthood beginning at the age of 18, their rights are not to be cherry picked as a result of the perceived effectiveness and convenience of an unconstitutional legislative action.

If the firearms, or rather, the tools being used in mass murder is not the target of our scrutiny, what should it be? First, we should certainly examine the many systematic failures by law enforcement and government officials to take intelligent action to apprehend an individual surrounded with red flags, and their repeated failures to necessarily report criminal history information in the NICS background check system. In a report from USA Today reviewing a shooting that occurred last year in Sutherlands Springs, Texas, it was discovered that the shooter had been discharged from the Air Force on grounds of assaulting his wife and nearly fatally attacking his 1-year old child, and that the information on his criminal action was not transmitted to the FBI to be recorded into the NICS background check system (USA Today, 2017). Thus, when the to-be-shooter went to a firearms establishment and attempted to purchase a rifle he should’ve been immediately barred from obtaining, he was given the ability to proceed with the purchase, and the shooting occurred as a result of this failure.

In the previously mentioned shooting at Virginia Tech, student Seung-Hui was hospitalized after a stalking incident. A special judge determined that the individual under scrutiny was to be involuntarily committed on the grounds that he was a danger to himself and others. The proceeding day, Seung-Hui left the hospital despite being determined a serious threat to others and being involuntarily committed. He was able to return to campus, where his schizophrenia worsened. His involuntary commitment, official proof of serious mental disorder (which is examined under current background checks), or previous stalking incident were not reported and recorded in the NICS background check system, and thus the individual was able to purchase 2 firearms and carry out the worst school shooting recorded.

These examples all are recorded in the previously cited document composed by Clayton E. Cramer, which includes many more examples of seriously afflicted individuals being failed to be reported to the FBI or authorities in time to prevent a firearm purchase in a system that would certainly work if fed the necessary information. The three examples previously reviewed are certainly some of the highest profile incidents, and now we understand that they were easily preventable through other means than over simplified strives against gun owners and gun ownership.

The shooting that has brought the strongest movement against firearms, specifically firearms akin to the AR-15, would be the shooting at Parkland, Florida. The suspect had been reported to and visited by authorities over two dozen times, had been tipped off to the FBI for leaving a disturbing comment online under his own name in which he said that he would become a professional school shooter, and had previously brought bullets and knives school. Further, an individual in his household discovered a receipt for the rifle he had purchased and contacted the authorities urging them to confiscate his firearm. There are more examples of red flags from this individual, and all could have been investigated and dealt with under the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows the temporary confiscation of an individual’s firearms if he is determined to be a harm to himself or others. If some of the more serious incidents had been recorded in the NCIS background check system, or dealt with via the Baker Act, the shooting would’ve almost certainly been prevented.

These issues are completely ignored and quickly dismissed to forward movement against the law-abiding gun owner in America, and it has become obvious at this point. There are many other ways to prevent the 1% of murder in the United States, surely not robbing law abiding citizens of their right to self-preservation against tyrannical forces foreign and domestic as the 2nd amendment intended. We should certainly mandate complete and effective reporting of criminal history from the judicial system in each state to the NCIS background system to our current, applicable system. Further, we should make the barrier for entry into the system, perhaps temporary until cleared under just and proven evidence, smaller for those who can be proven unsafe to themselves and others. Further, according to a report from the Crime Prevention Research Center, a stunning 96.2% of mass shootings have occurred in gun free zones between January 1998 and July 2016. When gun control activists make the argument that mass shootings are very rarely stopped by an armed citizen, although true, this is certainly influenced by the fact that in the areas where these shootings occur 96.2% of the time, those same individuals are required to remain unarmed. Clearly, demanding individuals to disarm in certain areas has not only failed to deter mass shooters, arguably it has encouraged mass shooters to target these areas due to known lack of resistance in the event of an attack. It’s baffling that giving individuals the option to respond to an active shooter with their own personal firearm is a controversial idea. Many criticize the idea of the good guy with a gun trope, arguing that it’s a fringe occurrence that in not notable in comparison to gun homicides in the US. According to a report by the CDC (which they are largely attempting to bury), there are a minimum of 500,000 to a maximum of 3,000,000 defensive uses of firearms annually. Admittedly, these incidences are not related to mass shootings, but this statistic certainly proves that defensive use of firearms heavily outweigh gun homicides (roughly 13,000 per year), and that the old “good guy with a gun” argument is not unfounded. There are hundreds of thousands of cases each year of individuals using their firearms to protect themselves, whether it be their homes, families, or property. The abstract, odd resistance to allowing individuals to be armed, especially those individuals that have undergone sufficient training is somewhat confusing. A priority that should be held by the greater number of Americans would be to lower the barrier for heroism as a result of significantly less risk in confronting an active shooter through allowing trained citizens to be armed, thus giving a significantly better chance for retaliation. If we’ve determine that 96.2% of mass shootings have occurred in gun free zones, why would we be appalled at the idea of allowing trained, competent individuals have the opportunity to stop an active shooter? The armed citizen is not the guaranteed, end-all preventative measure against the occurrence or stopping of a mass shooting, but they are certainly a step in the right direction to deter specific targeting of vulnerable areas, and level the playing field against mass shooters rather than mandating that citizens wait minutes for outside help when they have only seconds before engaging an active shooter. There are recent examples of cases in which citizens and/or armed security have been able to stop mass shootings. Such as the hero in Sutherlands Springs (coincidentally an NRA instructor armed with an AR-15) who shot and pursued an active shooter, possibly savings many lives. Or the school resource officer in a recent, underreported school shooting in Maryland that stopped an active shooter. Although these instances are not common (due to factors previously mentioned), it certainly would be illogical to deter the reoccurrence of these heroic instances by continuing to disarm target areas.

It’s abundantly obvious that stacking weight on an already struggling system will not prevent criminal outliers, it will simple trample the rights of lawful individuals beneath it. We must bolster our existing system by mandating clear and consistent crime reporting, and improve the quality of information reported. Further, and more controversially, we should create programs to educate and train volunteer individuals and allow successful candidates to lawfully carry in target areas to deter and possibly stop the event of a mass shooting.

Works Cited

Beckett, Lois. The Assault Weapon Myth, The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2014, Accessed 7 May 2018.

Johnson, Kevin. Texas church shooting: Background check breakdown highlights federal gun record problems, USA Today, 9 Nov. 2017, Accessed 25 Apr. 2018.

Krouse, William J. "Gun Control Legislation." , Congressional Research Service, 14 Nov. 2012, Accessed 24 Apr. 2018.

Overberg, Paul, Meghan Hoyer, Mark Hannan, Jodi Upton, and Barbie Hansen. Behind the Bloodshed, the Untold Story of America's Mass Killings, USA Today, 2013, Accessed 7 May 2018.

Parker, Kim, Juliana M. Horowitz, Ruth Igielnik, Baxter Oliphant, and Anna Brown. America’s Complex Relationship with Guns, Pew Research Center, 22 June 2017, Accessed 9 Mar. 2018.

Parker, Kim, Juliana M. Horowitz, Ruth Igielnik, Baxter Oliphant, and Anna Brown. The Demographics of Gun Ownership, Pew Research Center, 22 June 2017, Accessed 9 Mar. 2018.

Expanded Homicide Data Table 8, FBI, 2014, Accessed 24 Apr. 2018.

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