Valley Voices

No buy-back program or confiscation campaign will get rid of all assault style rifles

On display at a gun shop in Wendell, N.C., an AR-15 assault rifle manufactured by Core15 Rifle Systems in Dec. 18, 2012.
On display at a gun shop in Wendell, N.C., an AR-15 assault rifle manufactured by Core15 Rifle Systems in Dec. 18, 2012. TNS

If citizens are eventually prohibited from possessing certain rifles, will politicians be willing to personally serve warrants so SWAT teams can begin searching homes to find the illegal weapons? Before committing, I suggest they watch the YouTube video of actor Charlton Heston as he addressed an NRA convention. Thrusting an ancient flintlock rifle over his head, he proclaims “From my cold dead hands.” The responsive roar of approval from the crowd might turn once-stiff spines to quivering jelly.

If politicians decline to personally accept the risk, is it reasonable for them to expect law enforcement officers to face the danger of encountering thousands — perhaps millions – of otherwise law-abiding persons who have suddenly become felons for owning a legally purchased firearm? Will they hand it over? How many will agree with Mr. Heston?

Americans already own an estimated 15 million to 20 million assault style rifles. No buyback program or confiscation campaign will remove all of them. Realistically, we may simply have to live with the ongoing threat.

California law already requires every gun sale, including those between individuals, to be conducted through a state licensed dealer, where there will be a 10 day waiting period and background check before authorities approve the sale. Ammunition purchases also require a background check and magazines are limited to a maximum capacity of 10 bullets. All semiautomatic rifles must be registered and owners of “traditional” assault style rifles can no longer sell or transfer the weapons or pass them on to an heir. The state also has a “red flag” law, which enables family members and law enforcement officials to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a person who appears to be a danger to themselves or others.

The Gilroy shooter avoided all those restrictions by simply going to Nevada to buy his weapon

Do I fear a madman with an assault rifle? Not really. A distracted-texting driver is a far greater risk to my personal safety. According to tables 11 and 20 of the 2017 FBI Uniform Crime Report, rifles of all types were determined to be responsible for 403 homicides nationwide – 37 of them in California. Rifles were blamed for fewer than 10 homicides in each of 36 other states — with 72 U.S. senators.

That FBI report shows there were a total of nearly 11,000 firearms homicides. A handgun was used in over 7,000 murders while shotguns and unidentified firearms killed 3,500. Meanwhile over 2,700 people were beaten or stabbed to death. By comparison, drunk and/or distracted drivers were responsible for over 14,000 deaths. CDC data shows drug overdoses, including opiates, killed over 70,000 people and 24,000 more used a firearm to commit suicide.

There is an ugly urban and racial reality in America’s homicides. We frequently hear the horror stories of 10 or more people killed in a single weekend in Chicago. But just seven cities — including Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Kansas City — reported a total of 2,358 murders in 2017. That is more than the combined total of 28 U.S. States — with 56 U.S. Senators. Their residents voters are likely to believe the “gun” crisis is mostly a big city problem.

Tragically, too many inner cities appear to be war zones. Black Americans are less than 15% of our population but suffer over 52% of all homicides and — where the law enforcement can identify the race of both the victim and the offender — 88% of them are killed by another black person Similarly, 80% of white victims are killed by another white person.

It is unrealistic to expect we could ever remove all so-called “assault rifles” from civilian hands. But we should expect everyone to “say something if you see something.” After many mass shootings we discover the shooter left a lengthy trail of social media behavior that should have been a deadly warning to friends and others. Those who remained silent will forever live with the knowledge they might have saved dozens of lives by simply warning the authorities.

Jerrold Jensen lives in Visalia.