There’s no making sense of the massacre in Las Vegas. People of good will everywhere are mourning with those that mourn, and our hearts go out to the shattered families left behind. It feels like the world is on fire.
For my part, I feel a newfound sense of responsibility, because I’m currently seeking elective office. As I read my social media newsfeeds and see calls for politicians to do something to prevent future slaughter, I feel as if those pleas are now directed at me. What should the congressional representative for Utah’s Third District do to make sure this never happens again?
This is not a rhetorical question.
All too often, mass shootings are the catalysts for political discussions that usually devolve into partisan talking points. The same people predictably make the same arguments, and both sides double down on preaching to the choir without persuading anyone to their way of thinking. That’s not what I’m trying to do here.
So let me give you my background and current perspective. I’m not what you’d call a “gun guy.” I do not own a gun, nor am I likely to own a gun in the future. I have no personal affinity for firearms, although I know and respect many legal gun owners who exercise their Second Amendment rights responsibly.
I view many of the proposed legislative solutions to gun violence as well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective. While it’s true that most mass shooters buy their weapons legally, I’m not convinced that making those weapons illegal for purchase would deter such murderers from their intended purpose. Shooters use legal weapons because it is convenient to do so, but in the age of the Internet, it is only slightly inconvenient to go outside the law to get a gun. And if someone is willing to gun down innocents, they’re not likely to have much respect for ATF regulations.
The shooting in Vegas complicates the question, because current evidence suggests that he was using a machine gun or other fully automatic weapon. Such weapons have been tightly regulated and effectively banned for public sale or use since 1934. No legislative solution currently being proposed would have any bearing on such a weapon.
However, someone called my attention this morning to a phenomenon I had never seen before. Reportedly, there are kits legally available for sale that essentially convert a semi-automatic into an automatic. If you Google the phrase “semi automatic conversion kit for AR-15,” a whole host of options and articles pop up. I got into a conversation about this one – the “Slide Fire,” which, according to slate.com, can allow you to fire off 900 round per minute with a semi-automatic rifle through a process known as “bump firing.”
But in that conversation, someone else pointed out the following:
“Bump firing not the same as full auto. It is nowhere near as effective, nearly impossible to aim properly, and causes significant fatigue. Most importantly however I can’t find any instances where a commercial bump fire system, including the Slide Fire, has been used in a crime. There are easier ways for the folks who disregard the law to begin with to acquire a fully automatic rifle.”
That’s probably true. So where does that leave us?
I should also note that I think efforts to keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill are laudable and appropriate, and that such regulations can be written in such a manner as to not represent an infringement of Second Amendment rights.
So with that as background, I ask the question again – what should the congressional representative for Utah’s Third District do to make sure this never happens again?
There are no easy answers. If there were, we’d have solved the problem by now. But in the absence of a quick fix, I want to be part of a discussion where both sides can civilly and responsibly work toward solutions. I believe that most people on either side of the political divide are heartbroken by these shootings, and we ought to recognize our national unity in opposition to senseless violence even as we disagree on how to confront it.