Machine Guns Aren't Used In Mass Shootings

Walter Rhein

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I have children in school who are 7 and 5 years old. On several occasions I’ve received emails from their school district about “incidents” involving suspicious characters or the possibility of illegal behavior. We’ve all hoped that making the choice to live in Northern Wisconsin would free us of experiencing such traumatic incidents, but sadly, the potential is there. Since the Florida shooting, there has been a police vehicle in the parking lot when I go to pick up my kids at the end of the day. All parents have a heightened awareness that there is a problem with mass shootings in the United States. However, what some people don’t know is that this isn’t the first time our nation has faced this problem, and that our legislation already contains the mechanism for solving the issue.

One of the common pro-weapons arguments is that “criminals will find a way to get the guns they want.” However, there is practical evidence to suggest this isn’t true. As terrible as the mass shootings of the last decades have been, it’s likely the death tolls would have been higher if the shooters had access to superior weaponry.

We’ve all seen the romanticized images of mobster bosses holding Thompson submachine guns. This was a weapon of choice during the urban warfare common to the era of prohibition. At some point, our representatives recognized that it wasn’t in the best interest of the American people to have law enforcement agents and private citizens face criminals with submachine guns. As a result, the National Firearms Act (NFA) was enacted in 1934. There have been significant amendments to this act throughout the decades, but the result of the NFA is that machine guns are very rarely used in criminal activity to this day.

The NFA did not require the confiscation of machine guns. Instead, the guns were required to be registered. Also, citizens are still able to own machine guns, provided they obtain the proper license. The licensing requires a background check similar to what is required for a person to become a teacher. I’m a teacher myself, and it’s not difficult provided you have nothing to hide.

These simple steps are reasonable and easy to implement, and for eighty-four years this legislation has been effective in preventing mass tragedies involving fully automatic weapons.

Eighty-four years is a long time, and weapons have necessarily evolved in that period. Significant amendments were made in 1968 and 1986 to address the technological advancement of firearms in our society. Our nation has a strong tradition of regulating firearms for the benefit of the general public when the weapons that are easily available begin to become a problem. We are clearly in an era that requires a new amendment.

It is important to note that this isn’t a solution which comes from a foreign land. People often say that, “what works in Europe or Australia won’t work in the US.” But the NFA is an American solution, and it establishes a precedent for how American legislators should act in a time of crisis. The argument that, “criminals, by their very nature, will not obey the rules,” is also proved invalid due to the effectiveness of the NFA.

We have guns in the United States that are becoming known as “mass shooting weapons.” The NFA suggests that we can continue to allow ownership of those guns with the proper license and registration. If you don’t think a person should drive without a license, or vote without an ID then these minimal requirements should be palatable to everyone. Will these steps eliminate mass shootings completely? No, of course not. But the evidence suggests that these steps will greatly reduce mass murder. If we tell our children that they should respect the wisdom of our forefathers, we can do no less than demonstrate that we adults also seek out that wisdom in times of uncertainty. The NFA is the American solution, all the regulations are in place, we just need another amendment and many needless, senseless, tragic deaths will be prevented. Don’t let anyone fool you, it really is this simple.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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