Letter: Randy Ihara, South Riding

Editor: On Sunday, Aug. 4, Americans awoke to the news of two new mass shootings in the nation: Dayton, OH, and El Paso, TX. By now, we should be inured to the news.

After all, it’s old news: Two more mass shootings to add to the 250 that have already been perpetrated by a lone gunman with an assault rifle this year. Last year, there were 307 shootings. Someone might think this year’s total is a mark of progress, but 2019 is only half over. Currently, the total for both years is 557 mass shootings.

            Most troubling, even our schools aren’t safe from mass shooters. So far this school year, there have been 94—a new record. That works out to one shooting every eight school days so far this year. Last year, there were 24 school shootings, with 163 killed or injured. 

            The notable characteristic of these incidents is that they are not indiscriminate. They’re usually the result of a dispute among individuals or gangs. The perpetrator is usually a 16-17 year-old male student.

            For obvious reasons, gun violence in our schools is of special concern, but it is a phenomenon that is a subset of a larger societal crisis: The widespread availability of guns in public hands. 

            According to a study by Rand Corporation, in 2017 there were an estimated 300 million privately-owned firearms, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, consisting of 3.75 million AR-15 assault-style rifles. These are weapons designed for only one purpose: To kill (or maim) another human being. When used as designed, the AR-15 kills or severely maims people. It is remarkable that such weapons are items of commerce, available on the market for a price, virtually the same as any other good. 

            Americans are the most heavily armed citizens in the world. U.S. gun ownership is 88.8 guns/100 population, the highest among virtually all OECD nations. Not surprisingly, our firearm murder rate, at 29.7 per million population is the highest in the world. Second is Canada with 5.1 firearm homicides per one million population.

            So what should we do? The prevalence of guns and gun homicide incidents suggests that a goal of public policy should be to reduce the prevalence of assault weapons and high capacity magazines as items in commerce. 

            In Australia in 1996, a gunman used a semi-automatic rifle in a café to kill 35 people and seriously wound 23. The response of public officials was to establish a government program of mandatory buy-backs of roughly 650,000 guns, and required permits for new purchases. The dramatic reduction in the Australian firearm homicide rate, which fell 42 percent was observed. (RAND noted that assuming a causal relationship may not be warranted, since the overall homicide background rate was declining. On the other hand, firearm suicides fell 57 percent.)

            A Rand Corporation review of 130 studies of policy measures to restrict gun ownership and purchases in 10 nations, found that such restrictions lower the level of firearm homicides. Moreover, RAND’s careful analysis of six studies found “the prevalence of firearms to be significantly and positively associated with lower homicide rates.” Policy measures, such as assault weapon buy-backs, taxes, including the imposition of substantial sales or excise taxes on high-capacity magazines, (or an outright ban), ammunition imposing strict licensing and permitting requirements on owners (e.g., storage requirements), or banning their sale altogether in commerce. 

         The NRA will no doubt raise Second Amendment objections, under its narrowly absolutist interpretation. Yet the Supreme Court has expressed a different view in the Heller Case. Justice Scalia wrote in District of Columbia v Heller (2008): “ We … recognize an important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. … It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding  the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

Randy Ihara, South Riding

6 thoughts on “Letter: Randy Ihara, South Riding

  • 2019-08-06 at 3:26 pm

    For all those who want to know what an AR-15 really is, see below:

    In the late 1950s, small-arms whiz Eugene Stoner started designing prototypes for the United States military, with a heavy focus on making issued rifles lighter and theoretically allowing troops to carry more ammunition.

    In 1956, Stoner and his team at Armalite started work on the AR-15 prototype, which followed the AR-10 prototype. AR stands for “Armalite Rifle,” not “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”

    The company had a hard time selling the original design and licensed it to Colt in 1959.

    In 1963, the original fully automatic, select-fire Armalite turned into to Colt’s design for the newly commissioned M16. That same year, Colt released a semi-automatic version of the AR-15 modular platform to the law enforcement and civilian market.

    When the patent expired in 1977, other manufacturers got in on the MSR game.

    The typical MSR you’ll find on the wall at your nearest gun store is semi-automatic and fires a .223 round. That means a smaller cartridge and one bullet fired per trigger pull, compared to what became the M16, which used a higher-pressure 5.56 cartridge.

    Some MSRs fire both 5.56 rounds and .223 rounds. The main difference is that the 5.56 can have more powder behind the bullet, though not always. A .223 can be fired out of a 5.56-chambered rifle (although with diminished pressure) but not vice versa. But they’re still semi-automatic either way.

    This means that in both the ammunition it fires and the rate at which it fires, the AR-15 is more akin to the famous Ruger Mini14 ranch rifle than the M4 carbine, which is what’s been putting rounds downrange for the Department of Defense since 1994. No AR-15 marketed for civilian use is an automatic rifle.

    If you want to legally purchase an automatic firearm made before 1986, there are a ton of prohibitive bureaucratic hoops you have to jump through (plus, they’re incredibly expensive because of the 1986 ban). If you want to buy one made after 1986, you either need to be a law enforcement officer with a reason to have it or a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL).

    Despite the hype, rifles killed fewer people than knives, blunt objects, and fists in the U.S. in 2016, according to FBI stats.
    (source: https://www.theblaze.com/op-ed/commentary-facts-about-ar-15)

    • 2019-08-06 at 4:43 pm

      Randy dosen’t seem to define assault weapons. And why should he? What he is trying to convey is that now is a good opportunity after a trajedy to tell his fellow citizens why he thinks they don’t need firearms. However, reason should be stirring in your minds…what if I was there? If I was armed, could I have stopped this murderer? The answer is yes. You are not any less capable of protecting yourself than the next person who functions as police officer or a security guard. You..for now.. have the right to bear arms. And fortunately for you there are organizations that want to protect your right and offer you training. You can actually obtain the same training and the same frequency as a police officer if you choose to do so. Sound empowering right? You would think women adhereing to feminist ideals would jump at this opportunity, and some do. So, answering Randy’s question…”What should we do?” Hide behind the largest combined police force than any other country in the world? (literally the size of a standing army). Unfortunately, they can’t be everywhere all the time. The anwer…you can get trained. Instead of being a victim, you can be empowered to take personal responsibility and get safety training and arm yourself. Heaven forbid you would ever have to use it, but at least you can be the first responder. That is what the second ammendment is for.

      • 2019-08-09 at 9:07 am

        Is the end result of what you’re suggesting (i.e., that everyone walk around in public carrying a gun) so that if another person with ill-intent starts shooting, everyone in the vicinity can shoot back? Isn’t the result unpredictable street warfare? I’m, not sure how that solves “the problem,” which, I argue, is the prevalence, easy access and availability of guns.
        Secondly, the 2nd amendment opens with a reference to a “well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.” The key to the second amendment is the fact that the “right” is circumscribed by a national security purpose. In other words, the purpose of the 2nd Amendment was not for personal security, but the “security of a free state,” that is, the collective security of the nation as a whole. Indeed, in many colonies guns were kept in an arsenal, not in the home.

  • 2019-08-08 at 9:12 am

    not sure how your comments lead to us not being shot? It seems that you want to block all progress on killings and keep things the way they are. What is wrong with trying to change?

    • 2019-08-08 at 3:36 pm

      No one can keep you from being shot. In fact, no one can guarantee a life without danger. I hope you don’t think a bureaucratic government can make that happen. If so, your faith is misplaced. Your best option is to take personal reasonability to protect yourself. You have a inalienable right to life and fortunately…for now… you also have the right to protect yourself. That is my comment.
      What is wrong with change? Well, it depends on what you want to change. Not all change is good or bad. Wisdom would be to properly define the problem. Some people including myself would claim the problem is not guns, but the motivation. Today in California a man killed four people with a knife. All the victims were Hispanic. Terrible. No government regulation is going to guarantee complete safety in life. The worse thing to change is your right to do something about it.

  • 2019-08-08 at 8:28 pm

    all you words are simply an attempt to distract the conversation from finding solutions

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