Guns are a huge part of American society; taking them away won't help: Today's talker

Nashville Tennessean

Multiple Democratic president candidates have come out in support of a federal gun buyback program in response to the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, and elsewhere.

Gun control won't help, more guns will

By Louis Haas

Gun control is not the answer to America's gun violence. In the recent mass shootings, the shooters purchased their weapons legally. Likewise, the policies promoted by gun control activists would not impact mass shootings. Last year, the RAND Corp. conducted a survey of academic research and did not find any of the policies they looked at would reduce mass shootings: “We found no qualifying studies showing that any of the 13 policies we investigated decreased mass shootings.” 

As usual with so many of these killers, there was nothing too outstanding about them (though as of late they do seem motivated by some horrendous white nationalist beliefs — sadly, protected by the First Amendment). After all, being young and alienated is not unusual in America. 

Preventing the sale or ownership of so-called assault rifles, a term for which there is no technical definition, will not end these mass shootings. Semi-automatic rifles and pistols have long been a standard part of American gun ownership, shooting and hunting.

Guns in America: Trump plan to head off mass killings is wishful thinking

Why is it only recently that semi-automatic firearms have become an issue in American society even though they come in all shapes and sizes? It's no coincidence that the semi-automatic firearms that seem to be favored by shooters, and descriptions of the killer’s video in Christchurch, New Zealand, look like it could be in a video game. 

Even if the stereotypical-looking “assault rifles” are prohibited, other weapons and types of semi-automatic firearms can be used in shootings. Confiscation of these likewise is prohibitive as there are nearly 400 million civilian-owned guns in circulation in the United States — Australia’s forced gun buyback only targeted fewer than 1 million guns.

We cannot afford gun control

Moreover, trying to limit assault rifles does violate the Second Amendment.

Justice John Paul Stevens — like many lawyers, legal analysts, scholars and others — had believed that the Second Amendment truly applied only to civilians having guns to use in a militia. This had been based on a reading and interpretation of the 1939 U.S. v. Miller decision, in which sawed-off shotguns were seen as having no military purpose (the justices were apparently unfamiliar with the history and use of sawed-off shotguns in the military) and thus could be restricted. 

A protest in Denver, Colorado, on May 18, 2019.

More recent Supreme Court decisions concluding that the Second Amendment allows personal possession of guns for personal defense nullified this militia interpretation, both legally and historically. Justice Stevens admitted this in a New York Times essay, in which he concluded that the Second Amendment would have to be rewritten in order for it to explain his stance. 

Ex-Republican: After Dayton, El Paso shootings, guns should be much harder to get

What then to do about mass killings in public or at work places? More guns. We need more legal concealed carry, and we need more places to allow concealed carry, so that the intended victims of a mass shooting can have a decent chance of surviving or stopping these events.

If the response to any mass shooting is flight, hide or fight, why not make sure that the fighting aspect of it works? Armed combat is more effective than unarmed combat. Businesses, despite their qualms, should allow legal concealed carry on their premises and should allow their employees to carry as well. 

Louis Haas is a professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University. This column originally appeared in the Nashville Tennessean. 

What other people are saying

EJ Montini, The Arizona Republic: "A universal background check — no exceptions — would be a start. And a ban on assault-style weapons. And a ban on extended magazines. None of those proposals has gotten anywhere in the legislature. The Republicans in control won’t even pass the buck, putting the issues on the ballot. They know they would pass, and their benefactors from the gun lobby wouldn’t like that. It would be even better if the gun regulations were passed in Congress, making the laws apply equally across the nation."

Harvey Rosenthal,  USA TODAY: "So many people with mental illness have shared with me the great distress and anger they feel about how we are being portrayed and treated, and the identification we feel with other marginalized groups who have been similarly targeted. It’s time to stop defaming and blaming us and to get serious about addressing the growing climate of fear, prejudice, anger and violence in our country. To get there, we’ll need inspirational leadership that unites us rather than separates us from each other. It’s leadership of this kind that will indeed make us all safer."

Bob Barnes,  Florida Today: "Of all the (constitutional) amendments ... only the Second Amendment comes under pressure for obliteration or change. What you may not know is that fighting against the Second Amendment is only a 20th century phenomenon. At some point, even the most ardent of people opposed to guns are going to have to ask the most logical question: 'Why are there such well-organized and well-funded groups opposing the Second Amendment?' ... Challenge anything relating to the Second Amendment, gun control or 'doing something.' But base that challenge on facts, not hyperbole or misleading information."

Andrew P. Napolitano,  Fox News: "A person willing to kill innocents and be killed by the police while doing so surely would have no qualms about violating a state or federal law that prohibited the general ownership of the weapon. ... With all of this as background, and the country anguishing over the mass deaths of innocents, the feds and the states face a choice between a knee-jerk but popular restriction of some form of gun ownership and the rational and sound realization that more guns in the hands of those properly trained means less crime and more safety. Can the government constitutionally outlaw the types of rifles used by the El Paso and Dayton killers? In a word: No."

What our readers are saying

The only way to beat mass shootings is to get rid of the Republicans in the pockets of the National Rifle Association. It's so hard when the NRA pours dollars into reelection campaigns while spreading misinformation and fear tactics.

— Coelle Baskel

All of these individuals were criminally minded but all bought their weapons easily and legally. That must be the beginning. If we could go so far as Australia, this nightmare would end. Even without it, though, we can make a small difference, and it is better than doing nothing at all.

— William Worsham

Legislation will make you and others feel good but will do nothing but drive black market sales and possibly incite even more violence. 

— Larry Gilbert

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Gun control debate: Semi-automatic guns are part of American life