No one needs an AR-15, but America needs less gun violence

Jess Kishbaugh

No one should be allowed to own an AR-15. I cannot, personally, fathom why anyone would ever need an AR-15 in their day-to-day life. 

The United States has so many seemingly arbitrary restrictions: you can’t buy marijuana legally in many states; you can’t buy a scratch-off lottery ticket or use spray paint until you’re 18; you can’t drink alcohol until you’re 21. But Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, who has a third-degree assault charge, can walk into a store in Colorado and purchase an assault rifle with no problem.

The mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado is just the most recent tragedy in a long line that has been caused by AR-15s specifically. According to Newsweek, over a quarter of the mass shootings in the United States in the past decade have been carried out with AR-15s:  including the 2017 Las Vegas shooting which left 58 dead, the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, and the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. Each of these mass shootings  sparked a call to action in the moment, but then legislators failed to make any progress. Only seven states, plus D.C., have current bans on assault rifles.

According to the New York Times, the United States had 270 million guns, 42% of the guns in the world, and 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. The second highest number of guns in a country in that same time period was 46 million, and the second highest number of mass shooters was 18. Among  countries with populations of 10 million or higher, the United States falls behind only Yemen for the number of mass shooters. Yemen also has the second highest rate of guns per 100 people. 

So, more guns equals more mass shootings. This study is just one that proves this trend. 

As of 2019, America is one of only three countries that grant its citizens the right to own a gun, according to Business Insider. The other two are Mexico and Guatemala. Why is it that assault rifles are a right which seemingly cannot be restricted? Let’s unpack that. 

The Constitution states that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” 

The argument about gun control, I feel, really boils down to whether the Second Amendment means the right to bear arms for self-defense purposes or for an 18th century militia. Many historians agree that the framers likely meant to say more about a militia than anything else, according to Jack Rakove, a Stanford Law professor and Pulitzer Prize winner.

I agree with their sentiments, but for the sake of argument, say the framers intended to authorize the right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. In what universe is an AR-15 required for self-defense? When would you ever need to have the capacity to kill 58 people in a matter of minutes? 

Restricting the purchase of assault rifles, or banning them completely, is not in violation of any supposed right to self-defense. There are a million other options out there to defend yourself. Buy pepper spray, or a hunting rifle, if you really feel the need to have a firearm to defend yourself.

Now that we have constitutionality out of the way, another argument I often hear is that guns like AR-15s are necessary to stop people with guns like AR-15s. While I admit that this is an extremely complex issue, America wouldn’t be the first country to retroactively ban assault rifles. Canada banned them in 1998 but permitted those who already had them to keep them. The result? Canada’s gun homicide rate in 2012 was just over a sixth  of America’s, according to Vox — even though people could no longer buy the big guns.

I’m not asking everyone to give up their guns, though I wouldn’t complain about that.  But there is simply no reason for the average American citizen to be able to purchase an AR-15. They’re capable of too much loss of life, as displayed in Colorado this week. Ultimately, what’s more important: owning a big gun, or the lives of other human beings? 

The answer should be easy.