Mainstream media organizations routinely respond to horrific tragedies with calls for gun control, so it’s no surprise that USA TODAY’s Editorial Board is frustrated that the president hasn’t yet issued a package of gun control proposals. He is weighing how best to address the issue of violence and calculating which policies would actually work. It’s not a simple task, and it requires careful consideration of two facts that media outlets would rather ignore: Universal background checks and “assault weapons” bans aren’t the solution.
Universal background checks would do nothing to stop mass shootings. The simple fact remains that all mass shooters in recent history passed a background check except for three — two of whom stole their firearms and one of whom reports say bought his rifle from an illegal manufacturer.
The House will hear testimony regarding a ban on so-called assault weapons. This is equally ineffective. America banned what anti-gun activists call “assault weapons” from 1994 to 2004, and two independent Justice Department studies found that the ban had no impact on crime.
Semiautomatic rifles are popular in America today, with more than 16 million in circulation. They are used in less than 2% of firearm homicides. That means every time an “assault weapon” was misused, nearly 16 million weren’t. The media obsession with these firearms erroneously leads the public to believe they’re used in most mass killings. That’s not true. Perpetrators have used fire, knives, vehicles and other firearms to commit heinous acts.
The Second Amendment protects firearms in common use. These rifles are used safely every day for hunting, competition and self-defense. But that hasn’t deterred anti-gun states from attempting to ban them.
America’s violent crime rate is at historically low levels. We should look to the solutions that led to dramatic reductions in violent crime during the 1990s and that don’t strip Americans of their constitutionally protected right to defend themselves. We must fix our broken mental health system and the revolving-door justice system that fails to hold criminals accountable.
Jason Ouimet is executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.
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