Guest column: The gun debate

Is there any logical reason why any citizen should own a semiautomatic rifle? asks Michael Corrigan.

I support the Second Amendment, but I also support reviving President Bill Clinton’s 1994 ban on so called assault rifles. The late Robin Williams had a great line about gun control: “We have the right to keep and bear arms but does that mean keep and bear artillery?” The Founding Fathers in 1776 needed a regulated militia, then armed with muskets. Modern day semiautomatic rifles that can fire three rounds per second are more deadly than the ancient musket, and do these war weapons belong in the hands of civilians?

In Australia, the government took action after 28-year-old Martin Bryant removed a semiautomatic rifle from his bag and opened fire at a tourist resort. Bryant killed 35 people and wounded 23. This 1996 mass shooting led to legislation banning all automatic and semiautomatic guns, including handguns. Since then, there have been no mass shootings in Australia (Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic).

A similar universal ban in the United States would not work since gun ownership is protected by the Constitution. Guns are part of the American identity, used for hunting, target practice, sport, or defense. In some states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, firearms are a way of life. In Los Angeles and Chicago, unfortunately, street gangs armed with the popular AR 15 are also a way of life.

Is there any logical reason why any citizen should own a semiautomatic rifle? Like the banned machine gun, these assault rifles are military weapons designed to kill enemy combatants. They are not made for hunting or target practice. Is there is really any practical use for these semiautomatic rifles except as antipersonnel weapons? In the hands of a felon, a terrorist, or mentally ill person, these rifles are lethal, indeed.

The horror of Sandy Hook and the recent Las Vegas massacre where a lone gunman used a bump stock to turn his collection of semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic weapons initially made little difference regarding reasonable gun control, including banning the bump stock.

HJ Resolution 40 rescinded an Obama era regulation that would have added some 75,000 names of mentally ill Americans to a database, stopping them from buying a gun. President Obama had pushed for the rule following the Sandy Hook attack. That regulation might have stopped then 18 year old Nikolas Cruz from buying an AR 15 to murder 17 people, including students and teachers, at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus in Parkland, Florida. It’s significant that an armed guard present at the Florida high school failed to engage the shooter.

There have been no mass shootings in Idaho, but is it only a matter of time before some severely disturbed person decides to seek revenge on a massive scale? Candidate for Governor, Raul Labrador, opposes any restrictions on guns. He got an ‘A’ from the NRA that also donated to his 2012 campaign. State and U.S. legislators might note a recent poll reveals that 97 % of Americans support a universal background check.

Motivated students from the Florida high school are launching an assault of their own on Congress demanding the banning of assault rifles. If they target legislators antagonistic to gun control and “rattle a few walls,” it may prove successful. If automatic weapons like machine guns are banned, why not add semiautomatic “assault” rifles like the AR 15 to that ban? It may at least impede the flow of these lethal weapons into a country already awash with them.

Corrigan is the author of seven novels. He taught English and speech communications at Idaho State University. His most recent novel is “Mulligan.”