My Turn: Argument against AR-15 ownership is flawed

For the Monitor
Monday, November 20, 2017

The Nov. 12 Sunday Monitor had a double-header supporting gun control. The editors described events over the past decades and stated that the National Center for Health Statistics found “less than 5 percent of the 120,000 gun killings in the first decade of this century were committed by people with a diagnosed mental illness. Treatment, while it should be improved and made easily accessible to all, will not prevent all mass murders.” Let’s parse this a little. NCHS reported on all gun killings, not mass murders, by AR-15s. A semi-automatic rifle, the AR designation does not stand for “assault rifle”; it stands for Armalite Rifle, the company that developed it.

Mike Pride also authored a column that starts out describing a World War II veteran who in 1949 used a German Luger pistol to execute 13 people. He then goes on to show the man obviously had battle fatigue, a mental illness now known as PTSD. Then he links this to mass murders recently committed around our country (Sutherland Springs, Texas, Las Vegas, etc). He states: “It is time – way past time – for this country to stand up against the perversion of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court and Congress and the moneyed power of the National Rifle Association. Private ownership of military-style assault weapons is too dangerous to you and your loved ones to be legal.”

As a life member of the NRA, I must take exception to Pride’s statements. Although his heart is the right place, his logic is very flawed.

A few years ago, Mother Jones did a non-scientific study of mass murders and concluded that the largest percent of them were perpetrated by someone with a mental illness. Also, slate.com estimates that (in 2012) there were 3.3 million ARs in the U.S. “undoubtedly . . . one of the most popular (high power rifles).”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates 5 million to 8.2 million are owned in the U.S. My NRA magazine for September 2017 indicated 11 high-power-rifle matches, between Maine and Ohio (southern and western matches not included) where ARs are the rifle of choice. So, to make possession of all those rifles illegal and confiscate them (which would probably meet much resistance) is neither practical nor possible. And, Pride’s suggestion would punish millions of law-abiding gun owners for the travesties committed by a very few. Do you really want that?

I suggest that another way would be to restrict mentally ill people from ownership and possession of all types of guns. Psychologists and psychiatrists could be required to notify the chief of law enforcement about anyone they determine to be a danger to themselves or others. And law enforcement could be required to pass that on to the National Instant Check System, thus preventing the purchase of any weapon.

I submit that society’s right to safety trumps an individual’s right to privacy.

(Walter Carlson lives in Concord.)