A 1994 federal ban worked well for ten years and repeatedly stood up to Constitutional challenge...until Republicans allowed it to expire in 2004...
By Ernest A. Canning on 6/3/2022, 9:05am PT  

The high-powered AR-15, military-style assault weapon used to massacre school children and teachers at Sandy Hook (2012) and Uvalde (2022) is a semi-automatic version of the M-16 that I used in Vietnam (1968). It was engineered to inflict maximum damage upon human beings. It has no legitimate civilian use.

By 2021, there were an estimated 20 million AR-15s legally in circulation within the U.S., procured at an average cost of $800. This likely produced some $16 billion in revenues for the small arms industry.

The AR-15's widespread availability is an obscenity. It exists courtesy of the same Republican hypocrites, who dare call themselves "pro-life" while infringing upon women's reproductive liberties; yet, offer little more than feckless "thoughts and prayers" when faced with unbridled American carnage.

It is an obscenity wrought by the Republicans' refusal to reinstate the 1994 federal Assault Weapons Ban, which stood up to Constitutional challenge and helped curb similar mass shootings for a decade. That Act prohibited the manufacture, transfer and civilian possession of specific makes and models of military-style, semi-automatic firearms and large capacity magazines (allowing more than 10 rounds), while containing an exemption for weapons sold before the Act went into effect.

The GOP bastardization of the Constitution and the right to life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness was enhanced by District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), a 5-4 decision in which the Supreme Court's Republican-appointed majority overruled a 1939 SCOTUS precedent. For the first time in our nation's history, the opinion, authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, held that the Second Amendment created an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected to service in a State militia.

In his compelling dissent, the late Justice John Paul Stevens excoriated the Court's right-wing majority for ignoring the Second Amendment's language, history and context, all of which revealed that the "right to bear arms" was intended to apply only to a State's right to maintain a "well-regulated Militia". Stevens even cited the Oxford English dictionary's explanation at the time that to "bear arms" meant serving "as a soldier". Scalia, a self-declared "originalist", who claimed to be bound by the original meaning of the text of the Constitution, conveniently ignored that original meaning of our nation's founding document.

Even assuming the Court's "Radicals-in-Robes" were correct --- that the Second Amendment authorizes all individuals to "bear arms" --- that right would certainly be no more absolute than the carefully limited rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The right to free speech, for example, does not create a right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater or to incite imminent violence. The Court has long held that public safety, in those instances, trumps the First Amendment's "guarantee" of free speech.

If we value our lives and those of our children, We the People must work towards a total ban on the manufacture, sale and civilian possession of the AR-15 and all other assault-style weapons. We must do so irrespective of substantial legal and political obstacles, which include the extortion-like threats of violence offered by right-wing extremists if the government sought to take their guns away.

Neither we nor our fragile democracy will be safe so long as these deadly military-grade weapons are left in the hands of domestic terrorists.

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Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, and Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). He previously served as a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. Canning has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing