This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Several recent events and opinions have resurrected consideration of an assault rifle ban along with a ban on large capacity ammunition clips. Many Americans believe that such a ban may make mass killings less likely. If it were that simple, it would have happened decades ago.
After the political assassinations of the 1960s, certain types of guns were banned in the hope that gun violence would decrease. Gun violence did not decrease. The bans on assault type rifles in the 1990s also did not decrease violence attributed to those weapons.
Proponents of gun bans point to the success of Australia and England and Japan as proof that gun bans can work. But England and Japan have cultures that are totally different from our country. In those countries, for hundreds of years, their governments have banned almost all privately owned guns. China also has a ban on private guns but mentally disturbed individuals still go into elementary schools and kill children with a knife. A mentally disturbed man or woman in an enclosed space such as on a train or in a kindergarten class can kill just as well with a knife as they can with a gun.
A ban on high-capacity magazines does not necessarily result in fewer killings. When someone is trying to kill people, and no one is around to stop them, they will keep reloading until everyone around them is dead. Around 30 years ago, many innocent victims were caught in a San Diego McDonalds restaurant while a crazy gunman kept killing customers. It took over 30 minutes before the police moved in to stop the killing. Columbine lasted for hours. The only thing that can consistently stop gun violence is a gun in the hand of a good person. Instead of a ban on guns, a more effective weapon against violence is more cops.
Several years ago, a gunman tried to kill dozens at a mall in Salt Lake City. He was able to kill five people and was on his way to kill many more when he was stopped by an off-duty policeman. That policeman stopped a bigger tragedy. Guns in the hands of good people can stop mass murders more than bans on guns.
If people want to kill other people, they don't need a gun. Someone intent on killing as many people as possible can kill effectively with a car or truck. A car going 80 mph can kill a lot more people than a high-capacity ammo clip in a so-called assault weapon. Of course we can always ban cars going faster than 55 mph. But we already tried that. Thousands are killed every year in America by drunk drivers. It makes more sense to focus on decreasing drunk driving than trying to make alcohol illegal. We tried that, too.
In America, our culture has a fascination with cars, beer and guns. All of them can kill when misused. Guns are a small miracle of industrial and material design and can be very useful for personal safety. Guns can be a great equalizer in many cases. Women with guns are protected very effectively.
A better way to stop gun violence is to provide healthcare expansion and more mental health support to identify and treat individuals that feel an urge to lash out at others. Several years ago such a person killed a KSL employee.
Despite the number of guns in America, our society is generally pretty safe. Cars and trucks pass each other on streets and highways millions of times a day. They have closing speeds of over 100 mph and they pass within a few feet of each other. But they rarely hit each other! I believe that is proof that we don't need to ban cars going over 20 mph, or all alcohol or guns. Guns in America can be operated as safely and responsibly as our cars and trucks. A more realistic way to decrease gun violence is to provide health care expansion and provide more police.
George Chapman is a former Salt Lake City mayoral candidate.