Gun laws can’t stop every homicide, but they do make America safer. One law the nation desperately needs is a ban on sales of military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Gun laws work.
They will never stop every homicide, but they clearly work.
Data shows that states with stronger firearm safety laws have lower firearm homicide rates, as well as lower nonfatal firearm injury rates.
Universal background checks and a national ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines must be the next steps to reduce the severity and frequency of the carnage.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and her Democratic colleagues in the Senate introduced a smart new assault-weapons ban proposal on Wednesday that would not only stop the sale and manufacture of new military-style assault weapons, but would limit the sale or transfer of existing weapons of this type.
The Washington state Legislature should show some leadership and pass its own assault-weapons ban during the 2018 legislative session, a step seven other states, including California, New Jersey and Hawaii, plus the District of Columbia, have taken.
To see why gun laws matter, compare Washington state to Texas, the location of America’s most recent mass-shooting tragedy. Texas had 18 state firearm laws and a firearm homicide rate of 4.04 deaths per 100,000 in 2015, according to the State Firearm Law Database collected by the Boston University School of Public Health. Washington had 43 firearm laws and a firearm homicide rate of 2.32 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.
Stronger laws are far from an impenetrable shield. The Texas gunman was able to purchase a military-style rifle and slaughtered 26 people in part because the Air Force failed to enter the man’s domestic-violence court-martial into a federal gun background check database.
Fifteen magazines, with capacity for 30 rounds of ammunition each, were found at the scene. No civilian shooting deer or defending his or her home from invaders needs to be able to shoot 450 rounds of ammunition.
Although a national assault weapons ban will expose congressional loyalties to the National Rifle Association, every American deserves protection from angry or mentally disturbed people carrying these weapons with exactly one purpose: to kill others, quickly and efficiently.
Shouldn’t our safety be more important than political contributions from the NRA? If lawmakers can’t take hard votes to protect the lives of constituents, they shouldn’t be serving in Congress or the state Legislature.
Washington’s extreme risk protection order law, approved by voters in 2016, and a similar domestic violence law passed by the Legislature in 2014 will get some teeth in January. That’s when a new King County-Seattle team of about a dozen prosecutors, police officers and sheriff’s deputies will be activated to follow-up on judges’ orders to remove guns from those subject to protection orders. “Where we sometimes fail,” King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg says, “is in the follow-through.”
Three other actions could help make America safer:
• National adoption of universal background checks for every weapon purchase, including private and gun-show sales. Nearly a quarter of gun purchases nationally are completed without background checks. More than 90 percent of Americans, including 93 percent of people who live in households with guns, agree with background checks for all gun buyers, according to the Pew Research Center.
• Every government agency, including the military, should recheck its disciplinary databases to make sure everyone convicted of domestic violence or another crime that would bar them from owning a gun under federal law is listed in the federal database for gun-purchase background checks.
• The nation needs to keep working on better gun technology, including smart guns that only fire after a fingerprint or pass code is entered.
No laws or technology will prevent all gun deaths. But good laws, conscientiously enforced, could save many lives.