Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2018

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Sun Editorial:

NRA fires blanks in campaign against commonsense gun controls


Allen G. Breed / AP

Shooting instructor Frankie McRae aims an AR-15 rifle fitted with a “bump stock” at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, N.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.

On its website, the National Rifle Association has posted talking points for opponents of bans on high-capacity magazines.

But what’s absent from the NRA’s list is any claim of a legitimate need for high-capacity clips.

That’s because there isn’t one for law-abiding Americans who use guns responsibly. For them, a magazine holding 50, 60 or 100 rounds is merely a convenience, since such clips don’t have to be swapped out and reloaded as often as those with fewer rounds.

So when the NRA and its followers argue against banning such magazines, what they’re really saying is that public safety takes a backseat to their convenience. Similarly, supporters of proposed congressional legislation making it easier to buy silencers for guns are essentially contending that their comfort trumps public safety.

In neither case do their arguments hold up. The threat posed by high-capacity magazines and silencers far outweighs any justifiable need for them.

In the case of magazines, that became heartbreakingly clear on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas, when 58 people were gunned down by a shooter using such clips. Combined with bump stock devices that allowed the weapons to be fired more like a machine gun, the magazines were especially deadly.

But other tragedies have shown the dangers that innocent Americans face from high-capacity magazines, notably the 2012 shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colo. There, a gunman with several weapons, including an AR-15 with a 60-round clip, opened fire on the crowd. Pinned down, audience members said they’d hoped to rush the shooter when he reloaded, but they never got the chance. They instead were slaughtered, leaving 12 dead and 70 injured.

"You just smelled smoke and you just kept hearing it, you just heard bam, bam, bam, nonstop," one witness told ABC News in 2012. "The gunman never had to reload. Shots just kept going, kept going, kept going."

For silencers, although the devices don’t make guns silent like they do in Hollywood movies, they muffle gunshots and could make it more difficult for victims and law enforcement officers to tell where they’re coming from. Given that the legitimate reason for silencers is to protect the hearing of hunters, the threat outweighs the advantage.

The NRA and many of its followers will offer a barrage of points against prohibiting magazines and freeing up silencers. Many of them are well-worn, particularly that a magazine ban is a slippery slope that will lead to more gun control. Please. The tide of gun policy has been so overwhelming in favor of gun advocates in recent years that mass shootings have actually driven up support for laxer gun laws, according to a recent study by The Atlantic.

The thought of one or two pieces of legislation triggering a massive pendulum swing toward gun control is preposterous, especially given that the current presidential administration and congressional majorities are both heavily pro-NRA.

Another tedious argument from the NRA is that banning magazines won’t keep criminals from obtaining them, as the nation has been flooded with millions of the clips. But if we don’t start somewhere, when will we ever start chipping away at that glut?

And it’s worth repeating that there’s no legitimate legal reason for those magazines.

Hunting? Going after game with a rifle carrying dozens upon dozens of rounds of ammunition is inhumane and unsportsmanlike.

Personal protection? It stretches the mind to imagine a day-to-day situation in which someone would be attacked by a group large enough or so heavily armed that the victim would need 100 rounds per magazine to fend them off. For almost any personal protection situation, a handgun, shotgun or rifle with a 10- or 12-round clip is sufficient. And if having 75 or 100 shots in a single clip is a matter of keeping up with criminals, that’s an arms race nobody will win.

With silencers, there are numerous alternatives for hearing protection that won’t pose a threat to public safety. With all due respect to hunters, any inconvenience they might face in having to wear earplugs or earmuffs is worth keeping silencers from becoming readily available to those with bad intentions.

So what the debate will really come down to is whether gun owners’ enjoyment of accessories is more important than the public’s welfare.

That’s not even a question. Protecting innocent people wins. In arguing the other way, the NRA has become an enemy of public safety and a friend to mass shooters and criminals.