Editorial: A step forward in gun debate
I do not own an AR-15. Nor do I own a Sig Sauer MCX, the rifle the Orlando, Fla., shooter actually used, or any other similar firearm.
If I did, though, I'd be angry - but not at the people who want to ban that type of rifle. I'd be angry at the small number of racists, homophobes and plain ol' whackdoodle nutjobs who keep using those rifles to inflict mass carnage.
And if I had one of these firearms, I'd want some action taken so that responsible, law-abiding Americans aren't pilloried for legally owning a rifle.
The people calling for a ban on AR-15s and similar rifles are chasing the wrong solution. There are already millions of these guns in private hands in the U.S., and even talking about a ban would likely drive up sales (again). It's too late to take that step, but it's also a step that shouldn't be taken - because as a practical matter, there's little difference between an AR-15 type rifle and a traditional wood stock hunting rifle except appearance.
So I have two proposals. One is linguistic, and one is a tax.
No. 1: Let's jettison the phrases "assault weapon" and "assault rifle." They're vague, amorphous terms in a discussion where clear, accurate language is desperately needed. Any firearm can be an "assault weapon," as can a knife, a baseball bat, a steel-toed boot, a cast iron skillet or the heel of your hand. "Assault rifle" is barely better; after all, even a BB gun can be used to attack.
Also, they've become loaded terms. Mentioning either one immediately polarizes any discussion. And I don't think the phrases should be replaced. It's a rifle, plain and simple. When we stop demonizing certain firearms, perhaps some progress can be made in discussions of background checks, waiting periods and proper firearms training.
No. 2: In many of these mass shooting cases, the perpetrators have issues with mental illness, domestic violence or substance abuse, or all of the above. Those are red flags than can be seen well before a person takes the final step of strapping on firearms and slaughtering people. But we need more robust treatment and counseling resources, and that's where the firearms community comes in.
Impose a tax on ammunition sales and dedicate the revenue to mental health treatment, domestic violence counseling and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
It doesn't have to be much - a penny a round, maybe, or 1 percent of the sale. My last ammo purchase was 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition. It cost $31.98 before taxes. A penny a round would add $1 to the price; 1 percent would add 32 cents.
No one likes taxes. But this would be concrete action that gets at the root of the lone wolf shooter issue, and perhaps - just possibly - we could stop shouting at each other over this and actually take a step or two forward.