On Tuesday, less than a week after a massacre at a Florida high school, a student at Washington University in St. Louis was suspended from school and removed from campus. That’s what happens when someone has an AR-15 in their room and a handgun in their car.
You probably did not hear about this because there was nothing particularly newsworthy about it. No shots were fired; nobody died (lest you think it’s “fake news,” here’s a link: https://tinyurl.com/yaoa2psk). I, on the other hand, took note of the story because my daughter is a sophomore at Wash U and lives near the fraternity where the AR-15 was found.
Being deeply interested in the welfare of my children and other college students, there are various ways I could react to this story. One is to think, “Thank goodness that student was exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms and was prepared to defend his fellow students. I can’t wait until this law-abiding gun owner is returned to campus and can use his guns to protect my daughter.”
That sounds idiotic, doesn’t it? That sounds like a delusional dotard. That sounds like somebody blinded by ideological rigidity. Yet that is exactly how representatives of the National Rifle Association and far too many elected officials would like me to react. In the process, they stretch credulity while abdicating their fundamental humanity.
Let’s face it, a student does not have an AR-15 so he can shoot squirrels in Forest Park across the street. He does not have it to defend classmates against a bad guy. He does not have it for target practice on the quad.
No, an AR-15, the experts and common sense tell us, is solely for the mass extinction of human beings. As a radiologist who treated victims of the Parkland, Fla., shooting wrote in a must-read article for The Atlantic: “One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim.” (https://tinyurl.com/ybyfu84z)
This is what gun-rights supporters are defending when they decry efforts to ban assault-style weapons. This is the depravity that has quashed any attempt to have a meaningful debate about gun control in this country.
Now, the pen might be mightier than the sword, and yet I am limited in my ability to impact the gun-control debate. So I contacted somebody who has a little more influence, asking Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, a rather simple question: Would she support a ban on the manufacture and sale of the AR-15 and other assault-style weapons? After a dance around the definition of “other assault-style weapons,” a spokeswoman for Herrera Beutler informed me that, “She has no interest in banning firearms that shoot one round at a time of legal ammunition.”
In other words, Herrera Beutler has no interest in limiting AR-15s.
Obviously, the banning of one particular weapon won’t end the carnage. But it can’t hurt. The AR-15, after all, seems to be the weapon of choice for mass shootings, and it seems to be quite proficient at its intended purpose. You know, things like shredding human organs or, according to The Atlantic article, creating exit wounds “the size of an orange.”
All of which is beyond absurd. And it ignores the question of why the United States is the only developed nation where mass shootings are a common occurrence. Mental health issues? Violent video games? Unarmed teachers? Other countries have those, yet the United States’ rate of gun violence and its spate of school shootings are unique.
Maybe we’re special. Or maybe we simply have more guns with more firepower than other countries that profess to be civilized.
We already knew this, and yet the incident at Wash U this week added some clarity. Because only the most delusional would celebrate a student having an AR-15 within range of their child.