Parkland school shooting opens another debate on gun control

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Advocates for both sides of the gun control debate discuss what should be done following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that saw 17 people killed with an AR-15.

What is an AR-15

The tragedy has left many wondering why anyone in the general public should have access to an AR-15. The name is not an abbreviation for assault rifle, but stands for Armalite rifle, the company that develops them. It’s a semiautomatic rifle, meaning the user must pull the trigger for every shot fired. There are accessories like scopes and lasers that can be bought to make it more advanced. It was developed to be quick when reloading, and it can fire dozens of shots in seconds.

Depending on the state, someone as young as 18 with a clean record can buy an AR. There is no waiting period, compared to the typical three-day waiting period required for handgun purchasers over 21. Some argue they are not assault rifles because they can be used for recreational activities like hunting and target shooting. Today, the rifle is legal to own.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an assault-weapons ban that outlawed the AR-15. The law had loopholes, but there was still a decrease in gun sales during that time. The ban expired in 2004, and sales increased.

“The general public pays for the weapons the government has,” Arizona Citizens Defense League Media Coordinator Charles Heller says. “Why should they not have the same weapons as police officers and other people? Their lives are just as important.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) calls the AR-15 “America’s rifle.” Heller agrees that it is the most popular weapon that can often be seen used for hunting. Gerry Hills, founder and vice president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, argues that no one she knows uses an AR-15 to hunt, rather they use hunting rifles.

“[AR-15s] are the preferred weapon of these high profile shootings,” Hills says. “When we look at real gun violence, it’s 321 people a day shot. Everyone focuses on these high sensational profile shootings. They are the preferred weapon of that.”

Heller points out that most of the deaths Hills refers to are suicides which is a society problem, not a government problem. In order to stop such tragedies from happening, Heller says there needs to be situational awareness.

Hills argues that the simplest solution to this problem would be to require a background check on every person who tries to buy a weapon like an AR-15. Heller disagrees, saying that is a prior restraint on a right. There are regulations for acts of evil, but Heller says it would be unconstitutional to take away the right from anyone.

“If you have a problem with ships hitting ice burgs, you don’t try to ban ice burgs,” Heller says. “You try to make ships that avoid hitting the ice burg, and you teach the people on the ship what to do if they hit an ice burg.”

As of now, nothing revolving around gun control has been passed on either the state level or nationally. Students from the school in Parkland are currently in D.C. asking legislators to make a change.

Charles Heller: Media Coordinator, Arizona Citizens Defense League
Gerry Hills: Founder and Vice President, Arizonans for Gun Safety

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