Commentary: With 400 million guns out there, banning one model won’t help

I’ve written previously that I’m a gun owner. I even own an AR-15, one of those scary-looking “assault” weapons that Pres. Biden wants to ban. I like that gun a lot, and it’s a very useful weapon to have on the ranch.

I also really like the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, although I don’t own one. It’s a regular rifle, more like a deer-hunting rifle, and not as scary looking as my AR-15.

However, operationally, the two guns are essentially the same. Both are semi-automatic. Both have short barrels. Both use the same .223 bullet. Both can use magazines with capacities from 10 rounds to 30 rounds. Both can use the same sort of iron sights, or scopes, or red-dot sights. A Mini-14 can shoot just as fast and accurately as an AR-15.

The fact is, there are many makes and models of semi-automatic handguns, rifles and shotguns. They all operate like the AR-15 “assault” rifle and shoot just as fast. Bullet caliber and magazine capacity vary widely.

The Biden administration is going to have to ban an awful lot of gun models if it prohibits all guns as fast-shooting or “deadly” as the AR-15.

When terrible mass shootings occur, the natural response is, “We have to do SOMETHING!” And the something proposed by many policymakers is restrictions on guns. I sympathize with the sentiment. But I don’t think we ought to let our leaders get away with proposing or implementing feel-good, superficial solutions that makes good talking points, but really won’t make a difference.

If politicians pass some of their proposed gun restrictions they will puff themselves up and say, “We took ACTION!” And all the posturing won’t have accomplished anything.

The reality is, some 400 million guns are floating around America, and it’s really difficult to pass reasonable laws that will prevent their misuse. I know it’s an old argument, but it’s true: Law-abiding people will obey gun laws. Bad people won’t. Criminals, by definition, violate laws. There’s no incentive for them, being criminals, to undergo a background check, turn in their semi-automatic weapon, or use a low-capacity magazine.

I’m not opposed to reasonable gun regulation. I certainly believe we ought to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unhealthy people. I support sensible “red flag” laws that allows guns, through a court process, to be taken away from those deemed in crisis. I’m in favor of background checks. I’ve undergone such checks myself when I’ve purchased guns. But it’s quite impractical to require background checks if I sell a gun, or give it as a gift, to a family member or neighbor.

Banning “assault” weapons or large-capacity magazines may make a politician feel good, but it won’t reduce the number of shootings or deaths. Someone who’s good with a gun can swap out a magazine in a second. Three 10-round magazines equal one 30-round magazine.

Crime, murder, and especially mass shootings are serious societal tragedies that defy easy solutions. Crime, especially murder, is rising in many large cities. In big cities with strict gun laws, more murders happen on any given weekend than almost any mass shooting incident. It’s going to take more than just a focus on guns to prevent these terrible tragedies. Mental health is a big part of the problem. But even bigger is the broader societal breakdown that has to be solved in families, churches and neighborhoods – not by government.