No excuses: assault weapons have no place in American hands

By Olivia Svoboda 


Nine people were killed, including the shooter, and seven injured in a mass shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, on May 6. The incident shocked the nation, though mass shootings are nothing new for America. Despite the disturbing consistency of these events, there have been few laws passed to combat such slaughters. There have also been no federal restrictions placed on assault rifles with large-capacity magazines (LCMs), which are defined as magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, even though they are the weapon of choice for the perpetrators of America’s deadliest mass shootings. 

An assault weapons ban was previously enacted in the United States in 1994, and it lasted until 2004, when the ban expired. The rate of high-fatality mass shootings, defined as having a death toll of six or more people, increased after the ban expired, according to the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). “In the 10 years the federal ban was in effect, there were 12 high-fatality mass shootings and 89 deaths,” according to the AJPH, “Since then, through 2017, there have been 48 high-fatality mass shootings and 527 deaths.” The ability for Americans to access assault weapons contributes to a greater number of high-fatality mass shootings. 

The AJPH focused on the effects of large-capacity magazines on mass shooting death tolls. LCMs allow for a high number of bullets to be shot in a short amount of time. The AJPH found that, between 1990 and 2017, mass shootings involving LCMs resulted in a 62% higher death toll. States without LCM bans saw more high-fatality mass shootings with more deaths. According to the AJPH, “The incidence of high-fatality mass shootings in non-LCM ban states was more than double the rate in LCM ban states; the annual number of deaths was more than 3 times higher.” Missouri has no regulations on LCMs. 

All recent high-fatality mass shootings have involved assault weapons with LCMs. The Violence Policy Center assembled a list of these mass shootings. The Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27, 2023, resulted in 7 deaths, including the shooter, who used three assault weapons with at least two 30-round magazines: a Lead Star Arms Grunt AR-type assault pistol, a Kel-tec SUB2000 pistol caliber assault Carbine, and a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm semiautomatic pistol. The Star Ballroom Dance Studio shooting in Monterey Park, California, on January 21, 2023, resulted in 12 deaths, including the shooter, and 9 injured. The shooter used a Cobray 9mm MAC-10 assault pistol with a 30-round magazine. The Highland Park Fourth of July Parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, on July 4, 2022, resulted in 7 deaths and 46 injured. The shooter used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle with three 30-round magazines. The Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022, resulted in 22 deaths, including the shooter, and 17 injured. The shooter used a Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 assault rifle and seven 30-round magazines. These are just the high-fatality mass shootings of the past 12 months. Two of them occurred at schools. 

A common argument against banning assault weapons is their use by hunters and sport shooters. In an article from the Connecticut General Assembly, “Notes From A Savvy Hunter,” the author explains why assault weapons have no use to hunters and sport shooters due to their inherent inaccuracy. “As for the guns, the faster a gun can shoot, the less accurate it is.” Further down in “Notes From A Savvy Hunter,” the author writes, “If a hunter cannot down his prey in 3 shots, it’s too late and the animal has gotten away.” Assault weapons are not built to fire a few precise shots at a time, which hunters need to kill their prey. 

The author also explains how assault weapons typically have shorter barrel lengths, with the most common length being 16.5 inches. Shorter barrel lengths result in less accuracy, which is why, according to “Notes From A Savvy Hunter,” “typical hunting and target shooting rifles have barrel lengths of 20 to 24 inches.” Finally, the author writes that the cartridges used in assault weapons also lead to greater inaccuracy due to their smaller size. Additionally, they do not allow for the humane killing of an animal. “It should also be noted that the 5.56x45mm cartridge cannot be effectively used for deer hunting, especially in a short-barreled, less-than-accurate weapon,” according to “Notes From A Savvy Hunter,” “The bullet is not as affective [sic] as larger and heavier bullets and cartridges.” The 5.56x45mm cartridge is, on the other hand, too powerful to use on small animals. There is no reason a hunter or sport shooter would choose an assault rifle as their weapon of choice, as it is not made to be used in those situations. 

Assault weapons have no place in America. Their purpose is in their name: they were created to assault people. The average U.S. citizen has no right owning a weapon so dangerous, no matter how responsible they are. Though the deaths caused by mass shootings in America only make up a small percentage of overall gun fatalities, they should not be ignored or pushed aside. High-fatality mass shootings are completely unacceptable and completely preventable. There is no excuse that can justify another tragedy. Assault weapons with large-capacity magazines need to be federally banned in America.