March for Our Lives, a gun control advocacy organization founded in part by activist and Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, has released an expansive new gun control agenda that would dramatically curtail the Second Amendment rights enjoyed by millions of Americans.
The “Peace Plan for a Safer America,” as described on the group’s website, would create a “national gun buy-back and disposal program” and institute a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” among other measures.
“Policymakers have failed, so survivors are stepping up,” Hogg tweeted.
Policymakers have failed, so survivors are stepping up.
The #PeacePlan is written by the generation that’s only ever known lockdown drills. But we WILL be the last.
We’re not just fighting against the status quo, we’re fighting for real change, for justice, for peace.
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) August 21, 2019
But the ambitious plan suffers from the two ailments most common to gun control efforts: imprecision and impracticality.
The Peace Plan states that Congress must pass legislation to ban “assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other weapons of war.”
“It’s simple,” the proposal explains, “weapons of war that enable more casualties during mass shootings should not be allowed on our streets and in our communities.”
So how does the Peace Plan define “weapons of war”?
The implications of such vagueness could be astronomical. A broad definition of “assault weapon,” as even left-leaning outlets like The Trace have reported, may include “any magazine-fed, semiautomatic rifle that incorporates other design features” — features that The Trace admits are “mostly for aesthetics.”
It’s difficult to say how many guns in America fit that definition, as statistics on semi-automatic gun ownership are hard to come by. What is clear, however, is that those weapons are popular.
Outlets as diverse as the National Rifle Association, CNN and NPR all refer to the popular AR-15 (a frequently cited “weapon of war”) as one of the most popular rifles in the country, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
The Free Beacon also reported that the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry, estimates that there are over 16 million “modern sporting rifles” currently in circulation.
If Hogg and his organization wish to ban “assault weapons,” they will be faced with eliminating some of the most sought-after and well-loved firearms in America.
But the Peace Plan is far more than a blanket ban on “weapons of war”: It also includes a federal gun buy-back program with the goal of reducing “our domestic firearm stock by at least 30%.”
Once more, the plan does little to explain how the proposal would work. Would the buy-back be voluntary?
“To be clear: the implementation of an assault weapons ban should be a full mandatory buy-back of assault weapons, but we would also create programs to encourage voluntary civilian reduction of handguns and other firearms,” the Peace Plan reads.
While that language seems to indicate the government would forcibly purchase only “assault weapons,” the plan goes on to compare its agenda to Australia’s national buy-back policy — a mandatory (and much broader) program.
Whether through mandatory or voluntary buy-backs, reducing the amount of guns in the United States remains a tall order.
According to the global Small Arms Survey, there are 393 million civilian-owned firearms in America, The Washington Post reported last year.
That’s 120.5 guns for every 100 Americans — twice the rate of the next highest nation, Yemen (with 52.8 guns per 100 residents).
In other words, reducing the number of guns in America by 30 percent, as the Peace Plan aims to do, would mean eradicating over 100 million firearms.
There’s something uniquely American about widespread gun ownership. Whether you like that or not, buy-back programs are not likely to drastically reduce the country’s vast wealth of firearms.
Neither the ban nor the buy-back is a serious policy proposal grounded in statistical reality: They are measures that will attract publicity but afford few real results.
If March for Our Lives were interested in minimizing gun violence (or violent crime in general), banishing “assault weapons” from American life would be far from the most logical place to start.
While guns like AR-15s have been used in several high-profile mass shootings, they are responsible for many fewer fatalities than other weapons.
According to the most recent statistics from the FBI, rifles — a category much broader than just “assault weapons” — accounted for 403 murders in 2017. Handguns, by contrast, accounted for over 7,000.
“Knives or cutting instruments” were the weapon of choice in 1,591 murders. And even “blunt objects” were responsible for more murders than rifles were.
Proposals like the Peace Plan for a Safer America just do not address the facts.
They are tailored to respond to mass shootings, and though their goals may be sincere, they are also severely misguided.
If America is to reduce gun violence, banning weapons like the AR-15 is a poor choice of strategy.
It may please Democratic voters — and provide campaign material for politicians with their sights on the White House — but it won’t do much else.
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