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Assault weapons ban - Martha Randolph Carr

Escalating violence in Mexico and border towns in the U.S. from the growing drug trade has increased a call to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban against some semi-automatic and automatic weapons.

The 1994 ban passed by Congress was allowed to expire under the last administration, but after investigations proved that many of the guns being used in the recent drug wars originated from sales in the U.S., more groups began calling for President Obama to make good on a campaign promise.

However, so far, there has mostly been rhetoric without legislation, which means nothing at all. The NRA's Wayne LaPierre has weighed in, referring to the semi-automatic weapon as the "quintessential self-defense firearm owned by American citizens in this country," He is, of course, against the ban.

Semi-automatic refers to how the weapon drops the casing and reloads the next bullet, not to how many shots can be fired from one pull of the trigger.

Multiple studies of what happens to homeowners and their weapons don't support LaPierre's sentiment, however, and have shown that owning any kind of gun more often leads to a more violent outcome, and usually at the homeowner's expense.

But banning the weapon may not bring about the desired effect of secure streets, either.

This week also marks the 10th anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, when 12 students and one teacher were gunned down by two heavily armed teenage boys who attended the school and ended the spree by killing themselves. The massacre occurred during the term of the assault weapon ban.

Since that year, there have been many more tragedies piled up on top at churches, colleges and malls, leading to increased security and a sense that there's really no safe place left in America.

The growing debate has come down to whether, or not, the ban on particular types of weapons can deter violence, whether it's from a single mad man who walks into a public place, or a drug cartel with millions of dollars at stake.

The general consensus is that it's impossible to stop a determined killer, but a lesser weapon would at least diminish the carnage.

However, there's something else that might actually lead to a more effective downward trend. There's an enormous loophole in current laws restricting firearms use that would probably do more to lessen the violence than banning the guns.

The weapons used at Columbine and similar tragedies were purchased from a gun show where there is no requirement of a background check and, therefore, no age or felony restrictions.

The common uproar from gun dealers who sell at these shows is that requiring them to go through background checks, as retailers are already required to do, would effectively end their sales. They aren't usually in towns long enough to make it feasible to wait for a background check before handing over a lethal weapon.

Fruits and vegetables being shipped over state lines have more restrictions placed on them for the good of the public than a weapon that was manufactured with the sole intent of harming another human being, whether it's as protection or criminal assault.

Just like the bailouts that are being protested in tea parties because of the lopsided burden being carried by the majority for the benefit of a few, gun dealers must also fall under guidelines that ensure the general population is being protected. After all, if it's people who are the real threat, as the old saying goes, then it becomes our responsibility to, at least, know who it is we're arming before we hand over the gun.

If you'd like to get involved in the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities, e-mail me at Martha@CagleCartoons.com, for more information. Together, we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.