What would happen if Republicans treated AR-15s and mass shootings the same way they approached voter fraud?
Even though instances of voter fraud are less than negligible, protecting against in-person voter fraud became the raison detre for voter suppression laws. In the last decade, state after state under Republican control passed voter identification laws, erecting barriers to voting for hundreds of thousands of voters, most of whom they feared wouldn’t be voting for them. In Texas an estimated 600,000 eligible voters, 4.5 percent of registered voters, lacked the required identification.
But voter fraud was all a myth. In court after court, where actual evidence was required, the conclusion was the same: voter fraud was extremely rare and isolated and hasn’t posed any threat to the integrity of elections. In Texas, only two convictions for voter fraud out of 20 million cast in past decade. In North Carolina the state failed to identify a single individual even charged with in-person voter fraud. Even a Supreme court decision upholding Indiana’s law found “The record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.”
They took a fabricated myth, then created model legislation to combat it.
On the other hand, mass shootings at schools and other venues are very much a reality. Yet Republicans tethered to the NRA are so reluctant to take any preventative action that it has taken the death of 17 high school students and a near revolt by the younger generation to spark even an interest in taking mere baby steps at any effective gun control.
Set aside a moment the technical arguments over whether the AR-15 style rifle is an “assault” weapon, or whether guns actually assault people. The AR-15 is a civilian model of the military M-16. It’s a military style weapon designed for spraying bullets. It is one of 18 models of weapons specifically included in the 1994 ban on assault weapons, a ban which both former Presidents Ford and Reagan supported.
Set aside thoughts such a ban is unconstitutional. In 2015 the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a lower court ruling upholding a Highland Park, Chicago ban on assault weapons.
Set aside the NRA pretense that it is a popular weapon necessary for self-defense. When was the last time you heard of someone using an AR-15 in self-defense?
What we do hear and feel is the pain and tragedy of someone using an AR-15 as part of an arsenal for mass shootings since the ban lapsed in 2004 when Republicans refused to extend it past it’s ten-year sunset.
Evidence suggests gun massacres decreased during the ban. In 1994-2004 there were 12 incidents and 89 deaths attributed to mass shootings. From 2004-2014 there were 34 incidents and 302 deaths.
Among those involving AR-15s in the past decade: June 2012, Crandon, WI, six injured, one killed. December, 2012, 27 killed in Newtown, CN. October, 2015, three killed in Colorado Springs. December, 2015, 14 killed, 21 injured in San Bernadino, CA. June 2016, 49 killed, 50 injured in Orlando, FL. October, 2017, 58 killed, hundreds injured in Las Vegas, NV. November, 2017, 26 killed at a church in Sutherland Springs, TX. And February 14, 2018, 17 killed at the high school in Parkland, FL.
Each time there’s a perverse pattern. In the aftermath, the NRA induced fears of more restrictions leads to a rush of AR-15s sales. And the more AR-15s sold, the more the NRA plays the numbers game, claiming the historical tradition of prohibitions on carrying dangerous and unusual weapons doesn’t apply because AR-15s should be protected as weapons in common use.
In some states, like Florida, you can walk into the gun shop and all it takes is enough cash to buy a once banned, military style rifle used all to commonly in mass shootings.
It happens that if the Republicans treated the reality of AR-15s and mass shootings the way they treated they myth of voter fraud, assault weapons would be banned once again.