IF LOOKS COULD KILL, BANS ON PHYSICAL FEATURES OF ASSAULT STYLE WEAPONS: CONTRIBUTION TO FIREARM AND GUN VIOLENCE SAFETY OR VIOLATION OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT?
Holmstock, Joel Micah
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The number of mass shootings with assault rifles, such as AR-15’s, continue to make headlines, fuel public concern over gun violence, and spur elected officials to find solutions for what remains a highly divisive issue in American politics. Recently, it was reported that in 158 congressional districts at least one mass shooting has occurred in 2019; that is more than a third of the nation’s congressional districts.1 in part because so many communities are directly impacted by mass shootings, there is growing bi-partisan support for gun control legislation such as assault weapons.2 Supporters of an assault weapons ban contend that no one needs such weapons because they are “weapons of war.” Yet, in truth guns labeled “assault weapons” are merely cosmetic in appearance to military weapons. The difference is that military weapons are capable of automatic fire while civilian versions are capable of semiautomatic fire. This makes them similar to other semiautomatic firearms on the market. This thesis examines whether an assault weapon ban would likely reduce gun violence and if there are legitimate concerns with respect to infringement of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Questions that will be addressed are: What should the criteria be for regulating gun ownership? Should appearance alone be sufficient grounds to ban one type of weapon over another, i.e., is there evidence that particular types of guns are more often used in mass shootings? Are universal background checks or other requirements equally or more important to consider? What would a comprehensive approach to gun control include? For example, would greater access to mental health programs reduce the amount of gun violence?