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Obama should not reinstate assault weapon ban, gun enthusiasts assert

March 2, 2009 |  8:09 am

Man aims a .50-caliber rifle during an exhibition in this 1996 file photo.

Last week's announcement that 730 people across the United States had been arrested during a 21-month investigation targeting Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel underscored the scope of a simply-described cross-border problem that cannot be easily solved.

Cartel members smuggle drugs into the U.S., where demand is insatiable and worth billions, and smuggle high-tech weapons from the U.S. into Mexico to protect their interests against rival drug leaders and Mexican authorities.

About 6,000 deaths in Mexico during the last 13 months have been attributed to the narco-war, and it's feared a similarly high level of drug-related violence will spill into the U.S.

But is reinstating a ban on the sale of so-called assault rifles in the U.S. part of a solution? Probably not.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder said during a news conference last week that the Obama administration ought to consider renewing a 10-year ban that expired five years ago.

Naturally, hunters, target shooters, general gun enthusiasts and supporters of the 2nd Amendment cringed. Many countered that the ban did not reduce crime in the U.S. and that any spike since the expiration cannot be attributed to the resumed sale of semiautomatic weapons to private citizens.

Mexican soldiers patrol the main drag through Rosarito Beach past a sign that advertises one of the seaside tourist town's most popular destinations.

"The problem of criminals breaking the law to acquire forearms and illegally smuggling them across the border is not remedied by legislation that would violate the rights of Americans to own semiautomatic firearms," Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said in a news release.

"These types of firearms, which are erroneously called assault weapons, are used by millions of Americans for hunting, sporting and personal defense purposes."

Interestingly, the 1994 ban applied to semiautomatic weapons, which automatically reload but fire only one round per squeeze of a trigger. Ownership of fully automatic weapons, such as machine guns, has been heavily regulated since 1934.

But such points are moot. Banning the sale of either type of weapon in the U.S. probably would do no good.

As long as the Mexican cartels can make billions selling drugs across the border, they'll continue to line up like salmon at the mouth of a stream -- in this case border towns beneath California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- and do what it takes to push their product.

If they can't purchase their weapons in the U.S., they'll acquire them elsewhere. If the weapons exist, the cartel warriors will own them.

Sadly, the only surefire solutions to this problem are a) persuading millions of Americans to kick their habit, and/or b) legalizing best-sellers such as marijuana and cocaine, making the illicit and bloody market far less lucrative.

Neither seems likely, although the latter solution appears to be gaining more support after every big massacre.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo (top): Man aims a .50-caliber rifle during an exhibition in this 1996 file photo. Credit: Patrick Downs / Los Angeles Times

Photo (bottom): Mexican soldiers patrol the main drag through Rosarito Beach past a sign that advertises one of the seaside tourist town's most popular destinations. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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