Editor’s note: This story originally ran on July 25, 2012, after this summer’s shootings in Aurora, Colorado. We are republishing it in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy.It’s for sport.
Frank Taylor, a married 31-year-old web developer and Colorado resident who lives just 20 minutes from the theatre where Friday’s “Dark Knight” shooting occurred, does not hesitate to explain why he owns an AK-74 semi-automatic assault rifle (an updated version of the AK-47).
Taylor inherited a shotgun and .22 calibre rifle after his wedding.
Several years ago, after a string of robberies in his neighbourhood, he purchased a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun. More recently he purchased the AK.
Heading out to a nearby gun range once a month is about camaraderie and improving his scores on target shooting, he told us.
If anyone ever gives you any other reason than that for owning an assault rifle — that it’s for personal safety, for instance — they’re not giving you the full story, he said.
“The assault rifle in its name, it’s not built for hunting, it’s not kind of calibre you want for hunting,” he said. “In terms of home defence, it’s not typically the gun you reach for if there’s an intruder. It’s purpose for civilians is really limited to sportsmanship, much [like] archery or crossbows.
“The assault rifle, in the home, is for sport, it’s a sporting tool just like a compact bow, just like some people might buy a fishing boat, the only difference being you go to a gun range instead of a lake or archery range.”
The country has found itself back in full gun-control debate mode as it searches for ways to prevent a similar incident like the one in Aurora, which left 12 dead and 59 injured, from occurring again. Authorities have accused James Holmes of using an M-16 rifle, a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun and at least one .40-calibre semiautomatic pistol in the attack.
A ban on guns, even assault weapons, wouldn’t accomplish anything, Taylor said. He made a similar argument in a blog post on his website in the aftermath of the shooting.
First, he said, anyone who wants to do evil will find a way to carry out their intentions, with or without a firearm.
What’s more, any ban would be instantly challenged as a violation of the Second Amendment.
So how do we prevent another shooting, if not by restricting weapons?
Training, Taylor said.
All firearms must be purchased from authorised firearms dealers, who run background checks. Even if you order a gun online, you must still retrieve it in person from a local shop, he said.
Of course, a mere background check would not have revealed anything about Holmes, the alleged shooter, who had nothing more than a speeding ticket.
But it would have been obvious to someone instructing Holmes in how to operate a firearm that he may not have been fit for ownership, Taylor said.
“I would propose, in addition to a background check, [a buyer] go through a training course, so whoever is releasing them, they have to…perform training on a weapon. There should be mandatory education, going to a range and shoot it.”
“Someone who’s spent 4 or 5 hours learning to shoot with an assault rifle, you’re going to have a better view into that person’s ability than even a one-hour session psychiatry session.”
Currently, most states fall into an either-or category: either firearms sales of any kind are severely restricted, or sales face practically no restrictions at all — even those of assault rifles.
Having such training for assault weapons — or any other tactical gear not intended for civilian use, like body armour — is a reasonable requirement, Taylor said.
“Personal interactions, real interactions with people, that’s a better judge than anything you’ll see on paper.”
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