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Commentary: An AK-47 in Every Stocking

By Dawn McMullan, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – I just can't wait until my sons wake up on Christmas morning. I know it's only August, but I like to plan ahead. And Congress is about to give me the piece de resistance of our family celebration. Along with the books, the jump rope, the dinosaurs and puzzles, I'm planning a new, shiny, black AK-47 with a huge red bow attached to the trigger.

Sure, they'll be shocked. I bet it'll stop them in their green-and-red plaid-footed pajamas. My oldest son has pictures of our family marching on Austin in support of gun safety laws with the local Million Mom March. He held a sign that said, "Would you trust me with a gun?" He was 3 at the time.

But he's 7 now. And, after reading what the NRA and our local politicians have to say about ending a ban on some semi-automatic assault weapons, I've decided to re-think my position. It is the Second Amendment we're talking about. Who am I to mess with that?

For those of you who haven't had their morning latte, yes, that was sarcasm.

The truth is, of course, we have passed reasonable gun safety laws without changing the Second Amendment - many times. And always for the better. In 1934, we outlawed "gangster-style" machine guns. In 1968, we outlawed the sale of guns to felons and the mentally ill. In 1993, we came up with background checks for gun buyers. And in 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act - a law that's about to sunset - banning 19 guns and their copycats, mostly semi-automatic assault weapons like AK-47's and Uzi's. The law also prohibited juveniles from owning guns and handling certain guns or ammunition.

Gun safety opponents, however, hang their holsters on the words of our Founding fathers to keep laws like this off the books. Those men - more than 200 years ago - said that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Do you think they meant felons, juveniles, and mental patients? Do you think they had any idea the type of weapons of quick destruction we could create? I doubt it.

To be honest, the assault weapons ban in question is really a pretty lackluster law. While it banned American gun manufacturers from producing semi-automatic assault weapons and ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds, it grandfathered in such weapons already available in the market, meaning there are millions still in circulation and legally available. And after September 13th, if Congress doesn't do anything to stop it, I could buy a 2004 American-made model just in case there aren't enough AK-47's already in the market.

Congress, which doesn't seem willing to do battle with the NRA, is vacationing this month and has just five working days upon returning in Washington in September to reinstate the ban. President Bush said he agreed with the ban but he hasn't done anything to stop those who are letting it drop off the books. He says if they put it on his desk, he'll sign it. And I get that. His people are gun people. Should we really expect him to stick to his guns, as it were, when it could cost him votes or NRA backing this November?

Forget the sniper in the Washington D.C. area who took out all those people with his Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle. Don't worry about the two students at Columbine who gunned down their classmates with a TEC-DC9 semi-automatic assault pistol. Just because the world has changed a bit from the days of our Founding Fathers - who had never heard of an automatic weapon, didn't have druggies robbing their homes to pawn pistols for a good high, and didn't have metal detectors in their schools to keep kids from gunning each other down - doesn't mean we should go changing their laws.

Or does it?


Dawn McMullan is a writer from Dallas. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.