With the retirement of the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, concern over semi automatic guns has been steadily growing. There are currently around 30 million semi automatic weapons in the United States-15% of total gun ownership. A semi automatic weapon can fire one bullet with each trigger squeeze and subsequently reload without human intervention. A semi automatic weapon is generally used for the same activities as handguns or rifles:target shooting, hunting, and self protection purposes.
There are two main concerns that revolve around these weapons:mass murders and increased availability over the last decade. Semi automatic weapons have an inherent advantage over a regular gun-they do not require manual loading between shots. This characteristic, although useful for some purposes, poses a major threat in regards to mass shootings.
A study for Congress deduced that semi-automatic weapons affected by the National Firearms Ban "were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders." Statistics involving semi automatic use and violent crimes show a meager relationship, however, concern lies within tragic occurrences such as school shootings, or mass killing sprees.
Recent events such as the massacres at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, and Fort Hood were perpetuated by the use of semi automatic weapons. The gunmen in each incident had access and used either a semi automatic rifle or semi automatic pistols. With minimal reloading time, each gunmen had the opportunity to continuously fire shots at their innocent targets.
A simple cock-back handgun or shotgun does not hold nearly the amount of ammunition and would require precious seconds of reloading and pumping. In the case of the Virginia Tech shootings the perpetrator Seung-Hui Cho used a .22-caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic handgun and a 9 mm semi-automatic Glock-19 handgun. Severely troubled, Cho gunned down 31 of his classmates and then himself on April 16th, 2007. Cho purchased the two semi-automatic weapons through federally licensed dealers in Wisconsin and online in Virginia.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, wreaked havoc at Columbine high school using an assortment of weapons and explosives. Along with single-action pump shotguns, and handguns, the two perpetrators used semi automatic pistols and rifles to inflict chaos. To illustrate the dangers of semi-automatic weapons-Harris fired his single-pump shotgun 22 times while letting off 96 rounds with his 9 mm semi-automatic rifle.
Kleibold also was able to discharge his semi-automatic pistol far more than his single-pump weapons-Kleibold fired his TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun 55 times while only letting off 8 shots with his single-pump shotgun. Kleibold and Harris purchased these guns illegally (they were both underage) at a local Colorado gun show, and used them to kill 13 students and 1 faculty member.
The massacre at Fort Hood is yet another example of the dangers and concerns posed by a semi-automatic weapon. The gunmen, Nidal Malik Hasan used both a single shot .357 magnum handgun and a FN Five-seven semi-automatic pistol to kill 13 and wound an additional 30 military personnel.
The contrast between semi-automatic and regular guns in regards to dangers and ease to fire can also be exemplified in the Fort Hood Massacre-Hasan fired his semi-automatic pistol over 100 times while only discharging his revolver once. Many believe that Hasan had terrorist implications and influences; he purchased his weapons legally at Guns Galore in Killeen, Texas.
Although not an every day occurrence, these brutal events are a constant reminder to the dangers imposed by such firearms. Each gunmen shot his semi-automatic weapon at least 4 times more than their regular counterparts. Another frightening prospect concerning these shootings revolves around how these guns were acquired.
Kleibold and Harris both illegally purchased their semi-automatic firearms at a gun shop in Colorado-Harris was 17 and Kleibold 18 at the time of purchase. Cho, purchased his guns online at a store in Wisconsin, however there were obviously no background checks administered that would have inevitably revealed his troubled past and numerous psychological problems.
The same could be said for Hasan who was investigated by the FBI for terrorism activities before he purchased his guns legally in Texas. Like many firearms, these weapons can be used safely and without malice, however, when they are distributed and sold without background checks or illegally they can yield massive amounts of pain and chaos.