Op-Ed: Radical steps America should take to stop mass shootings, including banning all semi-automatic guns

Activists protest in front of Kalashnikov USA, a gun manufacturer that makes an AK-47 rifle, on February 25, 2018 in Pompano Beach, Florida.
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Activists protest in front of Kalashnikov USA, a gun manufacturer that makes an AK-47 rifle, on February 25, 2018 in Pompano Beach, Florida.

In the thirteen years in which I traveled from kindergarten to 12th grade, I never once thought about being a victim of a mass shooting that would leave seventeen, or more, of my classmates dead.

And despite the multiplicity of reasons offered for the countless mass shootings that take place in America today, the very simple difference between then, 1966-1979, and now, is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

There is no need to repeat the statistics that make this woefully clear. There is an urgent need, however, to call for draconian measures to make this stop.

As such, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Some states are breaking with the federal government and taking the law back into their own hands on matters dealing with guns.

With unusual speed, corporations, possibly to preserve their brand names, and partly to ingratiate themselves with their next generation of customers, have begun distancing themselves from, if not explicitly cutting business ties with, the National Rifle Association.

And that's a great first step in corporations moving to act in a more socially responsible manner.

However, it is not nearly enough to bring an end to the scourge of gun violence that grips this nation.

However unpopular it may be among law-abiding gun owners, Americans have long made sacrifices for the collective good.

And while I won't verbally trample the 2nd Amendment, the notion that it ensured a right to bear assault weapons and lethal ammunition is, quite simply, a farce.

Antonin Scalia, the purest conservative jurist, himself, said the following: "The right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited."

Thus, the following limitations on gun ownership should be enacted immediately. And these proposals require actions from Washington to Wall Street to Main Street.

  • Ban all semi-automatic weapons, period. That includes assault rifles and handguns. We know these are military weapons and not needed by ordinary individuals for self-defense, hunting or other forms of sport.
  • Ban high-capacity magazines and clips and so-called bump stocks.
  • Ban civilian purchases of lethal ammunition, from "hollow point" bullets that mushroom upon impact, to "dum dum" bullets that roll end-over-end, tearing the insides of a victim apart.
  • Enact not just universal background checks but "extreme vetting" to ensure criminals, the mentally ill, prospective terrorists, and other would-be shooters, are automatically, and permanently, denied access to guns. (That should also cover private sales of guns which remains the Wild West of the gun industry.)
  • Reinstate the recently reversed executive order that prevents mentally ill patients from buying guns.
  • Ban anyone on a "no-fly" list from acquiring weapons of any kind.
  • Enact a minimum 90-day waiting period for any prospective gun-owner to take possession of a firearm.
  • In that 90-day window, mandate training, testing and licensing of the prospective purchaser to ensure competency, both mental and physical, just as we do for driving, fishing, occupational clearances and even marriage.
  • Place punitive "sin taxes" and weapons and ammunition, just as the U.S. has done with cigarettes and alcohol.
  • States' Attorneys General should launch lawsuits aimed at holding gun-makers liable for the deaths caused by their products.
  • The families of mass shooting victims should file class-action suits against gun-makers and distributors alleging wrongful death, seeking damages of the magnitude won by the families of smokers. (Those prior three actions were responsible for reducing the smoking rate from a peak of 47 percent in 1953 in the U.S. to 15 percent today. Consequently, cancer deaths have plummeted across the nation.)
  • Stage a nationwide boycott of retailers who sell assault weapons and ammunition.
  • Shareholder activists should pressure corporate boards to abandon gun manufacturing and distribution, except for military and law enforcement needs.

If this sounds radical, it is. At the same time, given what's at stake, it's also necessary, in my humble opinion.

Watching the reports of these needless deaths, the courage of high school students to stand up to elected officials and demand accountability, and action, is both despairing and inspiring at the same time.

The arguments against action ring hollow, from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Newtown and now Parkland.

If we can't protect our children, the most basic function of parents and politicians alike, how can we be expected to guarantee that their futures will be better than our own?