We must regain our voices, speak out, and oppose assault rifles! | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

Are we unwitting accomplices to murder?

February 4, 2013
by Ron Manderscheid, PhD
| Reprints
We must regain our voices, speak out, and oppose assault rifles!

“Me?  An accomplice to murder?  Never!”

Invariably, this is how each of us would respond  if we were accused of being an accomplice to a murder carried out with an assault rifle.

Wrong! Definitely wrong! We are, in fact,  accomplices, albeit unwitting and unintended, if we do not take a public position opposing assault rifles.

Let me explain further.

Assault rifles are built for the battlefield, not for the closets in our homes. An assault rifle is a weapon that can be fired multiple times simply by pulling the trigger until the clip that feeds shells into the weapon is empty. A classic assault rifle is the AK-47, produced in Czechoslovakia for the Soviet Red Army, and also distributed to North Korea and North Vietnam, where it was used to kill American soldiers on the battlefield. More recently, it was used in Iraq and Afghanistan to kill American soldiers. Now, it is one of the very wide array of assault rifles in American closets used by Americans to murder other Americans.

Assault rifles are definitely a major public health problem. They are very prevalent in the United States— one assault rifle for every 100 of us. To put this rate into perspective, a city the size of Washington, DC—about 620,000 residents—can be expected to have about 6,200 assault rifles—enough to outfit an entire army division for the battlefield.

The Second Amendment and sport hunting and shooting have nothing to fear from a ban on assault rifles. One simply does not use an assault rifle for squirrel hunting. The Founding Fathers lived in the era of the musket, a rifle that fired only one bullet and took about five minutes to reload. That era was also one in which most Americans lived in rural, if not wilderness areas, and the musket was used for hunting of small game. In writing the Second Amendment, the Founding Fathers never envisioned that citizens would have assault rifles. The Second Amendment was based on a rural society and the musket.

The 20 Newtown Innocents and their 6 Sainted Teachers were all killed with an assault rifle, probably in less than a minute, or two at the most.

The fundamental, nagging, and pressing question is what we are going to do about this tragedy to help assure that it won’t happen again.

Motivated by this tragedy , it is perfectly reasonable to call for a ban on assault rifles and the large capacity magazine clips used to feed them. In fact, it is not only reasonable, it is absolutely necessary in a large urban society, where people live in close proximity.

Then, why are we not doing so? Why?

Several rationales have been offered over the past six weeks for not taking a public position to oppose assault rifles. Here is just a sampling:

> “We don't know anything about assault rifles or the gun lobby.” This rationale is very difficult to understand. What more does one need to know to oppose assault rifles? This seems to be the classic lame excuse used when one doesn't want to become involved or to do something.

> “The National Rifle Association (NRA) will target me/us/our organization.” The question is: So what if they do? We permit the NRA to remain politically powerful through inappropriate self-censoring driven by our own fears. Self-censoring is the very worst type of censoring. We can deflate the NRA's  power by regaining our own voices and actually speaking up collectively.



Ron Manderscheid

Exec. Dir., NACBHDD and NARMH

Ron Manderscheid



Ron Manderscheid, Ph.D., serves as the Executive Director of the National Association of County...

The opinions expressed by Behavioral Healthcare Executive bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone and are not meant to reflect the opinions of the publication.