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Richard Fulton

When was the last time you went hunting with an AK-47 type assault rifle? Do you have one in your home to protect against intrusions? Or, do you think they are too dangerous to have around and it’s too dumb to hunt with one?

Would you kill innocent bystanders or neighbors if you used one to shoot at intruders as they fled your home? What are the odds?

If you are a veteran, is this the type of weapon you were issued in order to fight on a battlefield? Is there a battlefield, literally a battlefield, in America that you know of, one where armies face off against each other?

The closest we come to a battlefield are those situations, like last weekend, where individuals buy AK-47 type rifles and use them to arbitrarily kill as many people as they can. And buy them legally.

In Dayton, the coward killed 10 people and injured 23 in a period of 30 seconds, including his own sister. One casualty per second.  

In El Paso, the 21-year-old AK-47 gunman killed 22 and injured many others, it took him less than five minutes while he roamed the Walmart, firing at will. He too bought it legally.

We will find out more about the Dayton killer, but the El Paso killer wrote on a hate blog a manifesto that said he was acting “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” His rant included peons against “race mixers” and “haters of our collective values.”  

Government crime data shows a rise in hate crimes in recent years. Of the 850 pending domestic terrorism cases being pursued, 40 percent reflect racially motivated violent extremism.  

To his credit, the president read a statement that called on us: “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” The latter is the first time he has done so. The causes of the deaths he cited, however, were mental illness, the internet, social media, and violent video games.

All of which may be a causal factor, though there is no research to substantiate that. Missing from his causation factors was the one thing which can be directly addressed by public policy: the availability of AK-47 assault rifles. There are other common-sense areas that laws can begin to attack as well.

A simple law would be to allow family members and other credible people to ask a judge to temporarily prevent someone from having firearms citing mental illness or other problems like suicide threats. It’s called a “red flag” law. Not an overall solution, but one way to get those closest to potential killers to give a warning flag.  

Of course, the most effective thing would be to do away with the sale of AK-47s. They have no legitimate purpose in a civilian environment. Ah, “but the second amendment,” some shout.  Every individual right in the constitution has been limited by common sense laws. You can’t shout fire in a crowded theater, for example.  

You cannot practice sacrifices and claim it is a religious practice. (It has been tried.) You have a right to bail if arrested for a crime, but not if you are a threat to the community or a flight risk.

Moreover, the history of the president’s rhetoric has not been helpful in bringing Americans to an understanding of our diverse culture.  

A well-respected columnist with a Republican background, George Will, said in the context of recent events: “Trump doesn’t just pollute the social environment with hate. He is the environment.” Whether you agree with this or not, you must give some honest thought to the role of the president in the creation of our present environment. 

Whatever your views, take a minute to pray for all the victims of gun violence in America; their numbers are legion.

Richard Fulton is an emeritus professor of political science.