Our Enemy Is The Semi-Automatic Rifle -- And Politicians Who Won't Ban It
Yet another mass shooting occurred on Saturday in Allen, Texas, this one at an outlet mall outside the town. Eight people were killed by the gunman, most of them children, according to TIME magazine. It’s been less than a week since a gunman opened fire on a family inside their home in Cleveland, Texas, killing five, including a nine-year-old child. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the shooting yesterday was the 199th mass shooting in the U.S. this year.
What do these latest mass shootings have in common? One, they happened in Texas. Two, the gun used by both shooters was an AR-15 style semiautomatic rifle. Three, the shooters were both men.
The second two commonalities apply to one after another of the mass shootings that have happened over the last…how many years? Well, just pick a number. I have grown weary of consulting the Gun Violence Archive and other sources as I track the mass shootings I have written about – how many dead, what are their ages, was it in a Walmart or a nightclub or a church or a synagogue, and of course, what weapon was used.
Again and again, the answer to that question is the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, available to anyone who wants one in a gun store or at a gun show near you. I hate to apply the word ubiquitous to such a deadly weapon, but it fits. There are an estimated 20 million of these killing machines in private hands in this country. I’ve grown tired of citing that statistic, too, as well as writing that the AR-15 derives from a rifle made for the U.S. military way back in the 1960’s, the M-16, and its subsequent derivations, including the M4 carbine, the short-barreled rifle currently in use by the U.S. military. And I’m just as tired of pointing out the madness of a firearm made for the military being widely available to civilians.
We are today in a situation similar to the one I found in Israel and Lebanon when I traveled there in 1974 to write a series of articles for the Village Voice. Both countries were engaged in war against terrorism. In Israel, the enemy was Palestinian suicide bombers and squads of Palestinian terrorists armed with firearms that launched attacks on civilians in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, and other cities. In Lebanon, the enemy was rival Palestinian militias fighting each other for control of neighborhoods in Beirut and the area along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
In both countries, a war was being fought against an identifiable enemy. After terrorist attacks in Israel, the country took steps to protect its citizens. I’ll never forget the night that my friend John Broder and I were headed off to see a movie at Tel Aviv’s Chen Cinema when Broder suggested we stop off at his girlfriend Dafne’s to see if she wanted to go. The minute we entered the stairwell to her apartment, we could smell the chicken she had roasting in the oven, so we accepted her invitation to dinner and decided to go to the 10 p.m. show instead.
Shortly after we sat down to dinner, the television news started showing scenes from outside the Chen Cinema, just two blocks away. While we were eating dinner, a suicide bomber had leapt from the balcony into the orchestra seats and set off his suicide vest, outfitted with high explosives wrapped with nails. Twelve people were killed that night and dozens more were injured. If Broder and I had gone to the movie at 8 p.m. as we had planned, we would have been among the injured or the dead.
After the Chen Cinema bombing, Israel instituted a policy whereby moviegoers were subjected to a pat-down and bag search before entering theaters. There were no more suicide bombings at cinemas in Israel after that.
Today in this country, we don’t know when we leave our houses to go out to a mall or a restaurant or a church or an elementary school if one of those locations will be the place a domestic terrorist decides to go to kill a bunch of innocent people with his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. And yes, the weapon used in nearly every mass shooting, from Newton to Uvalde to El Paso to Orlando to Columbus to Pittsburgh to Las Vegas To Buffalo and now two more towns in Texas was an AR-15 style semiautomatic rifle.
We cannot identify an enemy to protect ourselves against as they did in Israel and Lebanon in the 1970’s and up until this day. We don’t know which angry young man or lonely, disaffected old man will wake up and choose that day as his opportunity to strap on a bulletproof vest and grab his semiautomatic rifle and go out his front door and find a place and start shooting.
Our enemy in the United States of America is the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and the lawmakers who refuse to confront the reality that more people are dying in this country because of that weapon than are dying in terror attacks in any country in the world.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
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