Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law on Friday new gun ownership restrictions. It’s a start, but there was no assault weapons ban, as the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High had urged.
As an avid military weapons collector, I have owned muzzle-loading muskets, Spanish America War Krags, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam light and medium weapons. Knowing the power of each, I dared to dream of this situation.
Imagine the scene on June 13, 1775, when a force of over 3,000 British Regulars, Grenadiers and Royal Marines, attacked the American colonial militia holding their positions on Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
As history tells us, it took three assaults from the professional British troops, marching in orderly rows against the American militiamen, to dislodge them from the top of the hills. In doing so, the British sustained more than 220 officers and men killed, and over 800 wounded.
It was a portent of things to come; a bitter taste for the British of what the ragtag American militiamen could accomplish in defense of their freedom. The American patriots accomplished this utilizing the preferred weapon of the period, a black powder musket with a firing rate of two to three rounds per minute, delivering a musket ball at a speed of approximately 1,000 feet per second as it left the gun.
Suppose a single time traveler armed with an AR-15 or AK47 was transported to Bunker Hill and was able to join the Americans in the fight?
His rate of fire would be two to three rounds per second; the .223 caliber bullet fired by the AR-15 leaves the muzzle of the gun at 2,800-feet-per-second, and the accuracy of his fire would be much higher than that of the Redcoats.
I know what this weapon can do, the military version, even deadlier because it’s fully automatic option “happy switch,” as was the gun strapped to my jump bag as I stepped out the door of a C-130 transport aircraft at 1250 feet.
The impact of its bullets is significantly more devastating to the human body than a musket ball. The battle would be a rout and the British would have immediately sued for peace.
So much for fiction. The point is this. While it is clear that the Founding Fathers intended to protect the right of self-defense for Americans, particularly when exercised as part of a well-regulated militia, it is also clear that the reality they experienced in the use of weapons was radically different from the one we live today.
Our system of government, flawed as it is, has been struggling with the concept of the people’s right to keep and bear arms since the inception of our Republic.
During that time, and in keeping with the fundamental wisdom of the founders, our executive and legislative branches have seen fit to regulate this right, and our Courts have upheld that regulation time and time again.
We regulate weapons of massive power such as howitzers, rocket launchers and fully automatic weapons. The courts uphold these regulations for the fundamental reason that the limited legitimate use of such weapons is far outweighed by their destructive capabilities, and the immense majority of Americans understand, support and abide by these regulations.
The issue facing us is not whether we should ban all firearms and have federal agents swoop down on our homes in the middle of the night to confiscate them.
The issue is whether the limited legitimate use of semi-automatic, high powered weapons with large capacity magazines, namely; self-defense, hunting and recreation, outweighs their demonstrated massive destructive capabilities and the proven risk that they will be misused.
It is clear that the risks outweigh the benefits, it is clear that while no panacea for what is a complex and multi-faceted problem, a rational regulation of assault rifles such as; imposing an excise tax on their ownership, tougher background checks, longer waiting periods, and limiting magazine size, would go a long way to controlling what has become a scourge on our country, and more tragically, on our children.
Let’s put our elected officials across the nation on notice; no more dilly-dallying, no more equivocation, no more pandering to special interests. No money will support you, no votes will elect you.
Our children’s lives are at stake, act now, or the American people will hold you accountable come election time.
Michael “Mike” B. Fernandez is a political activist and chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners.