Mark Lowe: Utahns back a ban on assault weapons

AR-15s and large-capacity magazines threaten our right to life.

(Jessica Hill AP photo) In this Jan. 28, 2013, photo, firearms training unit Detective Barbara J. Mattson, of the Connecticut State Police, holds up a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle made by Remington Arms, the same make and model of the gun used by Adam Lanza in the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting, during a hearing of a legislative subcommittee in Hartford, Conn.

As we celebrate the gift of life and renew our efforts to bring peace on earth this holiday season, let’s work together to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines (LCMs). They are instruments of destruction used to steal lives and shatter peace.

LCMs and assault weapons, like the AR-15, are popular tools of mass shooters. The killers responsible for the recent tragedies in Buffalo, Uvalde and Colorado Springs bought their assault weapons legally. Between 2012-2022, the 10 worst mass shootings all involved an assault weapon or LCM.

This horrific story of mass violence in America is Utah’s story. When even one person in this country is gunned down in a store, theater or school, we all hurt. Too many friends have had to cry goodbye, too many parents have had to attend funerals, and too many kids have had to lay under the grass.

Utahns have been directly impacted by these tragedies as well. At a Las Vegas concert — the worst mass shooting in modern American history — a killer used LCMs and assault weapons to obliterate 58 people, including three Utahns, and injure nearly 900 more. As bullets sprayed, a Utah Guardsman remained in harm’s way to save lives. And a nurse from Utah cared for victims who poured into a nearby hospital.

At Sandy Hook Elementary, a gunman stormed inside with an assault weapon and LCMs, murdering six adults and 20 children between the ages of six and seven. One of those kids was a little girl from Utah.

Their lives demand our actions.

Banning assault weapons and LCMs is not an extreme idea. A recent Utah poll showed that 60% of Utahns support banning both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. A national Fox News poll found even higher support for these measures.

This ban is consistent with the history of the Second Amendment. The United States already had an assault weapons and LCM ban for 10 years. Currently, 13 states and Washington, D.C., ban LCMs, while eight states and Washington, D.C., ban assault weapons.[xii]

There is also a long tradition of banning and restricting dangerous guns and ammunition in this country. Early governments, in Utah and elsewhere, passed laws to limit people’s gunpowder. After the Civil War, some states banned certain pistols. And in the early 1900s, a number of states restricted the amount of bullets semi-automatic guns could fire without reloading.

At the federal level, we’ve passed laws to ban machine guns and curtail other dangerous guns. We’ve also banned several armor-piercing bullets.[xvi] Most recently, the Department of Justice issued a ban on bump stocks.

In the 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia noted “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons,” and he addressed numerous limitations to the Second Amendment. “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Assault weapons and LCMs are dangerous and unusual. Mass shootings involving assault weapons kill, on average, twice as many people. That grim statistic is not surprising. AR-15 bullets, for example, travel almost three times faster than bullets from 9mm handguns, with power to “literally pulverize” organs. LCMs amplify that destruction. These tools threaten our most basic right – the right to be alive.

It’s time to raise our voices and demand change. It’s time our local and national leaders protect lives more than guns. It’s time they care more about keeping people alive than about keeping their money and jobs.

In Utah and across the United States, let’s call for an end to assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. In doing so, we can bring peace to a hurting world.

Mark Lowe

Mark Lowe received a bachelor of arts in history at Brigham Young University and a master of education degree from the University of Utah. He has experience working in Utah’s education and nonprofit sectors, but he’s mostly a concerned dad and citizen.