Reasonable steps to reduce access to "military-style" firearms must be accomplished from a basic agreement that they are capable of extreme harm and have very limited legitimate uses among civilians. At the same time, we need to agree that restrictions on military weapons is not the first step in a plan to totally disarm Americans.

Accomplishing real changes in the unprecedented access Americans have to weapons of war will take agreement by gun owners on some basic principles of gun ownership, beginning with agreement that guns are not toys. Guns are deadly weapons, which have become even deadlier over the past half century. The National Rifle Association’s leadership in promoting gun safety in the past has evolved to industry promotion of the deadliest of weapons to inexperienced buyers because "they are a lot fun to shoot."


The single-shot .22 I had as a kid has been displaced by the military-style AR-15 with high-capacity magazines loaded with high-power ammunition as the beginner's favored firearm. I say "military-style" rather than "assault rifle" because the Firearms Industry Trade Association insists an assault rifle must be capable of full automatic fire like a machine gun. The distinction has minor impact on crowds targeted by an active shooter. While he could empty a 100-round magazine with a machine gun or bump stock in 10 seconds, it would only take 25 seconds to do it with the AR-15 sold at your corner gun shop.


Unlike target or hunting firearms, military-style firearms are designed to kill and wound humans efficiently. So, does someone buy an AR-15 or AK-47 to shoot and kill as many as possible? Apparently, some do, since these are the weapons of choice for mass shooters. They are also the choice of survivalists and conspiracy theorists preparing for war with the government or neighbors. Most of the millions of other buyers are just doing it for fun. This poses the question of whether a weekend shooter's right to have fun outweighs the rights of the rest of us to be safe at work, play and in school.


The pursuit of more fun has led to development of even larger capacity magazines, ones never practical for military use because they wasted huge amounts of ammunition, so even "military-style" does not define these new devices. Other than killing humans, the primary use of 100-round magazines is making noise. Would some limits on access to these weapons in order to slow down persons contemplating homicide really be a hardship for the millions of owners who just like to play? The lack of restrictions on high-capacity magazines is even harder to understand when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has, for decades, limited shotguns hunting migratory birds to a maximum of three rounds in order to prevent decimation of the flock. Are ducks really more valuable than humans?


Reasonable steps to reduce access to "military-style" firearms must be accomplished from a basic agreement that they are capable of extreme harm and have very limited legitimate uses among civilians. At the same time, we need to agree that restrictions on military weapons is not the first step in a plan to totally disarm Americans. By recognizing their special character, we could agree to registration of military firearms and magazines at the time they are transferred from one owner to another -- as is done for machine guns today; and payment of a transfer tax designed to decrease their popularity and fund the program. A more stringent check of the buyer should be considered, along with longer waiting periods, and increased assessment of purchases of multiple firearms and magazines.


I don't like having to file annual reports about my Thompson submachine gun either, but perhaps that level of accountability is why none of the more than 600,000 legally owned machine guns has ever been used in a crime.


DAVE SULLIVAN, PALM BEACH SHORES