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Rethinking assault weapons regulation

The gun debate is kind of insane, and I can argue both sides of it, depending on context. What I could never get particularly excited about, however, were bans on semi-automatic assault weapons or other large-caliber, high-capacity, war-like contraptions. Only rarely are they used to commit crimes (handguns are much more dangerous), and mostly they’re the provenance of hobbyists. Assault weapons bans don’t do much good for anyone. They only fan the culture wars.

However, with the drug war going on in Mexico (a real war! with hand grenades and everything!), it’s time to revisit assault weapons regulation. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the Mexican bad guys get their guns in the U.S. – high-caliber guns like AK-47s – and traffic them across the boarder. It’s easy to acquire the weapons because U.S. gun regulations are so lax (this type of firearm is illegal in Mexico).

When weapons like AR-15s, Kalashnikov rifles, and machine pistols bought easily in the U.S. become tools of criminality in our neighboring countries, it’s time to regulate the hell out of them, and fast. I know Americans don’t generally give a shit about how their actions affect the rest of the world, so to put it in terms they can understand: It’s only a matter of time before these Mexican gangs start staging shootouts in Tempe, Arizona, and by then we’ll be wishing we disarmed them when we had the chance.

I wouldn’t venture to take a stab at what, exactly, the new gun regulations should be. Of course, no regulation is perfect, and the criminals will find ways around them. But we’ve got to start somewhere, and before it’s too late.

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