Note: This story originally appeared on matthewoneil.org on February 23, 2018.

Spoiler: If you are someone who believes liberals are trying to take your guns, this post isn’t going to make you happy.

I was pretty disappointed, in the wake of the school shooting in Florida, to hear the Governor of my state say he was opposed to considering a ban of the AR-15 let alone any new gun laws. He felt Vermont is a safe state with “balanced” gun laws. Even though the day after the shooting a high school senior was turned in for openly stating to a friend he planned to “shoot up” his classmates, as well as a long list of ammunition and firearms in a notebook found in his car, Governor Scott still feels like banning the AR-15 is unjustified.

As an aside, and in all fairness, the student in question had purchased a shotgun for what would have been his killing spree.

On the flip side, another foiled shooting poised to take place at Norco College was planned by a suspect who had purchased an AR-15. If we look at the US’ history of mass shootings, after the beginning of the 21st century the AR-15 is a common feature in possession by the shooters. After a school shooting in Los Angeles in 1984 (an elementary school, mind you), the rifle disappeared from that type of carnage until 2007 when a man used it to kill someone in an apartment and then himself. The Aurora, Colorado theater shooting involved an AR-15. It was used in the Sandy Hook school shooting. The San Bernadino killers used an AR-15. The Pulse night club shooter used an AR-15. The Las Vegas shooter used an AR-15. And, among many others, now the most recent tragedy.

Let’s talk about the history of the AR-15 before moving any further. The first question is, when, where, and why did it come about? What are its origins?

The AR-15 came several decades after the military needed a replacement for the M1 following the close of WW2. It was not until the Vietnam war era, and in response to the AK-47, the the AR-15. Part of this was with the request of General Willard G. Wyman requesting, in 1957, that the ammunition should have the capability of puncturing an M1 helmet at 500 yards, with its velocity exceeding the speed of sound. They also found that, with the new developments in the rifle, fewer people held more power and needed less support in combat situations with its predecessor, the M14.

A military inspired rifle. Tested by military personnel. With the intention of causing more harm by fewer people in a combat situation. Ammo intended to pierce helmets.

Sure. I can absolutely see why people think this should be available to the public.

Honestly, it’s a travesty that anyone would think it’s appropriate for civilians to own and handle military-grade weapons. Especially after the devastating attacks, it seems heartless and callow to think weapons of this type should be in anyones hands simply because of the second amendment.

Someone said, in one of the interviews, that removing SUVs won’t stop drunk drivers. That’s correct, but SUVs aren’t military vehicles. You want to talk giving a drunk driver a tank? That would be on par with handing anyone an AR-15. You know all those frightening videos and images of police in military gear and vehicles with armor around them? That’s what we’re talking about.

Yes, school shootings would still happen because the second amendment does allow people to own guns. However, the difference between a school shooting with an AR-15 and a hand gun is like the difference between a car accident with a tank versus a hybrid. Damage would still be done, people would still be injured, but it would be easier to control and minimize damage.

So, Governor Scott, Senator Rubio, 45, stop assuming drills are the important step. We want preventative measures, not “worst-case-scenario” drills. We don’t take drivers ed with the idea in mind of “here’s what to do when an accident is happening,” but instead “here’s how to drive safely so that accidents are less likely.” We don’t teach kids to tuck and roll if a car is coming at them while they cross the street. We teach them to look both ways to avoid disaster. We don’t teach kids how to make themselves vomit when they’ve sipped bleach under the sink. We teach them not to do it because it will make them sick. Likewise, we shouldn’t be teaching students how to manage in a situation where a shooter is in their school. We need to remove the X factor that’s helping these incidents happen more often, and making them deadlier.

Yes, I understand it’s more complicated than simply removing guns. As I stated before, school shootings can, and likely would, still happen with an AR-15 ban. But that also means, instead of arming teachers like 45 suggests, we need to provide people to work with children. Social Workers. Counselors. More administration support for teachers and students. We need to make mental health services available for those who are struggling.

Yes, that means a background check. However, in my state, that’s a two question section on a form you fill out as you purchase the gun. It’s easy to lie, and hard to follow up on it. Also, if someone voluntarily checks into a mental health facility, they will not be disqualified from purchasing a firearm. Basically, anything that could be held against a person in a court room in regards to mental health would prevent you from purchasing a gun, but those are few and far between. The system around this is not working, and it needs to be stricter. As someone with a mental illness, I fully advocate for stricter enforcement and tighter regulations.

One last point: 45 has stated over the last few days that teachers should be armed because shooters are “cowards” and wouldn’t face anyone with a firearm. Ignoring the fact that there was an armed officer at the school, as there was with Columbine. Plus, with each of the shootings listed previously, the shooters almost always ended their own lives. The student in Vermont who planned his shooting constantly wrote about how much he hated his life, hated his mental illness, and planned to die in the shooting. 45 also assumed the people being given the weapons would have the tactical skills to take on a shooter, as well as the bravery.

Do you know how much teachers make? It’s honestly enough to know that people must teach because they love it, because it’s honestly not for the money. And a monetary bonus will not make people stand up to an armed killer willing to lose their own life in the carrying out of their mission.

I’m over the violence and carnage. I’m over the fear of sending my kids to school. I’m done worrying that the next attack will happen where my babies are and I will be powerless to do anything about it.

All I know is I’m sending a strongly worded letter to our Governor, Senator Rubio, and the Senators in my own state that think banning the AR-15 is a good idea. I’m voting each and every election here on out to ensure the people who don’t support that get booted.

It’s time for change.

MA Theology, BA Music. Author of “What Happens After Life?”. Mental health advocate with PTSD

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