Gun debacle and debate, again – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINEWe all know that after the back-to-back mass shootings this weekend, there will be renewed discussion over gun control and safety. We also know that the debate will probably go nowhere, as usual. Even though many of these massacres are committed using military style weapons, many anti-gun control folks maintain that owning these semi-automatic rifles is a  constitutional right.  Why should law abiding persons be limited because of a few crazies out there.  But given that CBS news reports more mass killings in 2019 than days so far this year. It’s time to re-examine our cultural norms regarding military-style weapons.   

Let’s begin that examination by looking at our fascination with M4 Sherman tanks. You can buy a tank online, guns disabled, for only $250,000. You can even get a special permit to drive it down your street. Among the many internet sites selling tanks, one says, “Tanks are incredible, powerful machines. And if you’ve got the real estate to house one, the know-how to update or maintain one, and the cash to buy one…you can own a tank just like you would a car.”

The marketing resembles come-ons for toys. The Wall Street Journal  says,“These Vehicles Are Tons of Fun, and Good for Thwarting Road Rage,” and suggests taking your tank for a spin in the parking lot.

Or maybe you feel the need for a helicopter. Used military helicopters can be bought online for only $14,000. Auctions for used helicopters are pretty competitive for the ones that fly, but even if your helicopter isn’t in shape to do a fly-by on the nearest shopping mall, it has appeal. Says one website, “Why buy a nice, running car when you could put a six-ton derelict helicopter on your lawn?”

If a tank or helicopter isn’t for you, try a surplus military humvee, albeit stripped of military capability. They’ve been auctioned to bidders online at for years. It’s a popular item despite no license option. The site says “imagine the fun you could have at an off-road park or your uncle’s back field…” 

Not everyone is thrilled by the use of military equipment for personal amusement. AM General, which has built more than 300,000 Humvees for the US Army, has opposed any use of these vehicles by individuals outside of the military context for which they were designed.

We should all express opposition at the sense of entitlement and entertainment being attached to military rifles. Check out websites that advertise AR-style rifles sold as hunting equipment and you’ll see weapons originally designed for war. Some states have tried to temper their use by limiting the kind and amount of ammunition used, but the results are obviously modest.

Given that mass killings are becoming the norm and military rifles are the weapon of choice, it’s time to end our love affair with military weaponry. None of these items were intended to be used to augment hobbies or decorate our front yards. Semi-automatic rifles were intended to kill our enemies in foreign lands, not shoot up high school kids or Walmart shoppers. Stop selling them and stop using second amendment rights as a marketing tool. Stop the excuse that people kill, not guns, so buying semi-automatic rifles is just capitalism at work.  We should outlaw military equipment for civilians, not encourage their use with come-ons and discounts.  What’s happening is a cultural phenomenon gone wrong. We need to fix this.


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