THE RIGHT TO BEAR AK-47s On the morning of September 14, 1989, 47-year-old Joseph T. Wesbecker walked into the building of the Standard Gravure Corporation in Louisville, Kentucky, where he used to work. He rode an elevator to the third floor. There he took an AK-47 assault rifle from the duffel bag he was carrying.

Walking from office to office he opened fire. By the time he’d reached the first floor, 7 people were dead and 13 wounded, 5 of them critically. Finally, Wesbecker shot and killed one more person–himself. Earlier in the year, a deranged man walked into a Stockton, California, schoolyard and killed five young children with an AK-47.

Almost every hour of every day, someone, somewhere in the United States is killed by a firearm. Many of these firearms are military-style automatic weapons, like the AK-47. Advocates of gun control say there is no reason for these kinds of weapons to be made available to private citizens. They say the spread of weapons in the U.S. can only be stopped by the federal government.

FFL for AK47

Do You You Need A FFL License To Own An AK-47?

Opponents of gun control say that banning assault weapons is an infringement of Americans’ Constitutional right to bear arms. President Bush imposed a temporary ban on imports of assault rifles in March. But that ban did not affect weapons already in the country, nor did it affect U.S.-made semiautomatic weapons. In fact, since the ban on imports, U.S. makers of assault weapons have increased their output.

And although President Bush deplored the assault-rifle killings in Louisville, he did not alter his opposition to legislation that would ban such weapons. Recently, officials in Colombia–a South American country torn apart by drug wars–complained that many of the assault weapons used by drug lords there were bought in the U.S. DISCUSS IT:

1. Opponents of gun control say that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives Americans the right to keep and bear arms.

What exactly does the Amendment state? What do you think it means?

2. Soon after the killings in Louisville, Kentucky, President Bush stated: “I don’t think banning weapons is going to be the ultimate answer, or could ever safeguard against that kind of tragedy.” Do you agree?

3. The U.S. homicide rate is by far the highest among the developed nations of the world. Do you think that’s linked to easy access to guns?

4. If guns were banned, would people still kill each other at the same rate with knives, clubs, poison, etc.?

PROBE FURTHER: 1. It is often said that our tradition of easy access to weapons in the U.S. comes from our frontier heritage.

Canada also has a frontier heritage.

Does it offer similar access to firearms?

2. How does Canada’s homicide rate (number of killings per 100,000 people) compare with that of the United States?

3. How does an assault weapon like the AK-47 or the M-16 differ from a hunting rifle?

4. Much of the opposition to gun-control laws is led by the National Rifle Association (NRA). What prominent government official is a life member of the NRA?

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