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Rodricks: Women must lead on assault-style gun ban; guys can't do it

Women — specifically, Republican women — are the best hope for changing the gun laws in the United States. Guys can’t do it. Too many have failed, time and again, to even acknowledge that certain types of guns need to be banned on a national scale, and men who could make laws that make the country safer refuse to do so.

Women need to step up.

That does not mean they need to run for elected office, though hundreds of them are getting into campaigns this year. But women generally — mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, daughters — need to drill sense into the many guys who, in their protracted adolescence, clutch their AR-15s, unmoved by its status as the weapon of choice for mass killers.

All due respect to my fellow males, but too many of you guys are incapable of being rational about guns. You think those who see the practical need for scaling back the nation’s collective arsenal want to take all your firearms away, even your shotguns.

While a voluntary national buyback of AR-15s would be a good idea, government confiscation of guns already in private possession is not going to happen. It’s an irrational fear that infects the most reasonable of gun guys, making it impossible to have a talk about banning the specific type of rifle commonly used in mass killings.

I know. I’ve tried. I’ve been over this ground many times, and the most committed gun owners give none of it. I don’t know what it is about the AR-15. Owning one must be a testosterone turn-on. (A few years ago, Bushmaster advertised one of its semi-automatic rifles with the slogan: “Your man card has been reissued.”)

Women, even those who own guns, don’t suffer from this high-grade gun fever. They see things more clearly. I know you guys hate to hear that, but it’s true.

Allow me to make another informed generality here: Women know more about what ails us than men do.

And this country is ailing. Consider the most obvious things: drug addiction, and the deadly opioid epidemic; the everyday violence and all the guns. We think we are an exceptional country, and by some measures — wealth and consumerism, the number of armed citizens — I suppose we are. But we have some serious internal problems, and the failure to deal with them in big, once-and-for-all ways leaves us kind of lost.

One of the greatest frustrations of American life is knowing the nation is capable of being more than it is, and yet we limp along, hampered by severe partisanship, fear, bigotry, Trumpism and an unhealthy denial about the state of things.

There’s a mountain of denial about guns and the need to regulate them better so that we might reduce the number of mass killings like the one that just occurred in Florida, or the one that occurred last year in Las Vegas, or in Connecticut in 2012.

The male-dominated Congress has done nothing.

But here in Maryland, we have a state legislature — indeed, mostly male, but mostly Democrats — that banned the sale of 45 kinds of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in 2013, a few months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That law has held up. In November, the Supreme Court turned away a challenge brought by gun owners and supported by the National Rifle Association.

“The law was effectively implemented,” says Greg Shipley, spokesman for the Maryland State Police, the agency that handles the licensing and registration of firearms. “I checked with our licensing division to see if purchase applications were being submitted for banned weapons by people trying to work the system. The licensing division [is] not seeing any attempts to purchase assault weapons in violation of the law. Licensed firearms dealers in Maryland are very familiar with the banned weapons and are quick to inform anyone inquiring at the counter. So yes, the Maryland law is being adhered to.”

It could happen on a national scale, but it will take woman power.

Last year, the Pew Research Center surveyed 1,200 adults who own guns and found a clear divide between men and women on the need for more regulation of firearms.

Less than a third of Republican men who own guns expressed support for banning assault-style weapons and creating a federal database to track all gun sales.

By contrast, some 60 percent of Republican women who own guns favored both those measures.

Significant majorities of Republican men wanted to shorten waiting periods for gun purchases and to allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit. The women, not so much.

So, if anyone can lead the charge to finally do something about the gun problem, it’s women, and specifically those who are Republican or lean that way. They need to push to change laws or change the people who change laws, starting with the men in Congress who have done nothing despite hundreds of mass shootings.

drodricks@baltsun.com

twitter.com/DanRodricks

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