News & Politics

The Right to Own Assault Rifles Heavily Contributed to Death of Dallas Cops

The cops were totally outmanned by legal guns.

Photo Credit: Art by Nancy Ohanian

The NRA is sure to cite "bad guys" in the Dallas police murders and say that bad guys "don't follow laws."

But in another memorable police ambush, the bad guy precisely followed laws. In fact, the bad guy was the kind of so-called law-abiding citizen whose "gun rights" the NRA adamantly defends, including the right to own assault weapons and accumulate as many weapons as wanted.

In 2009, Richard Poplawski, a violent, paranoid, white supremacist, opened fire on Pittsburgh police officers, killing three and seriously injuring two. According to Pittsburgh police chief Nathan Harper, Poplawski was armed with a semiautomatic AK-47-style rifle, a shotgun and three handguns (a .357 Magnum revolver, a .380-caliber handgun and a .45-caliber handgun), was protected by a bulletproof vest and had been lying in wait for the officers. Neither Poplawski's involvement with hate groups or domestic violence charges, nor an order of protection against him infringed on his "gun rights"—he purchased all his weapons legally, news reports said.

Then there was Shawn Labeet, who murdered 37-year-old Miami police officer Jose Somohano in 2007 and wounded three other officers. Thanks to U.S. gun laws, Labeet bought two Marakov pistols, a Hi-Point rifle and two Romanian-made AK-47s from a Miami gun store—with a fake ID. He then bought three SKS rifles for $89.95 each from a Key Largo gun store and returned 14 days later to buy a CZ pistol. Why do U.S. laws allow someone to buy nine guns in one year including six assault rifles, when they are clearly not for self-defense and the person is clearly not part of a "well-regulated militia"? So many disturbed mass shooters stockpile weapons in this manner, it should be a clear red flag. Why were the duped or complicit dealers not charged as accomplices in the Miami police shootings?

After Labeet and his assault weapon murdered Somohano, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, a former police officer and police director said, "There's absolutely no reason I can see having these weapons out on the street." The International Association of Chiefs of Police urged Congress to pass "an effective assault weapons ban," saying a ban would make officers safer by reducing the "firepower available to criminals.''

Many are appalled that pro-gun lawmakers value so-called gun rights more than American lives, even after the San Bernardino, Chattanooga and Orlando massacres. By defending military style weapons in the hands of civilians, the lawmakers also place gun rights over the lives of police officers.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of "Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health (Random House)."

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