Florida Republican and NRA Member Brian Mast Says he Supports Ban On Assault Weapons

Semiautomatic rifles on sale. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Semiautomatic rifles on sale. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

by Brian Mast

The most important and unregrettable time of my life was the 12 years I spent in the Army. I became a bomb technician because I wanted to save lives. I nearly gave my own life for that — I lost both my legs and a finger when a roadside bomb detonated beneath me — and have known more heroes than I can count who died defending others.

When I was with others on the battlefield and we saw a chance to save a life, we didn’t have a meeting about it; we acted immediately. I never worried about becoming a casualty myself.

Now, as a Republican congressman from Florida, I don’t fear becoming a political casualty, either. If we act now by changing laws surrounding firearms and mental illness, we too can save lives.

Most nights in Afghanistan, I wielded an M4 carbine and a .40-caliber pistol. The total barrel length of my M4 was approximately 14 inches with Trijicon ACOG sights, as well as an infrared laser. I usually carried 10 magazines stacked with 20 rounds of 5.56-millimeter ammunition each.

My rifle was very similar to the AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon used to kill students, teachers and a coach I knew at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where I once lived.

I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through that rifle, many in combat. We used it because it was the most lethal — the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands. I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.

The truth is, most gun owners are responsible sportsmen and collectors who enjoy shooting recreationally, like me, or want to protect their home in the way they see fit. I am a longtime member of the National Rifle Association. My grandfather bought me my first NRA membership when I was young, and I have the same pride he and many Americans feel at being responsible gun owners, becoming excellent marksmen and joining in the camaraderie of hunting.

We are Americans and we like to be the best; we should never lose this trait. The AR-15 is an excellent platform for recreational shooters to learn to be outstanding marksmen. Unfortunately, it is also an excellent platform for those who wish to kill the innocent.

I conceal and carry a 9-millimeter pistol most days because I know the threats, and I don’t want to die because I am unprepared to return fire.

I also know that I am made less safe by the threat of tactical rifles. I am confident I can eliminate an active shooter who is attacking with a pistol because the attacker would have to be close to me. But the defense my concealed 9-millimeter affords me is largely gone if the attacker is firing from beyond 40 yards, as he could easily do with the AR-15.

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SOURCE: The New York Times

Brian Mast, a Republican, is the representative for Florida’s 18th congressional district.