The national conversation has turned once again to guns following a mass shooting in Florida by a 19-year-old miscreant named Nikolas Cruz.

Cruz bought himself an AR-15-type rifle and killed 17 people in a school.

I happen to own an AR-15 variant. It looks black and sinister. I have a feeling there will be another ban of rifles like that.

I remember the last ban on AR-15s, from 1994 through 2004. The 1994 ban prohibited “the manufacture, transfer, or possession of semiautomatic assault weapons" as defined by the act.

Those guns were identified by specific make and model and by certain characteristics that made them look sinister, such as black plastic collapseable stocks, pistol grips, flash hiders, bipods, etc.

The act also prohibited magazines “manufactured after the date of the act” that hold more than 10 rounds

So instead of carrying around a 30- or 40-round magazine, you carried three or four 10-round magazines. (With a little practice, it literally takes two seconds to mash the mag release and stuff a new magazine in the mag well.)

The key, of course was “manufactured after the date of the act,” because the ban included a ton of exemptions and exclusions.

The law included a grandfather clause that allowed for the possession and transfer of weapons and magazines that “were otherwise lawfully possessed on the date of the enactment.”

So you could keep – or sell – lawfully owned AR-type guns and high-capacity magazines as long as they were made before 1994.

I can only imagine any new ban will include the grandfather provision. I don’t think the government is quite ready for gun confiscation.

The 1994 ban also exempted around 650 firearm types or models, including various Brownings, Remingtons, Rugers, Berettas and a host of other guns that were defined as "primarily suitable for target practice, match competition, hunting, and similar sporting purposes.”

You read that right – 650.

And the list wasn’t comprehensive. Just because a gun wasn’t on the list, it still wasn’t banned unless it met the definition of  “semi-automatic assault weapon.”

It had to have those certain  sinister-looking plastic parts to be banned.

But make no mistake – those 650 or so other non-assault rifles operate in identical fashion to the sinister looking black rifles. They fire the same caliber bullet with the same semi-automatic action. They go bang and automatically chamber a round every time you pull the trigger.

They have the same government-regulated 18-inch barrels and the same sights or scopes mounted on them. Many have longer barrels, which makes them more accurate.

And, of course, they are equally as deadly.

The presumption among lots of people was that this was not going to be a very effective piece of legislation.

Studies taken when Congress was deciding whether to extend the ban in 2004 found "insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence" or “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes."

Congress didn’t renew the ban.

The research made sense because those guns were so rarely used to commit gun violence in the first place –  which is still the case today.

When a horrific event like Las Vegas or Parkland happens, the sinister-looking black rifle is an easy target to ban. But even after all the senseless carnage, the number of people killed by any rifle – not just the black ones – is around 4 percent of total gun deaths in America.

That still amounts to between 300 and 400 people a year, which by any measure is far too many. And to be sure, there are far too many gun deaths in America.

But how many of those lives would have been saved if the shooter would have been forced to choose from the 650-odd other semiautomatic rifles available to him instead of a sinister-looking black one?

And remember, if you’re bent on having a black rifle, you still will be able to buy one that was grandfathered. There are roughly 10 million of them in the U.S.

If I thought banning this gun or that gun would actually reduce the number of shootings, I would be all for it.

But banning black rifles simply is not an effective way to thwart mass shooters. It probably makes politicians and anti-gun activists feel good, but does little else.

Another thing an AR-15 ban would do is run a ton of small businesses out of business. Places like Shepherd Firearms in Warsaw. They make high-end, competition model AR-15s. Or Vision Defense in Middlebury. Or BCI Defense in Bremen. Or High Velocity Manufacturing in Fort Wayne. There are hundreds of these small businesses all across this great land.

If banning these guns won’t stop mass shootings – which it won’t – what will?

I hate to sound defeatist here, but I’m not sure anything will. People want to make sure there is never another mass shooting. That’s what everyone wants. Me too.

But in my heart I know there will be another mass shooting – and another – and another – no matter how many guns you ban and no matter how many laws you pass.

There are more people and more guns in American today than ever before. Even so, violent crime has been on a significant downward trend.

According to the FBI, in 1997 with a U.S. population of 267,783,607, there were 1,636,096 violent crimes. In 2016, with a population of 323,127,513, there were 1,248,185 violent crimes.

The rate went from 611.0 to 386.3 per 100,000 residents during that period.

But we still have mass shootings. How can that be?

Because for the past couple of generations we’ve cultivated a scourge in our culture.

That’s why I believe mass shootings are not about guns. Mass shootings are fairly unique to the U.S. Why don’t people in other countries shoot up their schools? Is it for lack of access to guns? No. It’s for lack of desire to kill innocent people.

Social media is used to bully, belittle and marginalize those already feeling alienated and likely suffering from mental illness.

We’ve glamorized and glorified violence to amuse ourselves.

We’ve ignored and stigmatized the mentally ill.

We turn mass murders into celebrities. Sick loners desperate for attention and notoriety know all they need do is commit mass murder and they will own the news cycle.

We've attempted to secularize society by removing religion from the public sphere.

There are lots of other things in society that could drive someone to become a mass shooter – devaluation of human life, creation of an entitlement culture that makes some among us feel inferior or superior, politicians’ use of class warfare and race to divide us.

Sure, pass laws.

Ban this gun or that gun. Do stronger background checks. Raise the age to buy a rifle. Put in place mandatory federal sentences for gun crimes. Ramp up enforcement of existing laws.

Do it all.

But until we figure out how to eliminate the desire to commit mass murder we’ve fomented in our culture, we’ll keep having mass shootings.