The horrific mass shoting in Las Vegas raises the question, is it at long-last time to ban or restrict assault weapons?
The easy availability of semi-automatic/assault weapons has been a threat to national security for a long time, and we have seen clamor for gun control swell and fade after mass shootings time and again. But the horrifying toll of this one vicious shooting incident — currently at 59 fatalities and 500+ injuries — brings a new urgency to calls for congressional action.
We had a federal ban on assault weapons, which was enacted in 1994. But it was allowed to expire in 2004. there was a failed effort to pass the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. Today, only seven U.S. states have assault weapons bans, and Minnesota and Virginia have training and background check requirements for assault weapons purchases. Some cities and counties in Colorado and Illinois have local laws banning sale of assault weapons, as does Washington, D.C.
The Editorial Board of The New York Times presents a graphics display which helps to put the problem in political perspective. Entitled, “477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress,” the graphic doesn’t provide the horrifiying death and injury toll, which is well into the thousands. But insert the term, “Republican-controlled” before “Congress” and you have a more accurate description of the reason for inaction. Republican leaders of congress have been extremely effective in preventing even modest assault weapons restrictions that might save lives from being enacted.
That’s not to say that all Democrats have supported restrictions on semi-automatic weapons. Some have been cowed by the NRA, and their silence is part of the problem. But it’s equally-accurate to say that all serious initiatives to restrict assault weapons in recent years have come from Democrats. Back in 1993 former Republican Presidents Ford and Reagan joined Jimmy Carter in calling for a ban on “semi-automatic assault guns.” But today, nearly all Republicans in congress have failed to do anything to protect Americans from the scourge of easilly-available semi-automatic and assault weapons. Democratic Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.) introduced “Assault Weapons Ban of 2015” and was supported by 149 House co-sponsors, but not one of them was a Republican.
Democrats can be confident of public support for restrictions on semi-automatic and assault weapons. A 2016 Quinnipiac University National poll found that 59 percent of voters supported “a ban on the sale of assault weapons.” An even larger majority — 64 percent — agreed that “”It’s possible to make new gun laws without interfering with gun rights.”
There will be heated arguments over the next few weeks about the effectiveness of legislation to restrict assault weapons. But the NRA bromide about a “good guy with a gun” as the best remedy for stopping domestic mass murders has been utterly discredited by the Las Vegas killings. The only thing that is certain is that no legislative remedies will even be given a chance to succeed until Democrats win a working majority of both houses of congress.