Assault Weapons Ban Gets Renewed Attention

Florida State Representatives rejected a proposal Tuesday to move forward with debate on a bill that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The measure was rejected 36-71 as survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida watched on from the gallery in tears.

Meanwhile a Florida Senate committee endorsed a proposal to put police officers in every school, despite the fact that there was already an armed guard at Douglas High School who failed to stop the gunman. Last week’s shooting was carried out by a 19-year-old man armed with a legally purchased semi-automatic assault rifle. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Students flocked the state capital ahead of the vote to urge lawmakers to support the assault weapons ban. They are just some of the thousands of students who have stepped up in the last week to demand politicians address the epidemic of gun violence and to call out those who take money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in exchange for silence and inaction. Young people are organizing nationwide “March for Our Lives” rallies on March 24 and Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for a National School Walkout on March 14.

67 percent of Americans support banning the sale of assault weapons. Calls to ban assault weapons are stretching from state legislatures to the halls of Congress which is paying renewed attention to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill to reauthorize the Assault Weapons Ban.

The 1994 federal Assault Weapons Ban successfully led to a decrease in total gun murders, and use of assault weapons in crimes declined by two-thirds over nine years. Yet since the ban expired in 2004, Congress has refused to reauthorize it, despite mass shooting after mass shooting in which assault weapons were the primary cause of carnage, including the massacre of 20 schoolchildren and 6 teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

Feinstein has regularly reintroduced reauthorization legislation, most recently in November 2017 with a statement that read, “We’re introducing an updated Assault Weapons Ban for one reason: so that after every mass shooting with a military-style assault weapon, the American people will know that a tool to reduce these massacres is sitting in the Senate, ready for debate and a vote.”

Feinstein is also calling on the Congress to ban bump stocks in the wake of President Trump’s announcement on Tuesday urging the Department of Justice to regulate them, an action the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has already said it does not have the power to do. “If ATF tries to ban these devices after admitting repeatedly that it lacks authority to do so, that process could be tied up in court for years, and that would mean bump stocks would continue to be sold. Legislation is the only answer,” said Feinstein.

Bump stocks turn semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons, allowing for more rounds to be fired more quickly. A bump stock was used by the gunman in Las Vegas who killed 58 people and injured over 500.

Media Resources: Huffington Post 2/20/18; Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein 11/8/17; The Hill 2/20/18

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