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Quit Saying Restoring Assault Weapons Ban Would Mean Nothing

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Assault Weapons Used in All Mass Shootings of 10 or More Since Columbine

Originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

By Robert Weiner and Brad Star

Gun advocates should quit saying that restoring the assault-weapons ban would mean nothing. All 15 mass killings of ten or more since Columbine (19 years ago April 20) would have been stopped or diminished under he ban that was in place for a decade but was sunsetted by the NRA in 2004.

Though the Parkland students have pushed the envelope in an amazing way, no progress has been made on the front of assault weapons. In reality, the automatic and semi-automatic weapons used in each mass shooting killing ten or more over the past two decades would have been barred or greatly reduced under an assault-weapons ban.

It's simply not true that, as alleged by gun advocates, an assault-weapons ban would make little to no difference in the fight against gun violence.

"I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment and I remain a supporter of the Second Amendment," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in February following the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. "The Second Amendment is not the cause of this. The cause of this is individuals who happen to abuse that liberty and that constitutional right for the purposes of conducting these atrocities."

Rubio is right--the Second Amendment is not the problem. Qualifications on possession and gun types are perfectly legal under the Second Amendment.

The most-watched news on modern gun events revolves around mass killings with the most deaths, the ones committed with assault weapons. Successfully stopping these headlines with an assault-weapons ban would go a long way in easing the national angst about the terror of mass shootings in schools, churches, cinemas, clubs and other public spaces. Even the NRA should want to achieve this since by taking away the worst and most long-term headlines, the remaining protections would remain with less pressure against them.

Assault weapons--including the semi-automatic handguns used at Columbine and Aurora--were once illegal in the U.S. under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), included in the crime bill of 1994. The federal ban prevented the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms that the government classified as assault weapons. The ban applied to weapons produced after the bill's passing.

The AWB lasted just 10 years, expiring in 2004 due to its sunset provision, which NRA chief lobbyist Tanya Metaska added to mitigate a bill she knew was going to pass. Her plan worked, and the AWB was not reauthorized after 2004.

Mass shootings were less frequent during the ban and the ones with the most deaths are much more frequent today. Since 1994, 16 mass shootings involving 10 or more deaths have taken place in the U.S. Just two of those shootings, the Columbine massacre and the Atlanta shootings, occurred between 1994 and 2004, the period during which the AWB was in effect. In the 14 years since the expiration of the AWB, the U.S. has seen 14 mass shootings killing ten or more:

- Columbine High School massacre*, 1999; 15 deaths; weapons used: Intratec TEC-DC9 semi-automatic pistol, Hi-Point 995 Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun, 99 explosives, 4 knives

- Atlanta shootings*, 1999; 10 deaths; weapons used: Colt 1911A1 pistol, Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, H&R Revolver, Raven MP-25 semi-automatic pistol

- Red Lake shootings*, 2005; 10 deaths; weapons used: Glock 23 semi-automatic pistol, Ruger MK II semi-automatic pistol, Remington 870 shotgun

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