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Ban Assault Weapons Now

ColumnMarch 25, 2021
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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

The massacres in Boulder, Colorado, with ten killed, and in metro Atlanta, with eight killed, are just two more instances of senseless gun violence enabled by the NRA, gun manufacturers, and the corrupt politicians they control. Here is a short reminder of some others, for any who might need it:

Columbine High School, Colorado, 1999: 15 dead, 24 injured.

Virginia Tech, 2007: 33 dead, 17 injured.

The Aurora theater, Colorado, 2012: 12 dead, 70 injured.

Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh temple, 2012: 7 dead, 4 injured.

Sandy Hook Elementary, Connecticut, 2012: 28 dead, 2 injured.

Charleston, South Carolina, Emmanuel AME church, 2015: 9 dead, 1 injured.

Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Florida, 2016: 50 dead, 53 injured.

Las Vegas, Nevada, 2017: 61 dead, 411 injured.

Parkland, Florida, high school, 2018: 17 dead, 17 injured.

El Paso, Texas Wal-Mart, 2019: 23 dead, 23 injured.

Dayton, Ohio, 2019: 10 dead, 27 injured.

These are just some of the notorious massacres, each surrounded in time by countless others, with three, four, five killed, lives lost in acts of violence that lack the bodycount sufficient to join the canon of American mass shootings. This carnage was wrought with powerful semi-automatic firearms, almost all of which were assault weapons. This is why we need a federal assault weapons ban, now.

“Assault rifles, all that does is put the ‘mass’ into shootings, allowing them to kill more people quicker,” Democratic Colorado State Representative Tom Sullivan said on the Democracy Now! news hour, shortly after the Boulder grocery store massacre this week.

“Here in Colorado, in 2013,” Sullivan continued, “We passed the background check bill. We passed limiting high-capacity magazines, making people pay for the background checks, doing things about domestic violence, making people actually show up in front of somebody to get a concealed carry permit…But if you want to drive 20 minutes and go into Wyoming, you can buy whatever it is you what and come back down. That’s why it is imperative that we get the federal government to partner with us.”

Sullivan’s route to gun control and elected office was difficult. His son, Alex, was killed in the Aurora theater massacre, celebrating his 27th birthday. When politicians subsequently ignored Sullivan’s pleas for common-sense gun control, he ran for office himself, and won — in a district that had been held by Republicans for decades.

In the wake of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida, and absent national legislation to address recurring mass shootings, the Boulder City Council passed ordinances banning the sale and possession of assault weapons and extended ammunition magazines. Just days before this week’s massacre in Boulder, a state judge declared the ordinances illegal, legalizing possession of the very weapon used in the slaughter.

Now the Democratic-controlled Colorado state legislature, with the support of Democratic Governor Jared Polis, himself a longtime Boulder resident who said he had shopped many times at the King Soopers supermarket where the massacre occurred, is considering a statewide assault weapons ban.

Within hours of the Boulder massacre, while the victims’ bodies were still on the supermarket floor, Republican Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, whose defense of unlimited gun rights borders on maniacal — at her restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, called Shooters Grill, she encourages her staff to carry guns while working — sent our a fundraising email, declaring “Hell No” to gun control. The NRA responded to the massacre by tweeting the text of the Second Amendment.

Meanwhile, the federal Ninth District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that state laws prohibiting “open carry” of firearms are constitutional. Its 215-page order, detailing the history of gun regulation in colonial America and the development of the Second Amendment, should be required reading. “The Second Amendment does not guarantee an unfettered, general right to openly carry arms in public for individual self-defense,” the court concluded.

In Washington, DC, President Joe Biden says he supports a national assault weapons ban, but with the razor-thin Democratic majority in the Senate, passage of gun control would depend on the support of pro-gun Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin as well as a decision by the entire Senate Democratic Caucus, including Manchin and conservative Democratic Arizona Senator Kirsten Sinema, to eliminate or alter the filibuster. Gun control legislation will have to navigate a narrow path to become law.

In the United States, Tom Sullivan concluded, “a hundred people die every day from gun violence. Twenty-two of those are veterans who are dying by suicide. But also, over 200 people are injured by accidental shootings. A lot of those are children.” No legislation will bring back his son Alex, nor any of the millions killed by gun violence in the U.S. over the decades. But we can prevent future violence, with a national, enforceable ban on these weapons of war.

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