Assault Weapons Ban Came to Congress Hours Before Shooting

On Wednesday morning, the United States was gripped in the drama of yet another horrific mass shooting, this time at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California. Fourteen people were murdered and two of the known suspects were killed in a shootout with police — a third individual with a possible connection to the crime was detained. Though information about the case is still emerging, one thing is clear: The accused were heavily armed, may have been wearing body armor, and had a stock of explosive devices at their homes. The incident was actually the second mass shooting on Wednesday, and both were preceded by something else: An attempt at renewing the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which was allowed to lapse after its sunset clause in 2004.

The United States is confronting an epidemic of gun violence — while rates of gun deaths dropped in the 1990s, they have been holding steady ever since, and mass shootings are accruing at an alarming rate. 33,636 people died of gun violence in 2013, the last year for which statistics are available. More than 350 mass shootings — incidents in which four or more people have been shot, regardless of fatalities — have occurred in 2015. 40 have involved four or more fatalities. With everyone from the president to ordinary citizens calling for reforms to how guns are handled in the United States, there’s a lively discussion on available options for limiting access to firearms — background checks are being heavily promoted, but so are bans on assault weapons. If it can’t be sold, it’s much more difficult to obtain.

While the term “assault weapon” is vague, the 1994 ban did attempt to define it, outlining a specific list of weapons that would no longer be permitted for sale after the ban went into effect. Tucked into the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the ban namechecked weapons like the Beretta Ar70, Colt AR-15, revolving cylinder shotguns, and Kalashnikovs, along with large capacity ammunition feeding devices. The goal: To get deadly weapons designed for rapid firing — like those used in some mass shootings — off the streets. The results of the ban were mixed, as it’s difficult to control for all factors when analyzing the effect of legislation like this. While the rate of gun crime dropped, it may have been associated with other laws and programs to address gun violence. However, mass shootings in the years after the ban lapsed are on the rise, and many involved legally obtained weapons like those the ban was intended to address.

Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) took to the floor on Wednesday morning to announce that he was planning to introduce a proposal to reauthorize the ban, discussing the Planned Parenthood shootings that occurred last Friday. The announcement followed years of work on gun violence throughout his political career, and reflected the growing anger from the American public surrounding lack of action on gun control. With mass shootings accruing at a shocking rate, perhaps it wouldn’t have been surprising for one to rapidly follow his proposal — in an illustration of the grim inevitability that now surrounds mass shootings — but he likely didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

Later, the Congressman learned that precisely the kind of incident he was fighting to prevent had just occurred across the country, in a profound illustration of why the Assault Weapons Ban must be renewed. While it won’t magically fix the gun problem in America, it will be an important first step, ensuring that such guns will not be available for legal sale once it’s passed and put into action. As a piece of the puzzle on gun control in America, it stands to make a significant difference in the attempt to address violence. In the next year, the president has an opportunity to take decisive action on gun control, which could end up being a key part of his legacy.

In another bitter twist of fate, that very morning, physicians and members of Congress were pleading to repeal the Dickey Amendment, which froze funding for scientific research on gun violence — one of the things that’s making it so difficult to understand how and why mass shootings happen, to collect data about such incidents, and to develop thoughtful and effective recommendations for gun control policy. Even Jay Dickey, the former Congressman who sponsored the legislation in the first place, has grave regrets about his move, which he claimed was intended to protect Second Amendment rights.

As even Congress comes around to the need for aggressive gun control, citizens must play a role by leaning on their own representatives to demand that they sponsor, support, and vote for effective gun control.

Take action!

Mass shootings should not be an everyday occurrence. Ask the U.S. Congress to ban assault weapons immediately! Reach out to your representatives, start a petition, and show your support for effective gun control.

Photo credit: Chris Yarzab


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

Banning "assault weapons" is like trying to ban "assault cars" as it is a made up term to describe guns that cosmetically appear similar to military machine guns.
1 killed after car hits crowds of pedestrians on Vegas Strip
1 killed after car hits pedestrians on Las Vegas Strip; police say crash was intentional

Margaret G.
Margaret G.3 years ago

I find it interesting that those who wish to ban abortion pass many laws restricting abortion, knowing, as they do, that the laws cut down on the number of legal abortions. Now the same people do not believe that passing gun control laws will cut down on the number of unsuitable people owning the wrong kind of firearms.

Margaret G.
Margaret G.3 years ago

Adam Schmidt w5ote, " ... Because the fact remains that many more people are able to successfully defend themselves with guns each year than people who are victims of gun violence
... "

Wondering where Adam gets his data, considering that the NRA has gotten Congress to sop research on gun violence.

Margaret G.
Margaret G.3 years ago

Joe V. wrote, " ... Hmm, I believe there are laws on the books relating to assault weapons. ... "

As far as I know there are no federal laws.

George Mawman
George Mawman3 years ago

Wake Up America. Amend The Constitution.
Rectify the right to keep & carry arms adopted on 15 December 1791.
That was the Age of one shot Flintlock Pistols Not Automatic Weapons !
America has become a Land of too much freedom.
Common Sense is a spoil sport but ignoring it is Criminal.
God won't bless and save America if we don't make an effort to save ourselves.

Kenneth P.
Kenneth P.3 years ago

Banning so-called "assault weapons" is a waste of time and political capital

Total murders...................... 11,961
Handguns............................ 5,562 (46.5%)
Firearms (type unknown)............. 2,052 (17.2%)
Clubs, rope, fire, etc.............. 1,610 (13.5%)
Knives and other cutting weapons.... 1,567 (13.1%)
Hands, fists, feet.................... 660 (5.5%)
Shotguns.............................. 262 (2.2%)
Rifles................................ 248 (2.1%)

Nearly half of the people were killed with a handgun in 2014 and more than 22 times more people were murdered with a handgun than rifles of any type, including those that are semi-automatic and have "military-style" features such as a pistol grip or collapsible/folding stock.

Despite what gun control say, a pistol grip doesn't facilitate "accurate spray fire from the hip" and a collapsible/folding stock doesn't make a rifle more concealable when it's still over 2 feet long.

Restrictions on handguns are rarely proposed by gun control advocates, while 2/3 of gun deaths are from suicides yet the media only cares about mass shootings.

Handguns are also the weapon used the most in mass shootings. According to Mother Jones, of the 143 guns possessed by the shooters in the 62 mass shootings they studied from 1982 - 2012, 94 of them were handguns while rifles and shotguns were 28 and 21, re

CLAUDE Hennie3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Philip Watling
Philip Watling3 years ago

Too little, too late. I know your Second Amendment gives you the right to near arms, but if you let any untrained Tom, Dick of Harry own an assault rifle you are looking for trouble! Here's you arguing over the definition of an "assault weopon", when any other civilised country would ban the lot - a gun's a gun and bullets kill!

Monica R.
Monica R3 years ago

As Eric Lees shows with his comments, people like him are not able to see themselves without weapons. And no, assault weapons are not banned in the US. And as if the situation in the US is not bad enough, there is a shopping channel just for weapons about to start. This country is afraid of the IS? Ridiculous, they have enough US terrorists and they are not willing to do anything agaist.