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“Note To U. S. Senate”: Connecticut’s New Gun Laws Should Be A Wake-Up Call And A ‘Model For the Nation’

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) hopes that Connecticut’s sweeping new gun-control proposals will be a “wake-up call” for the U.S. Senate, which is expected to consider new gun legislation when it returns next week.

“I think it should be a wake-up call, and it should serve as a model for the nation and as momentum for Congress,” Blumenthal said in an interview with Business Insider on Wednesday. “I’m proud and thankful that Connecticut is helping to lead the nation and leading by example.”

The Connecticut General Assembly on Wednesday is expected to pass the new set of restrictions put forward by a bipartisan legislative task force.

The new legislation, which comes a little more than three months after the elementary-school massacre in Newtown, Conn., includes some of the following measures:

  • A ban on high-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds;
  • A ban on armor-piercing bullets;
  • Requiring background checks for all weapon sales, including privately at gun shows;
  • An expansion of mental health research in the state;
  • An expansion of the state’s current assault weapons ban.

If, as expected, Gov. Dannel Malloy signs the bill into law, the new provisions will be enforced immediately.

But Blumenthal cautioned that the state’s new restrictions won’t mean much if measures aren’t taken on a national scale.

“I think it will heighten awareness, but it also should dramatize that no single state can do this alone. No single state can protect its citizens from illegal trafficking or straw purchases, because our state borders are porous,” Blumenthal said.

The U.S. Senate is expected to begin debate next week on a host of new gun control legislation, including universal background checks and a federal gun trafficking ban. Blumenthal also said he plans to introduce an amendment that would limit magazine capacity to no more than 10 rounds.

 

By: Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, April 3, 2013

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Many Massacres Are Enough?”: National Gun Fever Shows No Sign Of Breaking

Apparently, there will be no ban on assault weapons.

Never mind that Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 assault-type rifle to rip apart the bodies of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Forget the fact that James E. Holmes, the alleged Aurora, CO, movie theater shooter, fired, among other weapons, an AR-15.

Nor does it seem to make any difference that Jared Loughner — the man who shot Gabby Giffords and killed six others, including a 9-year-old girl — used a high-capacity magazine that the Clinton-era assault-weapons ban rendered illegal. A high-capacity magazine also enabled the massacre committed by Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech.

The political climate has changed since the 1994 ban: Democrats have cowered before the gun lobby; the National Rifle Association has grown even more extreme; the U.S. Supreme Court has moved much further to the right. And, in the 20 years since Congress banned assault-type weapons and high-capacity magazines, Americans have heard a steady drumbeat of pro-firearms rhetoric that fetishizes the Second Amendment. In other words, the climate around firearms has gotten crazier.

Even before the current debate over more restrictive gun laws began, most political observers knew it would be difficult to get Congress to stand up to the firearms lobby. So it’s no great surprise that Majority Leader Harry Reid, who runs from the shadow of the National Rifle Association, slammed the door on Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s effort to re-up the assault-weapons ban.

Still, I find myself once again wondering just how bad things have to get before the fever breaks — before the country comes to its senses on firearms. We’re in the throes of a kind of madness, a mass delusion that assigns to firearms the significance of religious totems.

Many critics of an assault-weapons ban note that it would not provide any magical cure-all for the mass shootings that have plagued us over the years since Columbine. That’s certainly true. But banning at least some assault-type weapons and the high-capacity magazines that feed them would be a step in the right direction. Why can’t we take that step?

What would be wrong with reinstituting a ban? For 10 years — from 1994-2004 — an imperfect ban prohibited the sale of certain types of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It covered only new weapons; old ones were grandfathered in, so those already in existence were available to criminals, the mentally unstable and the impulse-control-challenged. The original ban didn’t prohibit easy modifications or cosmetic changes that allowed gun owners and manufactures to practically duplicate outlawed weapons. So the old law was hardly perfect.

But many law enforcement officials nevertheless supported it, declaring that it helped. It didn’t end gun violence or stop mass murders or prevent suicides (which account for two-thirds of gun deaths in this country). But it prevented some killings. Isn’t that worthwhile?

And the Clinton-era ban accomplished that without infringing on the rights of gun owners. They could still hunt game, protect their homes and enjoy firearms on gun ranges. The civilized world did not come to an end during those 10 years; the Second Amendment was not besmirched.

Yet, the vociferous — nay, deranged — leadership of the NRA has persuaded Congress that an assault-weapons ban is akin to totalitarianism. More important, it has persuaded Democrats that it has the power to end their political careers if they don’t carry water for the gun lobby. After Al Gore’s defeat in 2000, he and other Democrats blamed the loss partly on support for tougher gun laws. And the NRA was only too happy to take credit.

That was nonsense, of course. Gore won the popular vote and would have won the Electoral College, as well, if the ballots had been properly counted in Florida. Besides, he has only himself to blame for being a lousy candidate. But none of that seems to matter now because conventional wisdom has rewritten history.

If dead innocents — their bodies ripped apart by bullets from an assault weapon — couldn’t persuade Congress to ban at least some of those firearms and the high-capacity magazines that feed them, the cause is lost. So is our common sense.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, March 23, 2013

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Right Is Absolute”: Assault Weapons Are Weapons Of Mass Destruction And Should Be Banned

The tragedy in Connecticut forces America to confront a simple question: Why should we allow easy access to a weapon of mass destruction just because it could conceivably be referred to as a “gun”?

I count myself among the many Americans who at various points in their lives have owned and used long guns — hunting rifles and shotguns — for hunting and target shooting. No one I know in politics seriously proposes that ordinary Americans be denied the right to own those kinds of weapons.

But guns used for hunting have nothing in common with assault weapons like the ones that were used last week in the mass murder of 20 first-graders — except the fact that they are referred to “guns.”

Rapid-fire assault weapons with large clips of ammunition have only one purpose: the mass slaughter of large numbers of human beings. They were designed for use by the military to achieve that mission in combat — and that mission alone.

No one argues that other combat weapons like rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s) or Stinger Missiles should be widely available to anyone at a local gun shop. Why in the world should we allow pretty much anyone to have easy access to assault weapons?

Every politician in America will tell you they will move heaven and earth to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists. Yet we have allowed the ban on this particular weapon of mass destruction to expire. As a result, a terrorist named Adam Lanza was able to have easy access to the assault weapons he used to kill scores of children in minutes.

Let’s be clear, Adam Lanza was a terrorist just as surely as he would have been if we were motivated by an extreme jihadist ideology. It makes no difference to those children or to their grieving families whether their loved ones were killed by someone who was mentally deranged or by someone who believed that by killing children he was helping to destroying the great Satan.

When an individual is willing — or perhaps eager — to die making a big “statement” by killing many of his fellow human beings, it doesn’t matter what their motivation is. It does matter whether they have easy access to the weapons that make mass murder possible.

And after last week, can anyone seriously question whether assault weapons are in fact weapons of mass destruction? If Lanza had conventional guns — or like a man in China who recently went berserk, he only had knives — he would not have been physically capable of killing so many people in a few short minutes.

Of course you hear people say — oh, a car or an airliner can be turned into a weapon of mass destruction — many things can become weapons of mass destruction. And there is no question after 9/11 that we know that this is true. But cars and airliners have to be converted from their primary use in order to become instruments of mass death. It takes an elaborate plot and many actors to take over an airliner and it isn’t easy to methodically kill 27 people with a car.

More important, assault weapons have no redeeming social value or alternative use whatsoever. The only reason to purchase an assault weapon, instead of a long gun used for target practice or hunting, is to kill and maim large numbers of human beings.

And it is not the case that if assault weapons were banned ordinary people would get them anyway. We certainly don’t take that attitude with nuclear weapons or dirty bombs. We make it very hard for a terrorist to get nuclear weapons or dirty bomb. It used to be hard to get assault weapons.

When the former President of Mexico visited the United States some time ago to discuss the drug-fueled violence on the Mexican border, he pointed out that the end of the assault weapons ban in the U.S. had resulted in an explosion of smuggling of assault weapons from the United States to Mexico. Weapons that were previously unavailable in large numbers, became plentiful. He begged the United States to re-impose the assault weapons ban.

Allowing easy access to assault weapons guarantees that terrorists, criminals and mentally unstable people will use them to commit future acts of mass murder — it’s that simple. There are seven billion people on the planet. Try as we may, we are not going to prevent some of those seven billion people from becoming terrorists, criminals or mentally unstable. Why make it easy for them to do harm to their fellow human beings by giving them easy access to a weapon of mass destruction?

Since this tragedy, there have been calls for greater restrictions and background checks on those who can buy guns — and there should be. But from all accounts, the weapons used in the Connecticut murders were purchased legally by the shooter’s mother — who herself appeared to be perfectly sane right up to the moment that Lanza used those same weapons to end her life.

The NRA will no doubt repeat its mantra about the “slippery slope.” “If we ban assault weapons, shotguns will be next,” they say. Really? By banning anyone from buying Stinger Missiles that are used to shoot down airplanes do we make it more likely that the government will one day prevent people from hunting ducks?

The simple fact is that no right is absolute because rights come into conflict with each other. Your free speech does not give you the right to cry “fire” in a crowded theater.

Is the NRA’s concern that banning assault weapons will put us on a “slippery slope” more important than the lives of those 20 first graders? Should it really take precedence over the fact that today in Newtown, Connecticut there are 20 families with holiday presents on a closet shelf, that were purchased for an excited six-year-old who will never open them?

Are the NRA’s fears more important than the terror faced by children in the Sandy Hook Elementary school last week?

Does the right to own an assault weapon take precedence over the right of those parents to see their children grow up, and graduate from college, and stand at the alter to be married, and have children of their own?

The bottom line is that there is no reason why weapons of mass destruction of any sort – chemical weapons, biological weapons, RPG’s, improvised explosive devices (IED’s), missiles, dirty bombs, nuclear devices, or assault weapons — should be easily accessible. For 10 years there was a ban on the production, ownership and use of assault weapons in the United States until Congress and the Bush Administration allowed it to lapse when it sunset and came up for reauthorization in 2004.

A serious response to the tragedy in Connecticut requires that Congress act to reinstate the assault weapons ban before the children of other families fall victim to the fantasies of some other mentally unbalanced individual — or the ideology of a terrorist who has been empowered by our failure to act.

 

By: Robert Creamer, February 18, 2013; Originally Posted in The Huffington Post Blog, December 16, 2012

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Disturbing Sign”: Why Are Some Leading Dems Getting Soft On An Assault Weapons Ban?

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, support for re-banning assault weapons grew exponentially inside and outside of the Beltway. It’s only natural when an AR-15 is used to slaughter twenty schoolchildren and six educators, only months after another was used to shoot seventy-one people inside a movie theater.

Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—seen as recently as 2006 recruiting pro-gun Democrats to run in House races—said that Newtown was a “tipping point, a galvanization for action.” He’s now calling for an assault weapons ban, expanded background checks, and is ordering Chicago municipal pension funds to divest from all gun manufacturers.

Indeed, it was a tipping point. Five days after the shootings, President Obama stood in the White House briefing room and explicitly called for another assault weapons ban, and Vice President Joe Biden is expected to recommend one this week. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she’d introduce a strong bill in the Senate, and all the pieces looked to be in place.

But in the past twenty-four hours, there have been disturbing signs of pre-emptive surrender by key Democrats on the assault weapons ban.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a PBS affiliate in Las Vegas that he didn’t think the assault weapons ban could pass the House, and thus he wanted would “focus” on what could. His comments echoed many pro-gun talking points about Hollywood and violent video games, and Reid openly tried to throw cold water on the gun-control movement:

“We have too much violence in our society, and it’s not just from guns. It’s from a lot of stuff. And I think we should take a look at TV, movies, video games and weapons. And I hope that everyone will just be careful and cautious. […]

“Let’s just look at everything. I don’t think we need to point to anything now,” he said. “We need to be very cool and cautious. […]

“I think that the American people want us to be very cautious what we do. I think they want us to do things that are logical, smart, and make the country safer, not just be doing things that get a headline in a newspaper.”

On Monday, Representative Mike Thompson—appointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to head the House’s gun violence prevention task force—also signaled surrender on the assault weapons ban, according to Politico:

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Democrats’ gun violence task force, said the magazine ban and universal registration requirement would be far more effective than an assault weapons ban without the political cost.

“Probably the most recognizable thing you can say in this debate is ban assault weapons,” Thompson said. “But the other two issues” – forbidding high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring universal registration for gun purchases – “those two things have more impact on making our neighborhoods safe than everything else combined. Anytime you try and prohibit what kind of gun people has it generates some concern.”

It’s not that Reid and Thompson are necessarily wrong in their political calculus—maybe an assault weapons ban can’t pass the House.

But publicly dooming the effort before it starts is self-enforcing, and repeats a Democratic proclivity that has frustrated progressives to no end: heading into negotiations and votes with a pre-compromised position.

Americans favor an assault weapons ban 58-39, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday. The president is about to stick his neck out and propose it, and then push for it in the weeks to come. Moreover, as Thompson and Reid both correctly noted, it’s the headline-grabbing issue here: rampages with assault weapons are what is driving the momentum on gun control.

Democrats would naturally be wise to push forward aggressively on the ban, as they have mostly done up to this point. If they fail, they fail. At least they’d likely be able to wrest more concessions from the GOP on background checks and high-capacity magazine bans during the legislative battle, and potentially force Republicans into a difficult vote where they would effectively be supporting military style weapons on the street.

Yet, it appears Reid and Thompson—absolutely key figures in the legislative battles in the Senate and House respectively—want to drop the assault weapons ban from the legislative agenda. It’s not yet clear that they will, but even signaling a lack of confidence is damaging to both the legislative prospects for meaningful gun control, and for public attitudes and activist motivation. And it’s not the debate demanded by what happened in Newtown.

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, January 15, 2013

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Gives?”: Public Policy Polling Found Wide Majority In Favor Of Assault Weapons Ban, Gallup A Majority Against

Ten days ago, Daily Kos commissioned Public Policy Polling to field a poll on a variety of topics related to guns. One of the simplest questions we asked—just eight words long—was this:

Would you support or oppose banning assault weapons?

Even though our survey oversampled gun owners considerably, respondents said they favored such a ban by a broad 63-32 margin. Now, you might wonder if the people we polled know what exactly an assault weapon is, what a ban might cover, and whether such a ban would even be effective.

Those are all legitimate questions, but regardless of how well-informed our respondents might be, they stated a preference in response to a simple, clear question—and as we move forward, the public debate on this question will indeed generally be referred to, by politicians and the press, as “a ban on assault weapons.” In other words, we framed our question to reflect the rubric people will hear when they tune into the news.

Contrast our approach with Gallup’s, which also released some new data on gun issues. Here’s their assault weapons question:

Are you for or against a law which would make it illegal to manufacture, sell or possess semiautomatic guns known as assault rifles?

By a 51-44 spread, Gallup’s respondents oppose such a ban—which is actually a little tighter than the 53-43 against they found the last time they asked this question (in Oct. of 2011). No matter what, though, that’s wildly different from the huge numbers PPP sees in favor of such a ban. So what gives?

Well, frankly, Gallup’s question sucks. It’s too long, too wordy, and too confusing. As I noted above, for decades, this public policy issue has been described—by supporters and opponents alike—as an assault weapons ban. Everyone knows what the word “ban” means. So why complicate things with legalistic phrasing like “illegal to manufacture, sell or possess”? Normal people don’t talk that way. Hell, even abnormal people like Beltway pundits don’t talk that way.

The final part of the question is problematic, too. Gallup wants the phrase “semiautomatic guns known as assault rifles” to be interpreted as “the sub-set of semiautomatic guns that encompasses assault rifles.” That alone is too verbose and requires too much mental processing. Does it really help anyone to give this extended definition? Put another way: I can think of no good reason to not just say “assault rifles” and eliminate the part about “semiautomatic guns.”

But it would also be all too easy for someone to come away with the impression that Gallup is saying “semiautomatic guns, which are also known as assault rifles.” In response to that, you might think, “Hell no! ‘Assault rifle’ is not a synonym for ‘semiautomatic gun!'” Or you might think, “Hmm. This proposal sounds way too broad. Now we’re calling all semiautomatic guns ‘assault rifles?'”

Oh, and one more thing: Why assault rifles? Again, it’s always been referred to as an assault weapons ban. No one’s ever talked about banning rifles or other long guns used for hunting, so if your mind happened to focus on the word “rifle” instead of “assault,” you might think the questioner was asking whether hunting weapons should be made illegal.

Even if you think all these various chains of thought are ridiculous or stupid, well, it’s just very easy for one human to misunderstand another—especially a stranger calling on the phone who’s trying to get through an interview as quickly as possible. That’s why pollsters should always strive for maximal simplicity when they ask questions. That’s not always possible—sometimes you can’t get useful data without first offering a bit of explanation—but even then, there are better ways to do so on this topic than the way Gallup did.

But I don’t think extra verbiage is necessary at all here—as demonstrated by the fact that a mere five percent of respondents to PPP’s question said they were undecided. “Assault weapons” is a phrase people have heard (and, lately, have heard all too often). And whether people have a perfect understanding of the matter or not, citizens are allowed to express their opinions. You could try to craft a question which offered more background on what an assault weapons ban might mean, but Gallup certainly didn’t do that.

What they did, instead, is cloud the issue with a confusingly-worded question. If they’d adopted the phrasing we instructed PPP to use, I bet they’d find similar numbers to what we saw. And that’s a broad majority in favor of a ban on assault weapons.

 

By: David Nir, Daily Kos, December 28, 2012

December 29, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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