President Obama Needs to Ban Assault Weapons

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Few Americans are aware of what America's gun industry has turned into: vendors of military-style weapons who market their products' lethality and combat-derived features in an effort to sell, and resell, to a dwindling customer base. The fact is that household gun ownership in the United States is on a steady decline. One person who was aware of the hyper-militarization of the gun industry was James Holmes, the accused Colorado mass killer. His Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle demonstrates the clear and present danger of a gun designed for war and ruthlessly marketed for profit to civilians.

In America today, virtually anyone with a grudge and a credit card can outfit themselves in a fashion fit to lead their own army. Assault rifles, assault pistols, and assault shotguns are as plentiful as they are lethal. Ammo? Shop on the Internet for the best price and most lethal variant and have it shipped to your front door. Body armor to protect yourself from law enforcement? Back to the Internet. There is absolutely no limit on the number of assault weapons or the amount of ammo that you can own.

Could gun control have stopped the Aurora shooting or the inevitable shootings that will follow? Of course it could have. Countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom have acted aggressively in response to similar mass shootings and have spared their citizens the endless repetition of gun carnage that has become a uniquely American phenomenon.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Gun Control and Gun Rights.]

An effective assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazine ban would have eliminated the Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle and 100-round drum ammunition magazine Holmes used in the attack. The rifle wasn't even manufactured until 2006, when Smith & Wesson decided to jump on the assault weapons bandwagon.

Right now, without any action by Congress, President Barack Obama could ban the import of foreign-made assault rifles and assault pistols, the most prevalent of which are AK-47 rifle and pistol variants that feed violence not only here at home, but are often illegally trafficked to Mexico to fuel that country's carnage.

Congress could reinstate the ban on interstate ammunition sales by common carrier to private individuals and restore the recordkeeping of such sales, thereby eliminating the ability to stockpile ammo through the Internet. These measures were repealed by Congress in 1986 by the NRA's flagship bill, the McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owners' Protection Act. And today's NRA now makes millions from online sales of ammo, high-capacity magazines, and other shooting accessories.

Mass shootings in America are as predictable as they are tragic. Just as predictably, those who celebrate this lethal shift to militarization—the NRA and its gun industry partners—remain mute when families and communities suffer the consequences. And when attention fades, they'll once again resume their lethal trade, unless we stand together as Americans to stop them.

Josh Sugarmann

About Josh Sugarmann Founder and Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center,

Tags
gun control and gun rights
Obama, Barack

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