Lawmakers across the country pleased for tougher gun safety legislation on Sunday morning, in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Many called for the extension of the Assault Weapons Ban, a piece of legislation that expired in 2004 under then President George W. Bush, as a way to limit certain types of weapons that and demanded that President Obama “stand up and lead and tell the country what we should do.”
On Friday, Adam Lanza, a 20-year old resident of Newtown, used a “semi-automatic assault rifle” to kill 27 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school in the town. Responding to the massacre, lawmakers urged Obama to lead on gun safety:
— GOV. DAN MALLOY (D-CT): “When we talk about the assault weapons ban that was in place in the United States, to have allowed that to go away or dissipate, it’s the state’s ability to enforce that because guns move across state lines.”
— GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D-CO): “You know, the discussions around assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and who — you know, what type of — should there be a wait? One of the things we’re doing in Colorado is expanding the time if someone has had a mental illness hold, expand the time they have to wait before they can get access to a firearm.
— SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): “Are there high ammunition clips, high capacity ammunition clips that have no value, whatsoever when it comes to sporting and hunting and even self-defense, the person could buy body armor and use to it protect themselves as they kill innocent people? Can we have a thoughtful, calm, reflection on these things? And do it in the context of our 2nd amendment? I think we need to.
— SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): “If you buy a gun from somebody who is not licensed, or at a gun show, you don’t have to be checked at all. That is a loophole we ought to close. Assault weapons, these were developed by the U.S. military, originally as weapons of war. And, I think we ought to restore that assault weapons ban, because, not to take anybody’s guns away from them, they have now. But, to stop the manufacture and sale of those weapons. Now. Because, look what Lanza did to these poor kids.
— SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “Well the kinds of things like the Brady Law, Assault Weapons Ban, limitations to clips, making sure mentally unstable people don’t get guns, do not interfere with the fundamental right, but at the same time make us safer. Every amendment should have some balance and some limitation.”
— SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: “I can tell you that [Obama] is going to have a bill to lead on because it’s a first-day bill I’m going to introduce in the Senate and the same bill is going to be introduced in the House. A bill to ban assault weapons. It will ban the sale, the importation, and the possession — not retroactively but perspectively.”
— MAYOR MIKE BLOOMBERG (I-NY): “It’s time for the President I think to stand up and lead and tell the country what we should do. Not go to Congress and ask what do you guys want to do. This should be his number one agenda….The President can introduce legislation even when it doesn’t get passed. … We got to really question weather military style weapons belongs on the streets in this day and age… And I think a President through his leadership can get a bill like that through Congress, but at least he’s got to try, that’s his job.
The Assault Weapons Ban, enacted in 1994 but not renewed in 2004, made an impact, according to the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. They found that:
“In the five-year period (1990-1994) before enactment of the ban, assault weapons named in the Act constituted 4.82% of the crime gun traces ATF conducted nationwide. In the post-ban period after 1995, these assault weapons made up only 1.61% of the guns ATF has traced to crime – a drop of 66% from the pre-ban rate.
Moreover, ATF trace data showed a steady year-by-year decline in the percentage of assault weapons traced, suggesting that the longer the statute was in effect, the less available these guns became for criminal misuse. Indeed, the absolute number of banned assault weapons traced also declined. An initial report issued by the Department of Justice supported these findings. These findings were further supported in a later report by one of the same researchers.”
Obama supports an effort to pass an Assault Weapons Ban and has called for Congress to act in the aftermath of past gun tragedies, but has yet to lead on the issue. But now, it’s not just politicians who are calling for stricter gun legislation: a petition on the White House website, with more than 115,000 signatures, says the President should “produce legislation that limits access to guns.”