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Assault rifles were banned in the U.S. for 10 years; 2nd Amendment rights were not curtailed

Let’s be clear: Assault rifles are not used for hunting. Assault rifles are not used for protection. Assault rifles are designed for the military.

Let’s be clear: Assault rifles are not used for hunting.
REUTERS/Joshua Lott

The Parkland, Florida, shooting raised awareness and started a conversation about how to curtail gun violence in our country. This terrible incident gave students across our nation a platform to become impassioned gun control advocates and promote common-sense changes to our laws – such as a ban on assault rifles – to prevent mass shooting tragedies from ever happening again. Since then, we’ve heard from political opponents and the NRA that banning assault rifles is a gateway to taking away our second amendment rights. There is nothing further from the truth.

Sen. Bobby Joe Champion

Since 2007, at least 173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States involving AR-15s, according to a New York Times analysis. The grim list of assault weapons involved in crimes includes Newtown, Connecticut; Las Vegas; San Bernardino, California; and now Parkland, Florida.

Let’s be clear: Assault rifles are not used for hunting. Assault rifles are not used for protection. Assault rifles are designed for the military to kill and to kill as many people as possible quickly and efficiently. There is no reason for people to have an assault rifle that can fire off rounds quickly. They cause more harm than good and are far from a necessity. There are other ways for people to hunt or defend themselves without assault weapons. 

A ban on assault rifles is not in any way, shape or form an attack on the Second Amendment. We banned assault weapons for 10 years from 1994 through 2004 without any – I repeat any – infringements on Second Amendment rights. The NRA, gun sellers and manufacturers of guns want to sell more weapons. They exploit people’s fears and tell them if we ban automatic weapons, we’ll soon be banning all guns including hunting rifles and handguns. Nothing can be further from the truth.

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Most people don’t even remember that a ban on assault weapons was in effect for 10 years in America. It didn’t affect their Second Amendment rights and it didn’t cause a wave of anti-gun legislation. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) enacted a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms it defined as assault weapons, as well as certain ammunition magazines it defined as “large capacity.”

The ban prohibited the manufacture, transfer or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” which were identified either by specific make or model or by specific characteristics that slightly varied according to whether the weapon was a pistol, rifle or shotgun. The act also prohibited the transfer and possession of “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” (LCAFDs). An LCAFD was defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device manufactured after the date [of the act] that has the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition.”

Since Congress let the ban expire in 2004, the number of rifles manufactured in the United States increased threefold to 4 million in 2013. That was one year after a gunman killed his mother and then 26 others at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since 2008, U.S companies have manufactured more than 70 million firearms, including pistols and assault rifles.

The United States should seriously consider re-enacting the ban on manufacturing and further purchases of assault-style rifles. History has proven a ban will not infringe on or change our Second Amendment rights. The public supports this. According to a new poll from Business Insider’s partner MSN, 70 percent of Americans — and more than half of Republicans — support stricter laws on assault weapons. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.

Let’s make progress on protecting our children, protecting our families and protecting all Americans from gun violence with a common-sense ban on assault rifles.

Bobby Joe Champion was elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 2012 representing District 5,9 which includes portions of downtown and north Minneapolis. Champion served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for four years. He received his J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law

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