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

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

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.

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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Comments (22)

It's Time to Modernize the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment was approved in 1791 when there wasn’t a single gun with anywhere near the capability, capacity, or killing power of some of today’s guns. Today’s high capacity magazines and high-powered cartridges have only one purpose, high capacity killing. They are weapons of war. There is not any need for the public to have them. It’s Congress and the NRA that has the blood on their hands by not doing a single thing to bring the Second Amendment up to today’s reality. There weren’t any weapons of war in 1791 that come anywhere near the capability of today’s weapons. It is time to modernize the Second Amendment. I know it will be a hard-fought slog going up against our weakling congress’ sugar daddy, the NRA.

The NRA and gun industry have a symbiotic relationship, which isn’t necessarily good for the public. Gun ownership and responsibility need to go together and not everyone is capable of the responsibility part. Walk into any gun shop today and there will be a wall of black, radical looking guns that don’t have anything to do with traditional American sports. For me, the radical looking guns are peddling exactly what the NRA peddles – fear and intimidation.

At the time of founding, the

At the time of founding, the second amendment protected the most lethal long arms known to man. Those muskets were quite lethal and could reach a fair distance with some accuracy.

Today, neither criminals nor lawful citizens load their arms one projectile at a time.

Self evidently, if a law abiding citizen could not possess arms sufficient to oppose the type of arms commonly in circulation (all of which share nearly identical performance characteristics), then the second amendment would be gutted of its primary purpose.

Your response is why the NRA approach is wrong

If we keep arming everyone the violence will just escalate. You and I know the NRA pushes their approach because it works really well for the manufacturers they support. Of course the NRA has misinterpreted the 2nd amendment to their favor. It is up to common sense to prevail. There is more to owning a gun than just owning it. Responsibility also goes along with ownership and not all are capable of responsibility, which is proven daily in America.

Calling out B.S.

Thank you, Senator Champion, for exposing the "slippery slope" argument. When assault weapons were banned, no further restrictions on gun ownership followed.

To obtain political support for reinstating this ban we need to listen to and understand the language of the many sensible NRA members. Hunters want explicit support for their second amendment right to own hunting guns ("Nothing in this bill shall be construed to infringe..."). And those who believe in self defense by a "good guy with a gun" will understand that forcing an active shooter to take time to reload gives the good guys time to take him on.

In a democracy, listening to people who don't think like you is usually the path forward.

Yes but...

There were significant holes built into that assault rifle ban, a new ban needs to be more comprehensive and air tight. What we need a clear and simple definition, and a comprehensive ban on all sales by anyone to anyone with the exception collectors with tight license, regulated gun clubs, and law enforcement. We would have to set up a buy-back for those who finally realize they don't need or want those guns and need to get rid of them legally.

"promote common-sense changes to our laws"

Remember: The NRA position is conceal and carry, open carry, everywhere, anywhere all the time with as much fire power as you can handle, be prepared to kill or be killed 24-7-365. There has got to be a better way.

More Inaccurate Information

Once again, those calling for "common sense" restrictions demonstrate their lack of common sense. BJ writes "They exploit people’s fears and tell them if we ban automatic weapons". Automatic weapons are already banned BJ. Talk about exploiting people's fears? This one is simple. If you don't like the second amendment, amend it. All you have to do is get 2/3rds of congress and 3/4ths of the states to agree with you.

Common Sense Deluxe

I didn't find anything too scary in anything Bobby Joe Champion had to say but, I suppose, if a person is inclined to listen to and side with the things the (apparently) fear-ridden leader of the NRA, Wayne Lapierre, has to say every time he speaks to the flock, it MAY make them at least a little concerned (about how terrible life in America would become if what Senator Champion's talking about happens).

But when it comes to common sense (or lack of it) and playing on people's fear's (or trying to make people see reality for what it is -- depending on a person's point of view) and to expand a little on what the Senator was saying about the kind of things the King of the NRA says and how some of it MIGHT be designed to freak people out, here's some of what Wayne Lapierre had to say (at the "C-PAC" get together) just after this year's high school shooting in Florida (no politically correct "thoughts and prayers" pablum from THIS guy!):

"The elites don’t care not one whit about America’s school system and schoolchildren . . . They care more about control, and more of it.

"Their goal is to eliminate the second amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.

"They hate the NRA, they hate the second amendment, they hate individual freedom.

"They oppose our fundamental freedoms enshrined in the bill of rights.

"They are the socialist enemy and they have a political disease.

"The Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx are ascendant on university campuses.

"You should be anxious and you should be frightened. If these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they win the White House again our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever, and the first to go will be the second amendment to the US constitution."

www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/22/nra-wayne-lapierre-gun-control-c...

It's obvious Big Wayne (says he) believes that anyone who doesn't agree with his, the NRA's and many of his most ardent follower's view of reality -- which is now at least 70 percent of the American people -- is an elite, a socialist AND The Enemy . . . The Enemy that doesn't give a whit about schoolchildren because they have a disease that is making them want to take away each and every Fundamental Right and Freedom Americans have! . . . Freedoms and Rights that are enshrined in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights!!!!

Yes yes yes . . . The guy is just dripping with common sense, isn't he?

And people actually PAY the organization that pays him millions per year to keep dreaming up and pumping out that kind of stuff because, I guess, he's so good at saying what they either can't or won't say (in public) because some of their (elite) neighbors might start to wonder (which, of course, could cause one of those neighbors to call the Deep State Gun Hoarder Tip Line Tip Line to put them on The List the goons doing the Total Confiscation of Freedoms dirty work will be working off of as soon as the kind of bills Bobby Joe Champion's talking about start passing like popcorn!)

Must be about time to get those bunkers built or finished and make sure everyone's bug-out packs are well-stocked and the rendevouz coordinates set, eh?

Gun Control

Senator Champion’s MinnPost article is a bright spot in these dark times. The article speaks out against a societal norm that is shifting dangerously toward fear and self-preservation at all costs. It is a refreshing reminder that the voices of common-sense independent thinkers are still out there.

If our young people must grow up in a school environment where the norm is lock-downs and armed teachers, they have little to look forward to as adults. We all have a part to play in fending off this new norm. Thank you to those politicians who are stepping up to lead in the right direction. Their voices will prevail over the monied fear-mongering NRA.

Thank you Senator Champion for your tenacity and courage,

Kathleen Murphy
Grandma for Gun Control

Pesky facts.

1. The Girandoni repeating rifle was invented in 1779 so REPEATING, non-muzzle loading rifles with self contained ammunition were contemplated in 1791. The Puckle gun was patented in 1718. The desirability was there and the door was open. Radio waves were neither.

2. The Bill of Rights is about "rights" not needs. Most of us will never have a need to remain silent but, nevertheless, all of us have the right to do so. Use of a Constitutional right is our choice.

3. Guns are not ambulatory nor self-motivating. They are pieces of machined steel which gather dust and rust without HUMAN intervention. Humans can have the WILL to kill, inanimate objects do not. The Human mind determines what, when, how, and how many. Machined steel has no volition.

4. London (where guns are banned) just topped NYC (where guns are widely held) in murders. How? They use knives. Now the UK is in a "ban the knife" frenzy. What is needed is a ban on "evil" people roving our streets and schools. As long as the human is free, he can CHOOSE to kill.

Given That

Murder is much more efficiently accomplished with a gun than a knife, it is entirely possible that the murder rate in London would be much higher were guns more available. (And if knives are just as effective as guns, why all the hullabaloo about guns? Just buy a knife.)

This suggestion that a law will not be 100% effective in preventing a particular crime is ridiculous. We don't apply that standard to laws against bank robbery, rape, tax evasion, or driving while intoxicated. Why would we apply that to standard to guns?

Assault guns

Thank you, Senator Champion for a well written piece on the topic. He is my State Senator and he really knows his facts and really knows how to run a town hall meeting. Yes, hunters would not be using these guns. It is so sad that bills get tabled at the Capitol, like background checks, which the majority of people want, by certain parties who want to hold power over others. This was got to stop, so people need to vote these people out.

Yes, Indeed it is a well written piece on this important topic.

Thank you again, Senator Champion. Now it's up to American voters to do just what Kathie said, vote these people out and start protecting our children from these dangerous weapons that no one really needs. We can still have our 2nd amendment rights just like this article points out; however, we don't need weapons of war in American citizens' hands.

Assault Weapons

Assault weapons may or may not be used for hunting, but that cannot be the real issue here. Guns, in and of themselves, are not the "problem". Few people will argue against the use of guns for sports-minded hunting and recreational use. The "problem" is that we have developed in this country, alone among all countries, the notion that individuals need guns of all kinds to protect themselves against a nameless and unidentifiable threat, anytime, anywhere, any way. So we have laws on the books now promoting conceal-and-carry and stand-your-ground that have nothing to do with hunting or gun safety. It is "gun culture" -- a culture where it is a "right" to use guns of all kinds when and if deemed necessary by any individual, whether or not that individual is schooled in the use of guns in an open society -- that is the threat to democracy.

And that perspective leads to . . . .

And that perspective leads to travesties such as a young man who is lost and simply knocks on a door to ask for directions being shot at by someone who somehow felt justified pulling his gun out and just starting to shoot:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/15/602598119/black-teena...

This is what fear-mongering leads to.

The incorrect simplistic NRA's view on what kills.

It isn’t the gun that kills it is the human. The NRA is half right, there is a human involved. A gun is not an inert object and it too is involved. As soon as the trigger is pulled it then becomes the gun that kills. Guns with high capacity magazines and high killing power are strictly weapons of war and should not be available to the public. If weapons of war are not available to the human involved there will far less people killed with the gun. There are those who quote the requirements to change the second amendment. They want you to feel overwhelmed, so you’ll give in, it’s hopeless to make changes, mainly because it helps their case of wanting high capacity killing weapons. The NRA is killing American’s daily with their simplistic definition of what does the killing. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA spokesman, makes millions each year to make his ridiculous comments each time the NRA defends the gun as not being the killer.

"Let’s be clear: Assault rifles are not used for hunting."

A few days ago I started reading an article in the most recent issue of Outdoor Life magazine about hunting feral pigs in Oklahoma. The author recommended six different guns to use when hunting the wild porkers, two of them AR-15s.

Now

Now I actually agree with the Senator, however I also see why the NRA supporters are so nervous about the slippery slope. Here the topic is purely regarding very lethal weapons that are not protected by the 2nd amendment. As a judge just ruled again recently.
http://give2attain.blogspot.com/2018/04/assault-weapons-not-protected.html

And then next thing commenters are complaining about conceal and carry laws... How do we get both sides to allow people to carry the appropriate weapon for the current situation?

The NRA is correct that a "good person" with a hand gun can make a difference in a bad situation...

The NRA Good Person with a gun is bunk

Those who have conceal and carry permits have a big responsibility which many won't be able to live up to. Just because a person has a permit and a gun doesn't make them good with it. You have to practice to get good and most won't practice. Some are going to shoot and cause collateral damage hitting people that are not involved which equal law suits for them. Many conceal and carry folks are going to end up in jail because they shot under the wrong circumstance. There are specified requirements when you can and can't shoot. The NRA cries they are going to take our guns away is not true. The weapons of war, high capacity, high firing rate, mass killing guns are the ones that need to be removed. They are not target practice or hunting weapons they are weapons of war. The NRA is not the publics friend. The only real friends the NRA has are the gun industry. The more fear and intimidation the NRA can generate the more guns the manufactures will sell.

Response

Bad things may happen if no "good guy" has a gun also. I'll stick with supporting conceal and carry.

Most of my friends own AR15 style weapons for the fun of it and for target practice. They are a great conversation pieces and fun to shoot. I would prefer that they stay in the market, however the loss of innocent life they enable is not worth having that "hobby gun" readily available in our society.

I mean if their legal owners can not held accountable for where they are and how they are used... That is a big problem. Here were my ideas for fixing the problems.
https://give2attain.blogspot.com/2018/03/gun-control-summary.html

Facts Beat Hyperbole

Two independent studies of the so-called "assault" weapon ban of 1984 showed it had little to no effect on gun homicides. Only 2% of all gun homicides are committed by people with rifles of any type, let alone "assault" rifles. More mass shootings are committed with handguns than "assault" rifles. (DOJ)

60% of gun homicides are suicide. Gun homicide has fallen 50% in the past twenty five years. (DOJ and Pew Research) Accidental gun deaths are at their lowest rates since 1903 and represent 1% of all accidental deaths. (National Safety Council)

"Let’s be clear: Assault rifles are not used for hunting. Assault rifles are not used for protection." - Senator Champion. This is factually incorrect.

Senator Champion should present fact-based arguments, not agenda driven opinions that pander to his constituents.

Facts and Data

So I ground the numbers and found that mass shootings are much more lethal thanks to the easy availability of these particular weapons. See here for the numbers.
https://give2attain.blogspot.com/2018/04/lethal-weapon.html