IT IS no coincidence that the same type of weapon was used to massacre schoolchildren in Connecticut, moviegoers in Colorado, office workers in California and, on Sunday, revelers at a nightclub in Florida. The killers knew the best way to achieve their sick goal of dispatching as many people as possible: Use assault-style weapons capable of firing dozens of rounds in seconds.
“The people we’re talking about, once they get into ‘I want to kill a lot of people,’ it’s not a leap for them to see that these guns are made and designed for war,” Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center told the New York Times after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Nor should it be a leap for a civilized country to prohibit the sale and ownership of weapons designed for war. After the country’s worst mass shooting, and before another American venue is turned into a slaughterhouse, Congress should reinstate the ban on assault-style weapons and the high-capacity ammunition magazines that make them even more lethal.
Authorities said that the gunman responsible for Sunday’s carnage at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, in which 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded, was armed with an AR-15-type assault rifle he had recently purchased legally. It is the kind of weapon that has been used with horrifying frequency. According to a database compiled by Mother Jones magazine, 7 of 8 high-profile public mass shootings since July of last year involved assault-style weapons. A lawyer representing the families of those killed and injured in the Sandy Hook school shooting, in a lawsuit against the manufacturer and distributor of the gun used to kill 26 children and adults, characterized assault weapons as “the gold standard for mass murder of innocent civilians.”
A ban on assault weapons was in effect from 1994 to 2004. There were some imperfections in the law, but rather than fix those Congress bent to pressure from the national gun lobby and let the law lapse. Even more grotesque was Congress’s failure to implement a ban on assault weapons and other common sense gun reforms proposed by President Obama in the wake of 6-year-olds being slaughtered in their classrooms in Connecticut. We have no illusions that the horror of Orlando will cause Congress to jump up and take action.
But for the first time in a long time, gun control is being talked about as part of the campaign for president. Before Sunday’s events, Hillary Clinton had made gun law reform a centerpiece of her campaign, and on Monday she called for reinstating the ban on assault weapons. Weapons of war belong in the armed forces, not in gun shops that cheerfully furnish them to those with one goal only: killing as many innocents as possible, as quickly as possible.