By COLLEEN LONG, MARY CLARE JALONICK and LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Related Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Joe Biden speaks concerning the “scourge” of gun violence, his go-to reply is to zero in on assault weapons.
America has heard it tons of of occasions, together with this week after shootings in Colorado and Virginia: The president needs to signal into legislation a ban on high-powered weapons which have the capability to kill many individuals in a short time.
“The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick. Just sick,” Biden said on Thanksgiving Day.
After the mass killing last Saturday at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, he said in a statement: “When will we decide we’ve had enough? … We need to enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off America’s streets.”
Such a transfer remains to be far off in a carefully divided Congress. However Biden and the Democrats have turn into more and more emboldened in pushing for stronger gun controls — and doing so with no clear electoral penalties.
The Democratic-led Home handed laws in July to revive a Nineties-era ban on assault weapons, with Biden’s vocal help. And the president pushed the weapons ban practically in every single place that he campaigned this 12 months.
Nonetheless, within the midterm elections, Democrats stored management of the Senate and Republicans had been solely in a position to declare the slimmest Home majority in twenty years.
The robust discuss on weapons follows passage in June of a landmark bipartisan invoice on weapons, and it displays regular progress that gun management advocates have been making in recent times.
“I think the American public has been waiting for this message,” mentioned Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has been the Senate’s main advocate for stronger gun management because the bloodbath of 20 youngsters at a faculty in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. “There has been a thirst from voters, especially swing voters, young voters, parents, to hear candidates talk about gun violence, and I think Democrats are finally sort of catching up with where the public has been.”
Simply over half of voters need to see nationwide gun coverage made extra strict, based on VoteCast, an in depth survey of greater than 94,000 voters nationwide carried out for The Related Press by NORC on the College of Chicago. About 3 in 10 need gun coverage stored as is. Solely 14% desire looser gun legal guidelines.
There are clear partisan divides. About 9 in 10 Democrats need stricter gun legal guidelines, in contrast with about 3 in 10 Republicans. About half of Republicans need gun legal guidelines left as they’re and solely one-quarter need to see gun legal guidelines be made much less strict.
When politicians discuss assault weapons, they often imply semi-automatic rifles that may fireplace 30 rounds quick with out reloading. By comparability, most New York Police Division officers carry a semi-automatic handgun that shoots 15 rounds.
As soon as banned in america, the high-powered firearms at the moment are the weapon of selection amongst younger males chargeable for lots of the most devastating mass shootings. Congress allowed the restrictions first put in place in 1994 on the manufacture and gross sales of the weapons to run out a decade later, unable to muster the political help to counter the highly effective gun foyer and reinstate the weapons ban.
When he was governor of Florida, present Republican Sen. Rick Scott signed gun management legal guidelines within the wake of mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty and an evening membership in Orlando. However he has persistently opposed bans on assault weapons, arguing like a lot of his Republican colleagues that almost all gun house owners use their weapons lawfully.
“People are doing the right thing, why would we take away their weapons?” Scott requested because the Senate was negotiating gun laws final summer time. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
He mentioned extra psychological well being counseling, assessments of troubled college students and legislation enforcement on campus make extra sense.
“Let’s focus on things that actually would change something,” Scott mentioned.
Legislation enforcement officers have lengthy referred to as for stricter gun legal guidelines, arguing that the supply of those weapons makes folks much less secure and makes their jobs extra harmful.
Mike Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Division, the nation’s third-largest, mentioned it simply is smart to speak about weapons when gun violence is rising nationwide, and take into account what the federal government can do to make the streets safer. He’s grateful Biden is bringing it up a lot.
“This isn’t a one-and-done,” Moore mentioned of the taking pictures in Colorado Springs. “These things are evolving all the time, in other cities, at any moment another incident happens. It’s crying out for the federal government, for our legislators, to go out and make this change,” he said.
Over the past six months there has been a supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York; a massacre of school children in Uvalde, Texas; and the July Fourth taking pictures of revelers in Highland Park, Illinois.
On Tuesday, six people were shot dead at a Walmart in Virginia.
The legislation that Biden signed in June will, among other things, help states put in place “red flag” laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people judged to be dangerous.
But a ban on assault-style weapons was never on the table.
A 60-vote threshold in the Senate means some Republicans must be on board. Most are are steadfastly opposed, arguing it would be too complicated, especially as sales and varieties of the firearms have proliferated. There are many more types of those weapons – and many more of the weapons themselves – today than in 1994, when the ban was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
“I’d rather not try to define a whole group of guns as being no longer available to the American public,” said Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who is a hunter and owns several guns, some of them passed down through his family. “For those of us who have grown up with guns as part of our culture, and we use them as tools — there’s millions of us, there’s hundreds of millions of us — that use them lawfully.”
In many states where the bans have been enacted, the restrictions are being challenged in court, gaining strength from a Supreme Court ruling in June expanding gun rights.
“We feel pretty confident, even despite the arguments made by the other side, that history and tradition as well as the text of the Second Amendment are on our side,” said David Warrington, chairman and general counsel for the National Association for Gun Rights.
Biden was instrumental in helping secure the 1990s ban as a senator. The White House said that while it was in place, mass shootings declined, and when it expired in 2004, shootings tripled.
The reality is complicated.
The data on the effectiveness is mixed and there is a sense that other measures that are not as politically fraught might actually be more effective, said Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York-Cortland and author of “The Politics of Gun Control.”
Politically, the ban sparked a backlash, even though the final law was a compromise version of the initial bill, he said.
“The gun community was furious,” Spitzer mentioned.
The ban has been blamed in some circles for the Democrats losing control of Congress in 1994, though subsequent research has shown that the loss was likely more about strong, well-funded conservative candidates and district boundaries, Spitzer said.
Still, after Democrat Al Gore, who supported stricter gun laws, lost to 2000 White House race to Republican George W. Bush, Democrats largely backed off the issue until the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Even after that, it was not a campaign topic until the 2018 midterms.
Now, gun control advocates see progress.
“The fact that the American people elected a president who has long been a vocal and steadfast supporter of bold gun safety laws — and recently reelected a gun sense majority to the Senate — says everything you need to know about how dramatically the politics on this issue have shifted,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Associated Press writer Nuha Dolby contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of gun politics at https://apnews.com/hub/gun-politics
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