Study says assault weapon ban worked, but Congress cowers from NRA gun lobby

Since 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed the crime bill that included a 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons, Congress has not passed any major laws restricting access to weapons, even though studies confirm the success of the provision expired in 2004 that had prohibited the sale of military-style semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

“A study published in April found that 30 mass shootings, which killed 339 people and injured 1,139, could have been prevented if the assault weapons ban had remained in place,” said gun safety advocate Lisa McCormick, who said voters must be more demanding in order to get elected officials to pay attention to the facts and take action.

McCormick said the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 made the manufacture and civilian use of a defined set of automatic or semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines illegal, until the law expired in 2004.

“Public mass shootings are a significant public health problem that require ongoing systematic surveillance to test and inform policies that combat gun injuries,” said the authors of that study. “As society searches for effective policies to prevent the next mass shooting, we must consider the overwhelming evidence that bans on assault weapons and/or large-capacity magazines work,” they said.

Although there is widespread agreement that something needs to be done to stop public mass shootings, opinions on exactly which policies that entails vary, such as the prohibition of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

“NRA-funded Republicans are helping the gun industry profit,” said Sarah Okeson, whose 24-year-old daughter, Aviva Okeson-Haberman, died from a gunshot wound in April 2021. “House Republicans are pressuring the Biden administration to drop its proposed ghost gun rule.”

“Our nation’s lawmakers have even blocked the ATF from making a searchable database to trace weapons used in my daughter’s killing and other crimes,” said Sarah Okeson. “Our nation’s federal system for tracing guns is so bad that even the online card catalog of a small-town public library is more advanced.”

Astonishingly, the National Tracing Center (NTC) in Martinsburg, West Virginia—a division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)— is the only government organization authorized to trace U.S. and foreign manufactured firearms for international, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies but it has a record-keeping system that lacks basic functionalities standard to every other database created in the modern age.

“The Senate has repeatedly rejected measures to prevent suspected terrorists from buying a gun or close the loophole that allows many individuals to buy weapons without undergoing background checks,” said McCormick. “So strong is the corrupt lobbying power of wealthy interests that President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, David Chipman, is languishing more than four months after he was nominated to lead the agency because the NRA hates him.”

Chipman is a 25-year veteran of the agency-turned-policy expert and advocate at the gun safety organization Giffords.

“Americans must rise up to the responsibility of citizenship,” said McCormick. “Until voters hold corrupt and ineffectual politicians accountable for their bad behavior, we will not be safe from gun violence or any of the dangers that can be solved by honest and effective government.”

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