Protestors at a gun violence rally in Hartford Monday directed their wrath at President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Elizabeth Hamilton / CT Mirror
The front page of the Aug. 5 New York Post.

Washington – Thirty-one people were killed by semi-automatic weapons in two mass shootings over the weekend, but Democratic leaders have so far avoided calling for the reinstatement of a federal ban on those weapons in favor of a more moderate response.

The weekend’s violence provoked the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, a right-leaning publication, to demand the banning of “weapons of war.”

But Democratic congressional leaders, who could press for action on an assault weapons ban, turned to a more modest response – pressing the GOP Senate to move on House-approved bills that would expand FBI background checks of prospective gun purchasers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said in a joint statement Monday that the Democratic-led U.S. House in February “promptly did its duty and passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.”

“However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has called himself the ‘grim reaper’ and refuses to act on this bipartisan legislation. It is incumbent upon the Senate to come back into session to pass this legislation immediately,” the Democratic leaders said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is the Senate sponsor of an assault weapons ban that is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren also support Feinstein’s bill.

On Monday, Feinstein blamed McConnell for failure to move her bill in the Senate, but there are four bills in the House that would re-establish a federal ban on assault weapons that have failed to move in a chamber controlled by Democrats.

The leading bill was introduced by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and co-sponsored by all five members of Connecticut’s delegation to the U.S. House.

After the weekend’s violence, Cicilline called for the Senate to act on the expanded FBI background check bills – and for the U.S. House to return from its August recess to act on his legislation.

“As we have seen time and time again, it is far too easy for bad people to buy guns in our country. Congress must act now,” Cicilline said.

In his “manifesto” the El Paso gunman lamented that his WASR 10 rifle, an AK-47 variant, couldn’t match the lethality of an AR-15.

That Texas shooting came six days after a gunman killed three people at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., with an AK-47-style weapon legally purchased in Nevada, but illegally brought to California, which is one of seven states, including Connecticut, to ban sales of semi-automatic weapons.

Protestors at a gun violence rally in Hartford Monday directed their wrath at President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Elizabeth Hamilton / CT Mirror

The shooter who killed 9 people in Ohio on Sunday used what the police described as an “assault-style rifle” when he opened fire in a busy entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio.

The types of guns used in these killings were banned by the federal government in a wide-
sweeping  crime bill approved by Congress in 1994 and signed into law by former President Clinton.

That federal law included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms that were defined as assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. That ban expired in 2004.

Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday on an assault weapons ban, which would prove much tougher for some House Democrats to support than expanded FBI background check bills.

But Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., on Monday called for votes in the U.S. House and Senate to reimpose it.

“Since the ban on assault weapons expired in 2004, these weapons of war have been used time and time to murder innocent people,” he said. “The House and Senate must vote on the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019. Enough is enough.”

Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, also called for stronger action than that being proposed by his Democratic leaders.

“Today, I call on the Congress to finish the work of requiring that anyone exercising their Second Amendment rights undergoes a background check to ensure that they are not a danger to others,” Himes said. “I also call upon the Congress to remove every weapon of war from our streets. Assault rifles, 100 round ammunition drums, bump stocks and silencers must be in police stations and military barracks and nowhere else.”

Rep. John Larson, D-Hartford, took aim at Republicans during a rally in Hartford on Monday, saying they have blocked sensible gun laws. Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

After the 1994 midterm elections, many Democrats blamed historic losses in the House and Senate on their support for stricter gun laws. Serious discussion of gun control measures did not happen again until the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But the National Rifle Association, which spent millions attacking Democrats who voted for the 1994 gun control legislation, is in disarray now.

Three NRA board members resigned last week amid continued legal battles and infighting that has shaken the gun-rights group.

And public sentiment for stricter gun control laws is growing. A July survey by the Watson Center for Public Policy, taken before the latest mass killings,  showed 65 percents of voters said they support a ban on assault weapons  — 49 percent of Republicans polled and and 84 percent of Democrats.

NRA, Trump focus on mental health

The NRA on Monday said it “welcomes the President’s call to address the root causes of the horrific acts of violence that have occurred in our country.”

In remarks Monday at the White House, President Donald Trump urged the nation to condemn bigotry and white supremacy and focus on combating mental illness.

The president outlined a number of possible steps, including so-called “red-flag laws,” that focus on better identifying mentally ill people who should not be allowed to purchase firearms.

“It has been the NRA’s long-standing position that those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms and should be admitted for treatment,” the NRA said in a statement in response to the weekend’s violence.

Connecticut was a leader in implementing a “red flag” law, which allows the seizure of guns from people who might hurt themselves or others. The state approved this law in 1999, in response to a mass shooting at a state lottery office.

Another gun rights group, considered more radical than the NRA, pressed Congress and state legislatures to do nothing.

Senior Vice President of Gun Owners of America Erich Pratt said the shootings in El Paso, Tex., and Dayton, Ohio “are tragic, yet they remind us that life is precious and worth protecting — and that firearms in the hands of honest citizens are the best way to protect both liberty and security.”

“This is why GOA is calling on the president, Congress and state legislatures to utterly reject any calls for gun control, including Universal Background Checks, so-called ‘Assault Weapon’ Bans, and so-called Red Flag laws.”

Connecticut was also a pioneer in banning assault weapons, approving legislation to do so in 1993. But the weapon used by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza was a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S rifle, modified by the manufacturer to not fit Connecticut’s definition of an assault weapon.

After Lanza killed 20 first graders and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut beefed up its gun laws to outlaw the weapon Lanza used.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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  1. Note to Reps. Larson and Himes (and just about every other “Progressive”)—Semi-automatic rifles are NOT weapons of war. Having military family members and friends currently serving in our great Nation’s military, if they were issued a semi-auto rifle as their weapon, I’d encourage them to leave the military as soon as they were eligible…and pray they lived long enough to do so.

  2. It’s easy to see that the authors of this piece have little understanding of firearms by the line:
    “… illegally brought to California, which is one of seven states, including Connecticut, to ban sales of semi-automatic weapons.”

    CT does NOT ban semi-automatic weapons. Most handguns are semi-automatic. Many hunting rifles are semi-automatic. CT does ban fully-automatic weapons and the ludicrously defined assault-style (NOT function) rifles.

  3. It’s easy to see that the authors of this piece have little understanding of firearms by the line:
    “… illegally brought to California, which is one of seven states, including Connecticut, to ban sales of semi-automatic weapons.”

    CT does NOT ban semi-automatic weapons. Most handguns are semi-automatic. Many hunting rifles are semi-automatic. CT does ban fully-automatic weapons and the ludicrously defined assault-style (NOT function) rifles.

  4. I have no issue with background checks, or a unified shared database across all law enforcement agencies. Additionally, I think keeping firearms out of the hands of those that have been “proven” to be mentally unstable, is justified. But the one question I keep asking myself is, “If the government mandated maximum minimum sentences for gun related crimes, and mandated the Death Penalty for any homicide committed with a firearm, would this level of gun related violence still exist?” I wonder…

    1. I suspect that many of these incidences are ‘copy-cat’ events. Someone who isn’t too stable becomes enamored with the notoriety achieved by the act and begins to formulate a way by which they could out-do the previous. They are also likely to be content with suicide by law enforcement. Their primary goal being to go out with a ‘bang’ (pun intended) and having their name splashed in the headlines and newscasts around the globe.

      I submit that their name should NEVER be publicized. Who they were should never be published, and their name stricken from every record possible. They should forever remain anonymous, and only the victims names should be known.

      Of course, in today’s media environment that would be impossible to make happen. Particularly if they should survive the carnage.

    2. Capital punishment has lost favor in the US. Too many people have been exonerated either while on death row or after being executed. Also, too many mass murders using hand guns have a death wish and end up killing themselves.

  5. Our Civil Rights were authored by the Founders of the our Nation and the Framers of the Constitution for very important reasons; they codified those Civil Rights in the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution; the Second Amendment is there for a reason fundamental to the founding and maintenance of The Republic and it is just as important as all of the other nine Amendements contained in the Bill of Rights.

    I value the Founders of this Republic and the Framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and their wisdom, sage insights, and Revolutionary thoughts and works over any politician that followed after them and certainly more than any politician in existence today. The Founders knew what they were doing, they did things for a purpose, and they authored The Second Amendment in plain English for a very important reason.

    1. Two, you sound like an educated, thoughtful person, which is perplexing because your perspective on the Second Amendment is not based on fact. Key word being “regulated,” as in the government can regulate citizens bearing arms. Conservative SCOTUS Scalia acknowledged that fact in his majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller:
      “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. ‘Miller’ said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U.S., at 179, 59 S.Ct. 816. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”
      Only after dealing with this winning argument on government regulation of guns, comes into play the application of the 2nd Amendment in today’s world, a far cry from that over 200 years ago. Example: there were no hand-held assault weapons that could shoot 36 people in 9 seconds (Dayton massacre), so the founders could not possibly see a need to specify the use or regulation of these weapons when they wrote the 2nd Amendment. Does that mean if something isn’t specifically stated in the Constitution, it is automatically unconstitutional? Of course not. .

      1. Hi Diane, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

      2. Thanks for the notice. So that you don’t have to respond unless I’m wrong, I’ll ask in this manner — I assume that is 1,000 characters not including spaces spaces?

      3. The shortest, most simply written Amendment of the Bill of Rights is not difficult to understand at all. You just need to have a thorough working knowledge and understanding of English and English grammar and be honest in what is read about what was written.

        Amendment II

        A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

        The Founders, including the Framers, were violent revolutionaries who believed in a person’s inherent right to self-defense, individually and collectively, as their writings, adherence to the Magna Carta and over a thousand years of English Common Law make clear; who had the full intentions of waging just war against the tyrannical government of Great Britain; obviously they would not consent or expect to be disarmed individually or as a people and nation. This is part of the legacy they established and bequeathed to us, their descendants.

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