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Time For a Federal Assault Weapons Ban

Many are asking what we can do to better protect innocent people from gun violence. State legislative opportunities for improvement are limited -- we need a federal solution.

Aching for the Sandy Hook children and for the teachers who gave the last full measure of devotion trying to save them, many are asking once again what we can do to better protect innocent people.  To substantially reduce handgun and assault weapon availability, we need a federal solution.

From the facts of the case as they continue to emerge in the press, it appears that the shooter’s mother legally purchased the semiautomatic Bushmaster .223 assault rifle that the shooter used in the school.  Allowing these weapons to be available to the general public, even with background checks, makes it all too likely that they will fall into the wrong hands.

The opportunity for legislative action on the issue in Massachusetts is limited because (a) Massachusetts already has strong gun laws and (b) so many other states have weak laws and guns can easily cross state lines.

 

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence does identify some possible improvements in Massachusetts gun laws.   We should do what we can to strengthen our existing controls.

Additionally, we should review our school security and emergency plans.  The state already requires schools to have plans to address potential shootings.  In 2000, the legislature included the following language in the state budget for FY01:

“Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the superintendent of each school district shall, prior to the beginning of the school year, meet with the fire chief and police chief of the city, town or district to formulate a school specific “Multi-hazard evacuation plan” for each school under the superintendent’s supervision. Said multi-hazard evacuation plan shall encompass, but not be limited to, evacuations for fires, hurricanes and other hazardous storms or disasters in which serious bodily injury might occur, shootings and other terrorist activities, and bomb threats. Said plan shall be designed for each school building after a review of each building. Said plan shall include, but not be limited to: (1) establishment of a crisis response team; (2) a designation as to who is in charge of said team and designated substitutes; (3) a communication plan; (4) crisis procedures for safe entrance to and exit from the school by students, parents and employees; and (5) policies for enforcing school discipline and maintaining a safe and orderly environment during the crisis. Each district, with the assistance of the local police and fire departments, shall annually review and update as appropriate said plan. At the beginning of each school year, students at each school shall be instructed as to the plan that is developed.

Finally, we should consider what more we can do to recognize and address the kinds of personal and mental health issues that create a propensity to mass violence.

It should be clear, however, that to substantially reduce the availability of the kinds of weapons that the Connecticut shooter used, we need a federal solution — guns are all too easy to transport across state lines.  Some Democrats in Congress are preparing to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban, but according to the Atlantic Wire,  in the Republican-controlled House, that proposal will face some opposition:

[Rep. Louie] Gohmert [of Texas] said Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung could have survived if she had a gun of comparable size in her office when Lanza started shooting. ”I wish to God she had had an M4 in her office locked up and so when she heard gunshots … she  takes his head off before he can hurt those kids,” he said. Gohmert agreed that the country needs to have a national conversation on gun control, but urged the  conversation be “open minded.”

All is lost if we need to have all of our school administrative staff trained in the defensive use of assault weapons.  Let us hope that our leaders can come together on this issue at the national level.

As state senator, I always appreciate feedback and I can be reached at my office at 617-722-1280 or by email at william.brownsberger@masenate.gov.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John DiMascio December 18, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Firstly, I don't own a gun, never have, never will. I don't like the things. And I don't need a cool looking gun to be an extension of my masculine anatomy. HOWEVER ! For the record Senator, the weapon found on the scene was a Bushmaster 223. It's not an Assault Rifle. It's not a military grade rifle. It simply made to look like one. In this case it looks like a commonly used NATO Rifle. Of course the NATO rifle is fully automatic. It's designed to be used in battle. The Bushmaster, often mistakenly called an AR 15 (which is the name of the real thing) fires a 223 caliber round. About the same as a 22. It's made to look menacing because those who own for protection, want an a weapon that looks intimidating so that a possible intruder will surrender his pea shooter when he sees it. The hope is that no round ever need be fired at the intruder. But the 2nd Amendment doesn't exist so citizens can protect themselves from intruders. It exists so that citizens, if necessary in time of tyranny can enforce the 1st Amendment Senator. The same 1st Amendment you and I seek to protect from those who now fancy tampering with. So I appreciate you're strong defense of the 1st Amendment from the those who want to butcher free speech. But lets remember why the 2nd Amendment exists. The issue here is not guns. It's a mentally unstable person walking the streets unchecked. And exploiting this tragedy to destroy this 2nd Amendment is uncalled for Will.
Will Brownsberger December 18, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Thanks, John. I think we can probably agree that the 2nd amendment doesn't allow citizen access to all levels of arms. We can probably agree that there is no right of private citizens to own nuclear bombs. The question is where do you draw the line. I think the Bushmaster level semi-automatic weapon, although I don't mean to compare it to a nuclear weapon, is probably above the OK line. That's what the discussion has to be about.
John DiMascio December 18, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Steven, first of all the guy had to hand guns. There are reports that the Bushmaster was found on the scene, we don't know yet what weapons were used. We need to hear back from ballistics. Second, the gun fires like any ordinary semi-automatic rifle. It fires as fast as you can pull a trigger. Third, if you remotely understood history, you'd understand the intent of Founding Fathers' when they put included the 2nd Amendment in the Constitution. It was precisely for that reason. Fourthly, a 223 is and 5.56 are both about the same as a 22. In fact the US army first rejected the M16, because the round is very much like a 22. Check you facts. Fifthly,if you don't like that reason, then get 2/3 of the House and Senate to pass an Amendment and then get 3/4 of the states to ratify, otherwise see Article V as to your other option to change the Constitution. Senator, yes we can agree that private citizens shouldn't own nuclear weapons, shoulder fired missiles, grenade launchers, and a variety of specific military use weapons. But the Bushmaster is not a military grade or use weapon. In fact even the main stream liberal media, is careful to call it military "style" weapon. It's made to look like something that it is not. The fact is we have tons of gun laws. They don't get enforced. But we keep passing more.
John DiMascio December 18, 2012 at 05:09 PM
A mad man killed over 20 people. Someone that probably shouldn't have been out on the streets unsupervised. I'm all for protecting the civil rights and liberties of the mentally ill. But surely there must be something reasonable between keeping folks in a padded room and just letting them go unchecked and unmonitored. Every time some like this happens, we find out that it's a deeply sick individual. In the Batman massacre, we found out the guy was writing letters to a college psychiatrist (or something to that effect). Something similar in a Gabbie Giffords' episode. Yet nothing was done to protect the public from these people. So the solution is to do something about the people who are threat to society, before we start talking about taking away the Constitution rights of law abiding, stable folks who for whatever reason want to own a gun.
GB December 18, 2012 at 05:50 PM
In response to the Conn. killings.....How many millions of babies have been aborted since Roe vs. Wade? How many people are killed by automobiles daily? Where is the outrage there?. How many more violent movies and video games will be produced year after year by those Hollywood liberals who influence the mentally sick part of society then also promote gun control and influence the thinking and actions of that population? Pres. Obama approves of near-term abortions (infanticide) but shows up to shed tears over the latest killings. He wouldn't be looking to further his cause for gun control now, would he? When will the politicians and liberals realize what we need is more morality not more gun control? Morality used to control the actions of society. Today's liberal immorality is ruining it.
John DiMascio December 18, 2012 at 07:26 PM
GB I share you sentiments about the close to 54 million babies that are murdered in the womb in the name of choice. Even worse people actually get paid to it. And of course if we don't as a society respect human life in womb, we won't respect at any other point. That being said: this should be about the victims of this senseless bloody tragedy. I admit that in response to the immediate politicization by the hard left on this subject, I've brought up the same point about the ongoing genocide in the womb. Likewise, I've come to the defense of the 2nd Amendment from this exploitative assault. But that's the way the left works. This is classic Saul Alinsky. In the words of Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel.."never let a good crisis go to waste." Of course Chicago has some of the toughest if not the toughest gun laws and a lot of good it does them. So my conscience tells me neither side should exploit this horrendous violence, we have no choice but respond to the deplorable attempt by some to promote their far left of center position on the gun ownership.
Raymond Hiller December 18, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Make all gun owners buy mandatory liability insurance -- just like car insurance. It is not fair for non-gun owners to pay higher premiums to cover the $5 billion per year in gun accident costs. If Dick Cheney shoots his friend in the face, his insurance covers it and his rates go up, not mine. Let the insurance industry help regulate gun owners. We do it for cars and tobacco, why not guns?
GB December 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I suppose all the criminals will line up for testing and be thrilled to get a license to kill, eh? And look how many accidents are caused by people with driver's licenses. Oh, yah. Make 'em get a license and all will be well. How many more laws do we need? How about one that says, "Thou shalt not kill?" No--can't use that one as folks would have to face up to their immorality. That's no fun!!!!
GB December 18, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Oh, I forgot--all the criminals should be forced to get insurance also. Yah--that'll work.
John DiMascio December 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I believe the point behind making gun-owners purchase insurance is to cover an accident or mishap with the weapon. It's not a completely crazy idea. Of course, any time you bring in insurance, you'll have people committing insurance fraud. People may start shooting themselves or someone else in the foot in a conspiracy to collect the insurance claim. And won't that be a cornucopia for a personal injury attorney (AKA Ambulance Chasers-- Democrat Donor). As for licensing and testing people before we allow them to purchase a gun, well most states already require some kind of licensing. But you can't compare it to driving a car, because owning a gun is right specifically protected in the Constitution Steve. Driving a car isn't. It's been ruled to be a privilege. However, States do have plenary policing powers, the federal government doesn't (See 10th Amendment). I appreciate Senator Brownsberger's genuine concern. It's actually part of the progressive tradition to reform every vice with more legislation -- ergo prohibition. Moreover, we had a Federal Ban on so-called Assault Guns. A lot of good it did at Columbine. But we're getting way off the point of this discussion. In fact gun control is way off topic at this point. We should be grieving the victims.
John DiMascio December 19, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Steven, you just don't get it do you? You're suggesting abrogating a basic and essential constitutional right. First and foremost show me in the Constitution where Congress is authorized to legislate in these matters. Article 1 gives no such authority. There is no clause that can be stretched and distorted. Plenary Policing powers revert back to the States. Secondly, the 2nd Amendment protects the rights of individuals to bare arms. It forbids Congress from encroaching on it. With the advent of the 14th Amendment and the equal protection clause, the 2nd Amendment also applies to the states. Moreover, these so-called assault guns or rifles aren't military weapons. They aren't designed to slaughter human beings anymore than an ordinary semi-automatic rifle the shoots the same round. Get it through your head. These guns are replicas of military weapons. They are made to look intimidating. They have no military application. This is nothing by a straw man and red herring designed to encroach on our 2nd Amendment rights. Maybe you should take up the piano Steve, You certainly don't have a grasp of the Constitution!
John DiMascio December 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Mr. Caveretta, the one's who lack decency are the one trying to exploit a a tragedy in order to promote their anti-American agenda. For the record, I've never visited an NRA website in my life. The information about so-called assault weapons is available on sites such as Wikipedia. And the point is that those guns didn't slaughter anyone. A person did that. A person that didn't belong on the streets unsupervised. He could have used any other weapon with the same capability which isn't classified as an assault rifle, because it's not a replica of a military weapon. So you're the one that wants your own facts. You sir and others like represent a threat to the very nature of our Republic!
John DiMascio December 19, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Steven, for the record, unless my post specifically states that my position with Watertown RTC, I'm speaking for myself and no one else. That being cleared up. Again you want to talk about the round that is being fired by the gun that found on the scene. And lets be clear the madman had two hand guns as well.But the round is akin to a 22 caliber round. Yes it's the same round as the NATO AR15 and the M16. But it is low caliber round. The gun fires as quickly as you can pull the trigger, just like most handguns. So stop the trying to deceive people. And you're right Wikipedia is certainly not the authority, I said sites such as. The information is to found on several sites that simply tell the truth about guns. Now as it relates to clip and the number of rounds, or even the type of round (hollow point etc, etc, etc,) I have no problem regulating those. There is no reason for someone to have clip that holds 10 or 15 rounds. The point here is that the guns that are being targeted aren't any flippen different then a regular 22 caliber semi-automatic hunting rifle. So banning them is just an excuse to further encroach on gun rights. So when you ban these alleged assault rifles, and the next madman shows up with a hunting rifle that has the same semi-automatic capability and round, you'll want to ban those too. It will keep on going till you ban guns. Because that's the agenda. Otherwise we'd be enforcing the existing gun laws!
John DiMascio December 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Steven, I don't hunt, I don't own a gun, I never have and I never will. I'm simply defending the Constitution. The point of having a gun that looks intimidating is to intimidate an intruder, so you won't have to fire it. At least that is why many gun owners like the Bushmaster for home defense. Personally I think a lot of them like these guns because it the look "cool" so to speak and the gun is an extension of the masculine anatomy. That's not the way I think, I don't buy in to the gun toting mentality. That's not my thing. My issue is strictly protecting the Constitution and our rights to bare arms. The same way I defend private property rights, and the same way I defend freedom of Religion and free speech or State's Rights. Steven, seriously we had an Federal Assault Weapons ban for many years. Did it prevent Columbine? Do all the gun laws in Chicago and Washington D.C. work? Seriously, this makes no sense. We have a cultural problem, we have a society that does not respect life. We also have so emphasized the rights of mentally ill, that they are aloud to run around un-monitored. So please, let's start addressing the real issues. It's time we start enforcing the laws that are on the books, address the cultural issues, and do something about the mentally ill roaming the streets. Unless of course your real agenda is to ban all guns. But that's what most proponents of gun control want.
John DiMascio December 20, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Steven, seems to me you're the one with the problem. And you've repeatedly proven that on this and other threads.
GB December 20, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Not sure if this will go out to both John and Steve, but this incident brings out the following: Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, spoke in 1999: I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. Your laws ignore our deepest needs, Your words are empty air. You've stripped away our heritage, You've outlawed simple prayer. Now gunshots fill our classrooms, And precious children die. You seek for answers everywhere, And ask the question "Why?" You regulate restrictive laws, Through legislative creed. And yet you fail to understand, That God is what we need! "Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence...We do not need more restrictive laws. - Darryll Scott Liberals, progressives, whatever--bring back morality and we'll have more civility.
GB December 20, 2012 at 02:13 AM
GB 8:55 pm on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 Not sure if this will go out to both John and Steve, but this incident brings out the following: Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, spoke in 1999: I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. Your laws ignore our deepest needs, Your words are empty air. You've stripped away our heritage, You've outlawed simple prayer. Now gunshots fill our classrooms, And precious children die. You seek for answers everywhere, And ask the question "Why?" You regulate restrictive laws, Through legislative creed. And yet you fail to understand, That God is what we need! "Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence...We do not need more restrictive laws. - Darryll Scott Liberals, progressives, whatever--bring back morality and we'll have more civility.
GB December 20, 2012 at 02:44 AM
John's not writing this. Wake up.
GB December 20, 2012 at 03:03 AM
no wonder you are so confused. You cannot read. The author is the dad of a Columbine High student. Neither John nor I wrote it. Were you born with your liberal/progressive eye shades on or is this a recent Obama malady?
GB December 20, 2012 at 03:15 AM
You have no compassion for the writer and cannot face your own immorality. Facing the truth is very hard for you, Steven. You may have noticed that Brownsberger has stayed out of this fray which he started. Wonder why?
John DiMascio December 20, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Steven, you've consistently failed to address most of my points. 1) The problem is that we allow the mentally ill to walk the streets unmonitored. 2) The cities that have the strictest gun laws have the highest gun crimes. 3) We has a Federal Assault Gun ban (in violation of the 10th Amendment) and it did nothing to prevent Columbine. 4) We don't enforce existing gun laws, but we keep adding more. 5) No matter how much you insist that these are military assault weapons, the fact is they are not. 6) The Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bare arms. It was intended so that citizens can protect themselves from whatever threat, be it an intruder or a tyrannical government. My position is perfectly coherent. The facts and the law are on my side.
John DiMascio December 20, 2012 at 05:09 PM
O-boy Joe Biden is on the case. The same guy who was in charge of preventing waste in the stimulus. No one messes with Joe.
Drewww December 21, 2012 at 11:21 AM
While an "assault weapon" ban is a fancy way of trying to show the public your doing something, it doesn't get to the underlying issues behind gun violence. Semi-automatic rifles are account for a small amount of gun violence and there are guns on the market which are .22 caliber (not .223) sold in other states which should be prohibited under this ban. What is the rational for banning a .22? What we need is a constructive discussion about what we can do to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other unqualified people. The biggest hole here is private sales of firearms. In many states people can buy a gun without a background check and even if they tell the person selling it that they would not be a qualified person if they were to purchases from a gun dealer. A law requiring a license to purchase a gun would stop the flow of guns to criminals (see the fast and furious issue). Also lax gun storage laws in other parts of the country allow for loaded guns to be found by children or be stolen by criminals. Finally I hope that no one thinks that an "assult weapon" ban would have prevented the tragedy down in CT. CT had an ban similar to the 1994 ban so the gun would be legal. Also because of the ban, the 30 round magazines used had to be built before 1993 and therefore would have also been legal under the 1994 ban.

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