Assault weapons are semiautomatic firearms that can kill many people in a short period of time due to the weapons’ rapid rate of fire and high muzzle velocity – such firepower is increased when high-capacity magazines are attached, allowing the shooter to fire more rounds without needing to reload. These weapons of war have been used in many of the deadliest mass shootings in America. The Assault Weapons Ban (S.25 in the 118th Congress/H.R.1808 in the 117th Congress) would ban semiautomatic weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, require background checks on all sales or transfers of grandfathered assault weapons, and mandate safe storage of grandfathered weapons – all of which would help safeguard American communities.
In 1994, Congress passed a federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 and was not renewed. In the decade the assault weapons ban was in effect, 89 people died in 12 mass shootings. From 2004 to 2014 – the decade after the ban expired – over 300 people were shot and killed in 34 mass shootings, representing a 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in fatalities. Mass shootings and gun violence have since increased in the U.S., traumatizing many American families and communities.
These weapons of war make mass shootings deadlier, higher-casualty events where more people are murdered or injured. Americans have become too familiar with this carnage: year after year, mass shootings have happened in houses of worship, nightclubs, schools, grocery stores, and other everyday places, destroying lives, families, and communities in mere minutes, were covered with extensive and upsetting news reports and met with widespread public outcry, yet Congress failed to act.
In shootings where assault weapons or high-capacity magazines are used, 155 percent more people are shot and 47 percent more people are killed. Some of the deadliest mass shootings in America have involved assault weapons, including Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Uvalde, the Tree of Life shooting, and many others. By the fourth week of January 2023, at least 69 people were murdered in 39 mass shootings across the United States.
According to an Everytown for Gun Safety study of mass shooters from 2009 to 2020, mass shooters often displayed warning signs before the attacks and were prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of the shooting. An assault weapons ban would minimize the possibility of any more mass shootings. The same study reported that two-thirds of mass shooters legally owned their firearms at the time of the shooting - emphasizing the need to ban assault weapons altogether in order to safeguard our communities.
In the aftermath of the Uvalde mass shooting, Uvalde pediatrician Dr. Roy Guerrero testified before Congress: "[W]hat I did find was something no prayer will ever relieve. Two children, whose bodies had been so pulverized by the bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been so ripped apart, that the only clue as to their identities was the blood-spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them.” Weapons of war that are capable of such heinous devastation and death have no place in civil, peaceful society. Mass shootings have a ripple effect beyond the initial attack in the communities they touch, seeding generations of trauma and pain felt by the community long after.
The Assault Weapons Ban (H.R. 698/S.25) would ban the importation, sale, trade, and possession of semiautomatic weapons or large capacity ammunition feeding devices. It would require background checks on all sales or transfers of grandfathered assault weapons and require safe storage of grandfathered weapons. States and localities would be allowed to use funds for voluntary gun buyback programs for grandfathered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) reintroduced the Assault Weapons Ban on January 23, 2023. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1) also re-introduced the bill in the House on February 1, 2023.
Urge your members of Congress to support the Assault Weapons Ban.
The Prophet Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth to “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4). Leviticus 19:16 teaches, "Do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is shed." Further, the Talmud teaches us that one should not sell dangerous people weapons or accessories to weapons or help them with their weapons by sharpening them (Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 15b). We are complicit in the destruction of lives and communities when we fail to keep weapons like semiautomatic weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Mass murderers with assault weapons have stolen countless lives, injured even more, and aggrieved communities too numerous to count.
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