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 mass shootings and a 239 percent increase in fatalities. A 2019 study estimates that mass shooting deaths were 70 percent less likely to occur when the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was in effect.
Mass shootings and gun violence have since increased in the U.S., traumatizing many American families and communities. In the first six weeks of 2024, 75 people were killed and 140 were injured in 44 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
States with restrictions on magazine size have half the rate of mass shootings as states without restrictions. In fact, laws restricting magazine size are by far the strongest predictor of a state’s mass shooting rate. These weapons of war make mass shootings deadlier, higher-casualty events. 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 those in Las Vegas, Orlando, Parkland, Sutherland Springs, Uvalde, Pittsburgh, and many others. The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School had an assault weapon and ten 30-round magazines in his possession. According to Sandy Hook Promise, in 4 minutes, he shot 154 bullets, killing 20 children and 6 adults. When he had to pause to reload, 11 children were able to escape.
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. The Assault Weapons Ban is sponsored by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate and Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA-7) in the House.
Jewish scripture encourages the peaceful pursuit of our mutual welfare. Isaiah calls on the people of the earth to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4). We are commanded to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the great good of society.
It will never be enough just to say that we are not the ones picking up the gun and taking innocent lives. Jewish tradition teaches us, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed” (Leviticus 19:16). When we have the power to make a difference, and still choose to do nothing, we are partly responsible for the epidemic of gun violence that is going on around us. We are taught, “He who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). We are all responsible for protecting the lives of others.
For More Information
For more information, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant CJ Wechsler at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the RAC's Gun Violence Prevention issue page.
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