Senator "," I want to write to you in the hopes that you will oppose any future assault weapons ban, such as that being discussed by Senator Feinstein. Although I am not aware of any specific proposals yet, it is likely that any new assault weapons ban (AWB) will be similar to the last, implemented under President Clinton.
Assuming the goal is to actually reduce the number of homicides and mass murders in this country, a new AWB will be nothing more than a wasted opportunity. The last ban had restrictions on the capacity of new magazines, restricting them to no more than ten rounds, and any new proposal will likely contain this as well. The tragic shooting at Columbine Highschool took place while the previous AWB was in effect. The shooters, instead of modifying their magazines to carry additional rounds (something remarkably easy to do, especially considering the shooters were able to illegally shorten their shotgun below the legal length), decided to bring with them thirteen, ten-round magazines. Clearly, magazine restrictions did not stop crime, nor will they in the future.
The second, main prong of the previous AWB was a restriction on various cosmetic features of rifles, for instance, flash suppressors and bayonet mounts. I understand that many deem these to be military accoutrements with little to no civilian purpose, but that does not make these features inherently dangerous, nor does it make a rifle sporting such features any more lethal. In fact, the Department of Justice concluded, in two studies (one included with this letter) of the previous assault weapons ban that these provisions “target…a relatively small number of weapons based on features that have little to do with the weapons’ operation, and removing those features is sufficient to make the weapon legal.” What’s more, the Justice Department concluded that, viewed as a whole, a reinstatement of the AWB would have such a miniscule effect on crime as to be “too small for measurement.”
I implore you to please show vigorous opposition to any new AWB. It is a wasted opportunity to take real action in reducing gun violence. Strengthen the background check system by requiring stronger reporting from universities (which may have caught the V-Tech killer, as he was diagnosed by his school with mental illness and charged by the school with harassment and stalking) and mental health institutions; require background checks on private gun sales, or allow private individuals to perform checks on the buyer without having to transfer the firearm through a licensed dealer; most importantly, strengthen the mental health system to provide better care upfront to those members of society who fall through the cracks of our understaffed and overworked mental health system. I would even support mandatory safety education and licensing, say every four years, to be allowed to purchase firearms. We cannot make people store their weapons safely, but we can give them the knowledge required.
I also ask that you reconsider the efficacy of “gun free zones.” One must consider how many children would have been saved had the teachers or administrators of Sandy Hook been allowed to be armed. What purpose is served by laws that create “soft target” zones in which we concentrate our most vulnerable and innocent? So many of the recent public mass shootings have occurred in places were either legally or nominally banned. Criminals do not respect gun-free zones, only law abiding citizens, by definition, do.
I know that reasonable measures can be reached; reasonable in that the second amendment and the individual right to own and carry a gun is protected (something extremely important to me and many other New Mexicans), and yet reasonable in that steps to reduce unnecessary and preventable gun violence are taken. I hope that you will carefully consider an appropriate response to these continuing tragedies. I would love to hear back from you about this issue, whether through a public statement on gun control or a private message to me. Thank you for your service.