OUR OPINION: CONGRESS SHOULD REVISIT A BAN ON ASSAULT WEAPONS
Posted on Tue, Sep. 18, 2007
Since Congress lifted a 10-year-old ban on assault weapons in 2004, the military-style rifles have become increasingly popular as a weapon of choice for criminals and people bent on violence. Seung-Hui Cho used a high-capacity assault weapon to kill 32 people at Virginia Tech last April. Shawn LaBeet used an AK-47 last week to outgun four Miami-Dade police officers, killing one and injuring three. These high-profile killings should be reason enough for Congress, now led by a slim Democrat majority, to try again to reinstate the ban -- or at least make it tougher to buy assault weapons.
Law-enforcement agencies around the country report that assault weapons are now being routinely used by gangs and in street crimes. The rapid-fire, high-powered rifles give criminals a decided advantage in any exchange of gunfire. In self defense, police departments in South Florida and throughout the country are adding assault weapons to their arsenals.
Since the ban was lifted, Congress has been reluctant to try again to outlaw assault weapons, in part, because of the strength in opposition of the National Rifle Association, and because of Americans' growing ambivalence about gun control. A Gallup Poll showed that the percentage of people who favor stricter gun-sale laws dropped from a high of 78 percent in 1990 to a low of 51 percent in 2002. The new Democrat majority in Congress, which includes some members from conservative pro-gun districts, may find it hard going to muster enough support for a renewal of the assault-weapon ban.
Nevertheless, murderous rampages like those committed by Shawn LaBeet and Seung-Hui Cho make it clear that doing nothing is not a viable option. Congress mustn't let criminals get the upper hand. Lawmakers should renew the fight to keep assault weapons out of the hands of determined killers.