Assault weapons bill returns to US Congress

Following latest California mass shooting, Democrats introduce legislation to House which would ban military-style guns.

Senator Lindsey Graham campaigning
US senator and Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham fires an AR-15 during a factory visit in October [EPA]

In the wake of a string of mass shootings across the United States in the past month, Democratic politicians in the US Congress have introduced a new bill to ban assault weapons.

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and 123 other politicians in the House of Representatives introduced the bill on Wednesday to prevent the sale of military-style weapons that can fire multiple bullets in a short period of time.

This would include the popular AR-15, the gun used by the shooter in the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre in December, 2012 that left 20 children dead.

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Assault weapons were also used in the mass killings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June, and in San Bernardino, California, earlier this month.

“The sole purpose of these types of weapons is to kill as many people as quickly as possible,” Cicilline said.

“This bill is an important first step that will restore some sanity to the way we treat guns in the United States.” 

The legislation would prohibit the “sale, transfer, production and importation” of new rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds. It would also extend the time for a background check on anyone who wants to buy a gun.

Democratic lawmakers in the US Senate introduced a similar bill in 2013 but it failed to pass largely because of near-unanimous opposition from Republicans. The GOP now controls Congress and they are unlikely to back the latest bill.

After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he preferred access to better mental health services for Americans rather than gun control, pointing to a bill now before Congress that would allow that.

Richard Luchette, a Cicilline spokesman, acknowledged to DC Dispatches that even though Republicans are unlikely to side with the ban, the purpose of the legislation is to hold lawmakers “accountable for where they stand on this issue”.

This bill also comes as a new poll shows most people – for the first time in 20 years – oppose an assault weapons ban.

Source: Al Jazeera