I asked this question last week of the candidates for president now campaigning in Iowa, and I think that for most of the American people [pdf] the answer is clearly "no."
In the last 10 days, two states in the heart of the country have sustained mass shootings by people armed with military-style assault rifles - two attacks with assault weapons in less than a week. One shooter attacked a mall full of employees and Christmas shoppers in Omaha. The other attacked a church in Colorado.
Together, they left 12 people dead.
Yet today assault weapons remain perfectly legal to buy in gun stores and gun shows across the country, in unlimited quantities. Perhaps even more shocking, the type of bullet many assault weapons fire (7.62mm full metal jacket) can penetrate four categories of police body armor [pdf]. There is no legitimate reason the public should have this kind of access to military-style assault weapons.
It's also frustrating that when a UPS employee raised concerns on September 13 about the "multiple boxes" of ammunition the Colorado shooter had delivered to his postal box, police officers said there was nothing illegal. No limits on the number of guns; no limits on ammunition; very minimal limits on the type of guns -- no wonder we have problems.
Since the terrible shootings last week, leading newspapers are joining the call. Here is a sample of what they're saying.
The New York Times:"Until recently, the nation did have a law designed to protect the public from assault rifles and other high-tech infantry weapons. In 1994, enough politicians felt the public's fear to respond with a 10-year ban on assault-weapons that was not perfect but dented the free-marketeering of Rambo mayhem. Most Americans rejected the gun lobby's absurd claim that assault rifles are "sporting" weapons. But when it came up for renewal in 2004, President Bush and Congress caved to the gun lobby and allowed the law to lapse."
The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The troubled 19-year-old in Omaha used his stepfather's AK-47-type assault weapon to unleash 30 rounds of gunfire on innocent victims, and then killed himself. Who needs a gun like that around the house?"
The Washington Post: "The AK-47 assault rifle that an Omaha teenager pilfered from his stepfather was among the guns outlawed under the ban on assault weapons that Congress and President Bush unwisely allowed to lapse. Why that kind of gun should be so easily available to someone as troubled as that 19-year-old is unfathomable. Eight people shopping or working at a mall died as a result."
To protect ourselves and our police [pdf], these weapons of war should be kept out of the hands of civilians.
Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.