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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

President’s Message by Bill Wynn, August 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim… we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes…”

With the victims funerals taking place from the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, we must ask ourselves could this have been prevented? The answer is probably, not yes or no but probably. Despite laws, rules, policies, guidelines, and procedures, as we have seen time and time again, if someone wants to get a gun they will get one. Guns are too easy to purchase. In some states buying a gun is as easy as buying a pack of cigarettes.

Let’s go back to September 13, 1994. Then- President Bill Clinton signed into law the “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” (AWB) (or the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act) which was a subtitle of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a federal law that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, so called “assault weapons”. There was no legal definition of “assault weapons” in the U.S. prior to the law’s enactment.

The ban however only applied to weapons manufactured after the ban went into effect. So for argument sake, a person could purchase a weapon manufactured on September 12, 1994 or prior. The ban wouldn’t apply.

The ban only addressed semi- automatic firearms, that is, firearms that fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled. Neither the AWB nor its expiration changed the legal status of fully automatic firearms ( which fire more than one round with a single trigger-pull). Automatic firearms are regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.

The AWB expired on September 13, 2004. The President at this time was George W. Bush. Why didn’t he urge the Congress to extend the ban with a waiver?

The AWB had a 10 year life. Perhaps intense lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA) had something to do with it. Had it been in effect it probably wouldn’t have stopped the carnage of July 20, 2012. The suspect identified as James Holmes passed all the tests to get his weaponry.

Now comes word that Holmes will be in custody for almost a year in order to prepare for his trial. This case should be given a fast track and a priority, not get bogged down in bureaucracy, scheduling, or budget cuts.

The President has called for the AWB to be brought back into law. With this being an election year, the chances of that happening are very slim. Perhaps we need to do is amend the Constitution to limit the type of weaponry one person could possess. But then the founding fathers never foresaw this type of urban warfare being waged at a public meeting place in this nation.

Something for us to think about…

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