Time For a Federal Assault Weapons Ban

Many are asking what we can do to better protect innocent people from gun violence. State legislative opportunities for improvement are limited -- we need a federal solution.

Aching for the Sandy Hook children and for the teachers who gave the last full measure of devotion trying to save them, many are asking once again what we can do to better protect innocent people.  To substantially reduce handgun and assault weapon availability, we need a federal solution.

From the facts of the case as they continue to emerge in the press, it appears that the shooter’s mother legally purchased the semiautomatic Bushmaster .223 assault rifle that the shooter used in the school.  Allowing these weapons to be available to the general public, even with background checks, makes it all too likely that they will fall into the wrong hands.

The opportunity for legislative action on the issue in Massachusetts is limited because (a) Massachusetts already has strong gun laws and (b) so many other states have weak laws and guns can easily cross state lines.


The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence does identify some possible improvements in Massachusetts gun laws.   We should do what we can to strengthen our existing controls.

Additionally, we should review our school security and emergency plans.  The state already requires schools to have plans to address potential shootings.  In 2000, the legislature included the following language in the state budget for FY01:

“Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the superintendent of each school district shall, prior to the beginning of the school year, meet with the fire chief and police chief of the city, town or district to formulate a school specific “Multi-hazard evacuation plan” for each school under the superintendent’s supervision. Said multi-hazard evacuation plan shall encompass, but not be limited to, evacuations for fires, hurricanes and other hazardous storms or disasters in which serious bodily injury might occur, shootings and other terrorist activities, and bomb threats. Said plan shall be designed for each school building after a review of each building. Said plan shall include, but not be limited to: (1) establishment of a crisis response team; (2) a designation as to who is in charge of said team and designated substitutes; (3) a communication plan; (4) crisis procedures for safe entrance to and exit from the school by students, parents and employees; and (5) policies for enforcing school discipline and maintaining a safe and orderly environment during the crisis. Each district, with the assistance of the local police and fire departments, shall annually review and update as appropriate said plan. At the beginning of each school year, students at each school shall be instructed as to the plan that is developed.

Finally, we should consider what more we can do to recognize and address the kinds of personal and mental health issues that create a propensity to mass violence.

It should be clear, however, that to substantially reduce the availability of the kinds of weapons that the Connecticut shooter used, we need a federal solution — guns are all too easy to transport across state lines.  Some Democrats in Congress are preparing to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban, but according to the Atlantic Wire,  in the Republican-controlled House, that proposal will face some opposition:

[Rep. Louie] Gohmert [of Texas] said Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung could have survived if she had a gun of comparable size in her office when Lanza started shooting. ”I wish to God she had had an M4 in her office locked up and so when she heard gunshots … she  takes his head off before he can hurt those kids,” he said. Gohmert agreed that the country needs to have a national conversation on gun control, but urged the  conversation be “open minded.”

All is lost if we need to have all of our school administrative staff trained in the defensive use of assault weapons.  Let us hope that our leaders can come together on this issue at the national level.

As state senator, I always appreciate feedback and I can be reached at my office at 617-722-1280 or by email at william.brownsberger@masenate.gov.

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GB December 20, 2012 at 03:03 AM
no wonder you are so confused. You cannot read. The author is the dad of a Columbine High student. Neither John nor I wrote it. Were you born with your liberal/progressive eye shades on or is this a recent Obama malady?
GB December 20, 2012 at 03:15 AM
You have no compassion for the writer and cannot face your own immorality. Facing the truth is very hard for you, Steven. You may have noticed that Brownsberger has stayed out of this fray which he started. Wonder why?
John DiMascio December 20, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Steven, you've consistently failed to address most of my points. 1) The problem is that we allow the mentally ill to walk the streets unmonitored. 2) The cities that have the strictest gun laws have the highest gun crimes. 3) We has a Federal Assault Gun ban (in violation of the 10th Amendment) and it did nothing to prevent Columbine. 4) We don't enforce existing gun laws, but we keep adding more. 5) No matter how much you insist that these are military assault weapons, the fact is they are not. 6) The Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bare arms. It was intended so that citizens can protect themselves from whatever threat, be it an intruder or a tyrannical government. My position is perfectly coherent. The facts and the law are on my side.
John DiMascio December 20, 2012 at 05:09 PM
O-boy Joe Biden is on the case. The same guy who was in charge of preventing waste in the stimulus. No one messes with Joe.
Drewww December 21, 2012 at 11:21 AM
While an "assault weapon" ban is a fancy way of trying to show the public your doing something, it doesn't get to the underlying issues behind gun violence. Semi-automatic rifles are account for a small amount of gun violence and there are guns on the market which are .22 caliber (not .223) sold in other states which should be prohibited under this ban. What is the rational for banning a .22? What we need is a constructive discussion about what we can do to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other unqualified people. The biggest hole here is private sales of firearms. In many states people can buy a gun without a background check and even if they tell the person selling it that they would not be a qualified person if they were to purchases from a gun dealer. A law requiring a license to purchase a gun would stop the flow of guns to criminals (see the fast and furious issue). Also lax gun storage laws in other parts of the country allow for loaded guns to be found by children or be stolen by criminals. Finally I hope that no one thinks that an "assult weapon" ban would have prevented the tragedy down in CT. CT had an ban similar to the 1994 ban so the gun would be legal. Also because of the ban, the 30 round magazines used had to be built before 1993 and therefore would have also been legal under the 1994 ban.


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