Nation’s Top Cops Ask Congress To Ban Assault Weapons

August 16, 2019by Mark Puente
Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department Michel Moore addresses a news conference at LAPD headquarters on April 2, 2019. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

LOS ANGELES — After back-to-back mass shootings killed at least 31 people and injured dozens more in Texas and Ohio, police chiefs in the nation’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, called on the nation’s top lawmakers to enact another ban on assault weapons and other measures to prevent mass killings.

In a two-page letter sent Monday to President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Major Cities Chiefs Association urged the elected leaders to “move forward with a broad legislative response” that included universal background checks, red flag laws, an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines and other commonsense legislation” to “reduce the scourge of everyday gun violence and the slaughter of innocent people during what feels like never-ending mass shooting events.”

“You are the Nation’s most senior elected leaders and you have the opportunity to make impactful, thoughtful, and pragmatic decisions that will surely save lives and restore a sense of safety and security to the American people,” wrote Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, president of the group. “We call on you to exercise the political VALOR required to make these changes, which would still pale in comparison to the VALOR demonstrated by our first responders during their brave and selfless response to active shooter and other violent situations.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said he supports the measures and that Congress should heed the advice of police chiefs.

“Let’s put it back in place,” Moore told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday about the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. “Our voices should mean something to elected leaders. These weapons are designed to do nothing but kill.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., authored the first nationwide assault weapons ban in 1994, which was signed by President Bill Clinton. But the ban expired 10 years later when George W. Bush was president and it was never renewed.

California is one of seven states, including New York and New Jersey, that have banned assault weapons — commonly described as semiautomatic weapons with detachable high-capacity magazines — and require those who owned the firearms before they were prohibited to register them.

Besides the recent mass shootings, Moore pointed to local events in which gunmen opened fire with assault-style weapons: On Monday, a convicted felon killed a California Highway Patrol officer and injured two others. A rampage in November at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks killed 12, including a sheriff’s deputy.

A weapons ban and other measures are controversial and strike at the core of the Second Amendment for gun advocates, Moore said. A ban won’t end the killings, but he argued that something must be done to stop weapons from flooding streets. Regulating weapons is no different than regulating the safety of automobiles or consumer products, Moore said.

“There are more guns than people in America. It’s easier to get a gun than a driver’s license,” he said.

Monday’s letter from the nation’s top cops is similar to measures they called for last year when a gunman killed 14 students and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Among the measures sought were reinstating the 1994 ban, expanded screening to prohibit individuals with a violent mental health history from gun purchases and “red flag” measures to prevent guns from reaching people who threaten violence and murder, according to a 2018 policy statement.

After the recent shootings, Trump said steps needed to address gun violence included changing mental heath laws and stopping the glorifying of violence in video games. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said.

Last week, the powerful National Rifle Association said it opposed any legislation that “unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

“The inconvenient truth is this: The proposals being discussed by many would not have prevented the horrific tragedies in El Paso and Dayton,” a statement said. “Worse, they would make millions of law abiding Americans less safe and less able to defend themselves and their loved ones.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva characterized the El Paso and Dayton shootings as acts of domestic terrorism and called for banning assault weapons.

“Spare me the ‘now is not the time’ lecture — at the current pace there never will be time to prevent the next one,” Villanueva wrote in a tweet shortly after the events.

In a second tweet, the sheriff added: “It’s time to end the manufacture and sale of semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, period.”


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