One of the guns that suspect James Holmes used in the Colorado theatre massacre of at least 12 people early Friday morning is quickly reigniting the gun-control debate. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic assault rifle that is a civilian version of the military’s M-16. According to CNN, it’s capable of carrying up to 100 rounds. It shoots one bullet at a time that “may go through two people” at once. And it’s legal in the United States.
After the Aurora Police Department revealed that this was one of the guns Holmes used, outrage ensued online, mostly because the gun would have been a lot harder to purchase under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004. Congress has not voted to replace the bill, which was enacted in 1994 but had a “sunset provision” that let it expire.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the more harsh restrictions it would have faced under the 1994 bill, via The Guardian:
The manufacture and import of AR-15s and similar weapons, such as AK-47s, were banned in the US in 1994. There were also limits on the size of magazines that could be fitted, limiting them to holding no more than 10 bullets.
Those prohibitions fell away 10 years later, and attempts to revive them have failed in the face of objections from the powerful National Rifle Association allowing Holmes not only to purchase the powerful weapon but also to fit it with the magazine drum holding a large number of bullets.
Think Progress also noted that the expiration of the ban closed the loopholes needed to purchase an AR-15.
In 2004, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney signed a permanent assault weapons ban into law in Massachusetts. That included guns like the AR-15.
“I believe the people should have the right to bear arms, but I don’t believe that we have to have assault weapons as part of our personal arsenal,” he said on Fox News in 2004.
On Romney’s campaign website, he suggests that Congress does not need to revisit the assault weapons ban. His campaign website highlights legislation that “expanded the rights” of gun owners that Romney signed while he was governor, but does not mention the assault weapons ban:
Like the majority of Americans, Mitt does not believe that the United States needs additional laws that restrict the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He believes in the safe and responsible ownership and use of firearms and the right to lawfully manufacture and sell firearms and ammunition. He also recognises the extraordinary number of jobs and other economic benefits that are produced by hunting, recreational shooting, and the firearms and ammunition industry, not the least of which is to fund wildlife and habitat conservation.
When President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he said he hoped a new assault weapons ban would be in place by the end of his first 100 days in office. He supports new legislation, but Congress has not brought a new bill to the floor.
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