Reinstate assault weapon ban

To the editor,

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the nearly 600 victims and their families of the largest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. The mass carnage made that city into a war zone. But our response needs to include more than prayers and moments of silence. We need to act to prevent more mass shootings, which are now occurring at an average of more than one per day.

The weapons of choice for such mass shootings are known as assault weapons. They were designed for the battlefield, which is the only place they should be allowed. They can rapidly fire bullets as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. They are easily adapted to become automatic in which a single pull of the trigger can spray bullets with no pause.

The hopeful news in taking on such a monumental challenge is that New Jersey has banned such weapons since 1991 and they were banned nationally from 1994-2004. Tragically, the national ban sunset after 10 years, so it automatically expired when President George W. Bush refused to seek its renewal.

New Jersey’s ban is a good model for a renewed national ban. In 1993, after the NRA had helped elect a majority in the New Jersey Legislature, it voted to rescind New Jersey’s Ban. Then Governor Florio vetoed the rescission, but a vote to over-ride that veto easily succeeded in the NJ Assembly. Three weeks later, a vote was scheduled in the NJ Senate. Opponents mobilized intensively, about 70 percent of New Jerseyans wanted to keep the ban and urgently contacted their senators.

What followed was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a legislative miracle: not a single senator voted to rescind the ban! When the senator who represented my district, who supported the NRA, was asked why he voted to keep the ban, he said it was because he got 2,000 phone calls, 90 percent of which urged keeping the ban.

The fact that we were successful in breaking the NRA’s stranglehold in New Jersey at least partly inspired the successful effort the next year to pass the National Assault Weapons Ban. Despite that fact that, unlike the New Jersey Ban, it included a grandfather clause, reputable  studies showed that the National Ban resulted in a nearly 2/3 reduction in shootings with assault weapons.

We can seek to pass a National Assault Weapons Ban again and press to have it introduced and voted on before the 2018 Congressional elections.

– Rev. Robert Moore, executive director, Coalition for Peace Action, Princeton University