Durbin: Assault weapons ban more likely in wake of Newtown school shootings

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), the Senate’s second-ranking Democratic leader, says an assault weapons ban could pass after the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.  

Durbin said there was no chance of Congress reinstituting the assault weapons ban after the shooting spree this summer at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

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Durbin, however, likened the Newtown killings’ potential impact on public opinion to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I think that what happened in Newtown, Conn., may at least lead some to finally decide to sit down and have this conversation,” Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I really think we may have a chance because of this terrible tragedy. That’s what happened after 9/11. It can happen after Newtown, Conn., as well.”

Congress passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, which regulated semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices. It expired in 2004 and was seen as a political liability for Democrats and a factor in their loss of the Senate and House majorities in the 1994 mid-term election.

Durbin said there needs to be a national conversation on violence, school safety and gun control. He called on members of Congress and the public to “calmly discuss all the options”.

He said members of Congress need to review the legality of assault weapons, such as the M-4 Bushmaster rifle wielded at Sandy Hook by Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old gunman, who committed suicide after shooting 20 children.

He said the availability of high-capacity ammunition magazines and body armor should also receive scrutiny.

“Are there guns that really shouldn’t be sold across America, military assault weapons, such as the one that was involved in this horrific incident in Connecticut?” Durbin said. “Are there high-ammunition clips, high-capacity ammunition clips that really have no value whatsoever when it comes to sporting and hunting and even self-defense?  

“Can we have a thoughtful calm, reflection on these things and do it in the context of the Second Amendment? I think we need to,” Durbin said.

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