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No Time For Congressional Silence On Assault Weapons

Editorial: No time for a 'moment of silence' on assault weapons

The Courant applauds the message that three Connecticut congressmen sent their colleagues in the House of Representatives on Tuesday by walking out of a "moment of silence" for the victims of the Orlando, Fla. massacre. Congress must do more than stand mute.

Rep. Jim Himes, a centrist-leaning Democrat, put it well to the House on Monday: "Silence. That is how the leadership of the most powerful country in the world will respond to this week's massacre of its citizens. … Not me, not anymore. I will no longer stand here absorbing the faux concern, contrived gravity and tepid smugness of a House complicit in the weekly bloodshed."

Reps. John Larson and Joe Courtney also walked out. Courtney echoed Himes Tuesday: "These so-called moments of silence … it's becoming grotesque. ... The same chamber which ought to be activated and engaged in a common-sense response, instead we get this 16-second blink of an eye as a substitute."

Local legislators found such a common-sense response after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School: The state banned assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, with exceptions for people who already owned weapons.

Critics have argued that Connecticut's law casts too wide a net around legitimate sporting rifles and impinges on citizens' right to defend themselves in their own homes. But the state law does neither of those things. There is no ban on hunting rifles, and although some might choose to use an AR-15 to hunt, it is far from necessary. There is a staggering array of hunting rifles available in various sizes, makes and models suitable for any quarry.

The National Rifle Association, in its own list of the "top 10 hunting rifles," does not mention a single assault weapon.

Similarly, options for personal defense are many. From handguns to shotguns, responsible gun owners who pass the necessary background checks can choose from a wide range.

The risks that the AR-15 models used at Orlando and Sandy Hook pose to society outweigh the convenience, feeling of safety and thrill they provide to responsible gun aficionados.

Australia banned assault weapons in 1996 after 35 people were murdered in Tasmania. The nation bought back more than 640,000 weapons from civilian owners, and tens of thousands of others voluntarily surrendered firearms that weren't banned. A study in the journal Injury Prevention found that in the decade after the ban, there was not one single mass shooting of more than five people.

The Courant has called on Congress to ban assault weapons — but not hunting rifles — for decades, arguing in 1994 that they "have no valid purpose outside the military." We still believe that.

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
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