Bill Clinton calls on lawmakers to reinstate assault weapons ban

Clinton made his point in an editorial for Time magazine after semi-automatic weapons were used in recent massacres in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton.
Image: Former President Bill Clinton listens at a panel in Baltimore in 2017.
Former President Bill Clinton listens at a panel in Baltimore in 2017.Patrick Semansky / AP file

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By Adam Edelman

Former President Bill Clinton called on lawmakers Thursday to reinstate a ban on assault weapons after semi-automatic weapons equipped for war were used in three recent mass shootings.

“The tragedies keep happening, while the one thing that we know can reduce the number and the death tolls of mass shootings has not been done: reinstituting the ban on assault weapons and the limit on high-capacity magazines that was in effect from 1994 to 2004,” Clinton wrote in an op-ed published online Thursday by Time magazine.

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Clinton signed into law a 10-year assault weapons ban in 1994 as a crime bill provision. It expired in 2004. Several studies, including one published in January 2019 in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, have shown that mass shooting deaths were reduced during the years the ban was in effect.

"I worked hard to pass and was proud to sign the ban on these weapons of war into law, and the results were clear: mass shooting fatalities declined while they were in effect and have risen sharply since they were allowed to lapse," Clinton wrote, adding that members of Congress who might support such a measure should not fear losing their seats.

"The gun lobby often invokes the Democratic losses in the 1994 midterm elections after passing the assault-weapons ban and the Brady background-check bill to try to scare lawmakers of both parties into maintaining the status quo,” Clinton wrote. “Today members of Congress will be supported if they reinstate the assault-weapons and large-ammunition magazine bans, and if the Senate passes the universal-background-check law already passed by the House of Representatives.”

Clinton also called on leaders to “stand against, not inflame, the racial, religious and gender-based bigotries that often drive the delusions of mass killers”

Clinton’s editorial came just days after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California, left dozens dead. The suspects in all three attacks used semi-automatic, assault-style weapons.

President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday there was “no appetite” for an assault weapons ban.

However, he has expressed support in recent days for tightening background checks on gun buyers as well as “Red Flag” laws that aim to take guns out of the hands of people deemed at risk of hurting people.