U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said Monday he will introduce legislation to reinstate a ban on the manufacture and sale of high-capacity ammunition clips like the one allegedly used by Jared Lee Loughner in Saturday’s massacre at a Tucson Safeway store that left six dead and 14 injured, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
High-capacity magazines containing more than 10 bullets were illegal under a federal assault weapons ban in place between 1994 and 2004, when Republicans in Congress successfully allowed the ban to lapse. Loughner, according to police, used several 33-round clips during his deadly shooting spree.
“The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market,” Lautenberg said in a release. “Before 2004, these ammunition clips were banned, and they must be banned again. When the Senate returns to Washington, I will introduce legislation to prohibit this type of high-capacity clip.”
Lautenberg speculates that Loughner would not have been able to kill and wound as many people without the high-capacity clips: “Given that bystanders apprehended him as he attempted to change clips, if Loughner did not have access to the high-capacity magazine that he used, it may have prevented some of the other deaths and injuries that occurred.
The Giffords shooting has ignited a fiery debate about the increasingly violent political rhetoric and imagery – particularly from the right – and the role it may have played in the massacre. It’s also renewing the gun control debate on the backburner since the last major shooting spree.
In Arizona – a state with some of the most lax gun laws in the nation — semiautomatic assault rifles are flowing across the border to Mexico, where the Washington Post recently revealed many such weapons have been traced to the murderous bloodbath being perpetrated by drug cartels. While U.S. gun dealers who sell weapons used in Mexican crimes remain anonymous under a 2003 law passed by Congress, the Post was able to identify the 12 biggest suppliers, and three of them are in Arizona.
The powerful gun lobby has erected numerous legal hurdles in order to obscure its role in the growing border violence, according to the Post, and gun industry backers maintain such weapons also enter Mexico – which has very tough gun laws – through Central America or by way of members of the Mexican military. But Mexican politicians have begged the Obama administration to help stem the flow of guns.
Gun industry backers say criminals will always be able to obtain semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines — even if they’re banned.
In fact, Dylan Klebold, one of the two Columbine High School killers who staged the worst high school massacre in U.S. history near Littleton, Colo., in 1999, used a TEC-9 semiautomatic handgun with high-capacity clips that he illegally purchased from a friend. He had three such magazines: one each holding 52, 32 and 28 rounds.
But critics say the apparent ease with which Loughner — a man rejected by the military and kicked out his community college after run-ins with campus police — obtained his Glock 9mm handgun and high-capacity magazines should lead to a reinstatement of tougher laws like the once proposed by Lautenberg.