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US Democrats renew calls for ban on assault weapons after spate of shootings

US police officers sweep the parking lot at the site of a shooting in Boulder, Colorado, US March 22, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

US President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats have renewed calls for a ban on assault weapons amid an alarming rise in incidents of gun violence across the country.

After shootings in Virginia and Colorado in the last two weeks, questions have been raised about the funding of law enforcement agencies in places that refuse to enforce the so-called red flag laws. 

The shooting at a club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, involved an assault-style weapon and a handgun, while officials said the shooter at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, last week was armed with a handgun and multiple magazines.

Connecticut’s Democratic US Senator and leading gun control advocate, Chris Murphy, pointed out on Sunday that passing ant-gun laws would reduce the number of mass shootings in the country.

“If you passed an assault weapons ban you would see less mass shootings in this country,” he said. “You are not going to magically eliminate mass-shootings, but an AR-15, or AR-15 style weapon, is generally the choice of mass shooters.”

The Democrat lawmaker pointed to a “dramatic decline” in mass-shootings after the decade-long assault weapons ban passed in 1994. “It wasn’t until the expiration date of the ban that we started to see mass shootings spiral up.”

His remarks came after Biden on Thursday spoke about the “scourge” of gun violence, saying he wanted to sign into law a ban on high-powered guns that have the capacity to kill many people quickly.

“The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick. Just sick,” Biden said. “I’m going to try to get rid of assault weapons.”

The Democratic-led House passed legislation in July to revive the 1990s-era ban on assault weapons, following the passage of a landmark bipartisan bill on guns, strengthening background checks and red flag laws, which allow authorities to remove firearms from those posing a danger.

But the legislation has failed to make headway in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass and Democrats lack Republican support.

Murphy was also quoted as saying by CNN on Sunday that one avenue Democrats might pursue is to restrict federal funding for law enforcement in counties that declare themselves gun sanctuaries.

“We learned in Colorado that the county in which the shooting happened was a so-called second amendment sanctuary state,” Murphy said. “The majority of counties in this country have declared that they’re not going to enforce state and federal gun laws.”

“It’s a growing problem in the country and we’re going to have to have a conversation about that in the Senate. Do we want to continue to supply funding to law enforcement in counties that refuse to implement state and federal gun laws?”

A total of 609 mass shootings have been reported in the US in 2022 so far.

Last year saw a shocking 690 mass shootings across the United States, up from 610 in 2020 and 417 in 2019, The Hill reported on Thursday.

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