By Rick Fuller and Linda Rowley
After the recent student-led Town Hall For Our Lives event held in Buffalo, Rep. Chris Collins, who refused to attend, went on TV and complained that the panelists talked about banning assault weapons. They did; and as most Americans support an assault weapons ban, it was a very important discussion.
But you see, by ignoring the call for an assault weapons ban, in fact denying that there are such weapons, Collins is sticking right to his NRA gun lobby talking points. He ignores the reality of gun violence all across the country.
Collins and others want you to believe that the term “assault weapon” applies only to fully automatic weapons. That is not true and Collins should stop the hypocrisy. AR-15s, AK-47s and that ilk are assault weapons under every definition, except those of the NRA, the gun lobby and those in government beholden to them. They may use the term modern sporting rifles, but we know them as assault weapons and they are killing our children in their classrooms and on their streets.
The term assault weapon is found in daily usage in local and federal news reports and in statutes of many states. It is found in legislation pending in many state capitals as well as in state and federal court decisions. Federal appellate courts have also upheld assault weapons bans in every case that has been heard and the U.S. Supreme Court has denied petitions to hear appeals of these cases.
The reality is that most Americans don’t care what they are called. The fact is that these weapons are being used to kill more and more people, more and more often. Call it what you want, but 67 percent of Americans support a ban on assault weapons.
The term is also found in the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban which included a civilian ban on semi-automatic firearms that it defined as “assault-weapons.” It also banned large capacity magazines. Seven states and Washington, D.C., have assault weapons bans and several others regulate them. Such bans have been upheld in federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court has denied petitions to review these cases.
Collins asserts that he recently voted for the Fix NICS and STOP School Violence acts. While these are a good start, they are not enough. The Fix NICS Act Collins supported includes "concealed carry reciprocity" legislation, the major legislative goal of the NRA for the past decade. CCR would allow gun owners from states with weak gun laws to carry concealed weapons into states with strong gun laws, like New York.
The STOP School Violence Act doesn’t even mention the word “gun.” Its focus is on money for schools and does nothing to remove guns from the hands of those who should not have them. The legislation does nothing to strengthen our gun laws.
What is needed are comprehensive background checks on all gun transactions, an assault weapon and high capacity magazine ban, a ban on bump stocks and legislation to enact Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
The student event was not a rally calling for repeal of the 2nd Amendment nor was it anti-gun as Collins attempts to portray. It was an intelligent, thoughtful discussion of the need for sensible gun laws that was arranged and moderated by students concerned for their futures. The students were anything but the “radical partisans” Collins called them.
The students have earned our respect for their efforts to refocus the discussion of gun violence in their homes, schools and communities. They deserve our respect. In fact, they demand it.
Rick Fuller of Orchard Park and Linda Rowley of West Seneca are members of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.