The Sandy Hook School massacre has again brought the issue of gun control to the forefront.

U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein says she will try to renew the ban on assault weapons.   It was passed in 1994, but expired in 2004.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia voted for the ban and said this week that it’s “unacceptable that it hasn’t been reauthorized.”

Joe Manchin, the more conservative of the state’s two Democratic Senators, has expressed his willingness to consider limiting the availability of high-powered assault weapons.  Manchin, who is a hunter and has an “A” rating from the NRA, said he does not understand the necessity for assault rifles and 30-round clips.

But before rushing headlong into renewal of the ban, Congress and the country need a serious and factual debate about how it works and what it might achieve.

One of the most often quoted studies about the assault weapons ban comes from the University of Pennsylvania.  That 2004 report to the Justice Department found that the ten-year ban on certain semiautomatic firearms did not necessarily make the country any safer.

“We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence,” the report concluded.  “And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”

However, there are some important caveats to those findings.

The study points out that prior to the ban, so-called assault rifles were used in only two to eight percent of all gun crimes.  The vast majority of gun crimes were committed with weapons not included in the ban.

Additionally, the ban grandfathered in 1.5 million privately owned assault weapons and nearly 25 million guns equipped with large capacity magazines.  (The ban limited magazine capacity to 10 bullets in most cases.)

“The ban’s exemption of millions of pre-ban AWs (assault weapons) and LCMs (large capacity magazines) ensures that the effects of the law would only occur gradually,” the study concluded.

The study’s findings suggest that simply renewing the assault weapon ban as it existed from 1994 to 2004 wouldn’t significantly impact gun violence.  But what if a new ban went farther?

Australia imposed a stricter version of an assault weapons ban in 1996, banning all semiautomatic rifles.  According to the Washington Post, Australia “spent $500 million buying up nearly 600,000 guns from private owners.”

The Post quotes a British Medical Journal study that said gun violence dropped and the country went a decade without any fatal mass shootings.

These are emotional times.  Every American has been touched by the horror in Newtown and the desire to do something.

And something should be done to try to ensure that mentally deranged individuals cannot get their hands on lethal weapons and carry out mass killings.

But whatever we do should be fact-driven and geared toward a realistic expectation of what can be accomplished.

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  • Mac

    Ack! Jeff is supporting child abuse! (That's sarcasm btw)

  • GregG

    In my opinion I think everyone, from the media to Manchin to the NRA, needs to sit down and shut up. This knee jerk reaction isn't going to correct the problem. What happened at Sandy Hook is far more complicated than just "Gun control". I personally do not believe anyone needs "assult rifles" but I have enough common sense to know that trying to "ban" such weapons would be as ridiculous as the "war on drugs". If anything needs to be "banned" it should be all this touchy feely political correct BS that refuses to accept the fact that mental health issues are a problem. I do not mean to sound cold hearted but the truth is some people just cannot cope in society and these people need help. And I myself don't believe for one minute that treating a mentally ill person as a "normal person" is helpful to them. Maybe I'm coming off as callous but after growing up with a family memeber thats mentall illness was "looked over" all his life, that is just the way I feel. All them years "looking the other way" thinking they were "helping him" in the end only got him time in a federal prison. And sadly, inocent people were hurt by his actions. Maybe I'm an ass, but my childrens lives a far more important than this "political correctness" regarding mentally unstable individuals. Instead of fighting about "gun control" and "God in school" we should be replacing the mental hospitals that were closed and getting these people and their families help.

    • Dave

      Excellent point, especially since the Sandy Hook shooter didn't even use a so called assault weapon, he used two handguns.

      • chad

        check your facts Dave. Killed himself with the handgun. Sprayed down innocent chidren with the AR-15

        • Uncle Fester

          Chad, Check YOUR facts. The hand guns were used to kill. The kid didn't have an AR-15. An M4 style rifle was found in his car in the parking lot of the school.

          • chad

            It was a Bushmaster.223 semi automatic assault rifle. Turn on the news once in a while

    • Shadow

      Sometimes we are on difference ends of the spectrum but you are right on about Mental Health issues. It is the most significant health issue that affects others beside the patient. How much heartache it can cause and we sweep it under the rug like we did breast cancer several decades. Mental Heath should not be a disgrace to anyone and should be attacked straight on with vigor. There might not be a cure but there can be remedys that reduce the effect to the patient and society.

    • wirerowe

      Greg I very much agree with your statement about mental health which is at the core of the problem on issues like occurred at Sandy Hook elementary.. I do believe that these episodes will occur unless our mental health outreach and dealing with these individuals is improved no matter what we do to the gun laws. But I think they are made much worse by the firepower that is on the street. How to deal with that in a meaningful way within the constitution is complex.

      • GregG

        I have to agree wireowe it is very complex, and from the comments I have heard over the past few days some seem to place more value on the "right" to own any type of weapon over the lives of others. Do I think a "ban" will help? No, but I can see atleast having the discussion about some of the types of guns, ammo and clips that are readily available. Being a hunter and someone that pretty much grew up with a gun in my hand I find it impossible to believe that anyone needs any type of weapon that can be made "fully auto" or have a need for a 30 round clip. Now I myself ain't all about hanging the tag "assult weapon" on everything, but I am a firm believer in using a little common sense on this matter. And this argument that "it's not for hunting but for protection" is ridiculous. Anyone that THINKS a AR-15 or M4 offers more protection than a shotgun during a home invasion........well let's just say they shouldn't own a gun period. And for the fools that say its for protection from our government, trust me pal, if our government wants YOU all the guns and ammo you can pack in your house isn't going to save your simple.......

  • chad

    You're right on the money mntnman. And "Shadow" Adolf Obama???Realy?? Grow up and get in touch with reality. And how about a little respect for all those Jewish souls who were eradiacated by Hitler. You conservatives lose all respect and credibility when you come out with Hilter refernces to Obama. No wonder the Republican party is in such a downward spiral and being left behind

    • Shadow

      Do you not think that Obama acts like Hitler? Read the history of Germany in the 30's. As to respect for the Jews and others that were killed by Hitler, I have the most respect. I support Israel in their problems with the Arabs and that is more than Adolph Obama is doing. At Dachau, the Jews have erected a sign that says in four languages, "Never Again? When I stood there and overlooked what was left of the Concentration Camp, I made an oath to myself, "Never" will that happen to me, my family, or my friends. Never to be collected and killed in cold blood by any person or government That is why I support the Second Amendment and the right to AR15s with 30-round magazines.

  • Wowbagger

    A couple of points.

    ... Hoppy, you have developed a bad case of tunnel vision. Gun violence in Australia and the UK did drop after draconian measures. The overall rate of violent crime, particularly home invasions when the occupants are in the home have steadily increased in both of those countries. In much of the US home invasions are a dangerous business as the invader knows he is likely to find himself on the wrong end of whatever gun is at hand. As a result the US rate of home invasion is very low. The UK is the most pitiful. They now have a campaign to ban pointy kitchen knives spearheaded by chefs.

    Is overall crime important or is gun crime the only important issue and beating up frail old men and women while invading their homes looking for money for drugs acceptable?
    ... Your choice.

    The Supreme Court has already determined that the job of the Police is to maintain law and order, but they have no legal obligation to protect you as an individual.

    ... I heard an interesting, but obscure statistic recently. According to Economists John Lott and William Landes in a 1999 study that every mass murder, but one committed in the US since 1950 has been committed in a "gun free zone". I heard Mr Lott state yesterday that this hasn't changed since 1999. This is counter intuitive, but it is obvious to me that society is creating these "gun free" murder zones where honest citizens are unarmed in order to to feel good.

    ... To all of those Joe Manchin lovers out there: ... I told you so. Mr. Manchin is all about self promotion. As Governor he posed more than once with borrowed fully automatic State Police M4s for photo ops with the press, not to mention his notorious commercial. For this and his legislative record he got his A rating with the NRA-ILA. He used his own hunting rifle as it fit the narrative and borrowing an M4 from one of his armed guards would have been a violation of election law as they are state property. Now he is getting all sorts of publicity by changing sides. As he will be 71 at the end of his term I suspect this is a signal he intends become a high paid lobbyist at the end of this term so he doesn't need you, the voter any more, but lots of publicity during his term will raise his ultimate asking price. Look forward to a lot more self promotion by Joe Manchin.

    ... When Joe Manchin was elected Governor he realized that balancing the state's books would garner votes and neutralize Republican competition. If he had thought that spending West Virginia to total insolvency was to his advantage he would have accomplished this with just as much fervor. Ultimately Mr. Manchin is a garden variety self promoting Politician and doesn't care what his constituents think just like Jay Rockefeller. The only difference is that Joe couldn't buy the office like Jay so he had to play the political game including a few setbacks. In my experience and I have some experience politicians are just not like everyday people.

    • Mac

      Only one mass murder was in a gun free zone? I can think of two mass murders in western PA in the last two years that were not in gun free zones. In both cases multiple law enforcement officers were murdered.

      • Mac

        correction: Only one mass murder was NOT in a gun free zone?

        • Wowbagger

          Oops... Thanks!

          That is what I intended to say. Wordsmithing in this interface is sometimes difficult.

  • Dave

    You got to remember party pulls the purse strings, you go along or next election, you might not see the funds you need.


    As I read this article I am inclined to agreed with Shadow that our fiscal house needs to be in order. As a conservative, law abiding Christian, avid hunter I will say this. If every law abiding citizen gives up their assault rifles, how long will it take to get those guns out of the hands of the criminals? You won't ! It will open up black market sales with no way to track who has what type of weapons.
    Furthermore, we have enough gun laws our problem is enforcement and the punishment to those offenders. After speaking with a dear friend of mine and a registered Democrat, agrees with me on this one matter. We should stop rewarding criminals who committ these unspeakable crimes with 3 square meals, medical care and dailey basketball games in the yard at prisons around the country.

    What should happen, is their life should be forfeited ! Any human rights they may have enjoyed are now over as their victims human rights are.
    Hoppy, I will in closing say this, "what we allow we teach" 150 years ago if a man stole a horse he was summarily tried and taken to the gallows. Now a days, they recieve better health care and mental health services than their victims ever had access to.
    Criminal rehabilitation? How about some criminal elimination!! Until the criminal knows and understands, that there is some justice waiting on him ,instead of a roof over his head and 3 square meals a day. Our problems as a nation will only continue.
    God Bless

  • dazedbutnotconfused

    Two things, first, nearly all the comments I've read on Senator Manchin's Facebook page against gun regulation are from people who, from what they post, are very similar to the Connecticut shooter's mother. They love their firearms, believe the Second Amendment gives them the absolute right to own as many of nearly any firearm they choose and, quite likely like the shooter's mom, don't properly store and secure them. To be able to quickly access and use the firearms they cherish, nearly everyone in their homes would also have access. All it takes is for one of those people in the home to have a really, really bad day, and we have the potential for something like Connecticut.
    Second, for any civilian assault weapon ban and above 10-round clip or magazine ban to be successful, none can be grandfathered. That's right, they all should be turned in. Anything else is ludicrous.
    Many people have said that only lawbreakers will have these guns and clips if such a ban is enacted, while quite clearly indicating that they will join the lawbreakers if such a ban is enacted. Such an attitude demonstrates a lack of respect for law and, if respect for law is gone, from where does the Second Amendment get its power?

    • Wowbagger

      The fifth amendment prohibits the confiscation of property by government without compensation. My guess is that there are at least 100,000,000 to 300,000,000 high capacity magazines (more than ten rounds) in civilian hands in the US. This includes semi automatic hand gun magazines. These are probably worth between $10.00 and $50.00 with a few as much as $100.00. How do you propose to compensate the owners for taking their property?

      • dazedbutnotconfused

        Perhaps tax credits could be used to compensate the possessors of such potentially banned products? However, if something is illegal, the right to possess it legally disappears. When slavery ended, the previous 'owners' weren't compensated for the loss of their 'property' - and nor should they have been.
        I don't actually advocate this, but I think it's absurd to discuss banning the future sale of such items without somehow addressing the existing items.
        I hold the shooter responsible for his actions, and I hold his mother as equally responsible. I'm sorry she's dead, but would she want to be alive knowing what she, by her failure to secure her firearms, helped happen? My concern with these types of firearms remains that they are difficult, if not impossible, to securely store and yet still be available if home protection is needed. Such firearms, improperly stored, are a potential danger to all.
        I wish I had an answer, but I don't.

  • mntnman

    Sad...tragic...will we ever learn?

    I believe in the second amendment. I believe that we have the "right to bear arms". It is our Constitutional right. But, as with freedom of speech and press, there are limits to our Constitutional rights. We cannot privately own an armed cannon or a tank for our protection. I do not think we can own a rocket launcher. So, there are limits to the right to bear arms.

    Do we have the right to own clips that hold 30 rounds? Do we have the right to own weapons that can fire those 30 rounds in a split second? Do we need to own them? Automatics, semi-automatics, armor piercing rounds, when will it end. More to the point, why do we own them?

    I own guns. Pistols and long rifles. I have them for hunting and protection. I do not need them to mow down dozens of assailants, like we see in the movies. I have them to protect my family and to hunt. That is enough for me. But I am not the decider for all.

    The question is whether we as a free and open society want to continue to permit those who choose to do so to own what are essentially weapons of chaos and destruction. Weapons whose very design is for combat-style use. Clips with more than 8-10 rounds just seem a bit much. The same is true of weapons that can fire rounds so quickly that the large clip is exhausted in a breathe.

    I don't know or have the answer. All I know is that evil people seem to be using these weapons against us in ways we could never have imagined and they are turning them on our children. In no instance have we been able to prevent it -- nor will we be able to prevent it. So, what are we to do? Do we arm ourselves to the teeth and become fortress America, shooting anyone suspicious or who gets to close to us. Do we have gun battles at Walmart? I don't want to live in that society. I don't want my children to look suspiciously at their neighbor or a stranger who is smiling at their child. I don't' want my grandchildren to live in constant fear.

    I wish I had the quick and easy answer. There isn't one. I just know that once again our nation is mourning a profound loss that shakes us to our core -- one that makes us face difficult issues -- one that challenges us to pull together instead of apart -- one that challenges us to look at our core beliefs and decide what is right for us as a country. I hope we are up to the challenge.

    • Sherri

      Thank you mntnman, that was so well said!

  • Shadow

    We have a President that is leading us into Bankruptcy which should be a real concern to all of us. However, the Newtown shooting provides cover for forthcoming problem and works into the hands of Adolph Obama. We should be worrying about our spending habits to avoid a very tragic end of our Country. Right now, we are close to being another Greece. We do not have a gun control problem in this country and the work of an insane young man should not cloud the issue of solvency. If we want to talk about the Newtown Massacre, we should talk mental health and treatment. The administration is running a mackerel across the bunny trail.

  • zerotolerance

    You can not regulate human behavior with gun laws! They are as worthless as and unenforceable as ATV helmet laws. They are only designed to have a political effect and score points with constituents on either side.

    AGAIN! - You Cannot Regulate Human Behavior With Gun Laws!

  • bandit1426

    Personally, I think Senator Manchin is stepping in the right direction. Washington needs to step up and put something in place. You've also got to remember, the gun is just the instrument, the real culprit is the brain behind the gun. If you ban assault weapons, these nutjobs will just find another way to pull off one of these massacres. Whatever they do has got to cover more than just the guns themselves.

  • jeff

    Any AR-ish weapon is not your daddy's Browning Sweet 16 Auto 5 and the fear-mongering that it is and "they" want it by the NRA and RTKBers is just as despicable as the fear-mongering and ignornace from the anti-gunners.
    Compromise is needed and forget the 1" = 1 mile inflamatory stuff always making the rounds to rile the choir.

    Not a MOJO fan but on this his questions and concerns are appropriate.
    Whether it be the gun fears, prepper fears or whatever, there is far too much profiteering going on by both sides.

    Both sides should stop feeding agendas with tragedys.
    Both sides should stop working more to seperate rather than solve.
    Both sides should start acknowledging and addressing all the issues of all the problems that plague America.
    Too much to ask?
    It appears so.
    We are still concerned with our own ox.
    Still concerned with those choirs and constituencys....therefore, little to nothing will change.
    We should be

  • ShinnstonGuy

    I think Senator Manchin is taking the right approach, and I think those listed in news stories on this website that calling him "anti-gun" are a bit insane. Perhaps he doesn't sleep with his gun by his side like some of these infatuated folks, but he clearly isn't anti-gun. I haven't agreed with the man on many issues (why he was the only Democratic Senator not to support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal is beyond me, and his Republican-like protest of the the military's use of biofuels is contrarian), but I think he is taking the right approach in saying that everyone needs to look at all aspects of the problem and that nothing should be "off the table."

  • CaptainQ

    Looks like MoJo's stepped on the 'third rail' with his constituants this time! What's surprising to me is that it seems the majority of WV citizens would be more accepting of Joe Manchin embracing Obama than they would of him touching the issue of gun control.

    MoJo's is a typical 'knee jerk' reaction to a horrible shooting tragedy. It is understandable that many more people in America would want to do something extra to prevent a similiar situation from happening again. But as I said previously, NOW is not the right time to analyze and evaluate. We should all pray for those affected by this tragic event first, then sit back for a short period of time to allow emotions to recede BEFORE resuming this 'gun control' debate. But since this is Washington politics we're talking about added to general public panic, this will not happen. I fear Congress and the President will rush into some kind of 'feel good halfway' gun measure that won't solve anything and inflame passions of those on both sides of the gun control debate EVEN MORE!

    Looks like MoJo's stepped right into the debate. Good thing he's not up for reelection next year. The Junior Senator can keep 'running' from Obama, but he can't outrun his own words he spoke favoring gun control. This is his first major blunder as a US Senator. He better backpedal on this deal FAST to head off luming political disaster. Goodwill takes YEARS to build, but only a second to lose, just ask ex-Governor Bob Wise about that.

  • Shadow

    How come Senator Rockefeller owns an AR15? Is it because his mansion is in DC? Just wunderin'.