NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a leading advocate in Congress for common sense gun safety reform, penned the following op-ed appearing today on NJ.com:
It took less than six minutes for the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to fire more than 100 rounds from his semiautomatic assault-style rifle, killing 17 students and educators and wounding 17 more. Yet one year later, high capacity magazines that make it possible to fire 30, 60, or even 100 rounds without pausing to reload remain on the shelves and for sale online. It’s well past time for that to change.
This week, I reintroduced the Keep Americans Safe Act, which prohibits the sale of large capacity ammunition of more than 10 rounds. This legislation is as simple and commonsense as it gets. It does not take away anyone’s Second Amendment rights, but rather limits how much military-style firepower we make available in civilian life. This is about protecting the freedom of all Americans to go to school, see a movie, or visit their place of worship without fear of dying in our nation’s next mass shooting.
High capacity magazines are not designed for hunting, recreation, self-defense or protecting your home. They put lives at risk and are often used to out-gun our brave police and first responders. They come in many different shapes and sizes and attach to many different kinds of firearms, but what they all have in common is the explicit purpose of maximizing casualties – and gun industry profits. As gun manufacturers realize they can only sell so many guns to so many people, they’ve increasingly marketed accessories to consumers that increase the lethality of the guns they already own.
The corporate interests behind the NRA oppose sensible limits on magazine size – even though we know such measures can save lives. Consider the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. During the split second it took for the gunman to reload, bystanders managed to subdue him. And in 2012, several children at Sandy Hook Elementary were able to escape when the shooter paused briefly to reload his AR-15. During a mass shooting, every second counts.
Prohibiting large capacity ammunition was a key component of the assault weapons ban I voted for in 1994 during my very first term in Congress. Yet, since that law’s expiration in 2004, high capacity magazines have become a gruesome hallmark of mass shootings across America from Newtown and Parkland to Orlando, Las Vegas, and in so many other communities torn apart by gun violence. Likewise, it is common for law enforcement to find high capacity clips at crime scenes in neighborhoods terrorized daily by gun violence. Reducing the prevalence of large capacity ammunition in our streets begins with limiting magazine size in our stores.
Earlier this week, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution remembering those lost during the Parkland massacre. But honoring the memories of gun violence victims demands more than symbolic gestures – it demands action. While the Keep Americans Safe Act is just one of many steps we as a country must take to fix our broken gun laws — including reinstating the assault weapons ban, expanding background checks and prohibiting anyone on the Terror Watch List from buying a gun — it is a step worth taking because it is a step that saves lives.
I have championed legislation to limit magazine size for years, including after the Aurora shooting in 2012, when Alex Teves, of New Jersey, found himself in Colorado and in the crosshairs of a deranged gunman with an arsenal of weapons, high capacity clips, and explosives he assembled all in accordance with the law.
Many years and too many tragedies later, we are finally seeing a groundswell of Americans tie their votes to lawmakers willing to stand up to the gun lobby. As the new Democratic House majority answers the people’s call for tougher gun laws, I will continue pushing my Republican colleagues in the Senate to join in common cause.
It is time for Congress to put saving American lives above protecting gun industry profits. Manny Oliver, a father from Parkland who lost his son to gun violence, recently told me that a shooter doesn’t stop to ask you what political party you represent before pulling the trigger.
And we must not stop in our fight for commonsense gun safety laws that actually keep Americans safe.