In the wake of two mass shootings, the divisive politics of gun control appeared to be in flux today as President Trump explored whether to back expanded background checks on gun purchasers and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, signaled that he would at least be open to considering the idea.
It is not clear that either Trump or McConnell will embrace such legislation, which both of them have opposed in the past and which would have to overcome opposition from the National Rifle Association and other powerful conservative constituencies.
In an essay for TIME today, former President Clinton wrote that it’s time to reinstate the assault weapons ban he signed over 20 years ago.
“Elected officials speak about the need for change,” Clinton wrote. “But the tragedies do keep happening, while the one thing that we know can reduce the number and the death tolls of mass shootings has not been done: reinstituting the ban on assault weapons and the limit on high-capacity magazines that was in effect from 1994 to 2004.”
According to Louis Klarevas, a research professor at Teachers College of Columbia University, the number of gun massacres during the 10-year ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from mass shootings fell by 43 percent.
But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers in the next 10-year period shot up again — a 183 percent increase in mass shootings and a 239 percent increase in deaths.
Clinton says he was proud to sign the controversial ban, and pointed to the statistics to make his case.
“For too long, America has allowed a determined, well-financed group to pretend to grieve with us while spreading paranoia among those who responsibly use guns for hunting, sport shooting and self-protection,” he wrote. “For too long, the gun lobby and their elected allies have stalled, deflected and changed the conversation until the pressure abates and they can get back to business, heedless of the killings inevitably yet to come.”
Seeking reelection in 1996, Clinton took on the NRA directly and featured the assault weapon ban in a variety of TV ads.
Clinton signed the Brady Bill, named after President Reagan’s former press secretary who was shot by a would be assassin in 1981, and was endorsed by the Republican in the 1996 campaign.
Clinton’s editorial came just days after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California, left dozens dead.
The suspects in all three attacks used semi-automatic, assault-style weapons.
Trump told reporters yesterday there was “no appetite” for an assault weapons ban.