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Bernie Sanders calls for ‘assault weapons’ ban

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaking at a town meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
March 22, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders is the latest high-profile Democrat to make a call for gun bans in the wake of the New Zealand mosque attacks and subsequent gun ban.

On Wednesday, Sanders retweeted a news report of New Zealand’s ban with his own remark, saying, “This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand’s lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States.”

Sanders, a Democratic candidate for the 2020 Presidential election, made the call for a ban after reports that New Zealand would implement its own following the mosque shootings that left 50 people dead last Friday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made an announcement on Thursday, saying, “Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terror attack on Friday will be banned.”

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However, Sanders’ verbiage of “assault weapons” doesn’t specify how far his ban would go in the U.S.

While semi-automatic modern sporting rifles like the AR-15 are commonly referred to as “assault weapons,” Ardern’s ban went beyond that.

Ardern pinpointed every semi-automatic weapon used in the attack, in addition to vowing the ban of “all high-capacity magazines” and “all parts with the ability to convert semi-automatic, or any other type of firearm, to a military-style semi-automatic weapon.”

“We will ban parts that cause a firearm to generate semi-automatic, automatic, or close to automatic gunfire,” she added.

The mosque shooter didn’t just use AR-15 rifles, however. The weapons used in his attack consisted of two semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns and a lever-action rifle.

If Ardern is to be taken literally, a ban on all semi-automatic weapons would include many rifles – beyond what is coined “assault” weapons — and many handguns and shotguns.

Further, Ardern asserted that a high-capacity magazine granted the rifle “the power to shoot continuously” and therefore “converted” the rifle to a “military-style weapon.” Such a definition could be used to label any gun part or accessory as such, thus making it the target of the ban.

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While Sanders only mentioned “assault weapons” in his aspiration for a gun ban, other politicians have gone a step further and focused on a more broad idea of a weapon and magazine ban.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first tweeted on Wednesday, “Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ . Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market. This is what leadership looks like.”

Ocasio-Cortez followed with another tweet on Thursday, saying, “You know, instead of training children, teachers, houses of faith, & concertgoers to prep for being shot, we could just: -Pass Universal Background checks (#HR8!) -Disarm domestic abusers -Mandate safe storage -Ban bump stocks, semiautos, & high cap mags designed to kill people.”

President Donald Trump already announced the ban of bump stocks last year, which was upheld by a court last month. Many states also already implemented their own high-capacity magazine bans.

However, a ban on semi-automatics would mean tens of millions of rifles, handguns and shotguns would be illegal – effectively banning the majority of firearms in the U.S.