January 26, 2013

Maze of gun laws undermines control

The wide variety from state to state is cited by advocates pushing for a federal standard.

By EILEEN SULLIVAN The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Adam Painchaud, a Sig Sauer representative, demonstrates one of the company’s newest products, the MPX 9mm submachine gun, at the 35th annual SHOT Show on Jan. 15 in Las Vegas. The gun is for military and law enforcement use and not for sale to the public.

The Associated Press

BIDEN CITES 'AN OBLIGATION TO ACT' ON REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE

RICHMOND, Va. - With Congress set to launch a debate over stricter gun control measures next week, Vice President Joe Biden took the administration's sales pitch on the road Friday, citing "an obligation to act" to reduce gun violence.

Biden, who led the White House response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, said the nation was shaken by the massacre of 20 first-graders and called the episode "a window into the vulnerability people feel about their safety and the safety of their children."

But he also noted that since the Dec. 14 shooting, which also killed six school staff members, 1,200 Americans have been slain by guns, and he said that such violence demands action.

"We cannot remain silent as a country," Biden said.

He spoke to the media after a two-hour, closed-door round table with officials from Virginia Tech, where a mentally unstable gunman killed 32 people in 2007, the worst school shooting in American history. The discussion focused on the background check system and mental health.

It was Biden's second event in as many days on guns. He appeared Thursday on Google Plus for a "fireside chat" on the administration's agenda. He said he chose to appear on the social network to urge viewers to make their opinions known to lawmakers in Congress.

-- Tribune Washington Bureau

Obama has also called for a new federal law banning magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition -- a measure that was in effect during the previous assault weapons ban, between 1994 and 2004. High-capacity magazines have been used in recent deadly mass shootings, including those in Newtown and in the Denver movie theater last summer.

But like many terms in the firearm lexicon, a high-capacity ammunition magazine means different things in different places.

In California, considered by many to have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, a large-capacity magazine is one that holds more than 10 rounds. In Illinois there is no state law regarding magazines. Yet, there are laws regarding magazines in Chicago where the threshold is more than 12 rounds. But about 40 miles away in Aurora, Ill., this type of magazine is called a large-capacity ammunition feeding device and means anything more than 15 rounds.

In 44 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Texas and Virginia where these magazines have been used in deadly mass shootings, there are no laws against using them, according to a 2012 analysis by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. If a federal law banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, it would become the minimum standard.

The definition of "assault weapon" also varies. There is no federal definition for assault weapon, and the meaning of the term is inconsistent even within the gun industry. California defines an assault weapon as a "firearm (that) has such a high rate of fire and capacity for fire-power that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings." The law specifically lists 60 rifles, 14 pistols and five shotguns. Neighboring states Nevada and Arizona have no assault weapon restrictions.

Federal law does not prohibit the ownership of any weapon, said Ginger Colbrun, an ATF spokeswoman in Washington. In order to buy or own certain firearms, including automatic weapons, machine guns and bazookas, people do have to apply for permission from the federal government.

"The federal government has an obligation to establish at least minimum standards that have to be complied with before a gun can be sold anywhere in America," said Richard Aborn, president of the New York-based Citizens Crime Commission.

 

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