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Chairman Nadler Statement for the Hearing on “Protecting America from Assault Weapons”

Washington, D.C. — Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing on protecting America from assault weapons:      

“Assault weapons have been repeatedly used as weapons of deadly violence on our citizens.  In just the last two years, Las Vegas; Parkland; Pittsburgh; Poway; Gilroy; Midland; and Odessa have all seen horrific shootings at the hands of a gunman with assault weapons.  And only last month, we added El Paso and Dayton to the list of communities shattered by mass violence perpetrated by a gunman armed with assault weapons.

“Today’s hearing is about whether America will tolerate weapons of war on our streets and in our neighborhoods. Simply put, civilian assault weapons are just semiautomatic versions of military weapons.  They have no purpose but to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.  By allowing killers to rapidly and repeatedly fire bullets at their human targets, without stopping to reload, assault weapons are designed for maximum bloodshed.

“Although seven states plus the District of Columbia have passed laws addressing assault weapons, these state laws have proven too easy to evade.  This is one reason I support a national ban on assault weapons.  For example, despite California’s ban on assault weapons, a man was able to drive across the border into Nevada to buy an assault weapon, a 75-round high capacity magazine, plus five 40-round magazines, and use this weapon to kill 3 people and wound 17 others in a matter of minutes at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

“A gunman intent on killing, whether the target is one person or many, can hop over state lines, buy a gun, and return to kill others.  We must examine this dangerous problem and how to address it.          

“The 1994 federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, was a watershed event that offers an important guide for our efforts today.  Recent studies of the effectiveness of that law have showed that mass-shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur compared to the periods before and after the ban.  Another study found that the federal assault weapons ban was associated with a 25 percent drop in gun massacres and a 40 percent drop in fatalities.   

“The ban, however, was not without its shortcomings.  During the ban, the gun industry—putting profits over morality—boasted of its ability to modify various assault weapons so that they were technically legal, but were still deadly instruments of mass killing. 

“Writing of one AK‑47 clone, Gun World magazine crowed, ‘In spite of assault rifle bans, bans on high capacity magazines, the rantings of the anti‑gun media and the rifle's innate political incorrectness, the Kalashnikov, in various forms and guises, has flourished.  Today there are probably more models, accessories and parts to choose from than ever before.’  As we consider how best to address the problem of assault weapons, we must examine the loopholes in the 1994 law that weakened its effectiveness. 

“Although the lethal impact of assault weapons is horrifically evident in mass shootings, assault weapons present a far broader problem.  These weapons pose a daily threat to our communities, whether or not their use in particular instances cause mass casualties or make national news.  They hold particular appeal to criminals, who can wield terror with them, even without causing loss of life on a wide scale. 

“For too long, the response in Congress to the daily toll of gun violence on our streets, in our schools, and in places of worship has been moments of silence.  That has changed.  Earlier this year, this Committee reported. and the House passed, legislation to expand and improve our background check system, and this Committee recently approved bills to establish systems for extreme risk protection orders, ban large capacity magazines, and prohibit individuals convicted of hate crime misdemeanors from possessing firearms. 

“Today’s hearing continues the important task of addressing our shameful national problem of gun violence.  Today, we will discuss assault weapons and examine options for dealing with these particularly dangerous weapons of war.  And tomorrow, our Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will conduct a hearing concerning community responses to gun violence in our cities.

“We must take a comprehensive approach to solving the national crisis of gun violence, an issue that, for too long, has been ignored by national leaders.  We know that the American people want us to examine the facts and to find solutions, and this hearing is an important step towards that goal.

“I would like to recognize the survivors and advocates here today, including those from Newtown, Parkland, March for Our Lives, and Moms Demand Action.  Thank you for your tireless advocacy.  You inspire us all. I thank our witnesses for appearing today, and I look forward to their testimony.”

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