Even a week later, the speed at which the slaughter unfolded is chilling. A 24-year-old man armed with a powerful assault rifle killed nine people and wounded many others. He fired at least 41 times in 30 seconds. Experts explain that if police officers had not moved quickly in the Oregon District of Dayton, the toll would have been much more ghastly, the gunman with a high-capacity magazine allowing him to unleash a torrent of ammunition.
Mike Turner represents Dayton in the U.S. House. He was the city’s mayor. Yet the carnage is personal in another way. The Republican representative reported that his daughter was across the street when the attack began. She could have been a victim.
“Enough” has been a rallying cry of the many sickened by these now common mass shootings. Another is “do something.” In that spirit, Turner announced on Tuesday that he will support legislation that bans the sale of military-style assault weapons and limits the size of magazines. In a statement, he described as “intolerable” the devastation these weapons can produce when in the wrong hands. He acknowledges that such steps will not prevent every shooting. At the same time, he calls the measures “essential.”
The country had an assault-weapons ban for a decade, starting in 1994, Congress allowing the law to expire. The ban made sense for the reasons Turner outlined. These weapons are not about self-protection. They make it easier for attackers to kill more quickly. They are more threat to public safety than crucial to preserving individual gun rights.
One analysis by Louis Klarevas of the University of Massachusetts, in his 2016 book “Rampage Nation,” found that during the 10-year ban, the number of high-fatality mass shootings (six or more deaths) declined 37 percent, compared to the decade before the prohibition. The number of deaths decreased 43 percent. And when the ban lapsed? The numbers jumped, a 183 percent increase in high-fatality mass shootings, the death toll climbing 239 percent.
A key component of the assault-weapons ban was the prohibition on high-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds. The killer in Dayton had a 100-round magazine. Everytown for Gun Safety found that incidents involving an assault weapon and such a magazine resulted in 155 percent more people shot and 47 percent more people killed, compared to other gun incidents. Assault weapons kill rapidly and efficiently, in Las Vegas, 58 dead; Orlando, 49 dead; Newtown, 27 dead; Sutherland Springs, 26 dead; and El Paso, hours before Dayton, 22 dead.
Three years ago, the New York Times asked experts about the most effective ways to prevent mass shootings. A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines ranked highest.
Again, the thinking isn’t that such a prohibition somehow would end mass shootings. The purpose is to deter, for example, narrowing the opportunity for someone to purchase an assault weapon a relative short time before launching an attack, as has been the case.
No doubt, a ban would be enacted in a difficult context, so many assault weapons already in circulation. It would have little impact on overall deaths due to guns, most stemming from handguns in suicides and urban violence. Yet the analyses indicate that if effectively crafted and implemented, it would save lives. A ban would reflect the view of a majority of Americans, who see the step as the right thing, as they consistently tell polls.
Mike Turner wants the slaughter in Dayton to become “a catalyst for a broader national conversation about what we can do to stop these mass shootings.” A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines belongs at the front as a way to reduce the toll.