California mass shootings spark renewed calls for assault weapons ban

US has already recorded 39 mass shootings and 2,800 gun-related deaths in 2023

People queue to enter a gun store in Culver City, California. AP
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Following the killings of 11 people during a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California, and the murder of seven people in Half Moon Bay in the northern part of the state, US President Joe Biden on Monday endorsed a pair of gun control laws introduced by Democratic senators.

The US has already recorded 39 mass shootings in 2023, data from the Gun Violence Archives show — an average of 1.7 incidents every day.

In total, there have been 2,800 gun-related fatalities from murder/homicide, death by suicide, unintentional shootings and defensive gun use.

Congress last year passed its first major gun control legislation in decades. Despite this, the country has witnessed continued gun violence in nightclubs, schools and elsewhere.

“Communities across America have been struck by tragedy after tragedy, including mass shootings from Colorado Springs to Monterey Park and daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

A group of Democratic US senators introduced a pair of bills on Monday designed to protect communities from assault weapons such as the one that killed 11 people in Monterey Park.

“The constant stream of mass shootings have one common thread: They almost all involve assault weapons,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

One of those weapons, an AK-style rifle, was used in the 2019 El Paso, Texas, shooting in which gunman Patrick Crusius allegedly killed 23 people at a Walmart. He was expected to plead guilty to federal charges on Tuesday, court documents showed.

The Assault Weapons Ban would outlaw the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks and strengthen safe-storage laws.

Its companion bill, the Age 21 Act, would increase the minimum age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21. A similar provision was discussed in the gun control bill passed last year, though dropped during negotiations.

The latest measures introduced, however, face improbable odds of making their way to Mr Biden's desk for his signature, as Republicans in both chambers remain opposed to passing an assault weapons ban of any kind.

A companion bill set to be introduced in the House of Representatives by David Cicilline, a Democratic congressman, faces slim odds of making its way to the floor with Republicans in control of the chamber.

Republicans and the National Rifle Association, or the NRA — a powerful gun rights lobby group — argue that any such action would infringe on Americans' Second Amendment rights to own a firearm. The NRA did not respond to The National's request for comment.

Still, Mr Biden called on Congress to pass the assault weapons ban.

An assault weapons ban is a divisive issue among Americans, too.

Half the nation supports a ban on the high-capacity weapons while 45 per cent oppose the measure, a Quinnipiac poll showed. But there was widespread support for raising the minimum age to purchase assault weapons and expanding background checks for all buyers.

Assault weapons were previously banned for a 10-year period from 1994 under a crime prevention package that had a sunset clause.

The US is home to about 40 per cent of the world's civilian-owned firearms, data from the Small Arms Survey shows. There are about 121 firearms for every 100 residents in the country.

Updated: January 24, 2023, 4:29 PM
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