Americans Less Safe Since Assault Weapon Ban Ended

In the four years since the federal assault weapons ban expired on September 15, 2004, at least 163 people have been killed and 185 wounded with military-style semiautomatic assault weapons, including at least 38 police officers killed or wounded, according to a report issued by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  

The report outlines how the availability of assault weapons has altered the balance of power on urban streets between police and criminals, endangering police officers and causing a growing number of police departments to use assault weapons to match the firepower they face. The report also explores the ties between terrorism and assault weapons.

“Our communities are less safe today than they were four years ago, when devastating weapons like AK-47s were not as easily available to thugs and other dangerous people,” said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center.  “We urge policymakers to take action now to get these weapons off the streets.”

The Brady Center report is entitled Mass Produced Mayhem, a phrase used by federal law enforcement officials to describe the guns back in 1994. The report is available online at:

Over the past four years, the Brady Center has tracked available news coverage of hundreds of incidents to prepare the report.  The incidents on the list involved weapons banned under the expired federal act as well as copycat and similar models that would be banned under proposed stronger legislation.  The analysis makes a compelling case that federal policymakers should again ban military-style assault weapons.

“This is a very cautious estimate of the injuries and deaths inflicted with assault weapons since the 1994 law expired,” said Brian J. Siebel, the author of the report. “It only includes incidents covered by the news media.  The danger that our communities face from these weapons likely is far worse than this report indicates.”

The victim list of those killed with assault weapons since the federal ban expires runs the gamut from grandmothers to young children to decorated police officers:

* Stephen Liczbinski, a 12-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, executed in May by bank robbery suspects just days short of his 40th birthday.  He left a wife, Michelle, and three children, Matt, Stephen and Amber.

* Vicky Armel, 40, the Fairfax County, Virginia police veteran who was the mother of two girls, five and seven, when she and officer Michael Garbarino lost their lives on May 2006.  She volunteered at her church and decorated the local school gym at the holidays.  The shooter: Michael Kennedy, an 18-year-old mental patient whose mother helped him practice firing his AK-47 assault rifle and whose father supplied him with marijuana.

* Siretha White of Chicago died of stray assault weapon fire that came through the windows of her aunt’s house, where she was at her own surprise birthday party on March 11, 2006 just days before her 11th birthday. Siretha loved acting and excelled as a fifth grader at Vernon Johns Community Academy.  She also loved jumping rope, basketball and boxing with her brother.  “I have lost my precious ‘Nugget’ to a deadly assault weapon that had no business being in my neighborhood,” said Siretha’s mother, Siretha Woods.  “She would be alive today but for the deadliness of these weapons.”

* Janet Jorgensen, 68, mother of three and grandmother of eight, who had just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary when she was gunned down in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska during the Christmas shopping season in December 2007.   At St. James Catholic Church, the crowd for her funeral was standing room only. Robert Hawkins, 19, killed eight before committing suicide.

Read an Opposing View from the NSSF, Semi-Automatic Ban Would Reduce Crime, Not Crime."



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