WASHINGTON - Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, issued the following statement:
“Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder, in discussing the terrible gun violence being perpetrated in Mexico with guns purchased easily in the United States, talked directly about the need to restrict civilian access to military-style assault weapons. We applaud Attorney General Holder for calling for action against assault weapons. It is important to note that violence in Mexico is only part of the problem. Since September 2004, assault weapons have cost the lives not just of citizens in our border nations: these weapons have taken a horrific toll right here at home.
“In the four years since America’s ban on assault weapons for civilian sale expired, at least 189 people have been killed and 218 wounded with them here in our country, including at least 38 police officers killed or wounded. The easy availability of assault weapons endangers our police. We shouldn’t allow our dedicated law enforcement officers to be so outgunned. We need to take serious steps now to keep these dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.
“The victim list of those killed with assault weapons in the U.S. includes:
• Stephen Liczbinski, a 12-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, executed last May by bank robbery suspects just days short of his 40th birthday;
• Vicky Armel, a Fairfax County, Virginia police veteran who was the mother of two girls, five and seven. She lost her life along with Officer Michael Garbarino in May 2006. The shooter, Michael Kennedy, was an 18-year-old mental patient whose mother helped him practice fire his AK-47 assault rifle;
• Siretha White of Chicago, who died of stray assault weapon fire that came through the windows at her own 11th birthday party in March 2006; and
• Janet Jorgensen, a 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 Omaha’s St. James Catholic Church, the crowd for her funeral was standing room only.
“Our communities are less safe today than they were when guns like these were illegal. We commend Attorney General Holder for calling for a new effective law limiting access to them. We owe such a step not only to our neighbors in other countries but to those who live in our own neighborhoods here. A ban on military-style assault weapons is only part of the solution: we need strong common sense laws to prevent illegal gun trafficking, and we need Brady background checks conducted on every gun sale. But these military-style firearms are extremely deadly, and there is no sensible reason that they should be available to civilians. ”
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