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Return to regulating assault weapons

On display at a gun shop in Wendell, N.C., an AR-15 assault rifle manufactured by Core15 Rifle Systems.
On display at a gun shop in Wendell, N.C., an AR-15 assault rifle manufactured by Core15 Rifle Systems. (Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

The ongoing call by President Donald Trump to arm teachers ("Trump pushes guns in schools," Feb. 23) is a craven misdirect that avoids the real issue and shores up the National Rifle Association. The president and U.S. Congress must stand up to gun lobbyists and ensure safe gun measures, or elected officials are complicit in these crimes. This is not impossible. Bring back and revise, for example, the federal Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, meant to ban most semi-automatic "assault weapons," modifications, and high-capacity magazines — until as recently as 2004.

The ban took effect in 1994 and expired 10 years later when Congress failed to renew the act under a wider crime prevention law. The country did not fall apart with this common sense limit. Police departments have welcomed such measures. If updated (not so gradually applied) and made permanent, such a law would bar widespread access to the AR-15, as well as similar military weaponry wielded on innocents in a South Florida high school, a grassy concert field in Las Vegas, and in churches and schools and public places throughout America.

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More than 150,000 students have been affected by gun violence since the killings at Columbine High School. This must not happen again. Let the upcoming 20th anniversary of those deaths be the moment we halt this trajectory. A new assault weapons ban and other logical and constitutional gun safety measures — including raising age limits, which President Trump also mentioned, as well as outlawing "bump stocks" and similar devices and creating nationwide gun buyback programs — are needed.

This is not about barring Americans from owning guns. This is about using common sense laws, as many nations have accomplished, to reduce harm. And it's not like guns kept anywhere are clearly safe, studies show (“More than half of gun owners don’t safely store their firearms, Hopkins survey finds,” Feb. 22).

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In the end, some individuals will grapple with mental health or criminal issues. Health interventions are needed. Without easy access to military-style assault rifles, a scenario which truly defies sanity, the results of their struggles would not be so widely tragic.

J.C. Simpson, Baltimore

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