THE BLOG
11/15/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Easy Access To Assault Weapons? Obama Says 'No,' McCain Says 'Yes'

Last week, the Brady Center released its report on the impact of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons on American families and law enforcement after Congress and the President allowed the federal Assault Weapons Ban to expire.

Two days later, the Orlando Sentinel reported the phenomenon of "disposable AK-47s" used in crime in Florida:

Orange County's latest murders reflect an alarming trend for law enforcement: urban firefights with dozens of shots fired.

The shooters in Tuesday night's double killing outside a Pine Hills apartment complex emptied two AK-47s into the victims and fled, discarding the assault rifles, two handguns and a shotgun.

"They just disposed of them like disposable cigarette lighters, I guess, because they're so easy to get," sheriff's homicide Detective Dave Clark said Friday. "I mean, it's really unusual for people to leave stuff like this behind."

Andre Patterson, 27, and Joshua Sharpe, 25, were shot repeatedly in the parking lot of Kensington Cottages apartments on Burroughs Drive off Hiawassee Road. Crime-scene technicians found 58 cartridges fired by the AK-47s and an undisclosed number from the other firearms.

One of the AK-47s had a 30-shot magazine. The other had a 40-shot magazine. Both had been fired until empty....

[more]

Sadly, as the Brady Center's report shows, such incidents are all too common.

Official statistics are unavailable because of burdensome restrictions on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but since the Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, at least 163 people have been killed and 185 wounded with military-style semi-automatic assault weapons. This includes at least 38 police officers killed or wounded in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and others.

Restrictions on assault weapons have drawn support from law enforcement and U.S. Presidents including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and even George W. Bush.

Senator Barack Obama said in his convention acceptance speech, "The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals."

That's just common sense. Yet Senator John McCain, called "one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment" by the NRA, still opposes restrictions on the easy access to 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. Senators Obama and McCain should be pressed at tonight's debate to explain their differences on this important issue.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)