Statement for the Record from Amnesty International USA
House Committee on the Judiciary
Hearing On Protecting America from Assault Weapons
September 25, 2019
Chairman Jerold Nadler Ranking Member Doug Collins
Committee on the Judiciary Committee on the Judiciary
US House of Representatives US House of Representatives
2138 Rayburn House Office Building 2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Collins and Members of the Committee:
On behalf of our one million members and supporters, Amnesty International USA (“AIUSA”) hereby submits this statement for the record in connection with the above-referenced hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary.
Today’s hearing focuses on a critical aspect of the gun violence crisis: the role and impact of assault weapons. Assault weapons and high capacity magazines should be banned, and this Committee should pass the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 (H. R.1296) in order to keeping weapons of war off of our streets and out of our communities.
GUN VIOLENCE IS A HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS
The sheer volume of people killed or injured each year in the U.S. by gun violence is staggering. In 2017 firearms caused an average of 108 deaths every day, and over 133,000 more individuals suffered non-fatal gun violence injuries. Per capita, this is significantly higher than in other industrialized countries. With only 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. has almost half of the world’s civilian-owned guns. Given the large number of guns in circulation and the increasing rates of gun violence, the U.S. government has a duty to adequately regulate access to firearms to ensure that they do not end up in the hands of those likely to misuse them. Despite the dangers posed by assault weapons, there is no federal law regulating them.
The disproportionate impact of gun violence on communities of color, women, and children is particularly troubling. African American men and boys aged 15-34 are 10 times more likely to be the victims of gun homicides than white males in the same age group. Women are 16 times and children are 13 times more likely to be killed by a gun than their counterparts in other developed nations.
Shooters using semi-automatic assault rifles with large-capacity magazines can kill many people in a matter of minutes – sometimes seconds. The horrific mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton and Odessa highlight the cost of failing to ban weapons of war and allowing them to be accessible to civilians. The shooter in the Dayton mass shooting had a firearm equipped with a 100-round drum magazine that enabled him to fire 41 rounds of ammunition in just 30 seconds – killing nine__ persons.
Assault rifles augmented by large capacity magazines were used in the majority of the nation’s most notorious mass shootings: in 2012 at Sandy Hook where 20 children and six adults were killed at an elementary school, in 2016 in Orlando where 49 people were killed at a nightclub, in 2017 in Las Vegas where 58 people were killed at an outdoor concert, in 2017 in Sutherland Springs where 26 were killed in a church, and in 2018 in Parkland where 13 students and four adults were killed in a high school.
In our 2018 report In the Line of Fire AIUSA found that in a review of 56 mass shootings over a decade, where assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines were used, more than 13 people were shot, compared to five for other incidents, and on average around eight people died compared to five fatalities for other incidents.
A recent Everytown for Gun Safety study analyzing media reports and official records of mass shootings between 2009 and 2017 found that of the incidents with known magazine capacity data, 58 percent involved firearms with high-capacity magazines. These shootings resulted in twice as many fatalities and 14 times as many injuries per incident on average compared to those that did not include the use of high-capacity magazines.
Assault rifles fire rounds that typically achieve a velocity of over 3,000 feet per second, compared to handguns that fire rounds closer to 1,000 feet per second. High capacity magazines equip shooters with large volumes of steady ammunition, exponentially increase the likelihood of death in a mass shooting. Medical providers who treated victims from the Parkland shootings stated that that unlike wounds caused by bullets from handguns, high velocity bullets from assault weapons cause damage that extends beyond the bullets’ path, thereby increasing lethality.
Concerns over the accessibility of semi-automatic assault rifles and large-capacity magazines have also been voiced by law enforcement officers. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has recommended that the U.S. pass laws banning military-style assault weapons so that officers are not faced with shooters armed with military-grade weapons.
Weapons of war should never be in the hands of civilians.
Congress should swiftly pass the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 (H.R. 2019) to ban the sale, transfer and possession of semi-automatic assault rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, semi-automatic submachine guns and large capacity magazines.
For more information, please contact Adotei Akwei at 202-509-8148 or [email protected].
Joanne Lin Adotei Akwei
National Director Deputy Director
Advocacy and Government Affairs Advocacy and Government Affairs