Debate on military assault weapons renewed

Local representatives, gun enthusiasts speak out regarding laws


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Connecticut school shooting is bringing up the debate on military assault weapons.

President Barack Obama alluded to it during a memorial service, and now members of Congress are beginning to react.

Members of northeast Florida's local delegation and gun enthusiasts spoke Monday about why and if there need to be changes to the law.

Paul Rukab, who owns St. Nicholas Gun and Sporting Goods on Blanding Boulevard, says when mass shootings like the one Friday happen, gun sales actually increase and guns become harder to find.

"People like them for the looks of them. They like to shoot them. They like to collect them," Rukab said. "It's not an assault weapon, it's a rifle."

Rukab said any new limitations will affect his businesses. He said there is a lot of misunderstanding about assault weapons.

"If you don't have assault rifles on the market, what they call assault, they can use a shotgun, they can use a high-power hunting rifle, which got 10 times the power of a semiautomatic," Rukab said.

Democratic lawmakers are now saying action has to be taken. In the 1990s, gun control was the hot topic when Congress enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., says she was in favor of that.

"I voted for the ban in '94 and will vote for it again," Brown said in a phone interview. "It has nothing to do with people having the right to protect their house or being able to hunt, but it's just ludicrous that you can have these kind of machine guns that can kill hundreds of people in a moment's notice. It does not make any sense to me. No."

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson echoed the same thoughts. His staff issued this statement Monday:

"Sen. Nelson is a hunter and supporter of the Second Amendment. But he's voted to ban weapons like AK-47s because he believes they're meant for killing, not for hunting."

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., released this statement on the issue:

"Legislation alone will not stop these tragedies; we also need to identify those individuals who are mentally ill and help them with psychological support. But, obviously we need to consider the best ways to prevent a tragedy such as this from ever happening again."

Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., also released a statement on the issue in the wake of the Connecticut killings.

"All facets of this horrific crime will be carefully reviewed, and in that process, I fully expect that the policies and laws around gun control will and should be part of the national conversation that follows," he said.

Since the ban was lifted, polls show fewer Americans want stricter laws, and gun enthusiasts say the country needs to deal with the problem of mentally disturbed people and not put the regulations on guns.