Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, as President Obama reminded us in his State of the Union Address this week, 2 months have passed since the heartbreaking school shooting in Newtown, CT. Since then, we have mourned the loss of the 20 wonderful children and 6 extraordinary adults who were murdered that day. Their lives were taken by a mentally deranged individual who easily obtained a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle with a high capacity ammunition magazine.
It has been estimated that there are currently 18 million assault weapons in circulation around the United States. If no action is taken, this number will continue to grow. Across our Nation, any dangerous individual can walk into a gun show and walk out with the same type of weapon that the perpetrator in Newtown used to murder so many innocent people. These weapons, along with high-capacity ammunition magazines, can easily escalate confrontation into murder, petty crime into tragedy, and a killing of one or two people into a massive slaughter.
The weight of evidence shows that since Congress allowed the Federal assault weapons ban to expire in 2004, the use of military style assault weapons in crime has surged around our Nation. For example, a 2010 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that since the ban lapsed, 37 percent of police agencies have reported increases in criminals' use of assault weapons. A separate Washington Post analysis revealed that the ban was associated with a 60 percent decline in the number of guns with high-capacity magazines recovered at Virginia crime scenes between 1998 and 2004. But since the ban expired in 2004, the number of guns recovered with high-capacity magazines has more than doubled. A Department of Justice study of several cities found that high-capacity magazines are used in 14 to 26 percent of gun crimes and in 31 to 41 percent of fatal police shootings in the cities analyzed.
It is long past time to take concrete action to support our law enforcement communities and to prevent more of these massacres. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. By preventing the future possession, manufacture, sale and importation of assault type weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, this bill would stop the flood of these weapons of war into our communities. It would support law enforcement officers across our Nation, who should not be forced to confront lawbreakers armed with military weapons. And it would protect the rights of hunters by specifically naming thousands of firearms with legitimate sporting, sentimental or other value that would remain legal to possess.
Mr. President, we must face reality. We live in a nation trapped in an epidemic of gun violence. Where a day at the mall or a trip to the movies can become a nightmare. Where parents send their children to school and have to worry about whether they will come home.
Is this the Nation we want, or the Nation we want to leave to our children? We must not wait for the next madman to easily and legally purchase a military-style assault weapon and a high capacity magazine. I urge my colleagues to protect the American people by enacting measures to stem the tide of gun tragedies. It is long past time for this kind of violence to end.