DAYTON MAYOR TO CONGRESS:

DO SOMETHING

By Austin R. Ramsey

Sept. 25, 2019 | American University – Public Affairs Reporting

The mayor of Dayton, Ohio, the site of a deadly mass shooting last month that killed nine and injured 27 others, challenged members of Congress on Wednesday to ban assault-style weapons she said are responsible for the carnage her city witnessed.


Mayor Nan Whaley testified before the House Judiciary Committee, describing in detail an excruciating 32 seconds of terror as a man wielding an AR-15–style handgun turned it on crowds of bar patrons in a busy Dayton entertainment district on Aug. 4, firing indiscriminately until he was immobilized by nearby police.


“In those 32 seconds, the shooter’s weapon did exactly what it was designed to do — kill or injure as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time,” Whaley said. “I’m here today on behalf of the citizens of Dayton and mayors across the country to ask you to keep weapons like this off of our streets. I’m here to ask you to do something.”
 

Her city’s tragedy, and another like it at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, just a day before, motivated Wednesday’s hearing, the first congressional crack at an assault weapons ban in more than two decades.
 

But the hearing, which comes amid the committee’s consideration of a resolution that would ban assault weapons with high-capacity magazines and machine gun–like features, was marked by deepening political divides on both sides of the dais. 
 

Republicans balked at the proposal, rejecting the term “assault weapons” and characterizing any effort to ban them as an attack on the Second Amendment. Democrats, meanwhile, clung to a former prohibition on the military-style firearms that expired in 2004 and they say contributed to a 70% decrease in the likelihood that any American might find him or herself caught in a deadly mass shooting scenario.
 

Charlottesville (Virginia) Police Chief RaShall Brackney testified that she would support a ban on any weapon that could be used to “hunt people,” while former law enforcement officer–turned gun rights activist Dianna Muller told the committee she wanted machine guns and even, perhaps, military tanks to be legal, portraying  gun rights as a gender issue over a “woman’s right to choose.”
 

“I will not comply with an assault weapons ban, if this Congress enacts it,” a defiant Muller said.
 

She wasn’t alone. 
 

One member of the audience at Wednesday's hearing was escorted out of the committee room by Capitol Police amid shouts at the bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.
 

Other times, Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., gaveled down applause from activists in the crowd, threatening to suspend the hearing until order was restored.
 

Already this year, the committee under Nadler’s command has passed a bill that would allow courts to take guns away from people thought to be a public danger, another piece of legislation that would outlaw large-capacity magazines and one that would bar those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from owning a weapon at all.
 

But Cicilline’s bill, if enacted, would be the first piece of legislation in 15 years to deny all citizens access to certain types of weapons.
 

“I don’t think we have any business taking hunting rifles away from law-abiding citizens,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc.
 

Unless Congress does, however, testified Dr. Alejandro Rios-Tovar, the bloodshed he has witnessed first hand won’t stop.
 

Rios-Tovar is a trauma surgeon at University Medical Center of El Paso who said he blames himself for the death of a woman who suffered a fatal bullet wound to her lung he described as the size of a grapefruit.
 

“I feel like I could have done more,” he told the committee Wednesday. “But there were so many victims and so little time.”
 

Lower capacity magazines and slower ballistic weapons that can’t do the same amount of damage to the human body would have saved that woman’s life, he said.
 

That kind of survivor’s guilt is what motivated Po Murray to push Congress to take up gun control. Murray, who chairs the Newtown Action Alliance, lived next door to the man who committed the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The grief she witnessed in that community, Murray said, haunts her to this day.
 

“So, the time to act is now,” she said before Wednesday’s hearing. “We have 211 sponsors on this assault weapons ban bill, but we have more — way more than enough to pass it.”


Nadler has not yet set a committee hearing date to mark up the bill.

© 2020 by Austin R. Ramsey