Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you have no power to change politics in America. Within less than two weeks of yet another mass casualty event, the students of Stoneman Douglas High School have pushed Republican Senator Marco Rubio to the left on gun legislation, spurred massive companies like Chubb and Hertz to abandon the NRA, coordinated a march on Washington, and pressured the President of the United States to call for a ban on bump stocks.
Now, Brian Mast, Republican Representative of Florida’s 18th Congressional District, has gone a step further: calling for a ban on assault weapons in an op-ed in today’s New York Times, titled “I Appreciate Assault Weapons. And I Support a Ban.”
This isn’t some mealy-mouthed article where he tries to find “common ground” with a bunch of empty platitudes. He specifically states what he supports.
Defining what constitutes an assault or tactical firearm and not allowing them for future purchase — just as we already prohibit the purchase of fully automatic firearms. The exact definition of assault weapon will need to be determined. But we should all be able to agree that the civilian version of the very deadly weapon that the Army issued to me should certainly qualify. I would not support any version of a ban that results in confiscating existing legally owned firearms.
Ensuring that every firearm purchaser has a background check. We also need to improve the background check system.
Banning the sale of accessories and add-ons that circumvent the ban on automatic firearms, and increasing the ages at which individuals can purchase various categories of firearms.
He also details what constraints he would place on gun ownership for the mentally ill, but the fact that he leads with restrictions on guns themselves is a huge step forward.
Mast has called the Second Amendment “unimpeachable,” and he took $4,950 from the NRA in his first election to Congress. A Public Policy Polling poll from December put Mast ahead of a generic Democrat by just one point, and he had a 40% approval rating versus a 45% disapproval in his district. The fact that a Republican fighting for his political life felt the need to forcefully come out in favor of an assault weapons ban is indicative of the larger shift in public opinion towards serious gun control. These kids are an inspiration, and we cannot lose this momentum. Call your representatives, and ask them if they agree with this Republican Congressman and U.S. Army veteran who believes that weapons of war should stay on the battlefield.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.