Larry Alan Burns, the federal district judge in San Diego who just last month sentenced Tuscon shooter Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison, is no darling of the gun control movement.
Burns is a self-described conservative, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, and he agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller, which held that the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the right to own guns for self-defense. He is also a gun owner.
But while sentencing Loughner in November, Burns questioned the need for high-capacity magazines like the one Loughner had in his Glock, and said he regretted how the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. On Thursday, reacting to last week’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Burns publicly called for a new assault weapons ban “with some teeth this time,” in an op-ed published by The Los Angeles Times.
“Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Burns wrote. “Don’t let people who already have them keep them. Don’t let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don’t care whether it’s called gun control or a gun ban. I’m for it.”
Burns argued that while the ban that expired in 2004 wasn’t very stringent, “at least it was something.” Half of the nation’s deadliest shootings, Burns pointed out, have occurred since the ban expired. In his view, high-capacity magazines fall outside the scope of good-faith debates about gun violence.
“I get it.” Burns wrote. “Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the ‘mass’ out of ‘mass shooting,’ or at least make the perpetrator’s job a bit harder.”
Here’s how Burns concluded his piece:
There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.
It speaks horribly of the public discourse in this country that talking about gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting is regarded as inappropriate or as politicizing the tragedy. But such a conversation is political only to those who are ideologically predisposed to see regulation of any kind as the creep of tyranny. And it is inappropriate only to those delusional enough to believe it would disrespect the victims of gun violence to do anything other than sit around and mourn their passing. Mourning is important, but so is decisive action.
Congress must reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Read the whole thing here.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com