TUCSON, Ariz. - A federal judge who sentenced the man who shot former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said in an article published Friday that it's time to bring back the federal assault weapons ban.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said in the opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, "Congress must reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."
His comments came on the same day that the National Rifle Association declared a no-retreat stance in the face of growing calls for gun control after the Connecticut shootings that claimed the lives of 26 children and school staff a week ago.
At a news conference in Washington, D.C., the nation's largest gun rights lobby said guns and police officers in all American schools are what's needed to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings."
Burns, a San Diego-based judge, last month sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life sentences plus 140 years in prison for the January 2011 shooting outside a Tucson supermarket that left six people dead and injured 13 people, including Giffords.
In Friday's article, Burns wrote that during Loughner's sentencing, "I also questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
"The ban wasn't all that stringent - if you already owned a banned gun or high-capacity magazine you could keep it, and you could sell it to someone else - but at least it was something," Burns added. This time, he said, "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."
It's unusual for a sitting judge to make such high-profile comments about public policy, but Burns - who said he's a gun owner - wrote that there's "no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines." Regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire without reloading "might be able to take the 'mass' out of 'mass shooting,"' he said.
"It says something that half of the nation's deadliest shootings occurred after the ban expired, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.," Burns wrote. "It also says something that it has not even been two years since Loughner's rampage, and already six mass shootings have been deadlier."