TIME Crime

Three-Year-Old Girl Shot By Child Playing With a Gun

The shooter was reportedly a 7-year-old boy

A three-year-old girl was shot and killed by another child who was apparently playing with a gun in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday evening.

The toddler, Dalis Cox, was shot by a child identified by neighbors as a 7-year-old boy who had found a gun in the apartment, reports the Washington Post. Cox’s father said that the girl’s mother lives in the apartment complex where Dalis was shot. It is not known who the gun belonged to, or where it was in the apartment.

When police arrived on the scene Wednesday night Dalis was unresponsive; she died at the hospital. Timothy Cox, Dalis’s father, has two other children.

“Dalis is my life and soul,” the father said. “I’m at a real loss. People need to make sure they are with their kids at all times. Tomorrow is not promised.”

[Washington Post]

TIME White House

The Lack of Change in Gun Laws During His Presidency Has Been ‘Distressing,’ Obama Says

Michelle Obama Hosts 2015 Beating The Odds Summit At White House
Mark Wilson—Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama greets guests during a surprise visit to First Lady Michelle Obama's event on higher education in the East Room of the White House July 23, 2015

The President spoke of feeling "most frustrated and most stymied" over the issue

Failure to pass what he called “common-sense gun-safety laws” during his tenure in the White House has ranked among his greatest frustrations, Barack Obama has told the BBC, in a wide-ranging interview covering much of the last years of his presidency.

Obama said he felt he had made strides in many political arenas but that it was “distressing” not to have affected significant change in gun laws “even in the face of repeated mass killings.”

With less than two years left in power, Obama said guns were the policy area that made him feel “most frustrated and most stymied. “If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100,” he said. “If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands.”

During a turbulent summer that saw nine African Americans killed at a South Carolina prayer meeting in June, Obama told reporters that “politics in [Washington]” precluded most options for change in gun control policy.

The BBC interview was conducted previous to the July 23 shooting at a movie theater in Louisiana and did not touch on that event.


TIME Tennessee

Chattanooga Shooter Suffered From Depression, Family Says

His family says he was not the son they knew

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The family of the man who authorities say killed four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga said in a statement that their son suffered from depression and was not the son they knew.

“There are no words to describe our shock, horror, and grief,” said the statement, provided Saturday to the Associated Press by a lawyer representing the family of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. “The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved. For many years, our son suffered from depression. It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence.”

“We understand there are many legitimate questions that need to be answered,” the statement said. “Having said this, now is the time to reflect on the victims and their families, and we feel it would be inappropriate to say anything more other than that we are truly sorry for their loss.”

The family added that they are cooperating with the investigation.

In Chattanooga, a city that prides itself on strong ties between people of different faiths, some Muslims feared the community’s perception of them had changed after the shooting rampage Thursday.

Mohsin Ali, a member of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, said he hoped the local community didn’t dissolve into turmoil the way others have in the region over the building of mosques and other matters. Peaceful coexistence has largely prevailed here.

“We, our kids, feel 100 percent American and Chattanoogan,” said the Pakistani-born Ali, who is a child psychiatrist. “Now they are wondering if that is how people still look at them.”

As FBI agents served a warrant on the Abdulazeez home Thursday, two women wearing Islamic head coverings were seen being led away in handcuffs. But FBI agent Jason Pack said Saturday that no arrests have been made in the case.

Authorities are looking into the shooting as a terrorism investigation and whether Abdulazeez was inspired or directed by any terrorist organization. They still don’t know what motived Abdulazeez.

The president of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga said Abdulazeez’s father told him he felt blindsided and did not see any recent changes in his son.

“He told me that he had never seen it coming, and did not see any signs from his son that he would be that way and do something like that,” Bassam Issa said.

Meanwhile, governors in at least a half-dozen states ordered Guardsmen to be armed, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott moved his state’s Guard recruiters from storefronts in urban areas to armories.

Ali said immigrants such as himself owe a debt of gratitude to America and the armed forces protect it, because they often know firsthand what it means to live in countries without personal freedoms or the rule of law. Near the end of the service Friday night, at Ali’s urging, dozens of Muslims received a standing ovation as they stood in support of their city and in allegiance to their nation.

It was a remarkable show of togetherness in a region where relations have sometimes been tense since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Still, the events of the last few days have left some on edge, particularly the young. The end of Ramadan is usually a time for celebration, but events at the Islamic Center were canceled after the shootings. A sign on the door Friday encouraged visitors to go to the memorial service instead.

Khadija Aslam, 15, didn’t wear her head covering in the car while riding to prayer services after the shootings for fear of attracting attention, and 15-year-old Zoha Ahmad said her family is worried about the possibility of vandalism at their home.

“A lot of people know we live there and that we’re Muslims,” she said.

Ali said he plans to offer group counseling for concerned members of the Islamic community at his home, and that might help ease concerns. But, he isn’t sure.

“We’ll see,” said Ali.


These Are the 10 States With the Most Gun Violence

Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths across the country in recent years

More than two-thirds of all homicides in the United States are gun-related. Of the 16, 121 homicides reported in 2013, 11,208 were caused by gun violence. Including suicides, nearly 34,000 people died in gun-related incidents in 2013, up 13.8% from 10 years earlier.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps track of the number of gun-related deaths in each state. Fatalities include homicides, suicides, and accidents. The frequency of firearm-related deaths varies considerably across the country. In Hawaii, the state with the fewest gun-related fatalities, there were just 2.6 firearm-associated deaths per 100,000 people. In Alaska, on the other hand, there were nearly 20 gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents, the most of any state. 24/7 Wall St. examined the 10 states with the highest gun-related deaths.

Click here to see the 10 states with the most gun violence.

Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths across the country in recent years. Of the 33,636 firearm deaths in 2013, more than 21,000 were suicides. In fact, suicide accounted for more than half of gun-related deaths in all but one state with the most gun violence. In three states — Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming — suicide accounted for more than 80% of all firearm deaths.

24/7 Wall St. discussed the CDC’s figures with John Roman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy think tank. Roman explained that states with the highest rates of suicide often have the strongest culture of gun ownership in the country. “There are many more suicides in places where it’s easy to get a gun,” he said.

While federal gun laws are uniform across the country, state regulations vary, offering more lax or more strict approaches to firearm use. Seven of the 10 states with the most firearm deaths in 2013 have enacted stand your ground laws. In keeping with a state’s culture, Roman explained, many states with these laws likely also have laws that make it easier to possess firearms and buy ammunition.

In fact, none of the states with the most gun violence require permits to purchase rifles, shotguns, or handguns. Gun owners are also not required to register their weapons in any of these states. Meanwhile, many of the states with the least gun violence require a permit or other form of identification to buy a gun.

Gun-related homicides were also relatively frequent in the states with the most gun violence. Nationally, there were 3.61 homicides per 100,000 people. Seven of the the 10 states with the most gun violence reported homicide rates higher than the national rate. Louisiana is one of only four states in the country where homicides accounted for a larger share of firearm deaths than suicides. In 2013, Louisiana reported nearly 10 homicides per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the country.

Although not necessarily related, violent crime rates in the states with the most gun violence were also quite high. In fact, in seven of these states there were more than 430 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents. Nationally, the rate was 367.9 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans.

Limited access to quality hospitals may be a contributing factor to firearm deaths. Often, victims of gunshots or other violent crimes need immediate medical attention, which may be more difficult to receive in rural areas. “If you have a hospital with a Level III trauma center, your likelihood of surviving an injury like a gunshot wound is far higher than if you lived near a basic hospital,” Roman said.

Economic factors also appear to be related to firearm deaths. The poverty rate in eight of the 10 states with the most gun violence was above the national rate of 15.8%. Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas, the states with the four highest poverty rates in the country, were among the states with the most gun violence.

Educational attainment rates also tended to be lower in states with the most gun violence. The share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree was lower than the national rate of 29.6% in all 10 states on this list.

To determine the states with the most gun violence, 24/7 Wall St. examined 2013 firearm-related deaths data from the CDC. Firearm death rates are age-adjusted to avoid distortion in states with large populations of young people. We also considered 2013 violent crime rates from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report. From the U.S. Census Bureau, we reviewed median household income, poverty rates, and educational attainment rates for 2013. Information on firearm policies for each state are from the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action.

These are the states with the most gun violence.

  • 10. Tennessee

    > 2013 firearm death rate: 15.4 per 100,000
    > Total firearm deaths 2004-2013: 9,568 (11th highest)
    > Violent crime rate: 590.6 (4th highest)
    > Permit required to buy handgun: No
    > Poverty rate: 17.8% (12th highest)

    There were more than 1,000 gun-related deaths — including homicide, suicide, and accidents — in Tennessee in 2013, or 15.4 deaths per 100,000 residents, the 10th highest rate in the country. Overall crime rates were also quite high, with 590.6 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people, far more than the nearly 368 reported crimes for every 100,000 Americans. Additionally, less than 25% of adults in the state had at least a bachelor’s degree, less than the 29.6% of adults with a bachelor’s degree across the nation.

    ALSO READ: 7 Car Brands The Cost Less Than They Used To

  • 9. New Mexico

    > 2013 firearm death rate: 15.4 per 100,000
    > Total firearm deaths 2004-2013: 2,983 (19th lowest)
    > Violent crime rate: 613.0 (2nd highest)
    > Permit required to buy handgun: No
    > Poverty rate: 21.9% (2nd highest)

    Like most states across the country, the largest proportion of gun-related deaths in New Mexico was attributable to suicide. The age-adjusted firearm suicide rate of 10.3 per 100,000 was the ninth highest rate in the country. New Mexico also had the highest death rate by legal intervention — deaths caused by police or other law enforcement officials — in the country. In general, New Mexico residents were exposed to a large number of crimes. The state reported 613 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, the second highest rate in the country. Low education levels and widespread poverty may partly explain the high gun violence and deaths. Nearly 22% of New Mexico’s population lived in poverty, substantially higher than the national poverty rate of 15.8%. Additionally, only 84.3% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the sixth lowest rate in the country.

  • 8. Oklahoma

    > 2013 firearm death rate: 16.5 per 100,000
    > Total firearm deaths 2004-2013: 5,352 (23rd highest)
    > Violent crime rate: 441.2 (12th highest)
    > Permit required to buy handgun: No
    > Poverty rate: 16.8% (16th highest)

    Gun-related homicides and suicides were both relatively high in Oklahoma. At least 433 Oklahomans, or 11.1 per 100,000, took their own life with a gun, the sixth highest rate in the country. There were 4.8 gun-related homicides per 100,000 residents, the 10th highest rate nationwide. Like all of the states with the most gun violence, Oklahoma also does not require a permit to purchase a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. Additionally, Oklahoma households were among the poorest in the country with an annual median income of $45,690.

  • 7. Wyoming

    > 2013 firearm death rate: 16.5 per 100,000
    > Total firearm deaths 2004-2013: 879 (7th lowest)
    > Violent crime rate: 205.1 (4th lowest)
    > Permit required to buy handgun: No
    > Poverty rate: 10.9% (6th lowest)

    With the second highest firearm-related suicide rate, Wyoming residents were more than twice as likely to commit suicide as residents across the nation. More than 87% of firearm deaths in Wyoming were due to suicide, considerably higher than the 63% of all gun-related fatalities across the country. Unlike other states with high rates of gun-violence, however, Wyoming residents were well-educated. Roughly 94% of adults 25 and older had at least graduated from high school, the highest rate in the country. Despite the high rate of gun-violence, other types of crimes were relatively uncommon. Just over 205 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 residents, one of the lowest rates in the country.

  • 6. Arkansas

    > 2013 firearm death rate: 16.7 per 100,000
    > Total firearm deaths 2004-2013: 4,478 (24th lowest)
    > Violent crime rate: 460.3 (10th highest)
    > Permit required to buy handgun: No
    > Poverty rate: 19.7% (4th highest)

    A typical household in Arkansas earned $40,511 in 2013, nearly the lowest such figure in the country. Additionally, just 20.6% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, the third lowest rate nationwide. The low incomes and education levels may have contributed to Arkansas’ high gun-related deaths. There were 501 deaths by firearm in Arkansas, or 16.7 per 100,000, the sixth highest rate. Like other states in the country, nearly two-thirds of gun-related deaths were due to suicide. Like every state on this list, Arkansas’ gun laws are relatively permissive. Currently, no laws require that gun owners have permits for the purchase of shotguns, rifles, and handguns. Additionally, gun owners are not obligated to register their weapons.

    ALSO READ: The Poorest Town in Each State

    For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com

    More from 24/7 Wall Street:

TIME norway

Norway Police Fired Guns Twice Last Year, Missed Both Times

Police in Norway don't usually carry guns

Norwegian police only fired their guns twice in 2014, and no one was hurt by either shot.

That’s according to new data released by the Norwegian government that details how the country’s police force uses their weapons, reports the Washington Post. In 2014, the police threatened to use their weapons 42 times, but only actually fired twice, and neither shot injured the target.

In 10 of the past 12 years, police have not fatally shot anyone in the country. One reason for these low numbers may be that police in Norway don’t usually carry guns, according to the Post.

[Washington Post]

TIME Crime

Two Former CNN Reporters Got Into a Motel Gunfight With a Suspected Intruder

Albuquerque Motel Shootings
Adolphe Pierre-Louis—Albuquerque Journal/AP An Albuquerque Police Department officer collects evidence after a man was killed and another injured during what police say was an altercation between the two at a Motel 6 in Albuquerque, N.M. on June 30, 2015

One person was killed and another hospitalized with gunshot wounds

Chuck de Caro and his wife Lynne Russell got more than they bargained for when they stopped at an Albuquerque Motel 6 on June 30 during a cross-country road trip.

A man allegedly forced his way into the room that the former CNN special assignments correspondent and former Headline News anchor were sharing after Russell went to retrieve something from her car around midnight, CNN reports.

The man held Russell at gunpoint, she said, and was going through the couple’s valuables when de Caro opened fire using one of the couple’s two guns, which his wife had retrieved from a side table and passed him surreptitiously in her purse. A firefight ensued, and both de Caro and the intruder were hit.

The suspected intruder died at the hospital; de Caro, who sustained three bullet wounds to the leg and torso, is expected to make a full recovery. The couple maintain that both of the guns they used in self-defense were legal, and Albuquerque police spokesman Fred Duran told CNN he did not expect any charges to be filed.



Rev. Clementa Pinckney to Be Laid to Rest in Charleston

President Obama Funeral Clementa Pinckney
Win McNamee—Getty Images Members of the clergy wait to enter the funeral service where U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy for South Carolina State senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was killed along with eight others in a mass shooting June 26, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.

Thousands line up to pay their respects

Thousands gathered in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday for the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the state senator who was shot dead with eight other worshippers in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church last week.

So many people lined up outside the TD Arena at the College of Charleston to pay their respects to Rev. Pinckney that the Red Cross is handing out bottles of water to attendees who might be at risk for heat exhaustion. Mourners started lining up at 4 a.m., the Charleston Post-Courier reports. President Obama gave an emotional address, in which he sang a passionate rendition of ‘Amazing Grace.’

Pinckney, who was both a prolific minister and a state senator, was considered one of the most respected figures in South Carolina before his death just weeks before his 42nd birthday. Called to the pulpit at 13, he became an ordained minister at 18.

He believed that political action goes hand-in-hand with worship, so at 23 he became the youngest elected black member of the South Carolina House of legislature, where he championed legislation for police body cameras, background checks for buyers of assault weapons, and insurance coverage for smoking cessation programs. He even considered supporting a casino in his district, because even though as a pastor he disapproved of gambling, he knew his constituents needed jobs.

“I always told him, ‘You’re going to be a national political figure,’” legislative aide Helen Pittman told the New York Times. “I’d like to scrub those words out of my mouth, because now he is.”

Many of Pinckney’s friends and family members spoke at the funeral. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) also spoke, encouraging mourners not to let the tragedy of Pinckney’s death cast a shadow across all he worked to achieve. “We’ve seen too many victories to let defeat have the last word,” he said.

Pinckney is survived by his wife and two young daughters, Eliana and Malana. Both girls wrote notes to their late father which were included in the funeral program. “Although he may be gone, he’s here with me all day and night long,” wrote Eliana. “I know you were shot at the Church and you went to Heaven. I love you so much!” wrote Malana, who signed her note, “your baby girl and grasshopper.”

TIME faith

Why Some Pastors Bring Their Guns to the Pulpit

Charleston Shooting
Stephen B. Morton—AP Police tape surrounds the parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church as FBI forensic experts work the crime scene where nine were killed in Charleston, S.C., on June 19, 2015.

Advocates push for firearms in church following shooting in Charleston

When associate pastor Brian Ulch is preaching at Trinity Lighthouse Church in Denison, Texas, he’s armed with a Glock. It sits on his right side just under his suit jacket or dress shirt. And when he’s not preaching, he’s training other churchgoers around the state to protect themselves and others.

“We feel like we owe it to our congregation to engage any type of threat,” Ulch says. “If people aren’t willing to combat a threat, then they’re making themselves vulnerable.”

Since the shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine people Wednesday, gun control is once again in the spotlight. But this time, some gun control advocates have focused on a lack of security at many places of worship around the country.

Concealed weapons are often banned at church, and some—most recently GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee—are calling for more security and more armed pastors and churchgoers. At least one business owner in Tulsa, Okla., has offered free gun training to local pastors.

Many pastors argue that arming congregants goes against religious teachings of non-violence and that guns have no place in a place of worship. Many states, including South Carolina, specifically prohibit guns in church. “The presence of a cross in our sanctuary reminds us that God’s response to violence is never greater violence,” Pastor Baron Mullis of Atlanta’s Morningside Presbyterian Church told WGCL-TV. “This is a place of peace. … This is not a place for guns.”

But increasingly, churchgoers are able to pack heat in the pews if they wish. A number of states have recently passed laws allowing concealed weapons in churches, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois and North Dakota. Bryan Crosswhite, president of 2AO, an organization that advocates for Second Amendment rights, says that roughly 25 states allow concealed carry weapons in churches. But after the shooting in Charleston, his group is pushing for more states to open up their churches to firearms.

“Churches are often gun-free zones,” Crosswhite says. “That makes them a major target for those who go to worship. In most churches, the congregation has their back to the doors. People could walk right in and shoot so many people if you don’t have a plan in place.”

Several organizations specifically work with churches to arm congregants that volunteer to provide security. Chuck Chadwick, founder and president of the National Organization for Church Security and Safety, says that his organization has worked with thousands of churches since the group’s founding in 2005, including churchgoers who attend security seminars and pastors who go through gun training. “We train men and women to run toward the sound of gunfire,” Chadwick says.

NOCSSM has worked with churches around the country, but in Texas, where the organization is located, Chadwick says his group has trained hundreds of officers who are now deployed throughout the state. Since the Charleston shooting, Chadwick says he’s been getting flooded with calls from churches looking to boost their own security.

The shooting in Charleston has already reignited the push to allow guns in church, but it could potentially have a lasting effect on people of faith who no longer feel like their churches are sanctuaries from violence. Ulch, the associate pastor, doesn’t see it that way. “Personally, I would not attend a church if it didn’t have armed security,” he says. “There’s no other place where everyone is welcomed and people can come and go freely without question. I believe every ministry owes it to their people.”

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Calls for Action on Guns After Charleston Shooting

The Democratic candidate makes her first public comments since the attack

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton challenged the nation Thursday to take new actions to curb gun violence in her first reactions to the shooting inside a historically black Charleston, S.C., church that left nine dead.

“How many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” she asked, during a summit of elected and appointed Latino politicians meeting in Las Vegas.

She began by saying that her thoughts and prayers were with the victims and their families in the shooting, before turning to a broader discussion of police. “So as we mourn and as our hearts break a little more, and as we send this message of solidarity that we will not forsake those who have been victimized by gun violence, this time we have to find answers together,” Clinton said.

Police said they had in custody suspect Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old man who spent almost an hour inside the church Wednesday night before opening fire. Officials were not ascribing motives for Roof, who is white, and his killings inside one of Charleston’s most prominent black churches.

“Cut down at prayer. Murdered in a house of God. It just broke my heart. That of course is the last place we should see violence. But we shouldn’t see it anywhere,” Clinton said. “In the days ahead, we will again ask what led to this terrible tragedy and where we as a nation need to go. In order to make sense of it, we have to be honest. We have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division.”

Clinton visited Charleston on Wednesday before the killings. “I left feeling not only great about Charleston but also great about America,” Clinton said of the South Carolina city. When she landed in Las Vegas hours later, she learned of the killings. “The shock and pain of this crime of hate strikes deep,” she said.


Guns Were Much More Strictly Regulated in the 1920s and 1930s than They Are Today

Birger Gang Arms
Chicago History Museum / Getty Images A dog sits atop a vehicle belonging to the Birger Gang of southern Illinois, ca.1920s

Those who look to America’s past to extol a time when nothing stood between an American and a gun need to look again

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

The first significant federal law aimed at curtailing gun violence, the National Firearms Act of 1934, enacted a series of measures aimed mostly at stemming the spread of ever-more destructive weapons into the hands of criminals at a time of spiraling gangland violence. Chief among the weapons and accessories it regulated were sawed-off shotguns (defined as those having a barrel shorter than 18 inches), machine guns, and silencers. As if to punctuate the connection between the law and criminal violence, the NFA was signed into law on June 26. Bookending the signing was the killing of the notorious criminal duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow on May 23, and of uber-gangster John Dillinger on July 22.

Yet the campaign to staunch the flow of such weapons into society began in the states the previous decade, when at least 27 states enacted measures to restrict or outlaw the sale and possession of fully automatic weapons prior to 1934 – most especially submachine guns like the Tommy gun (dubbed “the gun that made the Twenties roar”). The first state to so act was West Virginia in 1925. The pivotal role of the states, acting at a time when the national government was seen as having limited power over the regulation of crime, comes as little surprise.

But there is another part of this story that, to my knowledge, has never been unearthed. Not only did states move to restrict fully automatic weapons – those that fire a continuous stream of bullets when the trigger is depressed – but also semi-automatic weapons that fire without reloading and with each pull of the trigger. At least seven, and as many as ten states enacted legislation that in various ways sought to restrict such weapons. Sometimes, fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons were treated in the same way.

For example, Rhode Island defined prohibited “machine guns” to include “any weapon which shoots automatically and any weapon which shoots more than twelve shots semi-automatically without reloading.” A 1927 Massachusetts laws defined prohibited weapons as, “Any gun or small arm caliber designed for rapid fire and operated by a mechanism, or any gun which operates automatically after the first shot has been fire. . . shall be deemed a machine gun.” Michigan’s 1927 law prohibited machine guns or any other firearm if they fired more than sixteen times without reloading. Minnesota’s 1933 law outlawed “Any firearm capable of automatically reloading after each shot is fired, whether firing singly by separate trigger pressure or firing continuously by continuous trigger pressure.” It went on to penalize the modification of weapons that were altered to accommodate such extra firing capacity.

Ohio barred both fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons in a 1933 law, incorporating under the banned category any gun that “shoots automatically, or any firearm which shoots more than eighteen shots semi-automatically without reloading.” The law specifically defined semi-automatic weapons as those which fired one shot with each pull of the trigger. South Dakota’s 1933 law barred machine guns by defining them as weapons “from which more than five shots or bullets may be rapidly or automatically, or semi-automatically discharged from a magazine.” In 1933 Virginia outlawed weapons “of any description . . . from which more than seven shots or bullets may be rapidly, or automatically, or semi-automatically discharged from a magazine, by a single function of the firing device, and also applies to and includes weapons, loaded or unloaded, from which more than sixteen shots or bullets may be rapidly, automatically, semi-automatically, or otherwise discharged without reloading.”

As is true in much of life, changes in technology often drive changes in behavior. While the typical hunter of the 1930s might have used a bolt action rifle, today’s hunter is much more likely to rely on some kind of semi-automatic long barrel gun. Even if the hotly disputed category of “assault weapons” were banned nationwide today (as was true to a limited degree from 1994-2004), the vast majority of long guns owned and used for recreational purposes would still be legal. But what is notable, even astonishing about the state laws just quoted is that they demonstrated little patience for semi-automatic firing married to the ability to fire multiple rounds without reloading.

One may have a legitimate debate about whether some modern weapons or accessories, like silencers or large capacity bullet magazines, should be restricted or regulated. But for those who look to America’s past to extol a time when nothing stood between an American and a gun, they need to look again. In many respects, guns were much more strictly regulated decades or even centuries ago than they are today.

Robert J. Spitzer is Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at SUNY Cortland. His most recent book is “Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights,” published by Oxford University Press.

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