Two Santa Clara County supervisors are calling for a nationwide ban on assault weapons, calling it a common-sense action to curb gun violence in the wake of three deadly shootings, including one that killed three people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last month.
Board President Joe Simitian and Supervisor Susan Ellenberg announced Friday that they are co-sponsoring a resolution, to be voted on at the Aug. 13 board meeting, urging Congress to pass legislation banning assault weapons commonly used in mass shootings. The federal ban would target guns used in the six deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. over the last decade, weapons used to kill more than 200 people and injure nearly 1,000, according to a joint statement by the supervisors.
The call to action comes two weeks after a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three people and injuring 13. Later that week, another gunman shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, followed by a third shooting the next day in Dayton, Ohio that left 10 people dead including the alleged shooter.
"Despite the thousands of miles that separated these tragic events, they are united by one simple, undeniable fact: an assault weapon enabled and exacerbated the violence that stole so many lives," the supervisors said in the statement.
Simitian and Ellenberg argue that the ban is necessary after the tragedy in Gilroy. Although California has restrictive gun laws banning the sale and ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, the perpetrator in Gilroy reported purchased his gun legally in Nevada. The spillover across state lines prompts a need for federal action, they said.
"We in California live in a state with some of the most rigorous firearms laws anywhere in the nation, and we are safer because of it," according to the statement. "But as the tragedy in Gilroy reminds us, our safety extends only as far as our state's borders when an individual can simply travel to Nevada ... and buy a weapon of this type."
Though the majority of gun deaths are inflicted by handguns used in suicide, supervisors say the high number of mass shootings in the U.S. are enabled by guns that are designed to "inflict harm as quickly and efficiently as possible," at a scale one might expect from a warzone.
"In the face of evidence like this, a federal assault weapons ban is more than common sense. It is a moral imperative," the supervisors said.
Action at the federal level this year includes an assault weapons ban introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in January. In February, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring universal background checks on gun sales, though it's unclear whether the Republican majority in the Senate will support the bill.
The statement released Friday does not delve into details on precisely what the federal legislation should prohibit, though it does credit the now-expired federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 for reducing the probability of mass shooting fatalities. This is likely in reference to a 2019 study reviewing mass shooting data, though previous studies concluded no significant impacts on homicide rates.
An anonymous source told the San Francisco Chronicle that the gun used in the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting was a WASR-10 semiautomatic rifle, which is legal to purchase in Nevada but illegal to bring to California. Law enforcement officials shortly after the shooting described it as an AK-47-style semiautomatic rifle.
Along with the resolution, Simitian and Ellenberg are hoping to encourage cities within Santa Clara County to sign onto the resolution, which would be sent to a member of Congress who represents county residents.
The resolution will be considered after the supervisors adjourn early in the Aug. 13 meeting to memorialize the three victims killed in Gilroy. Flags at all county facilities have been flown at half-staff since July 29 and will be raised once the board convenes on Tuesday.