Police Deaths Call for Renewed Assault Weapons Ban

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 1:19 PM EDT
Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder voiced his desire (and his boss') to renew the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. He said as much in response to questions about cartels and drug wars in Mexico. But after four police were gunned down in northern California this weekend the idea now hits closer to home.

Saturday, when four cops were killed by a parolee, was the deadliest day in the history of the Oakland police department. Lovelle Mixon, a convicted felon jailed for five years for assault with a firearm, shot the first two officers with the handgun he was carrying (illegally) after the police stopped his car for a traffic violation. He then used an AK-47 type assault rifle to gun down two SWAT officers before he was killed in a shootout. True, California has an assault-weapons ban and it didn't keep the rifle out of Mixon's hands, but a federal ban could only strengthen local enforcement efforts. The battle will be hard fought; last week 65 House Dems sent Holder a letter opposing his efforts to enact any sort of federal ban on assault rifles, citing concerns over ownership restrictions. "We will strongly oppose any legislation that will infringe upon the rights of individual gun owners," the letter stated.

The opposition to Holder moving on the ban has all been under the backdrop of the weapons concerns on the border and in Mexico, but will the debate shift now that police officers are getting gunned down here at home? Meaning, once Dianne Feinstein proposes new legislation related to the deaths of these four slain officers, what will the pro-gun Dems, and everyone else, say then?

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We'll have to wait and see, but it does change the game a bit.

Meanwhile, this tragedy hits Oakland particularly hard where the police department already has a strained relationship with the community. The OPD has been dealing with one scandal after another and this is yet another blow to the department. Most recently, riots erupted in January after a BART (not OPD) cop shot an unarmed man (he thought he was grabbing for his Taser) and the police department was slow to investigate. And the department has been roundly criticized for its handling of the murder of local journalist, Chauncey Bailey, who was investigating a Nation of Islam group and was gunned down in the street in 2007. Then there's the Riders case, I could go on. But suffice it to say, this latest tragedy is bad news for the entire city. The calls of "payback for Oscar Grant" (the young man killed in January) are troubling. And the fact that the police will (rightly) up their precautionary measures as a result of the killings will likely result in rough treatment, racial profiling, and preemptive violence. These actions, along with cop killings and senseless murders all-around, Oakland has surely had enough of.