Assault weapon found at Conn. shooting seen on Chicago streets
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 14, 2012 4:12PM
A .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle
Updated: January 16, 2013 6:08AM
One of the weapons found at the scene of Friday’s school massacre in Connecticut was reportedly a .223-caliber rifle — a military-style assault weapon that Chicago Police officers have seized from criminals here.
Thirteen of those weapons were recovered in crimes in Chicago within a year of their purchase between 2008 and 2010, representing 1.4 percent of the total, according to police firearms data analyzed by the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
A .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle and two handguns were recovered at the scene in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people — 20 of them children — were killed Friday, authorities said. There were reports that .223-caliber shell casings also were found.
In July, James Holmes reportedly used a .223-caliber rifle in the theater shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded in Aurora, Colo. — rekindling memories of the 1999 massacre at nearby Columbine High School.
And a .223-caliber Bushmaster was used in the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings that left 10 people dead and three injured in the Washington area in 2002.
A .223-caliber rifle has bullets that can travel a mile — compared to a quarter-mile for pistols, making it more lethal, experts say.
Some Chicago Police officers are armed with .223-caliber M4 weapons — to match the heavy weaponry they sometimes encounter on the street. Officers recently were seen carrying such weapons outside a gang funeral to discourage more violence.
The .223-caliber rifles used by soldiers are automatic, meaning they fire continuously when the trigger is pulled. The rifles used in the recent massacres — and carried by police — are semiautomatic, meaning they fire one shot at a time.
President Bill Clinton approved a federal ban on assault weapons in 1994, but it expired in 2004 under President George W. Bush. The ban included semiautomatic firearms such as the Colt AR-15, TEC-9, AK-47 and Uzi.
President Barack Obama hasn’t advocated a return of an assault weapons ban, but Gov. Pat Quinn recently proposed a statewide ban.
Earlier this week, Quinn renewed his pledge to support an assault weapons ban after a federal appeals court overturned Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a pro-gun lobbying group based in Newtown, Conn. — where the massacre occurred Friday — has opposed a return of a national ban on assault weapons, saying the previous ban didn’t do anything to deter crime.
The foundation released a statement saying: “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this horrible tragedy in our community. Out of respect for the families, the community and the ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment or participate in media requests at this time.”
Obama didn’t directly address the assault-weapon issue Friday, but in remarks following the shooting, he said: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” the president said. “Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children.”