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Arizona congressmen differ on ways to deal with assault weapons

FILE -- In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. While the guns look similar, the bottom version is illegal in California because of its quick reload capabilities. Omar Mateen used an AR-15 that he purchased legally when he killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub over the weekend President Barack Obama and other gun control advocates have repeatedly called for reinstating a federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004, but have been thwarted by Republicans in Congress. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,file)

Sunday’s mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, the deadliest in U.S. history, has sparked debate about whether or not Congress should reenact an Assault Weapons Ban.

There was a ban in effect from 1994 to 2004, but it was allowed to expire. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ 7) supports a ban on weapons like the AR-15 style weapon that gunman Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people and injure dozens more at an Orlando nightclub Sunday morning.

“It’s not going to solve 100 percent of the problems,” Gallego said. “It certainly would diminish a lot of these mass shootings.”

Gallego said under an assault weapons ban, Americans who already own assault rifles would be able to keep them, but future sales would be restricted. He said it would not affect hunting or self-defense rifles, and the military and law enforcement could keep the assault rifles they use.

“(Assault weapons) should not be in civilian hands,” Gallego said. “There’s no purpose to it, and the unrestrictive nature of how quickly you can buy these weapons makes it easier in terms of a weapon of choice for domestic terrorism.”

Gallego said he was concerned that the FBI had contact with Mateen and did not have the power to stop him from getting a weapon. Gallego said a bill he is pushing for would end that. He also would like to see universal background checks and a focus on mental health care.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ 8) said he was also concerned that the FBI removed Mateen from its terror watch list, but he does not believe an assault weapons ban is the answer.

“The fact is that this was not a gun control issue,” Franks said. “This was a terrorist issue.”

He said an assault weapons ban would not have prevented Sunday’s shooting in Orlando. He said instead of focusing on gun control, Congress and President Obama needs to focus on destroying ISIS. Mateen called 911 before the shooting pledging his allegiance to ISIS.

“If we think that we’re going to just hope that they go away, that’s just wishful thinking,” Franks said. “We have to defeat them on the ground so we don’t have to fight them here.”

Franks said if there are people at home or abroad that begin to speak in jihadist terms, law enforcement needs to be alerted and watch what they do.

“We have a responsibility in government to protect the lives and constitutional rights of Americans,” Franks said.

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