Another mass shooting involving an AR-15 semi-automatic gun leaves at least 18 dead

Police officers speak with a motorist at a roadblock, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Lisbon, Maine, during a manhunt for the suspect of Wednesday's mass shootings. The shootings took place at a restaurant and bowling alley in nearby Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

A mass shooter with an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon killed at least 18 people in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday and injured many more. Republicans in Congress have consistently blocked legislation that would have banned the sale and possession of the AR-15 and other assault weapons.

Of the hundreds of mass shootings that have taken place in the United States in recent years,  a significant number have involved the use of an AR-15-style assault rifle. 

In 1994, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed a 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The National Rifle Association opposed the law, and its Republican allies in Congress have blocked efforts to renew it for two decades.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed a bill in 2022 that would have prohibited the possession or sale of semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices. Nearly all House Republicans opposed it, claiming: “Democrats know this unconstitutional bill will not stop violent crime or reduce the likelihood of mass shootings, but they are obsessed with disarming law-abiding Americans and limiting their Constitutional rights.”

Wisconsin Republican Reps. Scott Fitzgerald, Mike Gallagher, Glenn Grothman, Bryan Steil, and Tom Tiffany all voted against the ban. Gallagher, Grothman, Steil, and Tiffany also voted against a 2022 red flag bill that would have allowed judges to temporarily take guns away from those deemed imminent dangers. Fitzgerald missed that vote but opposed it in committee.

Republican Rep. Derrick Van Orden, who opposes gun safety laws and received the NRA’s highest rating, was not a member of Congress at the time. 

Democratic Reps. Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan both voted for both bills.

Senate Republicans effectively blocked action on both bills. Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin has endorsed these and other gun safety laws. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson opposes them.  

Johnson voted on Wednesday for a successful amendment to an appropriations bill that would make it harder for the Veterans Administration to provide information about potentially dangerous veterans to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Baldwin voted no.

Several NRA-backed Republican lawmakers responded to the Maine shootings by tweeting that they are praying for the victims. 

“Sending prayers to Lewistown [sic], Maine tonight,” tweeted Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who is a co-sponsor of a GOP bill to designate the AR-15 the national gun of the United States. “Know that the entire country is praying for you.”