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Inside the Beltway

Washington politics and government with a New Mexico flavor

Heinrich, Wilson Both Oppose an Assault Weapons Ban

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During Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney showed they are on opposite sides of the debate over an assault weapons ban, but New Mexico’s U.S. Senate candidates are squarely on the same page. Rep. Martin Heinrich and former Rep. Heather Wilson both oppose a ban.

Wilson, a Republican who received the NRA’s endorsement this month, voted against extending the ban when it expired in 2004 and said she would again if elected to the Senate. Heinrich, a two-term House Democrat, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009 opposing the ban after Holder suggested the Obama administration might push to reinstate the controversial gun law.

“We believe that this ban was ineffective during the 10 years it was law, and would oppose its reenactment,” Heinrich wrote in the letter.

“Many of our constituents lawfully own and use these firearms and ammunition magazines that would be affected by the new ban,” Heinrich wrote. “Law-abiding Americans use these guns for all the same reasons they use any other kind of gun – competitive shooting, hunting, and defending their homes and families.”

Wilson explained to the Journal in an interview this month why she opposed re-enacting the assault weapons ban in 2004.

“I was opposed to it,” Wilson said. “It made no sense. It had to do with what a gun looked like and had nothing to do with how to fight crime or how to deal with people who are likely to commit the crimes.”

During Tuesday night’s debate, Obama seemed to endorse the idea of re-enacting an assault weapons ban similar to the now-lapsed ban President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994. Obama also pointed out that fully automatic weapons – the kind that fire repeated rounds with one squeeze of a trigger – are already illegal in the U.S.

“What I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally,” Obama said during the debate. “Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced.”

Romney expressed a different view.

” I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal,” he said.

Although members of both parties are hesitant to aggravate the powerful gun lobby, the public debate is likely to continue in the wake of mass shootings like the one in Aurora, Colo. this past summer.

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