SEATTLE — Lawmakers around the country are making a renewed push to ban high-capacity magazines that gunmen have used in many recent massacres, allowing them to inflict mass casualties at a startling rate before police can stop the carnage.
Nine states have passed laws restricting magazine capacity to 10 to 15 bullets, and the Democratic-led U.S. House plans to consider a similar ban at the federal level in the coming weeks.
In arguing for the bans, politicians, experts and gun-control advocates point out that in the time it takes for a driver to wait through a stop light, a shooter with a 100-round magazine can kill and injure dozens of people.
The man who opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, last month killed nine people and injured 27 others in only 30 seconds, in part because of the 100-bullet drum attached to his rifle. It only took 85 seconds for a gunman to empty several 30-round magazines at an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada, killing four people and injuring 14 in 2011.
Authorities have not released any information on the accessories the gunman in Odessa used over the weekend when he opened fire on police and bystanders with an AR-style weapon.
The deadliest example occurred in Las Vegas two years ago when a gunman possessed a dozen 100-round magazines that helped him squeeze off 10 rounds per second onto a crowd of concert-goers from his hotel room, killing 58 people.
Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock had an arsenal of high-powered rifles along with his large-capacity magazines and bump stocks — now-banned devices that attach to a gun to make it fire bullets more rapidly. The Trump administration banned bump stocks after that massacre, but the high-capacity magazines that smoothly fed hundreds of bullets into Paddock’s rifles remain legal.
“We know from video evidence that he was firing about 10 rounds per second,” said Louis Klarevas, a research professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. “The reason he was able to do that was he had a combination of assault rifles with bump stocks and large-capacity magazines. Imagine if he only had 10-round magazines. He would only have shot 10 rounds at a time.”
The Keep Americans Safe Act will soon be debated in the House Judiciary Committee. It would prohibit the transfer, importation or possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The bill is co-sponsored by three Democratic members of Congress whose states suffered mass shooting involving these magazines: Ted Deutch of Florida, Diana DeGette of Colorado and Dina Titus of Nevada.
“There is only one purpose for a high-capacity magazine: to maximize human casualties and allow gunmen to fire more rounds of ammunition at a time without reloading,” Deutch said in a statement. “But those precious seconds it takes to reload can mean saving countless lives.”
Firearm magazines are not regulated by federal law, but some states have set limits on their sizes. They include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington D.C.
More Republicans are warming up to the idea as well. Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio called for legislation after the Dayton killings that would put a limit on magazine sizes, as well as a ban on the sale of military-style weapons.
But federal legislation is expected to face deep resistance in the Republican-led Senate and from the National Rifle Association. Critics point out that there are millions of high-capacity magazines in circulation, limiting the effectiveness of a ban.
Alan Gottlieb, with the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation, said large-capacity magazines are important for self-defense and can help when there are multiple attackers in a home.
“Plus, it only takes one second to switch out one magazine for another,” he said. “There are lots of videos on how easy it is to do that.”
The advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety’s study of mass shootings between 2009 and 2017 found that 58 percent involved firearms with high-capacity magazines. The study looked at shootings where the magazine capacity was known and where at least four people were killed, not including the shooter.
The cases included the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater killings in which the gunman used a 100-round magazine drum, killing 12 and injuring 70. The gunman who killed 77 people at a youth camp in Oslo, Norway, in 2011 purchased his 30-round magazines from the U.S., according to his manifesto. The 19-year-old man who killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year also carried high-capacity magazines, according to the official Public Safety Commission report released in January that said police recovered eight 30- and 40-round magazines from the scene.
The advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise has been running a promotion on Twitter asking people to sign a petition in support of the passage of the Keep Americans Safe Act, the measure being debated Wednesday. The tweets say the man who killed dozens at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 used a 30-round magazine and 11 children were able to escape when he stopped to reload.
The military-style firearms used in many mass shootings in the U.S. can be fired rapidly, but “the limitation to the carnage is the capacity of the magazine,” said David Chipman, a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who works as a policy adviser at Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence.
Others have argued that if the shooter only has smaller-sized magazines, they’ll just carry more guns or extra magazines.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a researcher at Boston University, conducted a study on high-capacity magazines in 2017 that found that states that limit magazine size have fewer mass shootings.
“The only thing that limits the number of causalities is the number of rounds that are in the gun, because the only thing that stops the shooter is having to reload,” Siegel said. “Even though it might only take a few seconds to reload, it provides a few moments for people to flee or for an intervention.”
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Artist Linda Davidson, with paint and a brush in hand, climbed up a 30-foot ladder Saturday to put the finishing touches on the Lady Liberty panel of a giant U.S.-themed mural that covers the cement wall under Gentry Parkway Bridge on North Fannin Avenue.
Davidson is part of a group of four friends and volunteers who set out to beautify the area under the bridge and raise funds to eradicate homelessness in Tyler.
About two years ago, Dr. Sasha Vukelja, Linda Rowe, Linda Davidson and Maggie Roth thought up the idea of painting the pillars under the bridge as well as a mural that would be inclusive to everyone.
The area under the bridge is a highly-populated area where homeless people reside and hang out in the city of Tyler.
“People who live here, this is their home and we want their home to look good,” Vukelja said.
In March, they began taking donations from organizations in the area to paint the pillars under the bridge with various themes including quotes, peacocks, Bible verses and colorful abstract shapes, among many others. Each pillar represents each organization.
They also started painting a giant mural consisting of a 40-foot-by-16-foot American flag panel and six other 28-foot-by-14-foot panels representing a different part of the United States.
From right to left, the mural depicts the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of New York City, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the amber waves of grain referenced in the song, “America the Beautiful.” Texas is represented with an oil derrick and a longhorn steer, followed by an American flag as the focal point, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Tetons and the Golden Gate Bridge.
“It goes from sea to shining sea,” Davidson said.
The group planned to finish the mural by the end of the year, but have moved up its completion in preparation for a benefit concert featuring Lee Greenwood, most famous for his song “God Bless the USA.”
“I dreamed in the middle of the night that Lee Greenwood would perform in front of the mural,” Roth said.
Though the idea seemed impossible at first, the group called on their friend Susan Thomae-Morphew, executive director of the Cowan Center, to get in contact with the artist.
After explaining what the group of friends had done and that they wanted to raise funds to help the homeless population in the area, Greenwood agreed to perform at 1 p.m. Sept. 14 under the bridge to dedicate the mural and Tyler’s Pillars of Love.
“He said he was all in,” Thomae-Morphew said. “He said yes to it all.”
Greenwood agreed to not only perform but also to sign the American flag portion of the mural as well.
The concert is free to the public, but donations will be welcomed.
Vukelja said the group is hosting the concert with hopes of providing more resources for the homeless population in Tyler and to give them hope.
“We give them tokens like donuts and cookies and clothes, and that’s all good, but I think they need more. Someone who believes in them. Someone who knows that they can succeed. Someone who finds out what their needs are,” Vukelja said. “You check off those needs and then let them fly.”
“It’s just like the Diana Ross song ‘Reach out and touch somebody,’ I think we are connected to all these people,” she said. “We are trying to give one another opportunity.”
Visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/helptylershomeless- to make a donation to the group’s efforts to end homelessness in Tyler.
ODESSA — The gunman in a West Texas rampage “was on a long spiral of going down” and had been fired from his oil services job the morning he killed seven people, calling 911 both before and after the shooting began, authorities said Monday.
Officers killed 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator on Saturday outside a busy Odessa movie theater after a spate of violence that spanned 10 miles, injuring around two dozen people in addition to the dead.
FBI special agent Christopher Combs said Ator called the agency’s tip line as well as local police dispatch on Saturday after being fired from Journey Oilfield Services, making “rambling statements about some of the atrocities that he felt that he had gone through.”
“He was on a long spiral of going down,” Combs said. “He didn’t wake up Saturday morning and walk into his company and then it happened. He went to that company in trouble.”
Fifteen minutes after the call to the FBI, Combs said, a Texas state trooper unaware of the calls to authorities tried pulling over Ator for failing to signal a lane change. That was when Ator pointed an AR-style rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired on the trooper, starting a terrifying police chase as Ator sprayed bullets into passing cars, shopping plazas and killed a U.S. Postal Service employee while hijacking her mail truck.
Combs said Ator “showed up to work enraged” but did not point to any specific source of his anger. Ator’s home on the outskirts of Odessa was a corrugated metal shack along a dirt road surrounded by trailers, mobile homes and oil pump jacks. On Monday, a green car without a rear windshield was parked out front, the entire residence cordoned off by police tape.
Combs described it as a “strange residence” that reflected “what his mental state was going into this.” Combs said he did not know whether Ator had been diagnosed with any prior mental health problems.
The daylight attack over the Labor Day holiday weekend came just weeks after another mass shooting killed 22 people in the Texas border city of El Paso. Authorities have not said how Ator obtained the gun used in the shooting, but Ator had previously failed a federal background check for a firearm, said John Wester, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Wester did not say when Ator failed the background check or why.
Online court records show Ator was arrested in 2001 for a misdemeanor offense that would not have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms in Texas. Federal law defines nine categories that would legally prevent a person from owning a gun, which include being convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, being adjudicated as a “mental defect” or committed to a mental institution, the subject of a restraining order or having an active warrant. Authorities have said Ator had no active warrants at the time of the shooting.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that “we must keep guns out of criminals’ hands” — words similar to his remarks that followed the El Paso shooting on Aug. 3, when he said firearms must be kept from “deranged killers.” But Abbott, a Republican and avid gun rights supporter, has been noncommittal about tightening Texas gun laws.
Abbott tweeted that Ator didn’t go through a background check for the weapon he used in Odessa. He did not elaborate, and a spokesman referred questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which didn’t immediately respond for comment.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said Ator’s company also called 911 on Saturday after Ator was fired but that Ator had already taken off by the time police showed up.
“Basically, they were complaining on each other because they had a disagreement over the firing,” Gerke said.
Gerke said he believes Ator had also been recently fired from a different job but did not have any details.
Authorities said they remain unable to provide an exact timeline of the shooting, including how much time passed between the traffic stop at 3:13 p.m. and police killing Ator at the movie theater.
Odessa officials Monday released the names of those killed, who were between 15 and 57 years old. Among the dead were Edwin Peregrino, 25, who ran out of his parents’ home to see what the commotion was; mail carrier Mary Granados, 29, slain in her U.S. Postal Service truck; and 15-year-old high school student Leilah Hernandez, who was walking out of an auto dealership.
Ator fired at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland, two cities more than 300 miles west of Dallas. Police used a marked SUV to ram the mail truck outside the Cinergy Movie Theater in Odessa, disabling the vehicle. The gunman then fired at police, wounding two officers before he was killed.
Police said Ator’s arrest in 2001 was in the county where Waco is located, hundreds of miles east of Odessa. Online court records show he was charged then with misdemeanor criminal trespass and evading arrest. He entered guilty pleas in a deferred prosecution agreement where the charge was waived after he served 24 months of probation, according to records.
The weekend shooting brings the number of mass killings in the U.S. so far this year to 25, matching the number in all of 2018, according to The AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database. The number of people killed this year has already reached 142, surpassing the 140 people who were killed all of last year. The database tracks homicides where four or more people are killed, not including the offender.
Weber reported from Austin. Associated Press journalists Michael Balsamo, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Biesecker in Washington and Tim Talley in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.