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U.S. Sen. Scott Brown said Monday that it should be left up to lawmakers in individual states to decide whether to approve new bans on assault weapons.
The Massachusetts senator's comments follow a shooting rampage in Colorado that left 12 people dead and 58 others injured at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."
The shootings also promoted supporters of tighter gun laws to renew their call for the reinstatement of a federal ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons that expired in 2004.
Brown, a Republican, said such restrictions are better left to states.
"Scott Brown supports the state assault weapons ban here in Massachusetts, and believes that the states are the appropriate venue for making these types of decisions," a spokeswoman for Brown said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Brown's Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, said she supports reinstating the federal assault weapons ban, and also backs Massachusetts' law.
The federal ban expired the same year that Brown, then a state senator, voted to extend Massachusetts' ban on selling or importing military-style semi-automatic weapons.
Under the law at the time, the state ban would have automatically expired if Congress did not renew the federal law. The new law allowed the state ban to continue even as Congress took no action.
While Brown supported the extension of the ban, he also opposed - and the state Senate ultimately rejected - an attempt to close what critics described as a "loophole" in the original law that allowed the sale and transfer of assault weapons owned prior to 1994.
The bill to extend the ban also included a provision to establish a five-member firearm license review board to examine cases of individuals who were convicted of misdemeanor offenses early in life and had been barred from buying the weapons under the 1998 law.
Then-Gov. Mitt Romney later signed the bill into law.
At the time critics said the law unfairly punished people who had turned their lives around and become law-abiding citizens.
Gun control has yet to surface as a major issue in the contentious Massachusetts Senate race.
While both Brown and Warren rushed to release statements after the shooting to express sympathy for the victims, neither called for reassessing the nation's gun laws.
That's frustrating for gun control advocates like John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, who supports reinstating the federal assault weapons ban.
"Renew the federal ban and you will absolutely see a reduction in the use of assault weapons in crime," Rosenthal said. "That's a relative no-brainer."
Supporters of gun rights, however, argue that it's unfair to penalize responsible gun owners for the actions of one individual.
The relative lack of discussion about gun control measures in the Senate race is reflected on Capitol Hill.
Democratic demands for tougher gun control laws in the wake of the Colorado shootings appear destined to fizzle. Congress hasn't passed strict legislation in more than a decade and any attempt to push through tighter restrictions in an election year appear unlikely.
A 24-year-old former doctoral student, James Holmes, was arrested in the Colorado shootings.
This program aired on July 24, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.
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