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Florida Republican Pushing Assault Weapons Ban for 'Tactical' Reasons

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Feb. 27, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

A Florida Republican calling for an assault weapons ban, at least on a temporary basis, said he doesn’t “want to die because of a lack of shooting back one day,” but “I can tell you that we don’t conceal and carry AR-15s.”

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), a decorated Army veteran who lost his legs to an IED in Afghanistan, wrote in a New York Times op-ed last week that his rifle was “very similar to the AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon used to kill students, teachers and a coach I knew at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where I once lived.”

“We used it because it was the most lethal, the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands,” he said. “I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.”

Mast told CNN on Tuesday that what drove his decision was watching his kids play in a public place and thinking that, while he was carrying a concealed handgun, the kids were “sitting ducks to the next, you know, Stephen Paddock who conducted that assault in Las Vegas.”

“The fact that there is no evil firearm. That is the truth. There are evil people, and there are good people. And that firearm is a function of it. And you do have to be able to stop a bad guy with a good person with that capability,” he said. “But I look at this tactically.”

“Let’s take what happened with the Broward sheriff’s officers down there in Parkland. We had a school resource officer that didn’t enter the school. And we had what seems to be three other Broward sheriff’s officers that didn’t enter the school. They were in a holding pattern. These are men with tactical training, with body armor and with pistols who wouldn’t go in there, because they were basically brought to being frozen by an 18-year-old with an AR-15. That should give us pause about the power of that platform.”

The congressman called the Second Amendment “an unimpeachable, God-given right to defend ourselves,” but “we recognize that there is a balance between what is the level of lethality, what is that level of fire power.”

“I can’t go out right now and buy what was known as an M-249 squad automatic weapon. It’s the same size round that the AR-15 shoots, that my M-4 carbine shoots, except for it shoots about 500 rounds a minute. It’s a military machine gun for all intents and purposes. I can’t go purchase that. We understand that that’s a line,” he said. “That would probably be even better for home defense than what that AR-15 is, but we recognize that there’s a line somewhere that we say here is the Second Amendment, and here is public safety. And there’s room. They’re not mutually exclusive to one another.”

Mast argued that if President Trump can enact a travel ban to heighten safety precautions while studying the situation, the U.S. can “do a ban on purchases of these assault-style weapons, tactical-style weapons so that we can assess the whole situation and get back to the American people in a responsible way.”

He said other Republicans have expressed support “quietly” for his initiative.

“They’re not, you know, necessarily wanting to have this conversation in front of everybody, but they’re saying, ‘Hey, good job on you. Good job on taking a stand. Good job in saying that,'” Mast said.