- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sen. Angus King said Tuesday that assault weapons are nothing more than semi-automatic hunting rifles “in costume” and therefore shouldn’t be banned.

The Maine independent was asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program whether he thinks weapons such as the Ruger AR-556 rifle used by Texas church gunman Devin Patrick Kelley should be outlawed by the government.

“No, I think we’ve got to look at that carefully,” Mr. King said in a clip flagged by the Washington Free Beacon. “I’m from a state where we have one of the highest gun ownership rates in the country, and yet we have one of the lowest rates of gun crime. It’s called an assault weapon, but it’s simply a semi-automatic hunting rifle in costume, with a different type of stock. But the functionality of the weapon is exactly the same as … [ones] used by legitimate hunters.

“So I have a problem with banning a weapon because of its appearance,” he added.

Mr. King said the real gun control issues worth looking at would be limiting the size of magazines people are allowed to buy and improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

“A lot of times in these situations, apparently, it’s when the fellow — it’s always a fellow — starts to reload, that’s when you might have a chance to stop the tragedy,” the senator said. “So magazine size, I think, is something I do think we do need to talk about. But I’ve never been one to say, ‘Yeah, let’s get rid of the assault weapons,’ if it’s really a semi-automatic hunting rifle in costume.”

On Sunday, 26-year-old Kelley killed 26 people and injured 20 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, marking the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in Texas.

Kelley was able to obtain multiple firearms legally after Holloman Air Force Base officials failed to enter his 2012 court-martial and conviction on two counts of domestic assault into the federal database.

The Air Force announced Monday that it had launched an investigation into its handling of criminal records.

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